I came to the realization the other day that I think I really need to take more time to just have fun with my kids. I mean, yes, I’ve planned some great vacations in the past, and we did all just go to the zoo recently and have fun staring face to face with a gorilla (behind glass, of course) and jump out of our skin when he started banging on said glass, but…
I’m still seen as not only uncool by my kids, but un-fun. I realized recently I was in a pretty sad state when my teenager said to me in the car, “You know, Dad and Emmie and I are going to the U2 concert in May, at the new Cowboys stadium!”
I thought about that for a minute as she yakked on.
“Why didn’t you include me when you said you were going to the concert?” I finally said.
“You? I didn’t think you liked loud concerts like that,” she said.
Huh? “I’ve been to lots of ‘loud’ concerts,” I said. “I don’t really like to pay big bucks for concerts in large stadiums, but it’s not because of the sound, it’s because you have to watch a video screen in order to see the show—what’s the point?”
“Well, it’s just fun to say you were there, to be a part of it,” she said.
If that’s what I have to do to be more fun…I think I’d rather stare down a gorilla. Maybe almost 15 years of being in Mom mode has made me too practical and well…too MOM-like. As my 10-year-old, Emmie, would say, with a silly grin on her face, “Mom, with you, it’s all about nutrition, sunscreen, and bike helmets!”…since I’m the parent who shops organic and makes sure to serve balanced meals, reminds my kids to put on sunscreen when they’re outdoors in the summer, and reminds them to put on a helmet when they go bike riding. (Emmie even made up a nickname for me: “Nutritious Patricia”, or “Nutrish Patrish” for short!) I’m the parent who always seems to be nagging, admonishing, lecturing, reminding, pleading, yelling, ordering…sometimes at the end of the day, it seems like that’s all I’ve done! (Believe me, when that “Mom Song” first started circulating on the Internet, I got tears of joy in my eyes at knowing I wasn’t alone!) I’m the parent who makes sure to ask if they have any homework to finish when they get home from school (so that I’m not granting TV and computer time unknowingly), I’m the parent who insists the younger child practices piano…the one who asks her to please brush her hair before leaving the house and keep her fingernails trimmed (which she detests), the one who looks at the shoes she wears to school to make sure they are not three sizes too big (yes, I’ve actually seen that, since there are so many hand-me-downs in her closet!)…who makes sure the teenager cleans her room before having a friend over, gets her homework done before watching American Idol, and stays out of the potato chips (“We’re saving them for your lunches!!!” I remind her.) And it’s not that my husband doesn’t “take charge”—he’s just not around as much, since he works 9-10 hours a day outside the home (Would that be a WOTHD? Or just a WOD?) If the roles were reversed, I would hope that he’d naturally care just as much about stuff like sunscreen and homework, too (although sometimes I imagine my 10-year-old, beet red, hair matted like a rat’s nest, fingernails long and curly like Howard Hughes, teeth blackened and full of silver fillings from eating junk, glued to the TV in a catatonic state, sent home from school since she showed up in a bathing suit and plastic dress-up shoes… J )
So basically, in our family, the parenting dynamic has turned out to be that Mom is the “home manager” and Dad is the person to have fun with. When Dad comes home, he’ll practice volleyball with you while Mom cooks dinner. If Dad has to run to the store and you go with him, he’ll always buy Oreos from the checkout line for you while Mom will usually say no, no, no, no, final answer- NO! In the car, he’ll blast loud classic rock on the radio– while in Mom’s minivan, it’s usually an all-70’s station or a book on tape. On the weekend, he’ll take you to his workout class and on a long bike ride while Mom tries to catch up on all the stuff she didn’t get done during the week. And after he mows the lawn, fixes the car and paints the upstairs window trim, he’ll take you on another bike ride. And for some reason, society doesn’t think Dads spend enough time with their daughters so it made up a bunch more ways they can have fun together, which I unknowingly encouraged them to sign up for long ago– like the YMCA’s Indian Princesses (oops, I mean “Adventure Guides”), or the Daddy-Daughter Valentine’s Dance held annually in our city.
They all go have a ball while I’m home scrubbing the floors like Cinderella…J
What’s an uncool and un-fun Mom do? The very nature of being uncool means that whenever I try to sing or dance along to a CD, my daughters will cry out in agony—“Mom, STOP!!” And the kinds of things I like to do to have fun on my own, like decorating the house or going to a dance exercise class called Nia, make them yawn. What I probably need to make more time for are the things I enjoy that they also enjoy, that my husband doesn’t enjoy—things that can be uniquely ours, like making chocolate chip cookies, watching a movie, or reading (my daughters and I used to have “book parties” on my bed or at a park, where we’d all bring books and just hang out together and read). Because if I do something he usually does with them, I’ll probably be too un-fun in comparison– a couple of weeks ago, Emmie and I biked to the library, and I got an earful of “When Dad and I ride bikes, he never makes us stop at every corner and look both ways like you do, when Dad and I ride, he always rides in the street, when Dad and I ride…”