I’m not the fun parent in our household.
Of course, this comes as no surprise to me but it still stung when my 8-year-old said to me rather bluntly the other night, “Daddy’s way more fun than you.”
And while the rational part of my brain knows better than to take this kind of comment to heart, my super-sensitive, highly emotional primitive brain did the exact opposite and ran with it.
Daddy is the more fun parent. I’m the stricter, more rigid, and more uptight parent.
I’m not the type of parent who, in the spur of the moment, will take my kids to Mcdonald’s. Instead, in the spur of the moment, I suggest the library.
I’m not the type of parent who will bake cookies on a whim.
I first need to figure out if we’re running low on chocolate chip cookies in our pantry before I bake some from scratch.
I’m not the type of parent who will just say to heck with dinner and pick up the phone and order KFC. I’m the one who wonders if I’d be doing my kids a disservice by giving them unhealthy, processed food (and rationalizing that it’s best to save fast foods as a weekend treat).
I’m not the type of parent who lets my kids stay up way past their bedtimes. I hustle my kids to sleep the moment the clock strikes the bedtime hour because after 12-hour days with them I need some alone time.
I’m not the type of parent who lets my kids play video games and watch TV ad nauseam. I limit screen time, yes, even on weekends because I feel it stunts their creativity.
And of course, I’m not the type of parent who readily admits all this because I know it makes me sound like a killjoy.
But I do know that:
I am the parent who keeps a running list of all events and activities so my kids don’t miss out on anything important.
I am the parent who helps my kids with their schoolwork regularly and then some, to ensure they don’t fall behind in their academics.
I am the parent who spends a lot of time researching camps and extracurricular activities my kids may love to participate in so they are engaged in something that piques their interest.
I am the parent who will endure a few sleepless nights in an attempt to make my kids the specific kind of cake they requested for their birthdays because . . . well, it’s their birthday.
I am the parent who sets up playdates, organizes gatherings, and plans sleepovers so my kids get to enjoy the company of other people who are a lot more fun than me.
I do all this because this is the kind of parent I am. And also, because I don’t know how to be any other kind of parent.
I really don’t know how to be “fun”—at least not in the typical sense of the word.
Looking back, I realize that I’ve always been this way. In fact, it was a nonchalant comment made by an old friend of mine that reminded me I was never really “fun” (even though I erroneously thought I was). “But you’ve always been uptight . . .” this friend remarked about how I was in high school.
So it’s no surprise I ended up marrying a “fun person” (and why most of my closest friends tend to be more fun and easier going than I am). His fun bone is what attracted my husband to me initially, and what made us a “good match” according to my family and friends. He was everything I wasn’t in the fun department. He balanced me out.
But he also made my non-fun self glaringly obvious. My kids see that difference—it’s as clear as the sun on a cloudless day. Even when Daddy is stricter, he’s still viewed as the fun one. And this bothers me sometimes.
Because part of me wishes I could be that kind of parent without trying so hard to be that parent. It just doesn’t come as easily to me.
No one asks to be the organized, schedule-oriented, time-driven parent. It just falls naturally to the parent who is more inclined to be that way. And please note, I am not implying that my husband is not organized or reliable, just that I lean into this role effortlessly.
But maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all?
If this is where my strengths lie as a parent, perhaps I need to embrace that fact and quit trying to be someone I’m not. Because I know there are many things I contribute as a parent to our household that my husband cannot, similar to how he contributes the fun portion that I clearly cannot.
So perhaps it’s time that I (and all the other “non-fun” parents) stop beating ourselves up for not being “more fun.”
Let’s embrace the type of parent we are best suited to be and grow in that role. Let’s quit comparing ourselves to our spouses (or even other parents) who appear to be much more exciting than we are. Life is too short trying to be someone you’re not. Not only that, but it’s exhausting trying to keep up the façade.
The solution I’ve found is to surround yourself with people who are different (i.e., more fun) than you. They make up for the areas you lack, and you make up for the areas they lack. Everybody wins that way.