By Farrah Alexander
Four years ago, I was a brand-new mom taking my brand-new son out of the house solo for the first time. I was still recovering from an intense labor and delivery and the newfound state of extreme exhaustion I never knew existed. My husband returned to his demanding routine of balancing grad school, an internship and his full-time job. My baby was adjusting to the world after an early arrival, recovering from jaundice and breastfeeding struggles.
We were tired. All of us, so very tired.
Even the tiny goal of a trip to the post office seemed daunting. What if he cries? How am I going to carry these packages and a baby? What if he’s too cold? What about the germs? Oh my God, the germs. But off we went.
As I struggled with the logistics of getting my newborn out of the car seat, into my carrier and out into the world, I spotted and locked eyes with another mother. Although she was clearly in another stage of motherhood, she also looked tired as she shuffled her small army of little ones into her minivan. I must have looked desperate and overwhelmed to this veteran mother who had years of experience compared to my mere weeks.
Now that my oldest just turned four, I know this mother could have told me anything. She could have scoffed at my exhaustion and warned me to just wait. Just wait until potty training. Just wait until school bullies. Just wait until sibling fights. She could have turned her experience into pessimism.
Instead, she looked at me without even pausing her shuffle of buckling kids in their seats – a routine she’s clearly done countless times – smiled, let out a half-hearted laugh and said with absolute certainty and conviction, “You’re going to have so much fun!”
Just as I now know all mothers face different challenges as their kids get older and all mothers face some level of physical or mental exhaustion, I also know she was right. It is so much fun.
Before I became a mother, I thought parents were surely lying when they claimed life was more fun with kids. I thought it was something they said to justify the monotonous realities of parenthood. Choose late nights up with a fussy infant over catching a late movie? Then spending weekend mornings up early watching Curious George rather than sleeping in and relaxing with a hot cup of coffee in your pajamas until noon? No, thanks. I honestly thought much of the fun ended when you began having kids.
The truth is it’s a different kind of fun. “Netflix and chill” is more than just a euphemism. Now, I spend the latter part of my evenings looking forward to putting the kids in bed, snuggling up on the couch with my husband until one of us falls asleep under the warm glow of the television. It is a truly rare occasion that I’m still wearing makeup and actual pants past 8:30. Weekends are spent going to the zoo, attending kids’ birthday parties or something else I wouldn’t have any interest in if I wasn’t a parent. You don’t go to events like Disney on Ice because you want to see if Mickey Mouse has skating skills. You want to see your child’s face light up with the sense of wonder and excitement that only exists when you’re a child.
Suddenly all these silly, goofy things are fun because you have kids and the kids make it fun.
There’s so much fun to be had and there’s no one more eager to have fun than a kid. Although as a parent, you obviously carry all the responsibility and the less fun factors of being an adult, you also get to call all the shots.
So, you remember trick or treating at the house with the full-sized candy bars? You can be that house. You remember wanting to wear your Batman costume for no particular occasion, other than Tuesday? Well, happy Tuesday, kid. You’re the caped crusader overseeing our daily errands.
The days are long, but the years are short. This time in our lives is fleeting and one day will be but a memory. Everyone only gets one shot at childhood and we, as parents, largely shape just what kind of childhood that will be. So, let’s have some fun.