Way back on Mother’s Day, our pastor asked, “What would your kids say if asked ‘Do you think Mom is fun?'” (I haven’t asked my kids yet. I’m a scaredy-cat.) It wasn’t a question posed to heap yet another responsibility on moms. I know my tendency when I hear a question like that is to respond with a sarcastic, “Oh great, now in addition to laundry and dishes and taxi service I have to be a comedienne?!? Perfect.” But the point of the question was to help us remember to find joy in this journey. With all the tasks before us, and the job of raising polite, respectable, and competent humans, us moms can get weighed down and driven and forget to laugh and have fun. Tweens and teens tend to be in a life stage where emotions run high, and frustration and quarreling (amongst siblings as well as with parents) can set a kind of bummer mood in the home sometimes.
I think I was pretty great at “fun” when my kids were young. I mean, preschoolers think everything is giggle-worthy, right? Anyone reading this for a while remembers when my kiddos were itty-bitty that I loved documenting the fun we had around this place. But some years have passed….and themed family nights just don’t quite go over the same with tweens and teens.
So how to cultivate joy and laughter with kids who are in this stage? Hyper self-awareness and sensitivity toward being “laughed at” (even if that’s not your intent) can sometimes rule the day.
I think the very best, gut-busting laughter and joy happen spontaneously when our heart is right and we are trying to intentionally enjoy our kids instead of just manage them. But I also think that in these tween/teen years, when attitudes are being addressed, rules are being challenged, and behaviors are being shaped, it’s good to try and bring some deliberate, intentional fun to the home. Here are some things that seem to work to lift spirits around here:
– looking through old vacation pics together, sharing fun memories
– watching funny YouTube videos together
– give everyone a $5 bill and set them loose in Target
– no one ever says no to a spontaneous ice cream run
– making fun of old pictures of Mom and Dad from Jr. High and High School
– let them create the playlist for the car when you’re running errands
– nerf gun wars are still a hit
– making slow-mo videos
– anything spontaneous and out of the ordinary: Jump in the lake with clothes on, swim in the neighborhood pond, spray them down with the kitchen sink sprayer, agree to let them dumpster dive and build something with the old scrap wood they find…..Anytime they anticipate you will say “no” and you say “yes” instead generates good vibes!
-find some FUN games that you actually might enjoy a little. As mom to a tween you’ve long said see ya later sucker to Candyland and Chutes and Ladders and GOOD RIDDANCE! A favorite around here right now is Rummikub.
-give them some challenges that involve cold hard cash. My brother-in-law recently offered my 13 year old a generous cash prize if he could solve a Rubik Cube within 3 days. He successfully completed the challenge, and I didn’t hear “I’m bored” for 3 whole days! Plus it was a great lesson in not giving up. Other challenge ideas would be finishing a book series within a certain amount of time (for reluctant readers), or running a mile within a certain time (for reluctant movers).
– other moms do cool stuff like play video games with their kids. I have resolved this will never be me. I just don’t even get it. Minecraft seems like the most boring thing on the planet to me. I will occasionally submit to a 2 minute “okay, show me your new world you created” but that’s as much effort as I’m willing to give. I’m out.
Yet again, this post is written for THIS mama writing it. Here’s to enjoying my kids, finding joy in the journey, laughter, and FUN!