I thought weekends as a parent would be just like the families on TV or in the movies. Even on Facebook every family always look like they're having fun together all the time. The ones who seem to be riding bikes, going to amusement parks, and settling into parks for the whole afternoon. All this fun without side-eying their phones every 10 minutes. Was I missing out on a secret? What did they know about parenting on the weekends that I didn't? And more how did they get all the chores done?
It turns out parenting is a job, albeit one filled with cuddles and sticky kisses, and Adulting is hard work.
Weekends as a parent are mostly about trying to do the stuff you couldn't do during the week. Grocery shopping, loads of laundry, cleaning the house and trying to go unnoticed while sneaking in a cup of coffee and adult conversation. All of these needs often lead to my kids being carted around on errands or left to make their own fun. Some weekends, they spend more time on the screen than I'd care to face. I know that I don't need to make my kids every weekend magical and that it's more than okay if they learn to play on their own or together. But too often, I feel like a weekend has gone by without much fun in it for anyone of us. Too much nagging, not enough laughing.
Until recently, when we unrolled the giant Wateraft, a 6 ft x 18 ft marine-grade polyethylene foam floating play mat, into the lake and climbed on. No set-up at all.
The Wateraft has brought something vital back to my family. Pure fun and belly laughter. It's arguably the best water toy we've ever had.
Yesterday, I lost track of the time at the lake. I'm usually watching the clock, so when this happens, it's always because we are involved in fun, physical activity with our kids.
It was only when I noticed there were fewer jet skis and boats out that I clued into the fact that it may be later than I thought. A quieter lake on a Sunday signals Cottagers have gone home. And I was right; it was almost 5 pm, and we had been playing at the lake since noon.
Five weekend hours had flown. And they were fun.
There was rolling around and jumping and sliding; becoming confident jumping from the dock onto the play mat, balancing their bodies with more and more ease as the day went on. The Wateraft holds up to 1,400 pounds of dispersed weight so the whole family including our dog could be on it together.
My husband and I even lay on it in the sun talking about life while John and Matt played in the water around us. The boys used oars to paddle around. They made a secret hideout.
There were moments of stillness too as they lay down for a snuggle before jumping back up.
Playing at the waterfront also meant we got to watch our neighbour's float plane land and talk about how sailboats worked. It was an afternoon of joyful, slow parenting.
Matt, who is usually scared of the water, is becoming comfortable jumping up and down on the Wateraft and realizes it's a safe and fun place to play in the deeper water. He's been hanging over the edge looking for water creatures and scooping up shiny rocks.
As many siblings are, my boys are either best friends or worst enemies. Their ability to get along fluctuates minute-by-minute. I can't remember a moment I had to remind them to be kind during any of our recent afternoons at the lake.
Last night, my 6-year-old helped me clear the dinner table, unload the dishwasher, put away clean clothes, and even tidied his brother's mess at the toy area without protest. On the days we haven't played together, even one of these requests would activate whining and complaints that he does all the work around the house.
This fun afternoon and the pleasant aftermath wasn't a parent anomaly. It occurred twice last weekend as well.
Something special has happened as a result of spending the weekend afternoons actively playing with our kids. In the hours following the dedicated time spent, they've been more cooperative; getting in the bath without protest and following the bedtime routine without complaint.
And following each day spent playing together on The Wateraft, we've been exhausted in that satisfying way you are when you've been physically active. After tucking my kids into bed, they stayed in bed instead of coming out several times. They went to sleep. And after watching Game of Thrones with my hubby so did we, and we slept well.
The past few weekends have reminded me how much kids treasure our presence and simply playing with us. And while, we still have the duties of life to attend to each weekend, finding time for real fun and physical activity makes us a happier, healthier family.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Wateraft. All fun and opinions are my own.