Dad is the fun one.
I had grudgingly accepted this as a fact of motherhood until a moment of revelation recently with my 5-year-old daughter, Nicole. After a day at a writing conference in which I spoke to adults and didn’t change a single diaper, I came home refreshed and ready to play with my kids.
We jumped in the pool, and I splashed around doing lame attempts at handstands and taking Nicole for horsey rides in the deep end. At one moment, Nicole looked up with a huge grin on her face and yelled, “Mom, you’re fun!”
Now, this wouldn’t have struck me as odd except the way she said it wasn’t so much a statement of fact, but like a thought that had suddenly occurred to her. It was as if in her five years of existence she had never before realized that I — the Mom, the worrier, the planner, the chauffer – could also be fun.
It’s easy for dads to be fun. When dad is around it is usually the weekend or a family activity or something where the fun is built in. Nap time and lunch time and grocery shopping don’t have that same comes-complete-with-fun feeling.
And, when dad is in charge, it is usually for a temporary period in which dad’s goal is simple: Don’t let the child die. They don’t have to plan future activities, make doctor’s appointments or contemplate how full-day kindergarten may traumatize their child. They don’t have to buy groceries for meals or worry that the children get enough calcium in their diet.
So, dad gets to be fun. And I end up being the stick in the mud who is always chasing Nicole with sunscreen, or I end up taking yet another fun family photo that I am not in. So to reinforce the Mom = dud, Dad = awesome cycle, all of the photo albums (which mom makes) are jammed with pictures commemorating fun times with dad.
Now I know I sound bitter about this, and that’s because I was. But I’m not now because I also had a poolside moment of epiphany when my daughter pronounced me as a fun mom. I realized my kids don’t get to see the silly, carefree side of me enough. They see “serious mom” who is too busy taking care of everyone.
I’m not letting dad be the only fun one in this parenting duo. From now on, I’m jumping in on the tickling matches instead of watching them. Dinner can wait. Or better yet, dad can cook while I wrestle because what my children and I both need is more plain old fun together.
How do you have fun with your children? Do you ever feel like the dud while dad is the fun one?