I was fixing dinner in the kitchen when the ever-present baby monitor on the counter crackled to life.
“Daddy, you are way more fun than Mama,” I heard my oldest chirp.
“Your mommy is fun,” my husband replied fairly. “She plays with you too.”
“Not as much as you do,” my daughter argued. “Mama almost NEVER plays with us.”
The truth in the words stung.
I have always been the boring one.
The mom in the friend group. My high school nickname was “the fun-hater.” At 15, I carried a massive purse loaded with granola bars, tissues, and loose ibuprofen. I never partied. I was, and still am, an anxious, awkward, introvert without an ounce of rebellion in my body. Now, as an actual mom, in a role where those behaviors are somewhat socially appropriate, I’m still boring.
The problem isn’t that I don’t spend time with my children. As a homeschooling mom, I spend nearly every hour of the day with them. I teach them. I read to them. We throw impromptu dance parties and bake brownies just because. We take nature walks and trips to the library and playground. I comfort them when they awaken from nightmares, run their baths, bandage their scrapes, and push their swings. But, if I stand back and look at all the hours I spend with them, much of that time is spent doing things that are, well, boring.
No kid is thrilled that I’m doing the dishes or teaching phonics. They don’t giggle at the efforts I take to make sure their laundry is clean and their dresser drawers are filled with seasonally appropriate clothing. They don’t recognize that the fridge is stocked and there are healthy meals on the table. There are no joyful squeals when I slip something green on their plate or remind them to floss their teeth.
It’s not that I don’t try to have fun with them.
I play with them in whatever snatches of time I can get—braiding a plastic pony’s hair between cleaning the kitchen and the end of the baby’s nap. Rolling monster trucks around between dinner and bedtime. Pretending to be a robot and chasing them through the house with the baby bouncing wildly on my hip.
My husband is the fun parent. When he gets home from work, he devotes most of his time to playing with our children. He comes up with exciting games for them. He builds ziplines in the basement and dirt ramps in the garden. He takes them to the backyard to practice sword fighting while I clean.
I could ask him to switch roles with me—to cook or clean while I play in the backyard. He offers. Sometimes I do ask to switch, and he steps in cheerfully. But most of the time, I don’t ask. I guiltily relish the moments I can work or rest in quiet. Maybe because I’m boring.
Maybe because I’m human, burned out from all the mental work that comes with being boring.
My kids may not appreciate my boringness now, but one day, perhaps years from now, they will. They’ll realize that most of the things I do for them, though dull, provide the stability they need to grow into well-adjusted human beings.
Hopefully, they will look back and remember that my hands tended, nurtured, and comforted even when not gripping an action figure. They will remember that my voice sang, read, and encouraged even when not calling out directions for “Simon Says.” They will remember that my eyes saw their accomplishments and noticed when their shoes were getting too small even when those eyes weren’t closed to count for hide-and-seek. And hopefully, they will remember that my ears listened to their interests, hopes, and fears, even if those ears sometimes tuned out after 10 straight minutes of Super Mario jargon.
But until that day, I’ll be grateful for a fun husband who works hard to support us so I can afford to do the boring things and who wants to be hands-on with our children. I will give thanks for the moments he takes the kids out to play, so I can cook a meal without someone clinging to my leg. I will recognize and thank him for all the boring stuff he handles as well—the mowing, maintaining, fixing, and filing.
I will speak honestly to my children about my limitations as a flawed human with responsibilities and ask their forgiveness when I fall short of fulfilling their desire for fun, playful connections. I will try my best to play with them when I have the time and energy, and rest in God’s grace when I can’t (or don’t). And until that day, I’ll try to embrace being boring.