One of the reasons I love my husband is that I realized back when we were dating that I could take him to parties hosted by my friends and not worry if he was hiding in a corner or not speaking to anyone and having a miserable time. I could, instead, leave him at the door to find a drink on his own, spend time with guests that I knew, and then look for him an hour later. At which point he’d say something like, “Great party, do you know so and so, I just met him, he’s an interesting guy, he….!” Envious of his ability to talk to everyone, I’d also feel a huge sense of relief that he was having fun, and I didn’t need to babysit him. So I married him.
Now, almost 12 years later, with four kids, I feel this same way when I watch him with our children. While our kids go back and forth between who is the “favorite” parent (much of this, of course, depends on who said NO to dessert, or yes to the playground, or yes to another book or TV show) I am always impressed and a bit envious of the spirit with which he parents our kids. He is definitely the fun parent.
I am the organizer, the planner, the A-type figure out camp six months in advance, fill out the daycare forms, get the shot records, keep track of dance lesson schedules, sign up for soccer, find ballet shoes and pack lunch boxes parent. I buy the teacher gifts, do the spreadsheets on summer vacation child care, interview babysitters, figure out which after-school activities are logistically possible, which Groupon deals will help fill rainy Saturdays, which memberships to sign up for kid-friendly activities. I am Chief Operations Officer. Of course, some of this has to do with the flexibility of my job in relation to his, the fact that I am a control freak and that I am just a plain better organizer than him. But it’s also a personality thing – I think I may have lost my inner child somewhere between college and grad school, whereas he never did.
My husband is the one who will wrestle on the carpet with our three-year-old while he screams with laughter. The one that uses jokes to cajole our seven-year-old out of her tantrum over which uniform shirt to wear. The one who will play “I Spy” and “I’m Thinking of an Animal” and tell knock-knock jokes for an hour during long car rides. Who enjoys shooting Nerf arrows and throwing water balloons in the backyard as much as the kids do. Who is goofy and makes up rhymes to make them laugh just for fun — despite long days at work and little time to himself. He shuts up the general frustrations with life when he walks in the door and is cheerful, fun and silly with them, even at six o’clock – the universal parenting witching hour.
This–is not me. I’m always focused on getting homework done so the kids can get in the bath, so I can make dinner, so I can clean up, so they can get in bed so I can make lunches and sign school folders and pack dance bags and find $10 for the book fair so I can then go to sleep myself and wake up and do it all over again. I envy my husband’s ability to enjoy our children and to let go and be foolish with them and make them giggle. Sure they might get to sleep an hour later on the nights I’m out with friends, and my husband is in charge, but they’re laughing while they’re going through their every day, otherwise monotonous bedtime routines. Most of the time I am with them I am all business.
I wish I could change this about myself. I do try. I try to make jokes with them, to sit on the floor and play American Girls, to tickle my son out of a fit over diapers or a missing blue train, to make the silly voices while reading books, to let them color on the windows with dry erase markers and not freak out when they start finger painting themselves. I remind myself when I see my husband chasing them around the house, pretending to be a roaring lion or a monster, that they will only be little once, and I need to lighten up and make more of an effort to be a goofball, to bring out my inner child.
Of course, deep down I know that our family would not work without both of our contributions–that our marriage wouldn’t work with the unique gifts both he and I bring to it every day. That we show our love for our children in different ways is just a reflection of our personalities. Still, a lot of the time, I wish I could parent like my husband. Because that’s another reason I married him – I knew he’d make a great father one day.