Saturday, June 25, 2011
Fun (It's Not Just for Kids)
For about 5 years I have had a fun tradition at work. On the first day of summer I bring a bunch of ice cream novelties in (creamsicles, ice cream sandwiches, Italian ice, fudge pops) and put them in the freezer in our kitchen. Then, I leave a general voice mail message for everyone with Mr. Softee music playing in the background (I get this off YouTube) telling everyone it's the First Day of Summer! Get into the kitchen and enjoy some ice cream in celebration of this wonderful day!
It's a simple thing really, but every year this is a smash hit and everyone gets such a kick out of it, especially the Mr. Softee music because it's so ridiculous and shocking to hear such a thing on the office voice mail.
This year, after I left the message, one of my staff popped her head into my office and said, "I loved your message. You would make a great mom because you create so much fun!"
I had to laugh because I have been told this so many times. And every time I am told it, I think to myself, why does fun automatically equal children?
I know that children like to have fun, and children respond well to fun people, but guess what - so do adults (as evidenced by the reactions to my Mr. Softee routine)! Yet there is this unspoken idea that the purpose of childhood is to have fun, be entertained and enjoy life, whereas the purpose of adulthood is to be responsible and serious, and if any time is left, maybe have some fun - but more importantly - provide fun to children. For adults, fun is a rare novelty. For children, it's the purpose of their existence.
In my opinion, there is something wrong with this philosophy.
My view of life is that yes - we must be responsible adults and take care of business - but ultimately, the goal of life is to be joyful, to laugh and love, to thrill and to be thrilled, to take chances, to smile more than frown and to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of the time we have. I believe in riding rollercoasters. I believe in sending love letters. I believe in riding waves on my boogie board. I believe in trying new things. I believe in learning and growing. I believe in surprising people. I believe in the child within me. I believe in Mr. Softee and a part of me still believes in Santa Claus.
When people tell me I would make a great mom because I am fun, I think to myself ... yeah, well most of the reason I AM fun is because I am NOT a mom. Or more accurately stated, I wouldn't have as much fun if I was a mom. My kids would have lots of fun because that would be my top priority, but I'd be too stressed and worn down ensuring their enjoyment of life to have fun myself.
I see this all around me in the parents I know. Most of them had children because they pictured all the love, joy and fun it would be, but now that they have kids, very few of them actually seem to be having fun, even when they are doing fun things. For hubby and me, a trip to an amusement park is a full day of fun and laughter - there really is no down side. For a parent, there's some fun, but for the most part an outing like that is an exhausting chore involving tons of packing, schlepping, coralling, cajoling, monitoring, arguing and expense.
At our family gatherings, it isn't the parents who are playing fun games with the kids - it's us - the childfree aunt and uncle. The parents are sitting off in a corner, staring ahead with bloodshot eyes, enjoying a moment of rest, thankful that someone else has taken the burden off their hands for a few minutes.
I also get told all the time, "You're so good with kids. You'd make a great mom!" What they don't realize is that most of the reason I am good with kids is the fact that they are novel to me and I am not around them (and being annoyed by them) all day long. I appreciate them because they are fresh in my eyes. Every time I see my nieces and nephews, I feel delight and excitement at the things they say and do, no matter how obnoxious. Hubby and I crack up laughing at their every little move, which of course elicits more noise and antics, much to the dismay of their parents. But a glance over at their parents reveals that they do not find them at all amusing. They find them annoying because this is the two-thousandth time they've seen and heard the same stupid antic and probably the hundredth time they've told them enough is enough.
As childfree people, we are bombarded every day with messages that attempt to convince us that parenthood is bliss and we'd make great parents. My approach has always been to treat those messages with great suspicion and trust my reliable, sturdy inner voice - the voice that tells me I have it really good already. The voice that tells me that just because I would be good at something, doesn't mean that doing it would be the optimal choice for me. The voice that tells me that if parenthood truly was bliss, I would see substantial evidence of this in the parents around me (I don't). This wise voice tells me being an aunt is preferable to being a mom and an uncorrupted source of joy. It tells me there is plenty of fun to be had without kids. Most importantly, it pats me on the back and tells me I am smarter than the average bear for figuring this all out and refusing to be invalidated and pressured into a life I don't want.