My dad was brilliant at crafting a narrative for us kids that spelled fun. I’m not sure how he did it, but he managed to tease the silly and the funny and the happy out of a whole lot of mundane, tedious moments. 7 people plus one dog squeezing into a small, crummy, stinky hotel room on our annual roadtrip? A total blast! Getting caught in a rainstorm in the mountains that left us drenched and miserable? A fantastic adventure! Going to MacDonalds? Oh my word. It just didn’t get any better.
Of course as a child I had no idea why he did it or why it was so important or what it did for me in the coming years. I just loved it, plain and simple. Getting our grump glands massaged (being tickled until we couldn’t stand it) was a frequent occurrence. And often we would sit at the dinner table watching our parents laugh hysterically at each other, having absolutely no idea why they were laughing, but loving the moment anyway.
Now that I’m a mommy and know what my childrens’ laughter and smiles do to my heart I am finally understanding why my dad worked so hard to make our lives fun, even as he carried very heavy burdens and devoted himself to his calling as a pastor.
Fast forward 20 years and imagine my surprise this summer when Josh discovered that tickle monsters live in the tunnel on the way to our cabin. I had no idea! A whole new world opened up to Judah. It’s about a 30 minute drive from town to our valley. As soon as our wheels hit the Gold Camp Road we had to talk about the tickle monsters and how they lived in the tunnel and we were almost to the tunnel…almost…almost.
And then we finally arrived at the tunnel and, what do you know, every single time the tickle monsters were waiting to pounce and our car would ring with peels of laughter. Of course I was encouraging Josh to get out of there as fast as possible, not wanting the thing to collapse on us, but I was blatantly ignored.
And then we would turn onto the last stretch – just wheel marks on grass winding through the valley to the cabin and Judah would have to sit on Daddy’s lap so he could help drive. Very slow through the ranch yard where the horses lived. Stop at the gate so Mommy can open it and then close it. Careful over the bumps. Turn right towards our yard and then over the cattle guard. Our two-year-old is already such a good driver.
We had some rough moments on our vacation – another ear infection, a few colds, some traumatic potty training moments, general difficulties from being away from home and out of routine. But I think the ritual of the tickle monster will stick more than the other things. Throwing rocks in the stream will form his narrative more than the disrupted sleep. Mostly because he thinks his daddy is the most fun ever.
It seems to me that holy fun will go a long way in helping our kiddos to love Jesus.