Thursday, February 2, 2012

Here's the thing.

{I wrote this post back in the fall.  As always, these are my own personal opinions and thoughts.  They may not be yours and that is okay (obviously). Thank you, dearies, for understanding my need to write it as I see it.}

Every once in awhile, I try to be a fun mom.  I break out of our routine and try to do something with my kids that I don't normally do, but that lots of other moms do.  You know, something that my kids would think was fun.  It's not the actual fun I'm opposed to.  It's just that those types of activities go against my grain, I'm sorry to say.   

This past summer, my "fun mom" thing was 'smores and glow sticks.  When we'd have friends over in the evening and darkness came calling, we'd roast marshmallows and I'd hand out glow sticks to the kids.  The glow sticks ended up being a great (cheap) night time activity for them and a great way for the grownups to keep track of little people in the dark.

But summer is over.  So, the other day a friend called and invited us to go to a pumpkin-patch-activity-center with her and her daughter.  Some other families were possibly going to go as well.  They weren't going until afternoon.  School would be finished by then, so I said yes.  I don't do things like this very often and thought maybe I should.  It would be sociable of me and I knew the kids would enjoy it.  Yes, this was me trying to convince myself that I should try the fun-mom route once again.

Well, none of the friends ended up being able to come but I didn't get this message until later that evening.  I gathered it when none of them had arrived a half hour after our meeting time.  Even so, I forked over the cash ($23, mercy me) and we headed inside.  Did I mention that the $23 included a wagon ride to the pumpkin patch but did not include the cost of actually getting pumpkins at the patch?  I'm pretty thrifty and try to use my money wisely, but I was not about to take my kids on a wagon ride to a pumpkin patch only to tell them we weren't buying any pumpkins.  Are you kidding me? 

The kids had fun.  They rode on a carousal, went down a big tube slide, used a big sling shot, looked at some animals, played on some playground equipment, and went on the wagon ride to pick out pumpkins.  While the kids were having fun, I enjoyed their enjoyment but inside I was confused.  It all just seemed unnatural to me.  I am in no way trying to disparage this particular establishment.  They exist because people evidently really like settings like these.

I get the pumpkin patch.  For families that live in the city or don't have room to plant pumpkins, I get it.  And, I get the animals, even though they didn't all live in stellar conditions which made me a little sad.  I felt especially badly for the pigs.  They hold pig races throughout the day and we were there during one of them.  Two sets of five pigs at a time were lined up in chutes (like racing horses) and then were released to run through a short course.  The winner got half an apple.  We were assured that all were properly fed whether they won or not.  The sad part was that once they were released onto the grass track, several of them just started rooting to their hearts content.  They preferred rooting to racing for half an apple because they're pigs and that's what pigs do.  I doubted there was much rooting going on in the little wooden pig shack they are housed in when not racing.

But, I digress.

It just struck me how as a society we long to be entertained.  We want the activity without the effort.  We want others to do the fun for us so all we have to do is show up.  And when the fun we show up for is so planned and concocted, we end up experiencing what someone else thinks we should think is fun.  And we fall for it!

I have to ask.  Do we decide to do something just because the kids like it?  Is this our only standard? If so, what's to keep us from letting them play video games and eat candy all day?  They would enjoy it.  Do we want to teach them that liking something should be the only deciding factor in whether or not they participate in an activity?  I'm not saying they should never have fun, but I want my kids to be critical thinkers when they grow up.  This might mean showing them how to make choices even if they are unpopular or uncommon.

Calm down, there, Jane.  Deep breath.

Did I regret going?  No.  Will we be going back?  Probably not.  Even though it takes a little planning and some added energy on my part, I'd rather create our own fun based on what I know we think of as fun and worthy activities.  This may include inviting friends over for a bonfire while the grown ups visit and the kids run around.  Or, raking leaves and jumping in the piles followed by apple cider.  Or, going for a hike through the changing leaves, or inviting friends over to make a small batch of applesauce and then eating it together, warm.

These activities nurture relationships and invoke an enjoyment of an undoctored creation.  And they cost little to nothing. 

Sometimes, living simply is living real.  Fun mom or not, it is the real that I gravitate toward. Pin It


  1. I tend to be more like you in that I don't take my children to a lot of 'extra' activities. Every once in a while I'll take them to some 'fun kid' thing.

    I have a friend who is always doing extra activities with her kids. She seems to know about every special event that is taking place - harvest parties, paint your own pottery days, special kids events at libraries, grocery stores etc. She fills their weekends with activities and says that her children don't like to stay home. They'd rather go do stuff or they get bored.

    She invites me & my kids along to these things & 95% of the time I decline. I'm not opposed to doing stuff like this every now & then and it's good for my kids to sometimes have a special event to look forward to, but for me I'd rather stay home. And, my thinking too is that if we are doing special events all the time, then they cease to be 'special' events.

  2. Thank you for writing this. Very often, I feel like the "mean mom" for not wanting to do this stuff. But, honestly -- it's NOT fun for me. And more often than not, it's not all that fun for my kids (displayed by their sassy attitudes by the end of the day, and the "wantitis" that occurs afterward -- "I want ____. Why can't we do ____??" Grrrrr...). I, too, would much rather just enjoy LIFE together -- real life. Unfortunately, sometimes I am so busy doing laundry that I miss those real life opportunities, too. This post reminds me to seek them out. That is where the real memories are made.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Just the other day I had a similar discussion with our youngest, at his prompting. Somehow we got on the discussion of birthdays and how some people like to plan extravagant parties at pizza "parlors" or bowling alleys. He was telling me he just didn't get it.... and how he thought it was more fun to have some friends over. He will be 13 this summer and is already "planning" his birthday... pizza (homemade), decorate your own "cakes", another jello shark, maybe a sleepover or camping out in the backyard. As far as he is concerned getting together with friends and "making" your own fun is better than having someone provide it for you.

  4. Oh I love you. Please keep expressing your opinion! I love when you do. I can't tell you how many times I had to learn this little lesson-and the funny thing is when you look around-ARE the kids really having that much fun? I remember going to Disney once (yes my husband talked me into it) and I swear every other kid looked miserable-exhausted, sweaty, waiting in line, screaming, crying, whining for some stupid $10 piece of plastic, and I thought, "For God's sake alive we are ALL fools." What all these kids probably want (need?) more than anything is just their parents playing with them in some field, a pool, their houses.
    I feel as passionately as you do about what I called "manufactured fun". I'll be the lame mom and stay home ANY day of the week.

  5. Well written post, Jane. We have become a society of passive people. So many people don't participate in life. They sit and pay to be entertained. I won't continue on or this will become a rant. Blessings to you and parents like you who chose to provide fun and entertainment for their children by providing a way for them to experience such in real life.

    P.S. Although I'm not stingy (but I am frugal) I think $23 for the fall pumpkin patch outing (without pumpkins!) was a lot!

  6. I completely agree -- it's so refreshing to hear someone else put it into words. THANK YOU!

  7. Which is precisely why I love you!!!

  8. Just to play devil's advocate :) ................ I don't send the kids to preschool or pay for any extracurricular activities and probably rival you in terms of frugality BUT oh how I LOVE adventures with my kiddies!!! I love experiencing the wonder and awe they feel at seeing the simplest things. It's been such a joy to all pile in the van and go out in search of parks or fairs or special places in our city. I love going to the county fair on the free days, I LOVE this AWESOME, CHEAP pumpkin patch created by a family just behind their house with animals and corn kernel sandbox, I LOVE free events downtown where we meet friends and hang out and watch fireworks or stroll on warm summer evenings, I LOVE our museum membership where we go for free to all the events and know all the people who work there. We have big gardens, we can, we preserve, we have family devotionals and spend a huge amount of time at home but how I LOVE our adventures :) I understand your point and know a bit what you are talking about but I think there is a way to do it without deadening the senses plus I feel part of our family's calling is outreach and everywhere we go we try to bless others, through relationship or through giving. We have made the greatest connections through our library visits, our museum visits, even the people who own the pumpkin patch - their children come out and run with my children on opening day when we show up each year. Always a balance......lovingly, one of your biggest fans, Mandy

    Oh and one of my kids all time favorite summer activities is smores, a campfire with the neighbors and camping out with daddy! Will have to add glowsticks to the repetoire!

  9. oh wow,animal cruelty and greed,not good. I remember our funnest times growing up and most had nothing to do with money or even gong places,it is so different now and don't know if we can ever get that back. my father was such a miser,we were lucky to get any treats at all. your a good mom I feel and doing a great job,I had forgotten how important it is to have some critical thinkers in this world

  10. I'm with you 100%. Thanks for posting!

  11. Oh, hurray!!! Another of your posts that make me want to cheer! THANK YOU!!!

  12. Love it. I totally agree too. I often write of adventures with my kids, although the best adventures always seem to be those that are free and just exploring the natural world.

  13. my only comment would be parents, i think it is important that we actively participate with our children when they ask us to (refers to older kids her, think teens). my parents (who were much older than most parents when I was a teen) never cared to do anything that was an interest to me which sent me looking for entertainment elsewhere which wasn't always positive. even though the activity your child wants to participate in may not be fun for you, it may be very fun for them and might further encourage them to research a possible career, hobby, etc. i've done lots and lots of activities with my girls (now 18 and 15) and the oldest one (now in college) is so grateful for the opportunities that we took advantage of together. as a parent, looking back, i'd be sad had i not made those special memories with her. that's something you can never get back.

    i'm not saying anything against your opinion, just that as parents i think we need to remember that sometimes we need to say yes when we can.

  14. I don't think your perspective is out of line. I realized a little about myself while reading your posting though, I'm not a "fun" mom either. I like to think I'm funny. I do spend a lot of time with my children. But I lean toward activities that have a real purpose other than just fun.

    I don't know if I am right or wrong. But I'm sure I'm a product of my hardworking parents and grandparents.

    Thanks for this interesting posting.

    Have a great day!

  15. I totally get your thinking. Sometimes I feel like I am just not on the same wavelength as other women I know. Thank you for sharing this and other posts. It helps to know there are other people out there tuned to the same station as me, so to speak.

  16. I'm not fun, either. My son doesn't expect typical fun, thankfully. We did get free tickets to the opera a few days ago and he loved it. The arts transcend mere entertainment, so when we do something, we often choose a classical concert, art museum, or opera. That way, we have something out of the ordinary to do, but we still have to think a little. And we can always score free tickets, so it's plenty frugal. I absolutely loved this post, and now I don't feel quite so guilty for skipping all the events most people don't think twice of attending.

  17. This really spoke to me. We are considering homeschooling...I'm really feeling called to homeschool, actually. So our income will be cut in half (obviously), and I've really been dwelling on the experiences that we will be "missing" if I quit my job. Reading this made realize all the things that we will be actually be gaining...

  18. YES, YES, YES! Someone who gets it! I feel so alone in this in my locality. Even my husband theoretically agrees but often falls for the expensive activity to not disappoint the kiddos.

  19. something tells me that, in 20 years, your kids will remember the nights with glow sticks and the days of leaf raking with apple cider...or making applesauce with their friends and eating it, warm. :) they may remember the pumpkin patch, too... yes, we all have to participate, in some respects, in the commercialism of this world...but in reality, every experience we have will carve us out to be who we are... :) it may be some money falling through your grip, but it all helps us become who we are... :) we just need to learn in moderation or lacking for the things that are expensive... :) you're a good momma :)

  20. Amen, Sista! ;) I couldn't agree more.

  21. There are lots of people that like to 'keep the kids busy', but in my mind kids need to be bored sometimes, and need quiet time to just be. Then there is the question of enrichment vs. distraction or entertainment when it comes to these said activities. I think like anything else there needs to balance and purpose in what we do with our family.

  22. yay, AMEN!!!

    I like a pumpkin patch but wow, not so planned and cutesy. I'd rather take my kids to my uncle's farm, you know? It's real, not staged.

    I am not a fun, sponateous person, so I do try to break out of that sometimes. Recently we did International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (I blogged about it - the kids were a little sick so it wasn't a wildly fun as it could be - we'll try again next year). That's one of my ideas of fun!


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