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.
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you know - you make a good point. Yesterday I was at the supermarket deli and there was a mom and dad with the most adorable (I mean BEAUTIFUL) little girls. The littler one, probably 18 months or something, was looking up at me and the other people standing around, and just giggling at us. It was kinda funny, and most of the adults were laughing a bit at her goofiness. Know who wasn't laughing? Her parents. For them the novelty of her cuteness had worn off completely and she wasn't fun anymore. She was fun for everyone else! (and particularly me, who doesn't have to let her cuteness wear off by seeing her at her worst).
True dat! I enjoy kid's company a lot and like you, I adore goofing around with them mostly because I only have to have fun with them (instead of educating, taking care and doing all the other little annoying duties the parents have to...)
Also: What a great and considerate co-worker you are! I wish you were my boss :-P
[squealing] Miiisssstttteeeerrrr Softeeeeeeeeee![/squealing]
Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I have to say that equating being a fun-loving person with being a good parent is silly at best. Some of the worst parents I've ever come into contact with were lots of fun... so much fun, in fact, that they let their children do whatever the hell they wanted and tried to be more of a friend than a parent. Do I really need to tell you how their kids turned out?
And for someone like me who's mostly indifferent to children (unless they're poorly behaved) being around them and interacting with them is NOT a source of mirth. The happiness comes when they're no longer in my presence... so I guess in that respect I'm like a fair number of parents, LOL!
Part of why I don't have kids is because I really like to have fun, too. And even though kids like to have fun, when you're the parent you don't get to partake in much of the fun--you often get to clean up the fun messes, make sure no one's getting hurt, etc. I prefer to be the fun aunt who takes my nephew and niece to the zoo and gives them back to my sis at night.
I can relate to this from my volunteer work with kids as part of the school Scrabble program. To them, I am their big brother or uncle who helps them out with their Scrabble game, compliments them when they make good plays, and acts silly around them once in a while.
And I send them home to their parents happier than when they left their houses in the morning.
"...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."
YES! Just because I can take the time to engage a small child doesn't mean I'm a) champing at the bit to have my own or b) excellent mother material - I engage all types of people: should I adopt them all? Nooooo!
And yet if a parent is "too fun" they aren't responsible enough and their children are being raised by a friend and not a parent. I often tell my mommy friends to call me when I can come and give a mom a rest. I've taken kids to the zoo, the pool, etc just so mom has a moment of sanity. But, I do this because I have the energy to be with the kids all day knowing full well I can sleep in the next day and not start the next day at 630AM with the kids all over again like a mom.
Hmmm, novelty ice creams! Spot on as usual! I similarly am annoyed by the idea that childhood is the BEST part of life, and the rest is just meant for schlepping through and reminiscing. How could it be the best time? Absolutely no freedom, chores with no apparent benefit, spankings, no money, etc. Remind me what part of that was fun again? I am having WAAAAAY more fun now, and I truly pity anyone who claims to have had more fun during childhood. They're doing it all wrong!
I get comments like these from people all the time. The funny thing is, my small cousin (aged 4) classes me as a "child", while my much more life-responsible and serious sister (four years my junior) is classified "grown-up".
When it's my eye on the children of course I am to some extent being responsible, but I also sit on the floor with them rather than on a chair for preference and watch cartoons and in a family gathering situation, I'd much rather hang out with the kids than with the other adults (who have such BORING conversations about work. They don't enjoy work, so why is it always the topic of conversation?).
I like hanging out with kids. But I'd rather be one than have one. I think often fathers have sort of the option to be the "fun parent" so long as the mother is still there being "responsible parent", but it's pretty hard to be both.
It might also have something to do with having the luxury to see children as almost-equals, rather than lower on the family totem pole by necessity, and so relate to them more as equals and empathise with them on that level. For my part, I remember being a child. I do my best to retain my childhood enthusiasm. I think a lot of people have forgotten what it was like to be a child.
Having said all that, there is room for fun and silliness as a parent. My cousin willingly taught her children "The Song that Doesn't End".
I agree 100% with everything that you said! I don't have anything much to add, but thanks for this post.
christy, i agree with everything you have said. i just feel that people are always waiting until they are older for life to truly begin. when we are young, our lives will only have meaning when we can drink. then wait, no we can't wait until we're married. then we can't wait to REALLY settle down until we have kids, but of course we can only have them after we have crammed in all the things we want in life in a few short years. After, we wait until the kids are out of diapers, done with the terrible twos, done with teenage years out of the house. Wait, the kids need to find jobs and their own spouses, etc. When does it end?
There is this period in life when you are financially stable and mature enough to navigate the world independently. Why would I give that up for a kid and why would I wait until I am older to start living? I want to live NOW, dammit.
This reminded me of why I enjoy all the fun things I do as an adult. The looks on the faces of my childed co-workers / acquaintances / friends is priceless when I mention what I'm doing this weekend. It's as if they simply can't comprehend that adults can have fun themselves. This weekend I've invited everyone I know to the drive-in movie theater so we can tailgate, eat, drink, and watch a couple of movies. I like entertaining and have had numerous theme parties, i.e. board game night, scavenger hunt, pumpkin carving, Thanksgiving in April, Sunday brunch, wine tasting, make-your-own-sushi, Halloween/costume parties, pot luck, etc.
Fun isn't just for kids!
This is on the yahoo news page tonight.
Firstly, I love your ice cream idea! Fun must be for adults, too, or else we get... old. :D
Secondly, I'm so happy to have found this site. I have visited other child-free sites, but found the sheer amount of child/mother bashing to be a turn off. I don't want to bash others' choices - I simply want to enjoy my own! This site seems much more focused on the positives of being child-free, something that I celebrate daily! Thanks, ladies!
That fun=kids thing drives me nuts! It's even harder when your field is animation, since in that case even childfree people seem to regard me with suspicion based on that little fun=kids equation. I tried to get on Childfree Hardcore, even made an account specifically for that purpose, and got rejected. I suspect the reason is that, while I was too lazy to really flesh out my information, I did include that I'm an animation major and, as everyone knows, animation=fun=kids. Or more precisely, animation=kids. It's hard for many peole to comprehend that someone could love animation and not want kids.
Ha! I hear you Harvey. I do little illustration projects here and there, which has included children's books. How on EARTH can someone who draws cute people and animals not want children?! *eyeroll*
I love being silly and a free spirit, always have and always will. I don't need the daily drudgery of my own kids to remind me that life can be so much fun.
Childfree people are supposed to be immature because obviously we prefer to have fun instead of leading responsible lives. If parents really believe that about us, isn't that an admission that life is more fun WITHOUT having kids?
On the other hand, if I'm supposed to have kids because kids are fun, isn't that a really irresponsible, selfish reason to have kids?
Sweet. Either way I've made the right choice!
I stumbled across your blog because it was on a friend's facebook. I actually am a mom, but for many years I never wanted children so I can relate to not wanting children and can definitely see the upsides.
Yeah, I'm not sure where people get the idea being a parent is "fun". There are fun moments, but it is mostly a lot of hard work. I think the reason parents say it is "fun" is not because there is so much fun for us, but because we're all high on instinctual adoration for our spawn. Seriously, it's like a drug. If I step back from the whole situation I find it fascinating how we parents drive ourselves crazy trying to raise our kids, then as soon as they're gone more than 24 hours we freak out and want them back. It's like Stockholm Syndrome or something.
So, believe me, I am fully, deeply entrenched in this weird Stockholm-spawn Syndrome, but I can still admit that it is way more hard work than it is fun.
I think it's not so much that people think fun is reserved for children, but more that you being fun runs counter to people's typical perceptions of why some people don't want to have kids (we're grouches, we're selfish, we're cold and unfeeling, etc., etc.).
And then they see that actually you're a cool person, and instead of altering their perception of what people who don't want children are like (isn't it hard for everyone to let go of their preconceptions?), they instead want to alter YOU to fit their preconception.
Instead of saying, hey, people who don't want children are actually really caring people too, they say, oh look, a caring person - they should be having kids because only cold people don't want kids!
It's a little backwards, but that's how hard most people work to stick to what they already believe to be true.
Do you put your art up anywhere? I'd love to see it!
Hey Harvey... Sure, I've got a coupla things in my photobucket.
I love parrots.
And here's a before coloring scan of a character I did for a children's book a few years ago.
It didn't materialize, but it was still great fun and I did some wonderful art as a result. I'd like to see yours sometime, too. Feel free to email me through my blog if you want. :)
I think the "fun is for children" idea is the source of the assumption that childfree people are immature, selfish and emotionally stunted. A LOT of people have the unexamined idea that a person is only entitled to so much fun, leisure time and luxury (whether "luxury" means $5 ice cream, $150 shoes or a two-week trip to Sweden for you) in life.
Maybe childfree people, who have decided that they'd rather invest their time, energy and money in something other than raising children, are viewed with suspicion, envy and resentment, because they appear to be getting more than their "fair share" of ease and enjoyment in life.
Just think of all the snide, bingo-y comments along the lines of "Well there are more important things in life than having lots of money" or "All the exotic vacations in the world can't compare to seeing your child graduate from kindergarten" or "There's no career that's rewarding enough to replace knowing real love." I think hardcore pro-natalists believe that being childfree is the "wrong" choice and that at some point we'll be punished for it by realizing - too late - that we valued the wrong things.
I recently stopped the parents I work with what I really do during the weekends. Not because I'm doing "fun", expensive things (I live in an expensive city and I have medical and grad school debt) but because I can mostly do what I want.
If I tell a parent that on Saturday I worked out, did some volunteer work, went to the library, talked to my dad on the phone, did some writing and played on the internet; then on Sunday I slept until 10, did a little housework, exercised, walked around for three hours taking photos, did some laundry, took a two-hour nap, then watched a Netflix movie, I get a lot of "*Sigh* I wish I could do that." Then they list all the chores and costly errands and obligations that filled their weekend. I feel bad for them because it sounds like exhausting, monotonous drudgery and I don't want to look as if I'm flaunting all the free time I have. So, now I just say "Oh, not much."
Also, many of us didn't have a "fun" childhood. Lots of kids are born, unplanned and/or wanted to parents who can barely stand each other. They grow up poor and cut off from a lot of the opportunities and experiences that other kids take for granted. Everyone doesn't make friends easily and have a grand ol' time in college and right after either. Many of us start out post-college life saddled with debt.
The point I'm trying to get to (any day now) is that many, many people don't have time or money for fun until they've been adults for a while. Yet there's this lingering idea people should only get to enjoy their lives and use their time as they like for a certain number of years. After that, it's time to get a mortgage and have some kids and take on some responsibility because...well...just because!
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