The latest buzz book I’m not reading is called All Joy and No Fun. Like others before it, not reading this book is changing my life perspective. From what the author, Jennifer Senior, tells us, the book is not a parenting book, but rather a review of the social science evidence of how having children affects their parents.
The latest Big Study seems to indicate that when you factor out things like money, religion, and age, parents have no higher life-satisfaction than non-parents. They do, however, experience life in a more bi-polar way, i.e. having higher highs and lower lows. Still parents insist their kids do make them happier. Many of them, Senior included, argue that the joy of having children is somehow a deeper, more gratifying sensation than other of life’s joys. She made what I thought was an interesting point in a radio interview. Quantitatively ranking how happy things like having a baby and finishing a marathon make you feel fails to capture important qualitative differences, much the same way that both a Grisham novel and Dicken’s novel might be ranked a full five on Amazon.com, but few would argue that that makes them equal.
My kids drive me guano crazy. But when I tell them nothing in the world has ever come close to making me as happy as they do, I feel that’s the truth.
But laying aside the joy question, let me just point out that having kids can be a ton of fun. For one thing, after years of childless adult life, having kids of your own rejuvinates the holidays. By my late 20’s, I wasn’t even paying attention to half the holidays anymore. “Oh, it’s Easter today. How nice.” Even my beloved Christmas felt kind of, you know, like a cute pair of shoes that you love, but that are really out of season enough that you shouldn’t be wearing them anymore.
Having children breathes fresh magic into Christmas and Easter. Suddenly going all out for Halloween seems totally viable again. Even the lesser holidays like President’s Day are inflated with meaning. The year develops a steady rhythm of festivity. Case in point: Valentine’s Day, a date which so many of us have had a checkered relationship with becomes not longer just a time to obsess over romantic relationships, but a time to make goofy cards and bake pink velvet cupcakes with your daughter for her to deliver to her BFF’s.
So when I ask Fluffy, “Do you want to decorate the cupcakes with me?” and she replies, “Yes! Baking things with you is one of my very favorite parts of my life! For real,” I have to confess, it’s one of my very favorite parts of my life, too.
And that is fun.