November 9, 2012 by Julia
As much as I love to vent about the trials of parenting, and would eat dirt before giving anyone the impression that my life at home caring for small children is easy (HAhaaaaaahahaha), I must confess, these munchkins can be, yep…fun. There, I said it. I still want a backrub tonight from my husband, though. And free babysitting is always welcome.
I’ve been compiling a list in my head of things that are better with children around. Once you adjust to the shock of all the things that are so much harder with kids (I’ve mentioned my feelings on packing), you can finally start paying attention to all the fun things, other than the big stuff that’s always been there since they were born, like LOVE STRONGER THAN YOU’VE EVER KNOWN, and SEEING YOUR LEGACY IN YOUR NEWBORN’S FACE and FULFILLMENT IN LIFE. It’s a reminder of the joy underneath the work. See how I snuck that in there? Smooth.
So, the “kids are fun” list, by no means comprehensive, and totally subjective:
1. Kids are fun at festivals, carnivals, museums, hay rides, petting zoos…
All these places can be fun without children, obviously, but when you’ve got a young sidekick, there is no lack of purpose or wonder. Somebody wants cotton candy – someone is running toward the twirling teacups ride – someone wants to feed the goats! Let’s go!! And it’s all new for us again, because we can see through their eyes. Pre-kids Dennis and I went to these types of events, but there is only so much an adult can do, other than drink beer and pay too much for fried food. We were kind of past the age where “let’s get on the merry-go-round and laugh hysterically at ourselves!!!” is acceptable. Now we don’t have to feel awkward about going on the kiddie rides. In fact, kids are the perfect excuse for a plethora of age-inappropriate fun things, like swinging or blowing bubbles or rolling down hills. You look like a charming, active parent – instead of a person who is either mentally unstable, or annoyingly high on life, or both.
2. Kids are fun when they start to enjoy your favorite music.
I know Fiona likes The Beatles because I listen to them a lot, not because she has advanced musical taste for her age. But darn it, it’s freaking satisfying when she hears my all-time favorite Strokes song (You Only Live Once) at three years old and then becomes obsessed with it. I don’t know if it’s that she has my genes mixed up with hers, or if it’s just exposure to my music, or what, but it’s awesome. Of course, she’s been obsessed with soulless robotron kids’ “hits,” too (I’m still not convinced those are actual children singing Old MacDonald, and not some synthesizer), but I choose not to focus on those moments as much. The drives with the windows down and good music blasting can balance out all the bad children’s music in the world. It’s great to have an impressionable young creature on hand every second of the day to share your songs with, hoping one or two might stick. And even if she suddenly hates all my music when she turns twelve, I know a small part of her will remember the artists we listened to together, and then twenty years later she’ll make secret nostalgic playlists on whatever Spotify-type program they have then, and she won’t be able to help loving them, because they made up the soundtrack of her childhood. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. *cough* Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums *cough*
3. Kids do and say the darndest things.
Today Fiona asked me, “Mommy, did you ever cry when I was in your belly?” and I laughed and said, “Well yes, I cried all the time. One time I accidentally bit my tongue in Starbucks and couldn’t stop crying. Even though I’m a grownup! Isn’t that silly?”
“Quiet grownup crying with just tears, no sounds?” she asked. “Yep,” I said. I have no idea where the seed for her question came from, but little specific topics like that get me every time.
Later today, I watched Jack pick up a yellow balloon, throw it up in the air, and laugh. Several more times this afternoon, he’d encounter it and laugh to again, as if thinking – that balloon is just so much fun.
There are a hundred particular moments like that every day, some quiet, some loud.
4. Kids are fun because they are cute.
There is nothing so soft and warm and wonderfully doughy as a baby’s cheek, nothing so beautiful as a young child running and laughing outside, her face flushed and her hair blowing in the wind. Children are so new and unspoiled that they practically emit their own light. It is fun just to look at them, to touch them. Their light will fill you up. And when that child has a hint of your face mixed up with your partner’s face? Beyond. They are so fully their own person, but there are these visual threads, tying them to us…the curve of an eyebrow or the tiny stairstep toes that mirror my own road-weary ones. Beneath the tiredness when I wake up with them in the morning is the delicious anticipation of seeing them again, smiling at me in their jammies.
5. Kids make the holidays better.
This is a well-known fact (assumption?). Of course it is fun to give kids presents or treats on the holidays. But it’s satisfying on a deeper level when we begin to establish family traditions, deciding what parts of each holiday are the most meaningful to us. It’s like creating a small world for your loved ones, with bits of holly and warm cider and scented candles and the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. We get to feed the souls of our children with beauty and faith. Somehow the holidays make me more aware that this is one of my many jobs as a parent – and it is one of the best.
Side note: holidays are also better when they’re loud. Enter kids!
I think. There might be a few exceptions to this.
6. Kids are fun to read library books to.
My younger siblings considered me “best book picker” at the library. (My sister may claim to forget this, but I remember that at least my brothers liked the books I picked out, because I was quite proud of this.) I took my job very seriously, searching for unique illustrations, or weird concepts, or dramatic storylines. It was really, really fun. Now I get to do the same thing, twenty years later, and the illustrated kids’ literature just keeps getting better and more dazzling. In fact, reading new library books with Fiona is surely one of my top three playtime activities. I get as much out of our cozy reading time as she does. Plus, it’s fun to do voices for each character.
7. Kids are fun to snuggle with.
I’ve never been a natural hugger with friends, and I used to joke that although I like hugs, there must be a “no-hug-zone” aura around me that everyone else can see, sensing my discomfort or lack of hugging experience or whatever. With my own kids, that became a non-issue. There is no wondering “is this appropriate for the situation?” You just hold them, or put your arm around them, or kiss the crown of their head. It’s hardly ever a bad time to reach out and snuggle. They soak it up like the needy little sponges they are. And it is a good way to decompress, as a parent. (Unless you’re craving space. But even then, it usually doesn’t hurt.)
8. Kids are fun outside. Especially in open fields.
One of my favorite things to do is just set the kids loose in a big outdoor space where we can all breathe. We don’t need much. A ball or kite are bonuses, but not a necessity. They are just happy to be free, like a city dog unleashed in the country. And I can either amble along behind them, or sit on a picnic blanket, watching them get further and further away. They can see me; I can see them, yet they are doing their own thing, marching along in a line or picking dandelions to present me with. If I were sitting alone in a field, I wouldn’t experience the outdoors in the same way. I’d be more aware of the ants, or how scratchy the grass is, or wondering why the heck I’ve got my book out here with the sun in my eyes, when I could be curled up reading in bed. But with the kids, it all makes sense, and feels like the best possible way we could be spending our time.
9. Kids are fun to watch grow up
Fiona has the same personality she did as a baby – the fun part has been watching how it looks in a talking, artistic 4-year-old. I wonder what her personality will look like in another four years, or ten. Just when you get used to things, your child changes again. It’s a challenge, but it’s so interesting. And don’t even get me started on the milestones, or I might start crying. They are like little gems scattered along a winding road through the wilderness. Think you’re going to die from exhaustion after staying up all night with an infant? Their first laugh will get you through the rest of the afternoon. And that little gem of a moment will stay in your pocket for life.