When the Going Gets Wet… – Guest columnist Jodi Nisly Hertzler

Editor’s Note: Jodi Nisly Hertzler writes occasionally for Another Way and is a college counselor, tutor, and freelance proofreader. Jodi and her husband have three children.

I’m so jealous of Fun Moms. I want to be a Fun Mom, I really do. And sometimes I am, but it takes effort.

I’m not a fun person. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I was a fun kid (I know, I know: what kid isn’t?), but at some point in my adulthood, the fun left me. It was a slow leaving, I think, because I didn’t notice.

But I realized it was happening 14 years ago when our voluntary service group went to the Redwoods and I chose to stay dry rather than jump off a rock into a beautiful (but frigid) river. That non-activity was followed up by a longing for a cozy bed and breakfast rather than our tent in the middle of the woods. (I still wanted to walk amongst and admire those woods—but I didn’t really want to sleep in them.) That one-two punch of unfun was the final blow to my perception of myself as a carefree, grab-life-in-both-fists type of gal.

This makes me sad, but I’m resigned. It’s not that I don’t have fun. I do. But my idea of fun is an evening at home reading a book by the fire, a stroll through a quaint village I’ve never seen before, a beach chair beside the ocean, a cup of coffee with a friend, a late-night game of Settlers, a morning spent exploring thrift stores and yard sales… you get the idea. It’s a low-key, quiet sort of fun. It doesn’t register at all on my kids’ Fun Radar (except perhaps the Settlers thing).

I’m so jealous of Fun Moms. I want to be a Fun Mom, I really do. And sometimes I am, but it takes effort. Our local library offers free admission to a water park every summer. It takes me a good week to talk myself into going, I struggle to keep my energy up through sunscreen applications and the packing of snacks and sundries, it takes even more work to remain cheerful during the half-hour drive (and to give them the Safety Talk without just turning around and going home).

Then I force myself to smile and laugh even though the crowds make me want to scream and the noise of the place pounds into my head. I do enjoy the water slides—I’m not a complete lost cause—but worrying that the kids will fall and split their heads open on the eternal concrete steps leading to those slides gives me a migraine. When we’re done, I proudly text my husband that I was a Fun Mom for hours and drive home with the full intent of hiding in my room with a book and lots of fortifying chocolate as soon as we get there.

So I’m not the mom I want to be, but I did do one thing right: I married a Fun Dad. He’s so much fun, in fact, that usually the kids don’t even notice how boring I am. He plans our vacations, he gets the whole family involved in a grape pie–making project, he’s the one who decides it’s time for a hike/picnic/creek swim, he has plans to dig a swimming pond in our backyard. When we travel, all I think about is the final destination (and the packing). He finds fun along the way. Eight-hour drive to the middle of Ohio for a family reunion? No problem! On the way there, he detoured to a crazy hot dog stand housed in a school bus, and on the way home found a swimming hole to jump into. Nine-hour drive to the beach? Halfway there, he veered off to a state park that had multiple waterfalls and a rock slide into yet another swimming hole.

(If you’ve noticed the swimming-hole theme that’s going on here, that is because Fun Dad’s goal is to find a swimming hole—preferably with a rock to jump off—in every state. Isn’t that a fun idea? See what I mean?)

Thank goodness for Fun Dad. Without him, our kids wouldn’t have the experience of roller coasters, crabbing off a boat dock, campouts, rope swings, water skiing, fireworks on the beach, mushroom hunting…

And where am I in all this? I may not be Fun Mom exactly, but I do a good impression. Half the time, the kids don’t notice I’m taking the pictures rather than riding the roller coasters. Who am I? I’m Good Sport Mom. I make the pancakes on our campouts, bring homemade cookies on our swimming hole hikes, and take pictures of them mid-flight above the water. I laugh about the frogs in the campground shower. I wade in the creek and help the kids make rock stacks to distract them from the fact that I haven’t gotten wet above my knees. I help pull up the crab cages and ignore the kitchen project messes. I go down the water slides.

And then I reward myself with a latte.

What is your idea of fun? Do your kids complain you’re no fun? We’d love to hear from you: by email to, on Another Way Newspaper Column Facebook page, or mail: Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

Posted 7/31/2014 7:00:00 AM

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