Fun Limit

A whole day up at Pineview Dam was the perfect outing for our family when I was a kid. Some of my siblings were content to play on the beach for hours on end, while others of us loved flying over the murky weber water in the boat, and the bravest few (myself included once I got over my fear of sharks – yes, it was a man-made lake, but you just never know) took every opportunity to strap on a ski and brace ourselves against the freezing water to enjoy beating the heck out of our bodies as we sort of skipped along the top of the choppy water. There was something for everyone and all of us loved it. We’d be driving home from such an outing in one of those rare moments of collective and complete contentment when one of my more obtuse siblings would ask "Can we stop at Grandma and Grandpa’s?" My Mom or Dad would sigh and say, "We just spent the whole day at the Lake, we’ve had enough fun."
That is just one of many similar scenarios that played out time and time again. When we were a little older, my brother realized my parents had a firmly held moral conviction of a fun limit. It was an unwritten law that said "After four or more hours of doing something really fun there shall be NO expectations of anything for a 24 hour period. If one does have said expectations, one is an ingrate and a spoiled and ruined child. It is immoral to do nothing but play all day." We all used to laugh at their odd ways and misplaced sense of parental propriety.
Fast forward 20 years or so to last Saturday. My husband, three kids and I are driving home from our small town parade and carnival to put the little one down for a nap and get ready for a BBQ with friends in a few hours. My oldest daughter says, "Can we call Miss Julie and ask her if we can swim at her house?" My response was reflexive and immediate, "Anna, are you kidding me? We have just spent one hour at a parade where you got more candy than you did on Halloween, and then 3 more hours at a carnival where you got more junk and got to go on a bunch of rides and tonight we’re having several friends over for a party – we are Not doing anything else fun today!"
Horror of horrors -- the fun limit! Somewhere between puberty and childbearing this doctrine somehow seeped into my unconscious file of parenting values and I am now perpetuating it. How did this happen? I can’t believe it, but seriously – a parade, carnival and BBQ... enough is enough!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My limit on fun is really a limit on energy--could you have made it swimming after the parade and carnival and still have been ready physically and emotionally to entertain that evening? Sounds like an impossible day to me. So I never consider myself trying to limit fun when I say no, just trying to stay sane.

7/18/2005 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Goochie said...

So true! I think it's purely a matter of energy level. We went up to the lake this weekend. I was exhausted by the time we got home. We have Sea-Doos & I only rode them once for about 20 minutes & then sat around the rest of the time reading & watching Jr. I was exhausted after even though I hardly did anything! I didn't used to be like that even a couple of years ago. Maybe it was being out in the sun or maybe it's that I'm now 30 or maybe it's just motherhood? Anyway, my point, if Jr was older (& could talk)& had asked me to do anything after the lake, it would have been a definite no. :)

7/18/2005 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Yep, it's not a "fun" limit, it's a "sanity saver." My guess is that your parents, while still enjoying it, had far less fun than you kids at Pineview, what with worrying that a boat would drive over you, did you have enough food, how many more times do I have to take a kid to the bathroom, etc. But the kids were blissful in their joy. But after that, there's no way I would stop at Grandma's, either.

And kudos to you for entertaining after a parade and a carnival. I hope you didn't fall asleep while your guests were there. You probably would have if you'd added a swimming trip in there.

Plus, it's summer. There's a lot of time to squeeze in the fun. Spread the wealth!

7/18/2005 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Bell said...

I think fun limits are about more than just saving the energy and sanity of the parents (although that's certainly a big part of it). Some parents just have a fear of raising kids who always expect to be having a lot of fun. In fact, I don't think you'd have to go back too many generations to find people who would argue against almost any fun at all for children. As we get more and more indulgent, those ideas become more and more antiquated, but we ought to at least consider the benefits and risks of loading our kids up with too much planned, structured, spoon-fed fun, before laughing off fun limits, regardless of our own energy needs. Or am I just too old-fashioned? (By the way, none of this applies to me, a dad who is constantly loading my kids up with plenty of planned, structured, spoon-fed fun).

7/18/2005 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

I think goochie, anon and the Wiz you make an excellent point that those things that were the most fun times as a child are not the same now as a parent -- it's all a LOT of work. Something I was oblivious to as a kid.

I agree Ryan, but can't help but find it funny that you -- at one time the fun limit's biggest opponent -- are now defending it.

You are absolutely right in recognizing that it is really about much more than energy. It bothers/worries me when I feel like my kids start having an expectation of spoon-fed fun, as you put it. I want them to be able to make their own fun out of even the dullest of circumstances.

7/18/2005 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/18/2005 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Kelleesplace said...

So fun is loading up the car and picnic basket and the stroller and the wipes and traveling to a far away place so that you can say you had a great day together. It doesn't have to be. Because the key here is not to make sure we have enough fun. But to make sure we have enough memories. Time together so that the ties of the family bond. Save some of the energy and avoid the total exhausted feeling by dressing up in your PJ's and playing twister in the back yard. Draw a hop scotch in the neighbors driveway. Dress up the dolls and go for a stroll. The summer doesn't have to be filled with minute to minute planned parties. Children don't care where they go, they care that you are there. With undivided attention running through the sprinklers with them. Kids won't usually comment on the big planned outings. Its usually the time you stopped at the store and bought cherry popcicles and ate them under a tree at the park and everybodys lips were red and you had to drive home with sticky hands.

7/24/2005 01:41:00 AM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I force myself to take the kids to the beach. Its 7 minutes away from our house.
But its just such a hassle to get everything ready and so overwhelming to deal with the mess.
But how can I not take them to the beach???
But fun? Its work. Keeping track of 3kids? Work.
But it is fun too. I love to watch them having fun. Its hard to actually build a sandcastle or actually wade in the water, because each of the three kids is doing something different. One likes the water. One likes the sand. And one just toddles around.

7/24/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

Kellee, Welcome to the blog! Great point, that was sort of what I was trying to get at. The more huge parent-made outings we do, the less inclined our kids are to make their own fun or find the fun in the simple everyday activities. Keep commenting, you have so much to teach us less-experienced moms!

7/26/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

Yes, I agree with you up to a point. But one of my children, in particular, needs structure or she gets into trouble. She needs some guidance! She has tons of energy, tons of ideas.....its just that some ideas aren't what I want her to be doing.
Her behavior improves dramatically with TONS of attention fro me, TONS of interaction with me. It works much better if instead of making dinner and telling her to go play, I have her make dinner with me, which means I have to think of things for her to do, which requires a lot of preparation. Because if I pull something out to make, I turn around to get something and she's already started it....the right way or the wrong way.
Anyway, she'd spend her entire life being punished without structure to help her focus her energy.
Another child of mine, however, can happily disappear and entertain himself for hours with no tv, no playmates and no attention from me. Just him and one toy.....ours of fun.

7/26/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

JKS, I think what you do with your daughter is great. Structure and interaction are wonderful and an important part of our job as Moms. I loved Kellee's comments to that effect. You interacting with your daughter in the every-day routine of your lives is meaningful and lasting. It's the non-stop pre-packaged entertainment that I think can be over done.

7/28/2005 12:04:00 AM  

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