The Purpose of Life from a Kid’s P.O.V.

by Abby on January 30, 2015

7:15 a.m., Thursday morning: “Mom, you know what the purpose of life is?” This is the question my 8yo poses to me as I stumble into the kitchen in search of coffee. On the one hand, how could I possibly pass up the answer to this burning existential question? And from the mouth of my very own babe, no less? On the other hand: PRE-COFFEE. I was lucky I was even ambulatory.

Without waiting for a response, my son announced, “Fun! We are here to have fun. I know we have to go to school and learn so we can get a job and survive and buy stuff we need, but we are supposed to have FUN!”

Wow. Dropping wisdom on me before both my eyes are open. I never expected parenthood would be like this. Now, his motive may have been to get out of going to school. And who knows where he came up with this little gem. But I have to say, the subject was timely. Fun has been on my mind a lot lately.

boys rocking out

I remember back when I was working at my first corporate job after college, I met one of my company’s vendors, a woman who owned her own printing business. From the start, it was clear this lady was not your typical businesswoman.

For one thing, she was very young and very pretty, dressed casually, and was always laughing. She had “prank-call Fridays” where she and her employees would prank-call their clients. She would send out giant chocolate bars for Christmas instead of generic holiday cards. She would call clients by silly nicknames and make people laugh in meetings. And everyone wanted to work with her, because she was FUN. (And also very good at what she did, but mostly because she was fun.)

In all my subsequent years in the working world, I have never met anyone else quite like her. I have certainly worked with some fun people here and there, but for the most part the corporate world is notably lacking fun. Why isn’t there a “Bring Your Personality to Work Day” to break up monotonous staff meetings and conference calls?

I once worked for one of those big companies that always got voted “best place to work,” mainly because they had Starbucks and a ping-pong table in the break room. But the thing was, everyone was too stressed and overworked to play or hang out. How is that fun? (And forced, Michael Scott-type “Office” fun doesn’t cut it, either.)

Part of the problem now is that I am a freelancer. I have no coworkers, no break room, no water cooler. My interactions with clients are mainly transactional: Can you do this? How much? How soon? Rare is the client who spends time making small talk. When you’re being paid by the hour, no one wants to waste time inquiring about your weekend or your kids. And shockingly, no one has ever offered to take me bowling! I get it, but it’s too bad. Because I am a fun person, and a pretty good bowler.

I think the problem with adults is that we compartmentalize fun. Work is work and fun is fun. It’s strictly an after-hours pursuit. But kids don’t see it that way. My boys come home from school full of stories about how their teachers made learning fun. They dive-bomb the laundry pile when they’re “helping” me sort clothes, and they sword-fight with butter knives when they’re “helping” empty the dishwasher.

Sure, it’s annoying, but I also admire their dedication to fun. So I am actively looking for ways to follow their lead and inject more fun into my life and work. As my kids have shown me, with the right attitude even mundane things can be fun. I won’t be implementing prank-call Fridays, but I will be bringing my personality to work. What would my kids do to liven up a dull afternoon of copyediting, I wonder? I’ll ask them.

PIC O’ THE DAY: My husband captioned this shot, “Home from the holidays, and everything’s back to ‘normal’.” I don’t know what’s going on here, but they’re having fun.

crazy costumed kids

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By day, I often write and edit blog posts for clients that have to do with health, wellness, family fitness, that sort of thing. Everybody loves the “Secrets to Eating More Veggies” and “10 Tips for Raising Active Kids” type of posts. Even *I* click on them, even though (I hate to admit) I usually dismiss most of the advice.

I realize that some kid, somewhere DOES eat spinach-ricotta puffs, and some family, somewhere DOES go on cheerful winter hikes every weekend. So those may be helpful tips for some people. But not in my world. So that article gets filed under “Must Be Nice” and I go back to dealing with my actual, less-fit-for-print family.

Remember when I took the boys sledding and my youngest hated it so much he lay on his back in the snow and screeched like he was being murdered, alarming everyone within earshot?

I hate sledding.

Remember when I forced my family to go ice skating and then I had to sit out and watch the (admittedly hilarious) spectacle?

Remember those times we went on family hikes and the kids were “too tired” to walk within 4 feet of the parking lot?

These are the things that flash through my mind when I read those lists of “Top 5 Winter Outings with Kids!” However, that doesn’t stop me from trying. Lately, I’ve been on a fitness kick. In the course of my research, I’ve learned that kids need a whopping 60 minutes of exercise every day. Every single day! My kids spend that long picking out a pair of socks to wear to school. Who has the time to make sure they get an hour of exercise a day?! Recess is 20 min. long, and swim lessons are 30 min. once a week.

I haven’t solved the hour-a-day conundrum, but here are 3 indoor activities we’ve tried that yielded actual, heart-pumping results for both children and adults. Even better, they were FUN! For everyone!

1. Disco dance party. My niece’s birthday party was a flashy, sparkly, musical extravaganza. While my boys were reluctant at first to shake their booties at a “girls’ party,” by the end they couldn’t help it and were rocking out with the rest of them. The rhythm is gonna get you every time.

Disco dance partyUpstairs, kids played “Just Dance” on the Wii, and downstairs, a cartwheel/break-dancing/glow-stick party was underway. Even the adults took part. I mean, they had cardboard on the floor! If that’s not an invitation to bust a move, I don’t know what is.

One girl said to me, after I executed a wobbly cartwheel, “That was pretty good for a grownup. My mom couldn’t do that.” High praise, people. Afterwards, everyone was a sweaty, tired, happy mess. (And the next day: SORE. Holy hamstrings!) Active family fun: achieved.

2. Rock-climbing gym. Why is every kids’ recreational facility a “Zone”? Ultimate Playzone, Skyzone, and now, Climbzone. A Groupon and a school holiday sent us off to try this latest one. And wow, what a zone it was! Multicolored, themed climbing walls as far as the eye could see. A cursory safety lesson and a couple of harnesses later, we were off and climbing.

My 8yo couch-loving bookworm scaled every wall in the place and wouldn’t even stop for a snack. My 5yo daredevil discovered he is, in fact, scared of something – terrifying heights – so his favorite trick was climbing halfway up and rappelling down. Whee! Even I got in on the action. So much fun! So much tricep work! We’re definitely going back there.

Rock climbing fun.

Me climbing the Washington Monument.

3. Yoga Spinner game. This was a Christmas gift from my yoga-loving mom. And she didn’t even know we had previously invented a similar game we called Yoga Wars! (I have boys. Everything’s a battle or a competition, even yoga.) The game is simple: spin the wheel, pick a card, do the pose for at least 10 seconds.

Yoga fun for all agesBut here’s the twist (pun intended): there are partner poses, and you can make other people do tricky poses. Hilarity ensues. Watch those hamstrings! Miles: “OK, Gram, it doesn’t look exactly like in the picture but I’ll give it to you because you’re old.” Bonus points for seniority, woo hoo! This one doesn’t burn many calories, but it’s better than watching TV, am I right?

So there you have it. A kid-tested, family-friendly, real-life list of “3 Fun Indoor Winter Activities!” Warning: your mileage may vary. Especially if you’re the type whose kids enjoy spinach puffs and long winter hikes.

LINK O’ THE DAY: Oh, snow. It’s that time of year again. It seems like just yesterday school was closed every other day. My 5 tips for surviving (another) snow day.

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