Why does everything have to be so much frickin’ fun?

As a rookie mom, one of the first books I took practical advice from — beyond how to get sleep and keep my infant alive — was The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears (Pantley). From it, I learned to develop a toolbox of tricks to solicit cooperation from my toddler.

  • Offer a choice (do you want to leave through the front door or the side door?)
  • Play a cooperation game (I can pick up all the red pieces before you pick up the blue ones!)
  • Make it talk (Hey, I think your car seat is saying, I want Julian to put his tushy right here!)
  • Engage the imagination (Hop to the car like a kangaroo)
  • Sing a song (This is the way we wash our face, wash our face, wash our face)

Okay, while previous generations or even people with older children might roll their eyes, I have used most of these techniques on my toddlers. They didn’t cost me anything and often earn me a more peaceful journey to preschool or bedtime.

But 21st century life for kids is even more fun than just having a creative mommy! Today’s children have toothbrushes that light up and on-demand music and tv programs. Seems pretty awesome, right?  Today I let Scarlett go to school in her jammies because I was channeling the modern parenting mantra of “pick your battles.” I really don’t think Betty Draper would have sent her child to preschool five days a week allowed her daughter out of the house with footie pajamas and bedhead. Scarlett has it pretty good, being allowed to control when and where she gets dressed because our societal standards don’t demand that she presents herself with combed hair or freshly pressed playclothes. (Plus, she gets to brush her teeth with a toothbrush that blinks.)

When I received news about a brand of juice that comes bottled with a fun plastic character head, I thought, “God! Juice? Needs to be more fun?”  Heather, our resident sugar Nazi, said, “Enticing a child to drink juice is not a problem that needs solving.” Right?

Then I got pitched sliced apples that come pre-packaged Mickey Mouse ear containers. Really?

I thought apple slices were doing just fine on their own. Just like markers are fun without fruity scents because you can draw with them!

Now, I get the idea of adding characters to potty seats and pillow cases because using the toilet and going to sleep are not necessarily fun already.

But now that my more uncooperative child is four, and I’m still having to crawl like a kitty to get her to do anything, I’m getting worried. She refuses to do much of what’s asked of her and I have done way more laying down the law, enforcing the consequences, ignoring the resulting tantrums than I care to recall. The easiest way to get a break from the tension is to make it fun, solicit a laugh, whisper, “Whoever doesn’t put their pants on before I count to 23 is going to get tickled,” while waggling my tickle fingers.

Below is a photo taken on a morning that I agreed that sure, she could “dress up like poop.”

And I go back to wondering “Why does everything have to be so much frickin’ fun?”