Sometimes, having fun with my kids can be a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a worthwhile pursuit – but there are times when it just plain wears me out. And I know I’m not the only one. I recognize the same weary look in the faces of moms and dads all over the place – at zoos, at museums, at parks, and always, always at Disney World. I’ve been trying to figure out why Family Fun isn’t as “fun” as it should be, and I’ve come up with a new theory: Family Fun is comprised of only 10 percent actual fun. The rest of Family Fun consists of complaining, whining, sibling rivalry, snappish comments, over-priced snacks, temperatures that are too hot, temperatures that are too cold, over-priced souvenirs, lines that are too long, rides that are too short, museums that are too boring, cars that are too small, planes that are too bumpy, food that is too different, and one too many requests to ‘say cheese’. Inexplicably, when you combine all these factors together and look retrospectively through the lens of a proper cooling off period, more often than not you are left with what passes for fond memories.
I’m still waiting for the fond memories to replace my accurate memories of my most recent Family Fun experience. My husband and I decided we would take our kids on a family bike ride.
Mom & Dad: “Hey kids, how would you like to go on a family bike ride?”
Daughter: “Will there be food?”
Mom & Dad: “No –what? We thought we would go on the trail and just enjoy this nice day!”
Son: “How far? I don’t want to go far.”
Daughter: “Can we bring snacks?”
This lukewarm reception should have served as a warning. But we ignored whatever alarm bells were going off in our collective parenting brain and spent what felt like five hours getting out the bikes, filling up tires, getting on the proper attire, gathering helmets, stuffing the 4 bikes into our minivan and yes, packing snacks. Exhausted, but undaunted in our quest for fun, we headed out.
Mom & Dad: “Ready, guys?”
Daughter: “It’s freezing out here.”
Son: “It looks like it’s going to rain.”
Daughter: “What will happen to the snacks if it rains?”
Son: “I don’t want to get wet.”
Mom & Dad: “C’mon – it’ll be an adventure.”
Son: “I don’t want an adventure.”
Daughter: “I don’t want to eat wet snacks.”
Son: “My bike seat is too hard.”
Daughter: “My helmet itches my chin.”
Mom & Dad: “QUIT YOUR WHINNING! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!”
Son & Daughter: “Well, it isn’t fun when you yell…”
Stalwart parents that we are, we went ahead and took our Family Fun bike ride anyway, despite the fact that no one seemed to want to – not even us by that point. Here are some of the highlights from the event itself:
- We went a total of seven miles in an hour and a half (that felt like four).
- We stopped eight times for water.
- We stopped six times for snacks.
- We stopped to look at a snake, gently prod him with a stick, and take his picture.
- A passing biker yelled at us for blocking the trail while we looked at the snake.
- My husband snapped at me for being too negative.
- I snapped at my husband for being too cheerful.
- The leg of my yoga pants got caught in the gears on my bike, tearing my pants and causing me to fall–inexplicably in slow motion—off my bike.
In keeping with my theory, only one of the things that happened on the bike ride was actually fun. Finding the snake was the highlight of the whole experience. Finding that snake oddly buoyed us all, and the ride back was pleasant–even enjoyable.
I said to my husband during one of the kid’s meltdowns, “Why do we keep doing things like this? No one likes this. This isn’t fun.” He agreed, as he does every week when I complain about Family Fun time. But we both know that at some point between this Sunday and next Sunday, the memories of The Bike Ride From Hell, will be magically transformed into The Time We Found That Snake and we will all look back on the experience with fond, however distorted, memories as we set out on our next quest for Family Fun.