Are we having fun, yet?

This post has been spotlight featured on BlogHer. I’m so glad to know other people understand and can relate to this roller coaster called parenting. If you’re stopping by from Blogher, welcome! I’m so glad you came.

“He pushed me!”

“He called me a dumb head!”

“She started it!”

I’m not her fwiend anymore.”

Somewhere right in the middle of all that joy, I told them to sit down and smile. “Act like you’re having fun,” I commanded. But, clearly, I was not having fun. SeaWorld wasn’t turning out how I thought it would.

It’s funny how we set up these scenario’s in our heads. I’m going to take them to an amusement park where they will skip merrily from one attraction to another, braids bouncing, hats turned just slightly to the side, contented smiles plastered firmly on their faces.

The sun will shine.

A rainbow will form in the background.

Birds will sing in harmony.

It will be money well spent.

But what actually happens? They fight. They pull each other’s braids and knock hats off of heads. They whine and beg for cotton candy. They complain about tired feet (never mind the fact that they can run in the backyard for hours on end, but ask them to walk 200 yards in an amusement park and suddenly their feet are broken).

It rains.

High winds shut down rides.

A bird poops on your head.

You wish you would have used that money to go get a facial.

I’ve come to the realization in the last few years that special events as a family demand a special amount of patience and a realistic expectation. Expect tears and fights. Expect whining and complaining. But be on the lookout for the joy filled moments, too. They will be there, though in reality there may be more tears than laughter.

We set our kids up for failure when we plan these major trips to the beach, to the amusement park, to the movies, to the zoo or to any place that is going to over exert, overstimulate and over tempt them. Disney World may be the most magical place on earth, but it’s also the most overstimulating and any child that makes it through that park without some sort of melt down is probably just a robot.

It's also best to know that you will NOT look your best at an amusement park. Keep the expectations low, folks...

 So what are the expectations?


First, expect some whining and be prepared to deal with it. Stomping your foot and calling your child ungrateful is likely not the best response. He probably isn’t ungrateful so much as he’s overwhelmed. A thousand things to look at in every direction is basically system overload for kids. Be patient while they try to take it all in.

Expect arguing. This one gets under my skin faster than anything else. As evidenced by the above picture, when everyone is fighting I can’t even force a smile because what I really want to do is Hulk Smash Shamoo and his permanent,perpetual grin. But if I prepare myself ahead of time and prep the kids, we can usually make it through the arguments with a tiny bit of sanity.

And we might even have fun in the process.

Expect crying. Don’t get angry when they cry about being tired. They’re kids. They’re going to cry. If they’re tired, find a ride where they can sit down for a bit. Find a cafe and get a drink. Go to a show. If you’re at the beach, sit under an umbrella with a juice box and take a minute to breath in deep.

Give everyone a chance to recover. Landon cried most of the morning while we were at SeaWorld. He was tired and cranky, which made me tired and cranky. Learn from me, friends.

Don’t let this make you tired and cranky!

And don’t Hulk Smash Shamoo. Apparently that is looked down upon by some folks…

Finally, look for the joy and snap those pictures. Wait for the moments when they aren’t really aware of your watching eye and they are full on enjoying a moment. It may be brief. You may only have one or two truly joy-filled moments in a day, but capture and remember them.

And when you get home, be sure to print out those pictures of everyone’s happy, smiling faces and put them in an album. Convince your kids that the greatest thing you ever did as a family was spend the day at SeaWorld or Disney or the beach or the zoo. With any luck, all the memories of the fighting and crying and whining will fade away and you’ll be left with nothing but dreams and rainbows and harmonizing birds.

Creating memories takes hard work. Just be prepared and try to enjoy the ride.

Find the Magic

What’s your favorite family memory?


  1. I’m currently driving home from five days away in South Carolina. My boy, who turns 3 this week, barely napped and stayed up way past his usual 7 pm self-imposed bedtime. And my girl, who is 5 1/2 and going through some yet-to-be-determined emotional transition, benefitted from the break but still seemed weary of growing up. We had fun, but plenty of my happy family expectations weren’t met. Yet as I sit in the mini van, still 10 hours from home, I’m oh-so glad we went. I just wished you’d written this last week because it’s a fabulous reminder!

  2. Even as the kids get older I find myself with unrealistic expectations of ‘family’. We are taking a BIG trip right after Christmas to include wife and fiance.. It will be fun, but I am already working on REALISTIC expectations!!!! There will be LOTS of togetherness over 5 days and well…… I am just praying we will have lots of things to laugh about! 🙂

  3. On my blog planner I had a post in the works titled “Expectations,” and it would list all my expectations for our year on the road. Some of them are fine and quite realistic but your post made me realize I should sift through that list and divide them into those that are more aptly named “Goals” and those that really belong in the round file of my mind. Expecting that we will learn to live with far less stuff because we have no room for it in a 5th wheel is good. Expecting all three children to be enthusiastic about helping me develop new camping cuisine and backcountry delicacies is bordering on ridiculous. So now I think that upcoming post will be taking a different twist.

    • Angel Sheperd says:

      I wish you the best on your adventure. I lived in a fifth wheel with 4 kids under 10, a dog then 2, and my husband. I loved every single minute of it. The kids really enjoyed it too. It forced us to be with each other as we couldn’t wonder off to separate rooms, and it forced us to get out and enjoy the out doors.

      Now I live in a large 4 bedroom with acreage and I would be giddy to go back to the 5th wheel. Why? mostly because the amount of stuff that 2,500 sq ft can hold. I am overwhelmed and terribly miss the simplicity of our tiny home.

  4. This is why they invented season passes, you can go for a coupl of hours and not overload the kids. Kids only remember the good parts of the visit and will want to go again soon and they will be talking about “do you remember when Mom Hulk Smashed Shamoo?” untill long after you are gone.

  5. This is so great. And so true. I so needed to have read this before our family trip (with friends) to Florida this past summer with 18-month-old twins. It was a wonderful disaster. Wrote a similar post after our experience, and shared our “I’m done with it” picture, too. Happy to have found your blog and will be sure to check back from time to time.

    Here’s our happy vacation picture (end of post, “Exhibit B”)…which I’m seriously considering using as our Christmas card photo. 😉

    Thanks for sharing,

    • So funny, Holli. Was that picture taken at Clearwater Beach? The background looks familiar (it looks like one of our favorite spots) 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!