I think a lot about what adulthood must look like to my eight-year-old daughter. A few weeks ago, as we were watching someone struggle to get a stroller onto a streetcar, my heart sank when she turned to me and said, “Mom, is it any fun at all having a kid? Because it just seems like so much work.” What she doesn’t realize is that I do think about having fun. But nine times out of 10, it’s in the context of making sure she has it—scheduling play dates and sleepovers; driving her to activities; sitting in a dimly lit hallway with other parents, watching the minutes of her hip-hop class tick by, while she has the time of her life on the other side of the door.
Like most adults today, I spend exactly zero time making sure I have a comparable amount of fun for myself. And lately, life feels completely stacked against having fun. Between our sandwich-generation responsibilities, dire headlines about climate change, financial security looking like a fever dream and Donald Trump still (still!) not being impeached, having fun—real, spontaneous, pee-your-pants kinda fun—seems about as likely as, well, Donald Trump being impeached. Even our family holidays have become disconnected from looking for ways to have a good time, overtaken by the bigger imperative to relax and unplug. (I’m not alone here. One survey found that 82 percent of Canadian travellers book trips to relieve stress.)
My kids began to thrive the minute I stopped scheduling themI’m definitely giving dull Jack from that all-work-no-play proverb a run for his money (the fact that I’m quoting proverbs should remove any remaining doubt). But it’s not too late.
I miss having fun with my friends, my partner and my kid. That alone is how I know that with the right mindset, I can turn this ship—nay, this party cruise—around.
And I’m positive I don’t need to book a budget-busting trip somewhere to do it. Last summer, during some “I just need to unplug” time away, I was overcome by the need for a little good old-fashioned fun. I rushed to the nearest big-box store and scouted the aisles with military-like precision until I found what I was looking for. I drove home, pulled out the garden hose, filled 200 water balloons and whispered to my daughter and her friend that we were going to ambush their dads. I wasn’t just mitigating or managing or taking a vacation from my stress—it completely fell away, and adrenalin took over. Twenty minutes of mad scrambling and squealing later, we were soaking wet, laughing and happy.
That is the kind of fun I need back in my life. Everyday, uncomplicated, water-balloon-to-the-face fun. And this summer I’m determined to get it, both for my sake and to show my kid that adulthood isn’t a one-way ticket to Downertown. I’m not talking about quitting my job or shirking my responsibilities or turning a blind eye to the news. But I will make having fun as much a priority as anything else. I’ll put other things, like that overdue trip to the gym, aside to accommodate it. I’ll fake a cough one afternoon and trade my meetings for a matinee. I’ll go full Ferris Bueller if it means more ice cream crawls, more impromptu Frisbee in the park and more night swimming. The fun parade is coming. Hell, maybe I’ll even dance on a float.