Having a kid means having to change your expectations of what a family activity means. A family activity will usually hark back to what you enjoyed before kids, but their presence will create more work for you and less enjoyment for the activity; it can still be a good time but you have to alter your expectations of the event.
My wife and I have lived in cities with minor league baseball teams – Richmond, Virginia (Braves), Winston-Salem, North Carolina (then Cubs) and Central Pennsylvania (Harrisburg Senators and Reading Phillies). Our experience is that the games are affordable and fun, and the beer is relatively cheap. Or at least was cheap. And we began going again when our hometown gained a franchise four years ago. But going to a game with small children isn’t the same as without them. Our first game with the kids was mixed. We had great seats behind the visiting team dugout, but I spent most of my time with the younger ones in the play area. The area sat in a raised portion of the venue so that you could overlook the field, but the presence of numbers of children meant that I spent almost of that time monitoring their location and behavior. I left the game frustrated and annoyed, thinking that it was a waste of money and time, promising myself not to return.
But we did return for several other games that season. More importantly, we returned with the kids and the experience improved. As I chatted with my spouse, several things became clear about shared family activities.
- The activity is how we teach the kids to behave and carry themselves in public settings with a wide variety of people. If they spend all of their time at Chuck E. Cheese, they’ll never know another level of behavior.
- The activity is how we pass along our own interests and values, and provides a common ground for those later times when the relationship is strained.
- The activity provides you the opportunity to see how your child behaves in a public setting and provides some insight on what topics or issues you have to cover with them.
- The activity provides the child with an opportunity to see a part of you that they won’t see in the home. Gee, Dad can explain how a knuckler is thrown? He’s not a complete idiot, after all.
My wife and I spent the evening at a minor league game with six first grade boys and four teenagers. I monitored the playground, fetched food and drinks and maintained control of a few disciplinary issues. And I even managed to see one of the home team’s five runs being scored. And all things considered, I enjoyed myself far more than sitting home nursing an attitude. I just changed my expectations.
Now I have to adjust my expectation of what constitutes a cheap beer.