I’m such an optimist when it comes to family time. I always imagine it will be saturated with meaningful exchanges and memorable moments. Joyful togetherness stored in the heart and the camera. Instead it is invariably a debacle stored in nightmares. Like last week when I took my two and five year olds ice-skating. See, just by reading that last sentence any sane person could identify my rookie error. And I’m not even a rookie. I’ve been a parent for 13 years so you’d think by now I’d have some match fitness. But no, it seems I’m either an optimist or a goldfish.
My modus operandi for these big outings starts with spruiking them weeks in advance. While it’s true that small children have small concentration spans, the build-up often beats the outing itself because you don’t have to leave the house or spend any money. Ever two hours for a week I asked them, “Are you excited about going ice-skating?” and a few days prior to The Outing, we even swung past the rink to watch the other skaters. Any fool might have noticed there were no children as young as mine on the ice but I’m not any fool. I’m a particular type of fool: the blindly optimistic goldfish one.
On the afternoon itself, shoe-horned into our skates and rugged up like Michelin Men, I quickly drilled them in the only ice-skating instruction I could remember: when you fall down, quickly make your hands into fists so nobody runs over your fingers and severs them. And also? When you fall over and your bum gets wet and cold, do not freak out. It’s part of the fun! Hahahaha! Fun, guys! Fun!
They nodded seriously and demonstrated how fast they could make fists until I was satisfied their digits had a fairly good chance of making it back to the car attached to their hands.
Ironic then, wasn’t it, that at one point I skated over my daughter’s thumb. Happily, it didn’t come off. Nor did her arm break when I fell on her after she ploughed into me as I picked up her brother who was losing his shit. Triple decker stack. Many tears. Are we having fun yet? YES WE ARE, KIDS, YES WE ARE.
Whenever we do something ‘big’ like this, I find myself asking them “Isn’t this FUN!” like a demented hyena except it’s not a question, it’s a command. Or possibly I’m trying to convince myself. Similarly, for days after a ‘quality time’ adventure I will remind my kids, “Didn’t we have a great time!”. It’s like I’m determined to imprint a positive memory into their head and steamroll any negative recall of how things actually went down. This time though, it was a struggle. “I am never going ice-skating ever AGAIN,” insisted my daughter all the way home. The next day when I woke up with a black eye, a sprained wrist and giant bruises on my legs, I was inclined to agree.