(It's rated PG-13 for language, but you should still read it. It's the lesson that is important, not the words.)
The other day, Aidan and I were driving home from his elementary school. He'd come home sick the afternoon I went to join him for lunch.
As we were driving over the bridge close to our house, he said something that nearly broke my heart.
(Remember, he is eight. He is our future.)
"Mom?" he asked, softly. "Is being a grown-up fun?"
I thought for a second about how best to word my answer as image after image popped into my head. Drinking at the club with a fake id. Hangovers. My first shitty apartment. Roommates. Choosing between having food for the week or cigarettes (and always choosing cigarettes). Divorce. Poopy diapers. Paying bills. Laundry. Mowing the grass.
He went on.
"It just doesn't seem like very much fun. All you do is homework and take care of kids."
Can you imagine? Can you imagine how shitty that must feel, to not be able to wait to grow up, but then to suddenly think that being a grown-up sucks even more ass than being eight? What am I teaching my child?
I start slowly. "Yeah, buddy. Being a grown-up is pretty fun. I mean, you get to stay up as late as you want to and no one tells you to go to bed. You get to get married and have kids, and kids are great fun even though they're a lot of work." (I did not mention how they ruin your boobs and vagina and give you stretch marks: I didn't want to scar the poor kid.)
I told him how, sometimes when everyone is asleep, I like to get up before the sun and make a pot of coffee and just sit in the quiet morning, and that I think that is fun.
I'm not sure if he understood everything I was saying, but I think I was convincing enough to tide him over for a while.
But it got me thinking: Is being a grown-up fun? What would you say? When you look deep down where no one else can see, is it as fun as you thought it would be?
I've often wondered when it is, exactly, that we stop having fun. At what age do we stop getting excited about bubblegum-flavored toothpaste? Why doesn't our cough medicine taste like blue raspberry? When did I stop drinking Slush Puppies? (Great Port Charlotte reference there, and the old Convenience Food Store.) At what age do we stop popping wheelies on our bikes? When do we quit cutting through people's lawns in order to get to the basketball hoops a little quicker? When do we stop getting Happy Meals, and why aren't there little surprises in our combo meals? Something age-appropriate, like condoms or Chapstick? Or a new pair of shoelaces? Wouldn't it be great to order lunch and find a surprise inside?
We tell our kids to go play outside. Go ride your bike. Go get some fresh air. Run around in the yard. But we don't do the same. If, to them, we equate those things as being "fun," why don't we do them when no one is looking? When is the last time you made a mudpie when the kids were at school? When is the last time you climbed a tree...just because? Remember how awesome it used to be to color in a new coloring book? When was the last time you bought yourself a coloring book and horded it for yourself? Remember those "paint by numbers" things? I used to think I was goddamned Picasso, painting horses and dogs and kittens like no one's business. I thought they were absolutely effing brilliant when I was finished. But I haven't done one in probably 30 years. Why not?
Tonight, I challenge you as I challenge myself: Do something fun tomorrow. Do something you used to love, and do it when no one is looking. Don't play Hot Wheels with your kids or your grandkids: play by yourself. Give it a try. Go to 7-11 and buy a Slurpee. Bonus points if you ride your bike up there. Make something out of Play-Doh. Maybe when we learn to have fun again, being a good role model for fun will come easy.
What are you going to do? Whatever it is, do it with your tongue sticking just a bit out, concentration meter amped up to 12. Do it with verve. Remember what having fun was all about, and then share it with us for inspiration. Remind yourself, and remind others, to have fun. Pack a note in your spouse's lunchbox. Make them smile. Spread the fun. :-)