I didn't realise how much I was missing having fun until a recent short family holiday.
When my husband, daughter and I recently embarked on a road trip to the Gold Coast, the plan was to spend three days together as a family, including some time at the beach and a visit to a theme park, before I attended a seminar and we returned home.
We chose to go to Sea World because it had a Dora the Explorer live show and we knew our little girl would get a thrill from seeing her idol off the screen. We were still exhausted from the 10-hour drive from NSW (what did parents do on long car trips with toddlers before portable DVD players?), knew there would inevitably be crowds (including possible encounters with schoolies), and that it would be hot and take a lot of effort. However, in spite of all this, I caught myself having fun, which surprised me.
I think this is because the idea of going to a theme park is fun in theory, but much less so in practice. After preparing our daughter to leave the house, we had a 40-minute car journey, and when we finally arrived we had to plan the day around the Dora the Explorer afternoon show, while also trying to find the parents' room to heat up a bottle and regularly apply sunscreen. All this meant fun was a very low priority.
Yet somewhere between visiting the water slide area of the theme park and Ella having one of her firsts (her first ride on a merry-go-round), the fun took over, and we were all feeding off each other's happiness. Our guilt about the very short nap Ella had in the car faded when we saw the look on her face when she met Dora the Explorer in person before the show.
I've always agreed wholeheartedly with Mary Poppins' statement "In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job's a game..." However, I think I've unintentionally closed myself off to having fun in favour of getting things done.
That's not to say I don't have times when I enjoy what I’m doing, and spend time with people who make me laugh. But real, true fun, where I am both content and relaxed is something I don't experience often enough – not just during the family outings and holidays I arrange specifically for us to spend quality time together, but in the everyday things, too.
It's my fault because I’m not taking advantage of the simple things that can brighten my day if only I take the time to focus on them a little more, instead of worrying about how my daughter has started waking up very early in the mornings and become fussy about what she eats.
I am now trying to notice the magic in the little things. That means when I'm watching my daughter comically feed herself strawberries with juice dripping down her chin, it can be the thing I remember at the end of the day, instead of thinking about her refusal to eat several other things I served up.
Christmas and the summer holidays are only a few weeks away, so I have no excuse not to try and have plenty of fun starting right now!