Diary of a Fun Mom (reflections on the lengths to which I’ll go to entertain my kids for 20 minutes)

My experiment as a stay at home mom began one month ago today. I’ve come a long way. Especially considering that by 10:00 the morning of my first day home, I was convinced I had already failed.

Rory was taking his morning nap. Noah and I were in his room, surrounded by Hot Wheels. Noah was demonstrating how the “baby cars” and the “mom and dad cars” were under siege by a plastic Ninja figurine. The Ninja would attack, the cars would strike back. A flurry of tiny swords and wheels. 

I halfheartedly played along. But, and I’ll just admit this, playing with cars tops my list of Least Favorite Things to Do With Kids (chasing them in aimless circles is a close second). I can only vroom over, under and around so many items, crash into other cars in so many ways, and discuss the finer points of monster truck safety harnesses so many times. I’m nearly asleep just writing about it.

I hoped Noah wouldn’t notice, but you can’t fool a kid. Sensing my waning interest, he scanned the room for something to cheer me. “Look mom, a dog!” he exclaimed, pointing out the window. Indeed, a woman was walking a dog on the street below. “It looks like Banjo!” 

I look more like Beyonce than that dog looked like Banjo, our cranky, cancer-riddled chow-mix mutt who was deemed to expire two Christmases ago but keeps plugging along. 

But Noah’s attempt to liven up the mood broke my heart. Was our time together so lame that my own child was trying to rescue me?

I am relieved to say that even if I failed that first day (and really, it did not get better after that scene), I’m improving. I’m learning by trial and error about meal planning, nap schedules and consistent discipline. But it’s one mantra that I’m trying to live by that’s had the biggest impact of all:

Be a fun mom.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but being a fun mom does not come naturally to me. It’s not that “fun” isn’t in my nature. It’s just that I usually can be fun only under very specific conditions. 

I still like to see bands play, but only if there is easy access to bathrooms, a place to sit down and a guarantee that I’ll be home by midnight. It’s hard for me to get in the mood for sexy time if there’s a big pile of laundry at the foot of the bed. And when I’m home with the kids, it’s nearly impossible for me to just play. Instead, I follow them from place to place, ostensibly playing, but furtively straightening and wiping.

Obviously, I can’t always be a fun mom. It runs counter to many important parts of the job. More often than not, I’m going to be a “Do not take that truck from your brother!” mom. A “Back at the table or I eat the rest of your sandwich!” mom. A “Shoes. Now!” mom.

But I’m making a conscious effort. Trying to say yes when my default is no. Soldiering on through messes and madness, unclenching my teeth. And I’ve found that a little fun goes a long way toward a happy day.

Some highlights from the past month:

“Mom’s Got a Bucket” 

Take two kids. Bribe them with the promise of a pool day. Wrestle them into bathing suits and swim shirts. Attack them with sunscreen. 

Walk them to the pool. Make sure it’s really humid outside, you’ll want them hot and sweaty.

Read the sign that says “Pool closed.” Curse under your breath. Read the sign out loud. Watch your kids slide to the pavement like ice cream cones in the sun.

Walk the kids home. And by “walk”, I mean drag. Go to the garage.

Rummage. Improvise.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

And I am the mother, it turns out, of two boys who like to be chased around the driveway and doused with a pail of ice cold water by a lunatic yelling “Mom’s got a bucket!”

“Dance Party” 
Anyone who’s known me in the last 20 years will tell you that this one is right up my alley. 

I was born to embarrass my children.

Pull out the grandparent-gifted karaoke machine. Insert an album of actual children’s music. Yes, it’s been great that until this point, family dance parties have been sponsored by Beastie Boys and The Jackson 5. But this time you’re going all the way to kiddie town.

Turn on the ceiling fan. You’re gonna sweat. A lot.

Do all the dances you learned from Grease. Do your best Elaine impression. Then spin your 4-year-old around, pick him up, flip him upside down, spin him around again and throw him head first onto the couch. Don’t worry, you didn’t just break his neck.

Ponder electrocution-by-karaoke-machine as your one-year-old bobs his head and slobbers onto the microphone that he is attempting to eat and occasionally shrieks into. Assure yourself that it is a sound of joy, not the reaction to an electric shock. 

Perfect your air guitar, drum fills and saxophone solos. 

Learn all the words to the songs so you are singing them constantly. In the shower, in the car. Figure out the harmonies, sure to drive everyone in your house crazy. Add your favorite song on your workout playlist. The counting one that your husband says sounds like Phish. He might be wrong, but who knows? He was the one with the jam band phase, not you.


Now we’re cooking with gas!  Or… a bunch of old food.

This one is like Iron Chef, but the “secret” ingredient is anything in your pantry that is expired, stale or superfluous. 

Find your biggest mixing bowl. Have your child fill it with things like sweet potato baby cereal and an open bag of puffed rice from that diet you tried in 2012. 

Help him add water from the faucet. Watch half the mixture slosh onto the floor as he carries it back to the table. Relax your shoulders as your second dog, the nervous but nice one, already overweight from years of fallen table scraps, eats the soggy cereal off the floor.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of a cold oven. Wait two minutes. Carefully remove the still-cold pan with oven mitts. 

Allow child to season the “baked” creation with spices of which you have duplicates or received as a present at your wedding shower in 2004. 

Finally, the piece de resistance. Accept a taste. Fight the urge to gag as you lavish praise on the complex flavors of cocoa, turmeric, lemon pepper and Creole seasoning. 

Let the finished dish sit on the kitchen counter until the child is asleep. Pour down the garbage disposal. 

All gone!

***Okay, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends. These activities are great, but can’t take up more than three hours of any given day. Give me your best suggestions. Or tell me the most ridiculous things you do to entertain your little people. And if anyone can give me ideas of what to do with these matchbox cars, I’m all ears.***