It was the first day of spring break for our elementary school-aged granddaughters, occurring on the Friday before their week off. We’d invited them to spend the day with us since their parents were working, promising we’d do something “different” together.
The girls questioned us about what was in store, even offering guesses for some far-fetched outings. “No, we’re not flying to Disney World,” we explained. While some of their excitement was in the not-knowing, we did decide to manage their expectations, clarifying that “something different” didn’t mean “something big.” We even outlined what they might wear and bring for the day.
We picked them up early that morning, explaining on the way to their favorite restaurant that we’d talk about the day’s happenings during breakfast. Over eggs for some and chocolate chip pancakes for others, my husband and I told them: “It’s a mandatory fun day,” defining what that meant and outlining the morning adventure.
Their unenthusiastic reaction to what we told them surprised us. The oldest was noticeably quiet while her sister pushed back, not liking the suggested activity or the concept. “Do we have to?” she asked. “Yes. You have to have fun today,” we said.
When their parents arrived in the evening to retrieve them, their exuberance and spontaneity over “mandatory fun” was evident. As they explained what happened, and what “mandatory fun” was about, it was clear that what started as a concept to frame the day, morphed into more.
It wasn’t what we did with our granddaughters that day — mall shopping in another town for an outfit each in the morning; indoor swimming at a community center with a waterslide in the afternoon — it was the how we did it together that drew their enthusiasm.
At breakfast we’d committed to each other to have fun, to keep the day light, to discuss and change things if need be, but to make the day joyful for everyone. It turned out that “mandatory fun” wasn’t an activity or a place, it was a mindset.
We hadn’t planned it that way, but by noticing, listening, and sharing, we’d gifted each other be-here-now time, and that made the day’s activities special. Collectively, we were there for each and for ourselves; a day full of learning, laughter, dialogue, and love.
In the scheme of things, I want all the “mandatory fun” days I can get. A few days after our fun-grand-day, I happened upon this quotation from Wayne Dyer: “The only thing you can do with your life, is give it away.” How perfectly those words capture the meaning of that day.