Chacos column: What is Forced Family Fun?
Enjoy the Ride
I can’t take credit for the term, Forced Family Fun, but I do understand the fundamental principles like I wrote the manual. It’s what another dad I know declares as, “So help me sweet Jesus, we’re having non-negotiable time with the family if it’s the last thing we do.”
Recently, the subject came up when I bumped into a friend who has teenagers like me.
Conversation started casually, like a back-and-forth game of tennis playing in your favorite pair of pajama pants. How’s work? How’s the summer? Read any good books lately? It’s the run of the mill stuff from busy folks whose conversations could use some real flavor, if you ask me.
Our light talk took a turn for the better when she posed the next question.
How are the kids?
I settled in for what would become a meaty conversation as to why our kids were nowhere in sight and why they didn’t want to be around us anymore.
My friend and I first went down memory lane and reminisced about those epic family adventures from when the children were little. I remember throwing them all in the car without protest to go pretty much anywhere. Sometimes the travel was a few miles to the nearest McDonald’s Playland. Dazed and tired, I’d sip a McCafé while my children built healthy immune systems in the ball pit. I’d play a movie for the car ride home, hand out Happy Meals, and pray they would nap at home instead of falling asleep en route. I was the family’s most popular event planner and a genius at spinning the most mundane task into full-blown experiences.
Sometimes we went on bigger outings to malls and museums and occasionally took plane rides to sandy beaches. I learned the secret to my success was because they needed me for their emotional and physical well-being, and because they were little, I could bully them around a bit. Those were the easy years, family following like lemmings into activities simply because I said so.
My friend and I transitioned our conversation to how we reacted to our children getting older. We both felt their teenagers’ discomfort when we were all together. My friend said she had to plan her family’s time with one another more deliberately, and I went as far as paying my middle son 50 bucks to spend a Friday night with us.
I explained that anarchy ensued during a coercive camping trip I had planned one weekend. I asked the family to travel only 5 miles from home, where I wanted to nostalgically read ghost stories around the campfire and take them on a blissful hike the next morning. “It will be fun,” I said to no one in particular, hoping the words would become a serum of truth.
My oldest, an opinionated teen with a driver’s license, wanted no part of contrived family time. She wore me down and negotiated a reason to go home after dinner citing her bed was more comfortable than the hard dirt. She generously offered to drive up to the campsite the following morning if I really wanted to be around her moodiness, or if I preferred, she could catch up on that overdue homework assignment instead. Any way you slice it, she had me cornered.
I came to realize that time together wasn’t what my daughter wanted, and she craved time without the family. More specifically, she needed time without me. My kids were getting older, and part of their growth was learning to navigate space alone. Wiping my wounds, I let her leave. At this point, my husband and I were so fed up with our complaining offspring we made them all leave before the sun had even set. We ended up having a great night without them and even had a great hike the next morning.
I’ve had to come up with some new guidelines at home. I have activated a non-negotiable, thrilling morning of yard work, knowing there will be a potent backlash to this forced family time. As a reward, I’ll only mandate one dinner a week at the table with no friends, no phones and no double-bookings. As a reward for tolerating the requirements of being young adults, I’ll let them grow up with dignity and independence, even though I want to secretly tag along on all the epic adventures they’re now having without me.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.