‘All Work and No Play…”
I can remember not even wanting to go. Rachel, my wife, thought it would be a good idea to take the kids to one of the “Great Adventure” theme parks. We were living in Texas where I was a graduate professor, and I wanted to stay home and let the kids escape the heat wave in the backyard kiddy pool. I had rigged up a sliding board so that Patrick and Kayla could slip and slide into the cool water. The kids were happy. I was happy. I had my lounge chair and my radio. What else could we possibly want?
But Rachel insisted we load up the car and head for Dallas for two days of amusement park rides and sideshows. Of course, the kids were all in favor of it. They had everything they needed right in their own backyard, hut they agreed to ride for two hours in a cramped car to an overcrowded carnival, stand in long lines to ride the “Texas Giant” roller-coaster, and risk getting sick on overpriced food and drinks. Go figure! It was a conspiracy: three votes in favor of two days of overheated, amusement park madness, and one vote in favor of a quiet, cool, relaxed vacation at home.
The park was everything I feared it would be. Double-digit tickets that put a huge dent in my wallet; unreasonably expensive souvenirs; and parking that cost an arm and a leg. (Shouldn’t parking be included in the price of the ticket?) Well, I was letting everything get to me, and must admit I was becoming increasingly more difficult to be around.
Rachel pulled me over to the side so the kids couldn’t hear. “Quit being such a ‘grumpy-bear’, Michael,” she whispered. “We’re missing out on all the fun. Maybe we could be doing something else—cheaper. But open your eyes. You are spoiling it for your children.”
She was right.
So I decided to get “in gear” and show my family how to have a good time. I really got crazy. I rode the bumper cars. I ate cotton candy. Then we rode the “Texas Giant.”
Changing my attitude saved the weekend. By letting go and loosening up I gave my family permission to relax and have a good time, too. Instead of three against one, we were now unified and freed-up to enjoy life together.
It’s true that, as fathers, we have the power to set the tone. If we’re enjoying life, chances are our families will too. So much of what will be our children’s experience growing up is dependent upon our own attitude. I’ve met a lot of dads who take life too seriously, perhaps even take themselves too seriously. They find it hard to relax. They’re always worried about looking professional or being “adult.” Their kids become uptight, too. And an uptight kid grows up to be a very rigid adult.
Back when Patrick was a preschooler, I’d come home from work and it was time to play. He’d grab my hand and we’d run into his bedroom and get under the bed—we were hiding from dinosaurs! It was awkward at times when one of my students from the university would show up and my suit would be a rumpled mess from being under Patrick’s bed—but hey, that’s just part of being a daddy!
I remember the time I asked my father to watch Patrick for a few minutes while Rachel and I went next door. When we got back, neither of them was in sight. As we searched the house I heard faint laughter coming from my son’s room. I swung open the closet door and found my father, holding Patrick’s hand in the dark.
“Dad, what are you doing?” I asked.
“Pterodactyls, Michael! Pterodactyls!” he replied.
How many men do you know who need to lighten up and get a life? It is important to know how to have fun. Developing your children’s creativity and spontaneity will help them enjoy life, as well as prepare them to be fun persons to be around. You have a big hand in teaching your son or daughter how to meet life’s challenges with good humor and a carefree attitude. And, there’s no better time to start moving from “Humbug Dad” to “Fun-filled Father” than this Christmas and into the New Year! So, grab your red Santa cap, load the kids in the car, and sleigh down the first snow-capped hill you see—singing, “Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…!”
~ by revdrmichael on December 11, 2009.