One of the habits I most want to curtail in my parenting -- along with snapping at Felicity when I've let myself get too hungry or frazzled -- is my interrogation of my child as to whether she had/is having/is going to have fun.
What is this compulsion, to demand to know whether my kid had the time of her life at every activity, in every waking moment?
For me, I have realized that it stems, in some small way, from a need for validation. Since I plan and coordinate most of her activities, I'd like to know whether my Julie McCoy-level cruise direction has been to her liking. And, frankly, whether I'm getting my money's worth. "Oh, today you had BALLET! How was it? Was it FUN???"
See also: "What was your FAVORITE thing about going to the zoo/having a play date/eating lunch???"
Of course, it also comes from a genuine interest in her emotional well-being, a way of checking in with her (does she enjoy gymnastics, or is she brave-facing her way through it and would rather be weaving baskets?), and a desire to fill in the blanks of the many moments in her life that I miss every day.
It's well-intentioned, and it isn't entirely about me. But still, I could at least dial down the pressure for her to have SO MUCH FUN.
Asking for details about her day is one thing -- and good luck to you, sir, because apparently kindergarten occurs under a code of silence; information is doled out sparingly from every one of the girls in her class (we parents have compared notes) and about the best I can wrest out of Felicity on any given day is which part of the lunch she ate (though even those responses are highly suspect, as she told me one week that they had spaghetti and meatballs three days in a row) and, if I'm exceptionally lucky, what they did during PE class (her assessment is typically that there is "not enough sitting down" in phys ed). But this wheedling need for her to tell me what a grand time she's having at every minute borders on the pathetic.
It's odd, because I strenuously object to the JAZZ HANDS! approach to kids. I'm a firm believer in talking to children like actual normal people, not shrieking at them and regaling them with a cacophony of show tunes in an attempt at merry-making, then declaring it to be FUN. Not everything is fun, nor should it be. Nor should kids be taught that fun is ONLY in-your-face, manufactured, and shrill. Things can be perfectly engaging and amusing whilst also being quiet, respectful, and calm. In a world full of noise and garishness, I'm all for raising kids who prefer some focused block-building or reading time to doing handsprings through neon-bedecked bouncy houses (or at least value them equally -- I'm not OPPOSED to energetic forms of fun). There's a place for boisterousness, certainly. But I don't want Felicity to think that all of life is supposed to be BIG HAPPY FUN TIME -- because it isn't, and it shouldn't be.
Of course, when I am asking Felicity whether she had fun, I'm not suggesting to her that a clown car had to unload into her classroom for her day to have been enjoyable. Her ideas of fun are very similar to my own, and in fact, the noisier and flashier the event, the less she's going to like it (God love her). So: success on that front. (In fact, sometimes I have to nudge her a bit to be more fun, in the traditional sense: to join in a sing-along or participate in party games. And I get frustrated when she doesn't want to do so. This is clearly an issue of high complexity for both of us. My word, she just wants to be left with her books or a quiet play date with one friend, can't I just let her be??)
I just want to discipline myself to back off a bit, and to find different ways to try to pry at least some impressions from her about her experiences than demanding a full report on FUN. (I've seen those posts about how to ask your kid about their day, and those are some good ideas. I have tried some, with varying degrees of success, but since kindergarten started, my need for a daily recap has been roundly ignored.) So I'm going to work on that.
Meanwhile, I can be content with the knowledge that I am raising a kid who loves the subtler things in life, the quiet pleasures, and who processes things in her own way and will tell me about them in her own good time.
And she and I will ride off contentedly into the sunset, eschewing wild parties and multi-day music festivals and skiing. (What is with everyone and all the skiing? My feet and hands are numb the entire time and I'm constantly worrying about breaking a leg, and it costs a king's ransom -- yet I can see that everyone else has a ball doing it, even planning whole vacations around it every year and starting their kids on skis as soon as they can walk. I did my time pretending to enjoy the skiing for many years, but now I am free of those shackles. No more. No thank you. I am confident Felicity won't feel that she is missing out, having been born into a non-skiing family, since she complains bitterly about how freezing she is when it is 60 degrees out and, as mentioned above, she prefers activities that involve sitting.)
And it will be so much fun.