I have to be honest.
I’ve been phoning in my Elsa performances lately. My daughter is on to me, and she’s told me several times that I am not using my magical powers right, and I often miss my cue to break into a soul-wrenching rendition of “Let it Go.”
I was about ready to quit.
So it was with much anticipation that I left last week with my husband on our first-ever trip alone since our first child was born seven years ago. Five days without playing Elsa or doing laundry or refereeing arguments over who was talking first or ordering food from restaurants based solely on what can be easily divided between my two daughters. Five days of adult conversation and ... wait for it ... naps in the middle of the day! Greatest invention ever.
Guess what I discovered? I still love my husband after 12 years of marriage. It was a pretty nice thing to rediscover, but I also learned something else on our trip: I am a fun person.
That may sound a little braggy, but it’s true. I am fun. Of course, who wouldn’t be fun when the toughest part of the day is dragging yourself down to the beach?
I laughed. I was easygoing. I smiled.
And then, it hit me: Do my kids get to see me like this? I want my kids to see me like this. Sure, they see me having fun and doing enjoyable things, but when was the last time they saw me relaxed, carefree and not just having fun, but being fun?
I resolved to not leave that fun lady at the beach. I would bring her home with me and my kids would be so impressed with their fun, super easygoing mom.
And hello reality. Goodbye midday naps. Goodbye hammock. Goodbye using the bathroom without an audience. Goodbye easygoing mom.
But I refused to say goodbye to fun mom. My kids deserve to know that mom, too, along with homework mom, soccer mom, family home evening mom and chauffeur mom. So here’s what I decided: I am my most fun when I actually enjoy what I am doing.
That may seem obvious, but to me, it was this huge epiphany that I have to proactively find activities to do with my children that are fun not just for them but also for me. That means being honest with myself that playing the role of Elsa in my 3-year-old daughter’s make-believe world is just not that fun for me.
But I enjoy other things that I can share with my daughter. I love taking walks, having picnics, visiting animal farms and planting flowers. So this week, that’s what we did. We had so much fun picking out the flowers we were going to plant and making the snapdragon flowers look like talking monsters. We basked in the sunshine on our picnic and laughed at the sucking piglets at the farm.
I changed my perspective at the park playground, too. I do not enjoy pushing kids on the swings forever or standing at the bottom of the slide clapping. But I do enjoy swinging with my daughter on my lap as she sings in my ear as we fly back and forth. And I enjoy doing slides alongside her, as ridiculous as a grown woman may look using a twisty tube slide.
When I started doing what I enjoyed, the fun was never forced and neither were the smiles.
Sure, I will continue to do things I don’t especially relish, like playing Sorry! for the millionth time. That’s just part of motherhood. But I will also find things I love to do and bring my children along to enjoy them with me.
Children need to see their mothers smile, laugh and lose themselves in the moment. My kids won’t remember most of the activities we do, but they will remember the feeling. And I hope it’s warm and bright and easy, just like my smile.
From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Erin Stewart discusses it all while her 7-year-old and 3-year-old daughters dive bomb off the couch behind her.