My husband and I both like to make people laugh, but he reeeeeally likes it and cannot help performing for his easiest, cutest, most enthusiastic audience: our kids. So he is the “Fun Dad,” making me, by default, the “Mean Mom.” Well, not exactly mean, but the Boring, Serious, Responsible Mom. Which in my kids’ minds pretty much equals mean.
You can’t really have two Fun Parents. If you did, kids would never go to bed or pick up their toys or eat their vegetables. So I let my husband be Fun Dad, and I accept my role as Wet Blanket Mom. I’m the one who puts a damper on all the fun. When Dad gets them riled up at bedtime with one of his wildly outlandish bedtime stories (see below), I’m the one who has to come in and tell him to calm down.
When they are jumping all over the couch on top of Dad in a pillow fight, I’m the one who comes in and says they are being too rough and someone is going to get hurt.
Of course they laugh even louder when they think Daddy is getting “in trouble” with me, further solidifying my Mean Mom reputation.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I still have a lot of fun together – I take them to fun places and we do fun activities at home - and if anything I’m not strict enough, but I’m just not as silly as their Dad. My husband (the youngest of seven children) is a true kid at heart and loves to relive his youth. He is not above using potty talk in his bedtime stories if it’ll get him a laugh, which of course, it always does.
I get silly with the kids too sometimes. When we have a family dance party I will bust out some of my signature silly moves like the Leg Guitar and the Running-Through-The-Sprinkler-Man. But they just look at me like I’m Embarrassing Mom, and I stop.
I’m usually pretty content being Lame Mom. I love that my kids have such a fun, engaged Dad and have a great relationship with him. Sure it hurts every once in a while when one of the kids alludes to the fact that he’s the fun one and I’m the strict one, but I know they love me, and I know someone has to take this role. Besides, there are advantages to not being the Fun Parent.
I learned early on that when you’re the Fun Parent, the kids request you at bedtime every night. I will happily relinquish Fun Parent status if it saves me from telling an original bedtime story every, single night. Starting a few years ago, on nights when my husband wasn’t home, I would tell the most boring bedtime stories - on purpose. Now when I try to tell a story, they usually say, “We don’t need a story tonight, we’ll wait until Daddy comes home tomorrow. Good night.” Score! Yes, they would rather sit in silence than listen to one of my boring, potty-humorless stories with a blatant moral message in it. Win for the Boring Mom!
I’ve told my husband this strategy, but he can’t do it. He cannot resist his #1 audience. So he tells outrageous poop- and fart-filled stories that take longer to tell and longer to calm down from afterwards, extending the bedtime routine by at least a half hour if not more, but he and the kids love it, and I can’t take that from them.
But last night I got to be the Fun Parent. I was reading the Disney version of Princess and the Frog for the 100th time to my youngest and decided to spice things up a bit by using an exaggerated southern accent, since the book takes place in New Orleans. My older two overheard my strange voice and came in to listen. Yes, even my princess-hating eight-year-old.
I’ve been binge-watching House of Cards and Kevin Spacey’s drawl in the show just came out of my mouth naturally (a few glasses of wine went in my mouth previously, which also helped liven the atmosphere). The kids were dying, my oldest could not breathe she was laughing so hard. Encouraged by their laughter, I kept taking my reading up a notch - I was screaming out the lines, using all sorts of ridiculous voices, each with their own butchered southern twang, making up words as I went along. After catching her breath, my eight-year-old said through giggles, “MOMMY! I’ve never SEEN you like this!!” I asked if she liked it, and all three girls screamed, “YES!!”
My husband heard all the commotion and came in to check on us. I could sense that he felt threatened, his Fun Parent status in jeopardy. He even said, “What is Mommy trying to do? I’m the one who tells the funny stories around here!” The 8-year-old said, “You’re not the only funny parent Daddy! Mommy is HYSTERICAL!!” I have to admit I felt pretty happy hearing that. Trying to defend his title, my husband attempted to chime in with a southern accent. My kids looked at him like he was from Mars, and I said to him softly, “Please, will you just let me have this tonight?”
He understood, and left quietly, while we continued to hoot and howl and get all riled up even though it was past bedtime on a school night. I didn’t care. I let go of my Responsible Boring No-Fun Parent role and relished being the Fun Mom, even if it was for only one night.
Sometimes I get too wrapped up in my role of being a Mom, and forget that I still get to be a kid sometimes, too. Tomorrow I know I’ll go back to keeping them in line (ok, trying to keep them in line), but I do plan to bust out the Silly Mom more often. It was really fun. And worth the sore throat the next day.