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“Are You Having Fun Yet?”

Jacquelyn Minor
By Jacquelyn Minor

What’s on your Top Ten list of things you are grateful for?

I’ll bet if 25 moms and I were all sitting together in a room-

-make that a park

-sitting at least 8 feet apart (because 6 still feels really close to me when there are more than 4 people)

-with masks

I’ll bet if 25 mask-wearing moms and I were all sitting 8 feet apart in a park, and making lists of the top ten things for which we were grateful, we’d have at least three of the same things on each list.

You know one thing that would be on my list of things I’m grateful for? Enjoying my kids.

Not just having kids.

I’m grateful for enjoying my kids, and let me tell you, I do enjoy my kids. I adore them. I revel in them. I relish them.

And I have a LOT of fun with them.

Totally unsolicited advice from a complete stranger? Have fun with your kids. ENJOY them. It’s good for you and will probably make you live longer.

For years, my kids helped me prank one of my close adult friends. For the longest, he couldn’t figure out how I pulled things off, because he didn’t realize the kids were in on it. Aaahh. Good times.

The kids and I have gone off on road trips and adventures together—testing our fearlessness and daring in the sky, on land, and in the ocean. Once, we ended up quite lost in the desert in Mexico—just me and them and no Google Map (but that’s another story altogether).

I enjoy my kids, and I made a point to get to know their friends, so I could enjoy them too. I hug them (yes, the friends) when I see them—especially the new friends, so they know: a) they’re welcome in the mix, and b) oh yeah, Dr. Minor’s a hugger.

You know what? You open your heart to teens, and your heart gets bigger—that’s what I found out. Initially, I just wanted to know who my kids’ friends were, but I would hear so much about them and started seeing them so often that I genuinely took interest. Welcoming in the kids eventually led to meeting all the parents, and before long, there was a whole group of people looking out for my kids when they weren’t under my roof. I had a village.

And now, I enjoy my village.

Before the oldest two left for college, we’d have BYOE parties at the house. PARENTS! A BYOE party is the best thing ever. Bring Your Own EVERYTHING. This meant, “My mom said everybody can come over, but you have to bring your own snacks.” My kids’ friends would storm the house with their video game consoles and remotes, bags of snacks, juices, sodas, whatever. They’d have free range of the pool table, ping pong table, TV, and Bluetooth speakers. I’d pop in and out to keep an eye and ear on things and between midnight and 1 a.m., I made my “you-guys-start-cleaning-this-mess-up-okay?” rounds. They’d start cleaning, parents would start showing up, and before long, everyone would go home.

COVID-19, of course, makes this impossible now, but not forever. I look forward to hosting BYOE’s with my youngest son and his friends.

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So who are these treasures I adore so much? Redmon, Haley, and Nicholas.

Redmon, my oldest, has always been funny. Not comedian funny. NEVER comedian funny. He’s more, well, random-funny. The kind of person that says/does off-the-wall-things that make you wonder if you’ve really been sitting in the same room together for the last 30 minutes. He also has the best laugh ever. It comes from down deep and gets loud quickly. ‘Makes you want to smile even if you don’t know what the joke is. That kind of laugh.

He’ll be 20 in a few weeks, but I still remember when, as a baby, he realized he could do things that made people laugh. One Wednesday evening, when my best friend was visiting, he became curious about her toes. Being a baby, he put his face down close to her feet and opened his mouth. She squealed! His face lit up with astonishment, and sat up, tickled to death.

Cracking up, I told him in no uncertain terms we do not eat Auntie’s toes. “No.” I said firmly (well, as firmly as possible while laughing out loud). “No. Toes.” The whole time, my best friend is dying laughing on the couch. I think she could still feel the linger sensation.

Redmon looked up at me and at her, opened his mouth and slowly bent his head, watching all the while for a reaction. “Baby, nooo!” I said, laughing. Redmon’s fat cheeks spread from ear to ear, and this little guy laughed and laughed as I scooped him off the floor and handed him to his Auntie.

That was the beginning of the end. Redmon turned into a little ham overnight.

My youngest, Nicholas, loves to laugh. When he was younger, he liked being tickled (he’s 14 now, so he still laughs if I poke him, but he makes a face at me). Like his brother, he has a wonderfully guttural laugh that lets you know he is genuinely enjoying the moment. He also likes jokes, and he especially enjoys plot twists! Whether they happen in real-life scenarios, in conversation with clever word play, or while he’s watching something on video, sudden, unexpected twists absolutely delight him.

Most special of all, Nicholas enjoys being read to. He always has. Sometimes, when he was in elementary, he would force himself to stay awake until I could come read to him at night. On the nights he was wide awake, he always wanted just one more chapter. On the nights I couldn’t get to Nicholas because I was working online, I would ask one of the older children to read to him because he was so eager for those last minutes of the night. His face, when he fell asleep, looked so peaceful.

With Haley, my daughter, the word “enjoy” takes on a whole new life. Our spirits are connected—mine and hers. We both like New Edition, Al Green, and old country music. She gets my sense of humor. I mean, she says my jokes are terrible, but she laughs, so it counts, and she finds it hilarious when I prank her—like the time I made it look like Batman was asleep in her bed after school. We both find wonder in visual art, and we both love cooking. To top it all off, I can almost accurately pick out clothes that she likes—no small feat when the daughter is 18!

Throughout Haley’s adolescent and teen years, while we heard horror stories about other mother-daughter relationships, she and I were best friends.

Now for anyone who gasped just then and was raised under the mantra that parents should not be friends with their children, I understand. I learned that too. I just decided to reject it later as a parent. I figure if God can be my Father and my friend, He can certainly guide me in being a mother and friend to my child.

As a tiny little something, Haley would sneak in the bathroom and put on one of my wigs for giggles. It would draw terrible reactions from Redmon, and even thinking about it now makes me laugh to myself. A few times, she contorted herself up and hid on the shelving in the lower kitchen cabinets (also for giggles). Giggling, by the way, almost always gave Haley away when she was up to something—especially hiding. She would get tickled about what she was doing, and she’d start giggling. That was my Mom-cue that she was up to something.

“Haley, what are you doing?”

“Hiding…” (giggle, giggle, giggle)

If I didn’t come get her, she’d call out, “Mo-ommm, I’m hiiiiii-ding.” (giggle, giggle, giggle). If I did pretend to come looking, the giggles would quickly turn to snickers and then all out muffled laughing.

Well, she will never be a criminal. That’s for sure.

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So why all this attention to enjoying my kids and their friends?

In short, because it has made me grateful, and gratitude can change your whole life. Of all the things I am thankful for, right up there near the top is my gratitude for learning to enjoy my children. The experiences we’ve had together and the memories I have formed with them are truly life altering, and I don’t mean just emotionally.

Gratitude can give you a sense of optimism and help you see hope. It can reinforce your belief in yourself, and encourage you to show mercy toward others. Gratitude can shift your perspective from things that are superficial to things that matter, and things that are eternal. In the long run, that’s good not only for how you feel, but for your social, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.

Long after my kids are holding down households of their own, a smile will still creep across my face as I think about laughter and moments we enjoyed together. When I sit back to just relax and do nothing, thoughts of raising them will remind me to be thankful. When things go wrong – because, yeah, that’s real —  having a grateful heart will remind me my life is so much bigger than that moment.

I enjoy my kids.

For that, I am grateful.

I hope you are enjoying yours too.

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