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2023 Mar

Forced Fun

Find out why being a parent is the most important thing you’ll ever do.

I recently had a conversation with someone about quality of life and how we often neglect time with our families because we have something more important to do. Well, I have news for you. Your family IS what’s important. In fact, being a parent is the most important role you’ll ever have. Raising kids right takes precedence over your career, your social life, and certainly trumps mindless scrolling on your phone.

When was the last time you said to one of your kids, “Not now, can’t you see I’m busy?” If you can remember saying it today or yesterday, maybe you should give some thought to time management. In other words, don’t wait for quality family time to happen simultaneously. Make time for it. When your children see that they matter enough to you that you will put them first in order of importance, it will do wonders for their self esteem and your relationship.

Of course, kids do reach an age when they transform from happy-go-lucky kids to (shudder) teenhood. Sometimes your little darlings don’t want to spend time with you and would rather hole themselves up in their rooms than have even a brief conversation with you. As a parent, it can be frustrating.

This is where what my oldest son used to call “forced fun” comes into play (pun intended). Forced fun is when you plan an outing with your kids to explore a museum or hike in a nearby state park or even play a game of putt-putt. The kids, especially when they get to a certain age, will protest and say, “I don’t wanna go.”

You put your foot down and reluctantly they get in the car, grumbling all the while. By now, you’re thinking, “Why do I bother trying to plan quality time with my kids when they are so opposed to hanging around with me?” Yet you persevere in your plans, and at some point during the outing, your happy-go-lucky kid returns and starts having a great time with you. It’s a miracle!

I remember when my youngest son, Ross, joined Peter and me for a getaway to Baltimore. If you haven’t been lately, the city offers a treasure trove of museums, some perhaps more attractive to an eleven-year-old than others. One of my favorites is The Walters Art Museum featuring an eclectic collection of art ranging from Ancient Egyptian mummies to modern Japanese stoneware. Ross wasn’t keen to explore “another” museum, especially one filled with, in his opinion, ho-hum art and antiquities.

His opinion changed about the time we found “The Last Judgment” by Pieter Huys, a Flemish painter who painted ghastly scenes of monstrous demons in the style of Hieronymus Bosch. Ross was fascinated and greedily roamed from one room to the next. When it was time to leave, he said, “Can we stay longer? We haven’t seen the Ancient Greek and Roman stuff.”

Today we laugh about our family’s “forced fun” adventures. I recommend you try it sometime. And if you are blessed with children who love doing things with you, stop reading this magazine right this second and go have some fun with your kids. It will mean the world to them, and your participation in their lives will reap rewards for all of you for decades to come.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and publisher of Tidewater Family Plus magazine. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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