Sometimes there’s no better way to sum up a day than simply, “I’m done.” Done cooking. Done scheduling and chauffeuring. Done calling the cable guy for the 3rd time in four months. And way done listening to my kids argue, and refereeing. Usually when I get to this point, I turn to my husband:
Me: YOU do something; it’s your turn.
Hubby: Like what should I do?
Me: Like take away their iPads, take away dessert. Take away their college fund … I don’t know, dude, just handle it!
Hubby: Um … hey there, guys. What seems to be the problem here?
Me (pushing hubby aside): Your Dad says NO dessert! Oh, and you can’t go to college, either. Sorry, Dad said.
Of course in the real, adult world, you can’t always pass off your kids (or throw your partner under the bus). But sometimes you just need a break from being the voice of reason and making the hard decisions. Actually, I think that’s something we all, parents and non-parents, could stand to do more of — stop being so “adultish.” Because while children can be frustrating, demanding and self-involved, they also know how to be spontaneous, joyful and care less about what other people think. Ironically, we could escape the stress of adulting, in part, by following their carefree lead. Here are a few ideas …
Sit this one out. With squabbling kids, it’s easy to get stuck in the space between letting them work it out themselves and passing on our adult negotiating wisdom. We could do what my Dad did. Make the kids hold hands until they figure out a way to get along. I remember once when my brother and sister were fighting on a road trip, my Dad stopped the car and made them get out and walk down the roadside holding hands … for a good half mile. True story. (It was a different time, and the man had six kids). But with modern-day traffic, and the authorities, to consider, I don’t think this is a great option. Still, as long as no one’s in any real physical danger, I’m voting for the “you-work-it-out” approach. Where I get a break, and they learn (sometimes the hard way) hands-on compromising skills and when it’s time to stand up for oneself — and when it’s time to turn the other cheek.
“People do not cease to play because they grow old. They grow old because they cease to play.” – George Bernard Shaw
SO GET OUTSIDE, JOIN THE GAME, OR START YOUR OWN. MAKE IT A REGULAR PART OF YOUR DAY.
Get in the game. A great way to escape the grown-up routine is to make more time for play. Think back to your favorite childhood pastimes. Maybe it’s roller skating or Twister. Maybe it’s Kick-the-Can. For me, it’s jumping on our trampoline. My daughter tells me I giggle the whole time I’m jumping (I had no idea – I was having too much fun). Get outside, join the game, or start your own. Make it a regular part of your day. George Bernard Shaw said that “People do not cease to play because they grow old. They grow old because they cease to play.”
Seize the moment. The older we get, the more life has a cruel way of cutting off our sense of magic and wonder in the world. Between the cooking and the housework and the homework, it’s easy to miss the simple pleasures life has to offer. What it’s like to drop everything on a crystal-blue day and head outside with a picnic. Splash barefoot through a creek. Examine a butterfly up close. We curb the instinct to try something new, maybe even scary, and get lost in it. Last summer on vacation when my kids wanted to go zip-lining, as usual with these types of adventures, they looked to their Dad to do it with them. But something in me decided to show them I could throw caution to the wind, too (though every other ounce of my being was saying, “Heck no!”). Long story short, it was the biggest thrill I’ve had in years.
Do something unexpected. What’s more fun for a kid than the element of surprise? It goes both ways – for the surpriser and the surprisee — and it doesn’t have to cost a thing. Have a water-gun fight with your kids (or some adults); embrace the hilarity of potty humor; have leftover pizza for breakfast. Throw a surprise “party” for Dad or a neighbor just for coming home from work. Or ask an out-of-the-blue question like my son did the other day: “If you could only keep five things in life, what would they be?” (His was me, Dad, the dog, vehicles and money.)
When it comes to parenting roles, sometimes there is the perceived expectation that Mom is the gatekeeper, while Dad is the “funkeeper.” But moms can be silly too – and it’s even funnier when no one’s expecting it.
Get your silly on. A friend told me her husband is always super silly with their daughter, and it seems they are constantly laughing together. When it comes to parenting roles, sometimes there is the perceived expectation that Mom is the gatekeeper, while Dad is the “funkeeper.” But moms can be silly too – and it’s even funnier when no one’s expecting it. So next time you see the silly ramping up, just stop what you’re doing; whatever it is can likely wait. Hop aboard the crazy train, and let yourself go. Or better yet, steer that locomotive yourself.
Life gives us all sorts of kid-at-heart opportunities; we just have to take them. If I could go back and give my kid self a piece of advice, it would be the same thing I tell my 11-year-old daughter in her race to adulthood — and what I’d say to any parent who is “done adulting”: You have your whole life to be a grown-up, with all the responsibilities that come with it. But your time to be a kid goes by in the blink of an eye. Embrace it every chance you get.