My usually very mild-mannered 2-year-old pulled my trousers down in front of a stranger, literally. I’ve lost weight and haven’t updated my wardrobe, which consists of mostly post-5-years-of-preganancy-and-new-mum attire, so most of my clothes are ill-fitting (mental note to self, must get my act together and then write a talk about getting one’s act together – watch Gok Wan for inspiration). On a good day I would have immediately found this hilarious, but that was not a good day. The heady mix of sleepless nights, unusually tricky pre-schooler and toddler tag-teaming, the realisation that my ill-fitting clothes were an indication of how the game I used to have had left the building, and the stares of a judgey stranger in perfectly fitting clothes got the better of me.
It was only a couple of days later that I found the funny. I was out walking with a lovely friend who burst out laughing when I described the scene. Luckily, I wasn’t feeling sensitive at that moment so I couldn’t help but laugh too. When you are happy it’s easy to see the funny side – “ah look, Blake has painted all over baby Lilly’s face, where’s the camera?!”. But so much of parenting can feel like a slog. When you’re fighting over who can do the school run, or you’re stressed because your child has glued his fingers together, or worried about whether your toddler will ever broaden his culinary horizons beyond cheerios and yoghurt, it can be hard to see the bright side. That’s when it can be great to embrace the idea of Type-2 fun.
Type-1 fun is the fun that feels fun at the time, in that moment. When your baby erupts into a belly laugh during peek-a-boo, that would be an example of Type-1 fun. When your child explodes with delight on seeing candles lit on their birthday cake might be another example. Or perhaps, when your baby sleeps though the night and wakes up happily babbling in their cot, that sounds fun right? Type-2 fun is different, Type-2 fun is only fun in retrospect. Fun with hindsight.
Friends who backpacked through Africa introduced this idea to me. Obviously there were loads of gems of Type-1 fun on their travels – anyone who has seen the rich red earth or the expansive flawless skies of Africa will appreciate that. But travelling by land through developing countries is interlaced with instances of Type-2 fun. The moment you step on a bus to a new place may feel exciting but the fourth hour with your head near a sweaty stranger’s armpit is not so much. Approaching a new border may feel like an adventure but the never-ending customs queues in the baking heat is something else. Type-2-fun is the type of fun that feels stressful at the time but when you look back on it you think it was amazing. In the moment you may be tired, or mortified, or overwhelmed even, but when you look back you smile.
I can’t tell you how many older people have told me to treasure these moments. They see me juggling three little people through airports and supermarkets and they smile and tell me to enjoy the children. Whilst I’m certain they would not want to be in my shoes again, they do seem to appreciate my experience from a perspective that I haven’t quite reached. So I guess, the trick is (if there is a trick), to reach a point where even the tough slog of parenthood is viewed as a meaningful experience, where gross and embarrassing stories are viewed as awesome anecdotes that you will dine out on for years, and the bath poos and airplane tantrums are potential wedding speech fodder one day.
So when you are finding it hard to sleep because you have a giant bump, colicky newborn, or a wriggly toddler in your bed just think – one day I’ll look back at this and smile. When you go through a phase where everyone is sick and off school and you are struggling with a mountain of chores and cabin fever, hold in mind that you might well look back at this time with pride. And when your child pulls the mother of all tantrums in an enclosed space in front of a room of startled onlookers, as you scoop your child over your shoulder and gracefully walk out of sight, you can say to yourself wisely “ah I know what this is… does it feel stressful right now? Yes. Will I look back on this day and laugh? Yes. This is Type-2 fun!”.
We at 101mothers think you are awesome!! Keep going tigresses and feel free to share your experiences of #type2fun with us @101mothers.