Family fun month

“Are we having fun yet?” may be the second most-asked question after “Are we there yet?” Both are uttered in anticipation or even frustration over an expected event. A child can hardly wait to arrive to a long awaited destination. Sometimes, something that was eagerly anticipated somehow turned into more work than first thought. Even so, there is fun to be had and what better time to think about it than during August, officially designated as “Family Fun Month.”

August is a great time to enjoy outdoor activities with your family. Certainly picnics come to mind, along with many outdoor sports. Just tossing a ball around, a simple game of badminton, or sitting by a campfire is fun.

Family fun doesn’t have to be all play either. Working together on projects such as gardening, painting the house, or even stacking wood for the upcoming winter can be fun. Why? Regardless of what we are doing, we bond as we spend time together. We build comradery and create fond memories, often lasting a lifetime.

Envision yourself pacing the floor at 3 a.m. in a darkened apartment, desperately hoping that soon you can go to bed. How about walking around in your pajamas at 3 p.m., wishing that soon you might be able to take a shower and a nap? At the end of one day, you realize you never got around to brushing your teeth. What is this small world you live in where the most you can manage is to look out the window at a passing car? A new mother with her newborn baby knows exactly what this is. It is when she has come home from the hospital with her bundle of love and the world changes. Everything is about caring for this new life.

“Are we having fun yet” may easily come to mind to new parents during the tiring parts of caring for their newborn baby. I find myself in this situation as I write this column from Idaho on a trip to help my daughter with her first baby and my first grandchild, named Lincoln.

It brings back old memories of the struggles in the first days of nursing, extreme lack of sleep, walking around in a fog, and “Is it really time to feed him again?” There are memories of sitting up in the middle of the night because that is the only way the baby will stay asleep- in my arms. Who knew there were some pretty good movies on television at that hour? Perhaps the couch was not so bad after all, even if I couldn’t stretch out and was in a perpetual semi-upright position.

As a grandmother, I am reliving some of these now “yesterday” times as I watch my daughter experience this for the first time. In fact, along with some of the pacing and rocking, I am also feeling some of the exhaustion! The interesting part is that while I am helping with her baby, I am also trying to help my daughter, my baby. Is she comfortable? If she has to be up late on the couch, then so will I as I rub her feet or back so she can rest better. I can cook, clean, and let her take a nap. I can be her cheerleader, reassuring her that she is doing a wonderful job.

“Are we having fun yet?” Yes. The bonding through challenging times is often stronger than that of the easier times. Fond memories are being created. And, in the midst of the late-night pacing, there is a small pair of eyes looking up at me as I study his face and he studies mine. There are the little fingers and toes. There is the beginning of a smile and the exaggerated yawn. There is the fluffy hair and wonderfully smelling head. There is the sweet sleeping face of a contented baby and the little hiccups. There is the baby’s head snuggled under my chin as I hold him against my chest. There is the endearing sight of the father tenderly holding his baby in his arms – a bundle that by comparison to him looks like a peanut. Finally, there is the realization that a newborn baby is a gift that has just arrived from heaven, and when I hold him, I am close to heaven and all its infinite love.

Are we there yet? Yes! Family fun is not about the destination, but rather the journey through all the years from newborn to old age. The key is to enjoy the journey and remember what is important, for it all passes too quickly.

As far as newborns, it is often good to consider the advice of the grandmothers amongst us, whether part of our immediate family or our good friends. Advice from one “Keep your pajamas on for two weeks. This reminds people that the mother’s job is to rest and care for the baby.” From another “The breast is best. Nurse your baby.” Yet another “Treasure every moment, for it is fleeting.” On a lighter side, but true nonetheless and in response to the new mom after being up all night and wondering out loud how long she could do it – “You just finished the first week of a life-time sentence!”

Cheers to the grandmothers who live close to their grandchildren and can enjoy their everyday moments. Sadly, the rest of us have to deal with another motherly emotion the separation from loved ones.

Make it a good week and “Family Fun Month.” Consider having some fun on August 16 and 17 by visiting the Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veterans Park Museum’s Civil War Camp.

Mary Burns Deas writes weekly for the OBSERVER. Send comments to lifestyles@observertoday.com