I collected my son from rugby training a few months back and was met with the sight of a barely recognisable boy, covered from top to toe in thick mud tinged with that whiff of a paddock that had been recently fertilized. He was disgustingly dirty and deliriously happy. How could I be angry?  

I bit my tongue, but all I could think about was how I’d need to clean the car and napi san his shirt before the game on Sunday. Which led me to thinking. When did sliding in the mud stop being fun and how did I become such a boring old fart?

I’m thinking it was around the same time that endless games of marco polo followed by ‘bombies’ in the pool all day seemed like my idea of purgatory or when I was no longer happy to stay in my sandy swimmers with salt matted hair from dawn til dusk without a shower. These days, I’m already fantasising about a hot shower and clean smelling hair before I’ve even skulked self-consciously out of the ocean (that’s assuming the planets have aligned, and both the air and water temperature are well over 25 degrees). When did my childhood definition of fun get replaced by my grown up definition; that is … reading a good mag (in silence) on the sun lounge or luxuriating in a hot bath? Was it a sudden onset or did it creep up gradually like the effect of gravity on my boobs?

I’m positive that “young and carefree” me could have easily relaxed knowing that the kitchen was filthy and there was a pile of washing to do. Now… not so much.

The sight of a stack of dirty plates brings on a nervous tick usually followed by that fish wife shreak “THOSE PLATES AREN’T GOING TO WALK TO THE DISHWASHER ON THEIR OWN YOU KNOW!!” God I’m dull. I’m beginning to bore myself to tears. I know for a fact that I wasn’t always like this. In my early 20’s I recall my flatmate coming home, glancing through my open bedroom door and panicking, thinking we had surely been robbed. My room had been ransacked. Every draw was out, the floor could not be seen for clothes … a total tip. But no. His fears were unfounded. This was a fairly normal state of affairs and I was totally comfortable with it.

It seems as though fun, time and responsibility might have some complex scientific relationship that is yet to be defined. As our responsibilities increase, fun decreases and our notion of time speeds up. I remember when the six week Christmas holidays seemed like an eternity and when asked “How old are you?” responding with “twelve and three quarters” … because every month counted. Now just the decade suffices “in my forties” is as accurate as I need be.

So is it too late to recapture that carefree fun of our youth or should we just let it go? My Christmas resolution is to commit to a salt crusted day of swimmers, sand and bombies. I’ll let you know how that works out for me and whether it was ‘fun’ or not. I’m already visualising that shower and well deserved glass of wine at the end of the day.