Having children means staying busy. In our children's younger years, it more specifically meant busying ourselves with changing diapers, preparing bottles, giving baths, and keeping them entertained.
Among all the requirements of parenthood, I always was most taken by the responsibility to entertain. When you get it right, I imagine the sensation you experience is akin to what actors or comedians must feel when they are on stage. Smiles, laughs, and applause from an audience delighted to watch you perform.
But you must remain topical and current. As your audience matures, you find peek-a-boo and funny faces no longer cut the mustard. You've got to expand your repertoire or risk being replaced by someone or something funnier, like an uncle or a cardboard box.
When the kids were big enough to take baths in a proper bathtub, one of my favorite things was to pretend to eat their feet. I know what you're thinking. Pure genius, right?
Bath time would progress normally and quietly when, suddenly, I would declare the need to eat me some kiddie toes. Giggling would give way to a manic, panicked laughter as I searched the surface of the soapy water for digits. Eventually -- because they simply could no longer resist the temptation -- one of the children would lift a toe through the bubbles. As quickly as possible, I would launch my face into the water, mouth open, fully prepared to have a tooth kicked out, and splash around like a thresher shark after my prey.
At some point, however, children mature to the point where not only would my trying to bite their toes while they're in the bathtub leave them emotionally scarred, my mere presence in the room would cross the line into the zones of "creepy" and "disturbing."
While still young, our kids now are miniature adults and more sophisticated than the toddlers who once thrilled at the idea of being pushed on a swing. They now entertain themselves with an arsenal of Nerf guns, a vast selection of movies, video games for the Wii or PS3, or the kids next door.
But every now and then, on wintery days like today or slow summer days when they tire of their electronic gadgets, we get to play with them again. Maybe just a few quick volleys of ping pong on the new table in the basement. Maybe we join them on the Wii for some fun, sporty games. Maybe even a board game. We've been fortunate that they continue to enjoy our family time.
Just the other night, after yet another threat of winter weather caused the cancelation of a dance at our Darling Daughter's school, we found we had quite a bit of time to enjoy not only our own children but a couple of our daughter's friends who were sleeping over.
We knowingly did not crowd the three 13-year-olds, but when it came time for dessert we offered both our homemade cookies and a game of Apples to Apples. Before long, the seven of us were laughing it up around the table at the mismatched combinations of words we came up with during the game -- like my favorite, "Meatballs, Feathers and Rocking Chairs." We laughed at each other and ourselves, enjoying each other's company as we always have and hopefully always will.
I'm curious to see what new entertainment will keep us close as the years advance. Who knows? Maybe in another decade or two I'll have a chance to dive after new little toes through the bubbles. Until then, I'll be a happy idiot and enjoy what comes.
© 2010 Mark Feggeler