My son, Jason, recently shared an old Jerry Seinfeld moment with me that made him laugh through the years, probably because he remembers when. According to Seinfeld, his mom never let him have a cookie at times when his heart yearned for just one. He says he enjoys adulthood now, because if he wants a cookie he eats it, if he wants three, he eats three, if he wants eleven, no big deal! In a standup comedy routine, he shares that one day he called his mom just to tell her he had totally and intentionally, ruined his appetite. He added, "So what if I ruin it, because as an adult, we understand even if you ruin an appetite with a cookie, there's another appetite coming right behind it. There is no danger of running out of appetites! I have millions of them. I'll ruin them whenever I want!" I laughed with Jason. I was reminded of all the appetites I didn't let him ruin as a child.
Do we parents miss the boat sometimes, just because we have the authority to say what goes and what does not? Do we make big deals out of things that we could make jokes about? Suppose your child wants a cookie and you sneak a couple out of the cookie jar and go sit down with him to eat it, right before dinner. Worth the time? Yes. What do you have to give up to do this or some other fun thing? Maybe a phone call, maybe the last few minutes of a TV show you were watching.
I saw a book not long ago, a collections of notes children had written their parents while away from home. One particular one was from a little boy who wrote, "Hey Mom. Bath time is fun at Grandma's house. I don't have to hurry. She has lots of time to play."
Parents are busy making a living, tending to life, trying to make things work with minimal backlash. It's easy for kids to see home as a place of rules, regulations, quick baths with no bubbles, and no cookies to ruin appetites. In the process of making sure all our rules are in place, sometimes we miss the laughs and chances to bond.
You can give your mind a real workout by trying to figure out new fun things to do to make more laughter in your home. I love April Fool's Day. I always pull a whooper on each of our sons. Each year they say they will be prepared for the next, but somehow, I catch them at just the right moment with a wild proclamation and they believe it. That is, until a couple of years ago. I told them a yarn that I stretched a little too far. They are on to me now, at least for the time being.
Halloween is a perfect month to let your hair down and show your children a new you. If you are a stay-at-home parent, do some pretending. Surprise them when they come home from school. If that is not an option, show up at some point before the day is over with overdone makeup, wild hair or whatever it takes for laughter. Who says life has to be so serious?
Perhaps you prefer to celebrate the autumn season. A trip to the craft store or dollar store can produce enough items to make your own autumn friend. Its total fun and laughter to put him together, name him, then tell funny stories about how he came to live with your family. It is also a practice for your kids to use their imagination, a very healthy thing.
When the kids see Mom and Dad or their single parent having fun, it strengthens the family. With major holidays just around the corner, put your mind to work. Create laughter. We have heard of all the physical benefits of laughter. Did you know it is also one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting? In addition, it is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements and hurts. It takes a lot of extra effort, but families need it, even more than a forbidden cookie. Simply put, it takes the edge off life.
If planning good times and carrying them through makes family members smile, can you imagine how our Heavenly Father smiles when He sees a family doing what He created them to do, enjoy life abundantly. His favor is upon us. That's worth smiling about!
Antje and her husband, Richard, live in MS. She is a columnist for Parents and Kids Magazine. She loves sharing her parenting experiences and helping other see how the years fly and how important it is to make each moment count.