When I squeeze my bum on to the swing and kick my legs so I soar up high. When I dance around the living room to a My Little Pony song. When I get on my knees, not caring that the ground is wet, and chuck yellow leaves high in the air.
I watch her face.
Her eyes light up with laughter but also something else; surprise. “Who is this woman and what have you done with my mum?” I can see her thinking, because while we have fun, it’s quieter and understated. Less exhuberant, maybe. I don’t think she would describe me as “fun mum”.
It had been decades since I last slid down a slide (were they always that uncomfortable?) and softplay hadn’t been invented when I was a child (I’m going to add a ‘thank goodness’ here, for my own mum’s sake). And while having Freya has helped me regain some of my joy in life, larking about doesn’t come naturally to me now.
Occasionally I do it because the mood takes me or often just to make her smile but I am more likely to be pushing her on the swing, applauding her after she has finished her dance or teaching her the names of different leaves rather than throwing them about.
Recently I started to feel guilty that this wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t enough.
We went on a day trip to a wildlife park, just the two of us, and I couldn’t help but think that she would have had more fun if her dad was with us. The same when we went trampolining (sorry, pelvic floor) and other mums were doing seat drops and backflips (ok, maybe not backflips) and all I did was really small bounces.
When he scrambles up the ladder at softplay. When he hurls her in the air until she squeals in delight or play wrestles her on the ground so that’s she’s almost crying with laughter. When he spins her around so she’s “dizzywizzle”.
I see her face.
There is no surprise. Because he is “fun dad”.
I read a quote on Instagram the other day where someone said: “The best thing about having kids is being able to act like one yourself again.”
Is it? Am I a terrible person for not feeling like this?
Isn’t it enough that I make sure she is clean, well fed, appropriately dressed for the weather? That I teach her how to bake, use scissors, write her name. That I take her to singing groups, creative play and monkey gym. That we visit historic houses, go on boat trips and seek adventure in wide open spaces. That I tend to her throughout the night and still be ready (ish) to get ‘up and at ’em’ at 5am. That I am the one who explains why she shouldn’t hit or about homelessness when she asks why that person has a sleeping bag in the street. That it’s me she runs to when she’s hurt, upset or just wants a hug.
When I think of my own parents, I remember it was my dad who messed about with us when he came home from work (and is the same now with my nephew and Freya). My mum did everything else, including making sure we always had a hot dinner on the table, that our clothes were washed and our house was clean and tidy (as well as looking after my poorly grandad).
I don’t think any less of her because I can’t remember her doing The Birdie Song in our living room or climbing a tree. In fact, now that I am a mum myself, I appreciate her even more (especially when she comes to my house and still cooks me dinner #spoilt). What I was lucky enough to feel from both of them was love, even if it was shown in different ways.
If Freya thinks the same of me when she is older then I will believe its a job well done rather than she has missed out.
So while I take note of the posts that encourage me to “live in the moment” and “act like a kid” and admire the other mums for their bouncing prowess, I’m going to stop beating myself up for not doing it.
She has plenty of fun in her life – so what if I’m not “fun mum”?
What do you think? Are you a “fun mum”? Do you willingly jump in muddy puddles or zipline across a ravine (ok, even I might be tempted by that)?