I used to be a lot more fun.
There was a time, it feels like years ago, when every free moment was seemingly spent amusing my kids (and myself in the process). But lately, that isn’t the case.
Granted, these days there is far less free time to speak of; plus, the boys no longer consider me their primary source of entertainment. Both factors render my services more or less unnecessary, which is a justifiable excuse for the dulling of my comedic timing, but it’s more than that. I often feel like I’m actively avoiding fun.
To be fair, some of the blame can be placed upon our family’s transition from monarchy to democracy. Increasingly, the kids have their own interests and ideas. What used to happen because my wife or I said so has now become the result of vote and negotiation, sometimes contentious. Bartering for good times is tiresome, and it can cast a shadow of disappointment over the best of ideas before they even have a chance to prove themselves worthy.
Such is the price of kids growing older. We’re all tall enough for the ride, and everyone needs an adult ticket.
Over the past year, the overwhelming focus of my work has shifted from parent-centric writing to trauma-heavy annotation and promoting social causes. It’s incredibly rewarding work, but beyond exhausting. The kids have papers, testing and homework. They have practice and meetings and responsibilities they would prefer to ignore. There is the stage of teen drama. My wife works 80 hours per week dealing with the public, and — fun fact — the public doesn’t always provide the healthiest of takeaways. All of which is constantly coated by the news of the world: a loop of negativity, violence and hate.
That isn’t to say we don’t have our laughs or adventures. It’s just that the seriousness of real world issues and endless pressures have made something we once took for granted more of a special occasion.
I’m reminded of the old story about a jar filled with rocks. Observers accepted the jar as full, only for it to be topped with pebbles that, following a slight shake, filled the crevices between the larger stones. Once again, the consensus was that the jar was at capacity. Then, scoops of sand would be dumped upon it, the grains falling into place despite clogging the hourglass with nope.
That trickle of sand is the tickle of time. It is the game of chess in the coffee shop and the hoops we shot a few days ago. It is the silly songs I still sing each morning to sleepy, teenage groans and a notable lack of requests.
It is fun finding a way to fit into our packed lives, one grain at a time.
Perhaps it isn’t that I was once more fun. Rather, fun was once more obvious, easier and tangible. It has gone from abundance to a precious commodity, and there is value there, too.
I totally had more hair, though.