It’s a strange concept to me that I needed to be taught the importance of fun.
I grew up in a loving, slightly crazy, uber-fun family home. My mum and dad are quite fun people (as the number of photos of them in outrageous costumes at fancy-dress parties will attest). I remember having lots of fun with my siblings, my extended family and friends during my childhood.
Zoom forward in the video of my life to age 25. I’m sitting in a rather sad session at my post-natal depression (PND) support group. There is a warm and friendly psychologist who is giving a presentation about the importance of fun. She says that it is a human need. That humans cannot function without fun. “News to me”, I am thinking. “I thought we were a society too much obsessed with fun”. I am having trouble bending my stubborn mind around what she is saying. The mud-in-my-brain is not having a bar of it.
But we mums sitting here with baggage under our eyes are not representative of the whole of society. And if we are honest, we are not having fun. In fact, we are having no fun at all, ever, for months at a time. Where has that landed us? In need of fun. In need of re-educating about fun. It’s a lesson I’m still learning nearly seven years later.
I mentioned in my last post that I have declared 2012 to be our family’s Year of Fun.
(Imagine my surprise to find that I wasn’t the only one with this plan.)
It’s not really remarkable to plan to have a great year of fun with my family, is it? For me, yes, it is a big thing. Because it means that I am now prioritising something that I haven’t seen as a priority. I think some people need to do that. For others, fun just comes naturally. It’s partially personality-driven, and partially a function of phase-of-life.
My kids this year are ready for fun. The girls are both at school full-time, and the lad will be three in October. A wise Betty once told my mum that she would stop feeling tired when her youngest child turned three. It has been true for so many parents I’ve talked to. I know it’s not a magic point at which everything will be perfect and I’ll never be tired again. But it will herald the beginning of a new phase. The end of babyhood, for one thing.
Any parent could tell you this is bittersweet. When you have decided not to have any more children, and your youngest is no longer a baby, it’s an amazing accomplishment coupled with a fierce grief.
But I digress. Back to fun! I had a small discussion about fun with my eldest daughter recently. I said, “Do you think fun just happens?” She said yes. “No!” I said, “sometimes fun just happens, and you have to grab the moment. But a lot of the time, we must plan for it. You kids don’t need to do much of that, because we parents do the planning for you most of the time. But that takes a bit of thought and planning.” She looked at me with cogs turning all over her face. I felt slightly weird, as though I may have just ruined the concept of fun for her. But my policy as a mum has always been open and honest discussion of almost everything. And that includes having chats with my older kids about aspects of depression (my “brain sickness”), and the strategies I have for coping with it. This is far from a maudlin expectation that they will be sufferers themselves and need the strategies. It is more of a preventative measure; the more knowledge and awareness they have, the better able they will be to cope with depression or other mood disorders in themselves, or others, in the future.
Besides which, right now, fun is a good prescription for everyone in our family. For James, who worked very hard last year, it will mean more swimming and cooking. For the kids, it will mean choosing some activities to get involved in. We are more settled this year; we have been in our new city for twelve months, and we have bought a house. This makes a good launching-environment. (I do pale at the thought of how busy things could be. So my strategy will be lots of planning and not too much on our plates. Wow, that sounds very neat.)
And me? My depression has taught me how to enjoy time on my own. Now, I intend to have some fun with my little family. I will keep you posted.