Silliness. Playfulness. Laughter.

These are important ingredients in family connectedness… and yet they are very hard to find when parents are burnt out and depleted (which we are!). And yet, here’s something I’ve learned this year: every time I push myself to lead with lightness, something good happens.

The other night, we were clearing plates after having family dinner together. There was a big bowl of cooked, un-sauced pasta sitting out. My oldest son, 9, took a handful and whispered to me, “I’m going to throw this at Daddy, shhh…..”

This is what I wanted to say: “What? NO! We are cleaning up not making a mess!” But then something came over me. I imagined my son throwing this handful of cooked penne and I smiled and had a half-laugh. That’s important, isn’t it? The things that can make us laugh? So I went with it. I whispered back, “Ok, you better sneak up on him then…”

And then it began. A family pasta fight. Getting hit with cooked pasta doesn’t hurt. Turns out that throwing pasta is very fun. The pasta was all over our kitchen. It dropped to the floor, someone grabbed a handful, threw it again, leaving pasta bits all over, making a HUGE mess. And in the meantime, we were all laughing as hard as we had in a while.

Eventually, we cleaned up. It took a while. Our kids participated without even asking them. Our family needed that pasta fight. Our kids need us to say YES to fun, YES to mess, YES to absurdity, YES to silliness, YES to a break-in-the-usual-routine.

If the image of my kitchen is giving you a panic attack, then a historical circuit is activating, one from your own family of origin. Speak to that feeling now: “Hi anxiety, trying to protect me. You’re an old feeling. You learned early on that everything had to be clean and “in line” and serious. Maybe I won’t experiment with a pasta fight… I can experiment with something else silly, and I’ll show you that I’m an adult now in my own family; it’s safer for me to be loose and fun than it was early in life.”

5 Ways To Infuse Fun and Silliness into family time:

  • Play a “Where are you?” game. There’s nothing kids love more than hiding and confusing parents.

  • Have a cooked un-sauced pasta fight. Yes this will make a mess. Yes it will be worth it.

  • Skip with your child. It is almost impossible to be serious while you skip. Have a skipping-only outing or a skip race.

  • Let your kids dictate what you do for 5 – 10 minutes per day. Resist and whine as you cooperate; let your child laugh and be in control.

  • Eat dessert for breakfast. Join in with your kids. No guilt, no “making up for this later”; just pure fun and joy.