It’s More Fun the 100th Time

January 23rd, 2016

I’m starting to believe that the biggest difference between adults and children is not size, vocabulary, or –as Miss Mouse recently suggested – the presence of a FitBit, but rather their capacity to take immense pleasure in repeated activities.

We bought the kids some goofy toy “poppers” for Christmas. They’re rubber critters with big bellies into whose mouths you can load foam balls, then squeeze them to launch the balls. They provide an opportunity for my kids to shoot at each other without breaking my firm no toy guns rule. The intention was for the kids to play amongst themselves, but Josh and I got talked into a ferocious battle one evening that raged for at least 45 fabulously frenzied minutes.

Every night since, one or more child has requested a Popper Ball Fight. Every night. Without fail.

In addition to the ubiquitous popper balls, the other common denominator in my evenings lately has been repeated readings of “The Bernstein Bears Forget Their Manners.” This classic text from my childhood has caught the attention of Little Bird, who now insists that we read it at least a half a dozen times every night.

I’m not denying it’s a good book. But our house is full – some might even say over-full – of good books. My kids have dozens of books to choose from for their bedtime stories. But what does she want every night? That One Book.

Then there are the knock-knock jokes. Birdie has recently entered the world of intentional humor and cracks herself up with a knock-knock joke of her own invention. It goes like this. Knock-knock. Who’s there?  Bananas. Bananas who?  Bananas for Abby!  Abby is our dog and somehow the prospect of her eating a bunch of bananas that appeared on the doorstep is enough to reduce my daughter to hysterical laughter. Would you like to know how many times I heard the banana knock-knock joke at dinner last night? More than once. Let’s put it that way.

When Kung Fu Panda was the same age, he invented a joke involving a goose wearing a diaper. He couldn’t actually deliver the punchline, though, because every time he tried, he’d start laughing so hard he would run out of breath. I’m not talking once or twice, either. I’ve probably heard the opening lines of the goose joke a hundred times.

Having learned through experience of my children’s propensity to latch onto a good idea, I sometimes take pre-emptive steps to avoid being sucked into a never-ended cycle of repeated activity. On the first day of school this year, I wrote a note to my proud first-grader and hid it in her lunchbox for a noon-time smile. I was very careful NOT to write her a note the second day, even though it was tempting to repeat the joy it brought her. But I knew that if I penned that second note, I’d be committed to writing them every day all year. Doing something once for a child is a fun treat. Doing it twice elevates it to the level of inviolate family tradition.

I forgot about the dangers of repetition the other night and blithely offered KFP an airplane ride on my feet. I was lounging on the floor and thought it would be funny to see him suspended in the air above me. Thirty minutes and approximately one million airplane rides later, my calves were cramping. I needed a distraction. Who wants a Popper Ball Fight?

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