We’re Having Fun. Quit Your Whining.

Sometimes, having fun with my kids can be a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a worthwhile pursuit – but there are times when it just plain wears me out. And I know I’m not the only one. I recognize the same weary look in the faces of moms and dads all over the place – at zoos, at museums, at parks, and always, always at Disney World.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why Family Fun isn’t as “fun” as it should be and I’ve come up with a new theory: Family Fun is composed of only 10% actual fun. The rest of Family Fun consists of complaining, whining, sibling rivalry, snappish comments, over-priced snacks, long waits, temperatures that are too hot, temperatures that are too cold, over-priced souvenirs, lines that are too long, rides that are too short, museums that are too boring, cars that are too small, planes that are too bumpy, food that is too different, and one too many requests to ‘say cheese.’

Inexplicably, when you combine all these factors together and look retrospectively through the lens of a proper cooling off period, (length of cooling off period will vary) more often than not, you are left with what passes for fond memories. Go figure.

I’m still waiting for the fond memories to replace my actual memories of my most recent Family Fun adventure. Yesterday, my husband and I decided we would take our kids on a family bike ride. The weather was perfect – a cool 68°F with overcast skies and a light breeze. We had nothing else to do that day and we figured the kids would be overjoyed. Here is a transcript of our discussion prior to our Fun activity:

Mom & Dad: “Hey kids, how would you like to go on a family bike ride?”

Son: “Maybe.”

Daughter: “Will there be food?”

Mom & Dad: “No –what? We thought we would go on the trail and just enjoy this nice day!”

Son: “How far will we go? I don’t want to go as far as last time.”

Daughter: “Can we bring snacks?”

This lukewarm reception should have served as a warning. But we ignored whatever alarm bells were going off in our collective parenting brain and spent what felt like five to six hours getting out the bikes, filling up tires, getting on the proper attire, gathering helmets, stuffing the 4 bikes into our minivan and yes, packing snacks. Exhausted already, but undaunted in our quest to for Fun, we headed out. Here is a transcript from the beginning of our Fun ride:

Mom& Dad: “Ready, guys?”

Daughter: “It’s freezing out here.”

Son: “It looks like it’s going to rain.”

Daughter: “What will happen to the snacks if it rains?”

Son: “I don’t want to get wet.”

Mom&Dad: “A little rain never hurt anyone. It’ll be an adventure.”

Son: “I don’t want an adventure.”

Daughter: “I don’t want to eat wet snacks.”

Son: “My bike seat is too hard.”

Daughter: “My helmet itches my chin.”

Mom&Dad: “Quit your whining. This is supposed to be FUN!”

Son: “Yeah – real fun.”

Daughter: “It isn’t fun when you yell…”

Dedicated-to-Fun parents that we are, we went ahead and took our Family Fun bike ride anyway, despite the fact that no one seemed to want to – not even us by that point. Here are some of the highlights from the event itself:

  • We went a total of 7 miles in an hour and a half (that felt like four).
  • We stopped eight times for water.
  • We stopped six times for snacks.
  • My son cried on four separate occasions. (We were going to fast; we were going too slow; his little sister passed him, he got rained on.)
  • We stopped three times to adjust my daughter’s helmet, that incidentally never stopped feeling itchy.
  • We stopped to look at a snake, gently prod him with a stick, and take his picture to identify what kind he was later.
  • We got yelled at by a passing biker for blocking the trail while we looked at the snake.
  • My husband snapped at me for being too negative.
  • I snapped at my husband for being too cheerful.
  • The leg of my yoga pants got caught in the gears on my bike, tearing my pants and causing me to fall –inexplicably in slow motion – off my bike.

In keeping with my theory, only one of the ten things that happened on the bike ride was actually fun. (And FYI -it wasn’t me falling off my bike.) Finding the snake was for sure the highlight of the whole experience – and was in fact, the turning point of our afternoon. We were all mysteriously buoyed by finding that snake and the ride back (we were on our return by that point) was pleasant – or at least not as miserable as the ride out had been.

I said to my husband, as I did the Sunday before when we went on a family run/walk, “Why do we keep doing things like this? No one likes this. This isn’t fun.” He agreed, as he does every week. But we both know that at some point between last Sunday and next Sunday, the memories of the Bike Ride From Hell, will be magically transformed into The Time We Found That Snake and we will all look back on the experience with fond, if distorted, memories as we set out on our next quest for Family Fun.




9 Comments on “We’re Having Fun. Quit Your Whining.”

  1. We have similar fun family experiences. I like to console myself that our daughter will sometimes tell the stories to her own kids while fondly chuckling about the good old days.

  2. rockitalian says:

    Very funny and very true. I laughed out loud. Thanks!

  3. Stacia says:

    Laughing out loud. And now I blame you for my boys going to bed late. Too much fun reading!!!

  4. karlapr says:

    SO relate-able! (Is that not a word?) How old are your kids?

    • Jill Orr says:

      Mine are 7 & 10. These are fun ages, but sometimes that ‘fun’ is hard to come by, you know?

      • karlapr says:

        I have ten year old twins (boy and girl) — family fun can be elusive and comes at unexpected times, but not as much as I wish it did… AND I have been trying to think more lately about my own fun (a la “The Happiness Project”), which is also surprisingly challenging!

  5. steph atkinson says:

    Love this post

  6. All parent’s have a sophisticated amnesia mechanism that is switched on at the moment of your first child’s birth which gives you the uncanny ability to just remember the good stuff and wipe out any memory of whining. Now if we could just extract that and use it in the world at large….

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