Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kids Just Want to Have Fun

There was a little girl on the train today...actually she has been on there for about a week...commuting in with her parents. I suspect she is going to camp or daycare. She's super silly. She makes silly faces. Makes her parents play pretend games. She is loud and talks non stop. She sings songs in funny voices. She annoys me.

Tim will be the first person to tell you I don't know how to be silly and let myself go with the kids. I honestly don't get that kind of stuff because I didn't have that kind of childhood. I came out of the womb responsible and quickly transitioned from toddler to adult. I grew up in a single parent home with my mother and brother. My mother worked in Boston, so she left early in the morning and came home late. By 4th grade I was a latch key kid, responsible for doing the laundry, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, doing my homework, and then making sure my brother, my older brother, did his homework too. And when I say I cooked dinner, I mean I made roast beef, with gravy, mashed potatoes, and a veggie on the side. At the age of 9.

My mother was old fashioned and didn't believe that girls should play sports and sweat. It wasn't lady like. So, while my brother was out playing sports and hanging with his friends, I was home cleaning the house and playing the role of Julia Childs. All without breaking a sweat, of course. That's just how it was and I didn't really know anything different.

When my mother came home she was tired. She commmuted, worked hard, and was raising two kids on her own. We weren't goofing around. We were focused on getting organized for the next day...and I was the one usually telling everyone what to do. On the weekends my mother just wanted to relax and get her errands done...we weren't playing games and singing songs.

I also hung out with adults a lot. At the time, my only cousin near my age was 4 years younger, so familiy gatherings, which were often, usually consisted of me hanging with adults. And I loved it. But looking back I realize there wasn't alot of child's play going on.

When I had kids, being silly, letting loose, and doing "frivilous" things just didn't come naturally to me. Tim is great at that kind of stuff and to this day when we go to the beach, Mimi plays hair dresser with Tim while he reads his book. He talks in funny voices, complains about her service, and never gets tired of it. When the kids were little and wanted to play hairdresser I always threw a wrench in there like "Let's play hairdresser while I wash the dishes?" Or when they wanted to "play ponies" I would say "Let's have the ponies clean up the playroom...ponies love that!" I prefered to initiate games like "Organization Make Over" and "Lists for Fun". Buzz kill, right?

Even today when my kids get together with other kids and they start acting goofy, silly, crazy, and "out of control" (in my book), it's really hard for me to handle. I just don't get it. It doesn't seem like "a good use of time".

I see what this has done to my kids. They hold themselves in check a bit. They are less apt to let loose and be silly when I am around. They have a level of "adultness" to them, even though they are 11 & 12. Believe me, they still have fun and enjoy life but I can't help thinking I didn't teach them to live life without abandon. I am disappointed in myself as a parent in this respect. Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it? I really wasn't even aware of it until Tim pointed it out one day. He said "You just don't get how to be a kid, do you?" And my immediate response, which just flew out of my mouth was "I really never got to be a kid."

It was a big aha moment for me. And honestly, it's really hard to admit. But I can't change my childhood. I can't spend energy wishing things had been different. I am who I am.

Now, don't get me wrong...I do get silly from time to time. I do love a good accent and I have a few that I bring out from time to time. One night the kids and I only spoke in a British accent. And I have a pretty good accent...not as good as my friend Annie's...but I think I could get along at a pub in the Motherland.

And this isn't about having fun. We have lots of fun. My kids and I do lots of fun things and we laugh a ton together. This is more about letting your inner kid shine through. Life is meant to be enjoyed to the fullest and sometimes you just have to let loose and be silly, put yourself out there, be uncharacteristic, and act like a kid in order to seize the moment to the fullest.

We are our own worse critics. I am painting a far worse picture than the actual situation but to me, it is something that has nagged me over the years. Until I saw that little girl on the train again today and sighed because she sat near me, I realized I should just stop beating myself up about it and do something.

So, here's what I am going to do. I am going to be more mindful of the times I don't let loose with my kids and just go with it. And when I see them holding back, I am going to encourage them to live more freely. It's going to take some practice but I'm going to give it a whirl. My goal is that my past and the way I have parented in this area, doesn't hold my kids back in the future from taking chances, putting themselves out there, and allowing themselves to just go with their gut and let loose. I know I won't be able to see that right now, but over time that is my wish.

And in true Kelly fashion, I will be keeping a list of these moments so that I can see how I am doing. In the end, it's not what's on the list but the result it garners, but let's start with baby steps. Insert me blowing a raspberry here.

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