I wish I could take credit for the phrase in the title, but that honor goes to friends of mine. They are the type of parents to whom I very carefully pay attention. Their children are just a bit older than mine, most being in college and beyond. They have always been the type of children, now young adults, that I would like my own to be like. So I watch and take notes and ask questions. (Everyone needs some family or families like this. Go search some out if you don't have anyone who comes to mind.) Anyway, the idea of 'enforced family fun' is from when their children started to get a little older and busy with their own lives and friends. It was a way of being sure that they all still spent time together as a family, doing fun things, whether everyone was really on board with the idea or not. It is a little tongue-in-cheek, since the children all have great relationships with one another and enjoy spending time with their family. All the years of working to develop good familial relationships have paid off. This wonderful family did not happen by accident but was created by a lot of thought and effort.
Which brings me to why I'm mentioning all of this: a pamphlet I happened to come across advertising the new and exciting service of (wait for it...) planning your family fun for you. This company will plan all of your family's fun activities for the summer, complete with matching T-shirts, for the low, low fee of $270 (approximately, I don't have the brochure right in front of me). I'm not even sure where to begin with how wrong this is. Has our society so professionalized everything that parents no longer feel as though they have the ability to plan a family outing? How difficult is it to put everyone in the car and drive to the zoo for the afternoon? Outsourcing family fun seems to me to say, "I know we're all supposed to spend time together, but I'm too busy to expend any effort at figuring out how to do it myself, so I'll pay someone to organize it for us and we can check it off the list." Write the check and alleviate the guilt in one fell swoop.
The other benefit this company touts is that they will help you meet other families. I am aware that people feel more and more disconnected from their neighborhoods and communities, but I'm not sure paying someone to play eHarmony for your family is the answer. Slowing down and doing less seems to be the better choice, not adding another event on the calendar. No one is home anymore to get to know; they are all rushing from activity to activity. It's hard to get to know one's neighbors when the only contact involves waving while the car is pulling away.
Plus, having family activities doesn't need to cost money, or even involve going somewhere. It can be playing catch in the yard, baking cookies together, planting flowers, visiting a friend, taking a walk, or having a family game night. Simple is often best. And you could invite another family to join you. Be spontaneous and invite another family for a game of kickball. Invite another family home with you after church for lunch. (This might not work in soccer season. Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Have a dinner of stone soup with several families and help other families to connect with one another.
Most importantly, remember that as parents, you are creating memories for your children with everything you do. Edith Schaeffer in her book, What is a Family?, says, "Memories (not all of them, but some of them) should be planned with the same careful kind of planning one would give to designing a museum. A family life in retrospect should be a museum of diverse and greatly varied memories, with a unity that makes the grouping of people involved share at least many if not all of the overlapping memories. Memories don't need to be just a thing of chance collection, but can have some measure of planning."