Kids come home from a friends house. “Did you have fun?”
Kids finished playing in the pool. “Did you have fun?”
Kids pile into the car, seat belts fastened, sweat dripping from foreheads, breathing heavily from a good run, jump and slide. As we pull out of the playground driveway I ask yet again, “did you have fun?”
I know why I say it. When it comes to playdates or outings where we were not with our kids, we often use the quick “did you have fun?” to check-up on what transpired outside our watchful eye.
But what am I really asking them?
Did you get satisfaction from what just happened? Were your desires met? Did you get everything you wanted from this experience? Did you benefit? Did you get treated the way you wanted? Were you catered to? Were you satisfied?
“Did you have fun?” asks about personal fulfillment. And that is a good thing- but there are better things. There are better questions. Because we are not aiming to teach our kids to be concerned about themselves. We are aiming to teach our kids to be concerned about others.
Human beings seem to have little trouble looking out for ourselves. We are pretty good at wanting things that please us. “Did you have fun?” puts the focus of our activities on personal pleasure. It implies that an activity was successful, worth our time, or worth trying again if we “had fun”.
I’m not knocking fun. As Dr Suess would say, “these things are fun, and fun is good.” Fun is good. But the question “did you have fun” implies a passive reception of fun. As if your kid should have been on the receiving end of the fun. But they can be the generators of the fun. In fact, usually that’s when the fun happens.
So the first shift I propose is this: Did you make it fun?
With this small shift in focus we give our kids the opportunity to consider others. They become responsible. They are no longer at the mercy of the experience- they create the experience. They are capable to change their situation. They have a choice in the matter. They are empowered to make a situation better. They can change pouting, negativity, or lack into an opportunity for “fun”. They can even make it fun for the others involved, not just themselves.
And this brings me to another question. Because sometimes things aren’t always fun. Sometimes things are hard. Sometimes we give and we don’t receive, and that’s ok too.
We can ask a bigger question.
“Did you love well?”
Another mom shared this doozy of a question with me. What a beautiful question. What an important question. What an important task.
Suddenly we are not the center of the universe. Suddenly our activities are not just about us. We are challenged to love. Even if it wasn’t fun. Even if it was hard. When we ask our kids this question we ask them to consider their actions in light of others. And even though they might be young or small, they can make any situation valuable and important. They can love, and love well.
These questions can open up conversation with your kids, and give you the check-in you were intending. If you worry that a playdate might have gone awry, or someone could have mistreated your child, then "did you have fun" or "did you love well" might give you a hint, but you'll have to dig deeper. But these questions do serve to change our kids perspective about playdates and their role in the world. They are agents of change and an influence of good.
They can love their neighbor. They can share. They can sacrifice. They can be the greater good, no matter the circumstance. And that is worth asking. It is worth asking our little ones. It is worth asking ourselves. It is worth implementing. For when we love well, we change the world.