The very idea that I'm expected to have fun doing something automatically makes the experience of doing it less fun for me. I kind of can't handle the pressure. Instead of just focusing on whatever it is I'm doing, I'm focusing on the fact that I'm supposed to be having fun doing it, and I'm objectively (and visibly) not having enough of it.
Most people will recognize this phenomenon from New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve is really the consummate example. It's like whatever it is you're doing, you wonder if it's good enough and question whether you are having fun. And then the verdict on the entire experience is dictated by how lame or cool you happen to feel when the clock strikes midnight.
I can recall a few of these back when I still lived in New York City. People would look around at each other right after the countdown and the kiss and all of that, and you could almost see the wheels in their heads turning, trying to double-check the fun-o-meter.
I've noticed a similar element to trick-or-treating on Halloween, except this time I have maternal guilt piled on, laced with anxiety that one of my kids will be hit by a car in the dark.
Do their costumes suck? Why didn't I try harder? Why do I want this to be over? CAR!!!!! Isn't this supposed to be the special fun part of being a parent? CAR!!!!! How has only one hour gone by? Why can't I just be normal and happy like everyone else? (This last question is one I ask myself daily, not just on Halloween).
This is why the biggest favor my daughter ever did for me was to be born on New Year's Eve. I stared into her sweet face for the first time through an opioid fog eight years ago this December. I cradled her in my arms as a tear rolled down my cheek.
"Thank you," I whispered softly in her tiny perfect ear, which I recall thinking was both the size and shape of a pecan from a can of salted mixed nuts. "I will never need a plan on New Year's Eve again."