Posted by: Kate | March 18, 2008

The Boring Parent

We’ve survived our last full day of our vacation, and aside from some serious consideration of just where we could safely store Emily so as to be out of earshot from the constant bossing/contradicting/correcting for a little while, we have all continued to get along swimmingly.

Well, there was the screaming tantrum Emily threw in the hotel room this morning because she decided that she didn’t like the last remaining outfit she had packed – let’s repeat, the one she had packed – but I’m doing my best to forget that.

We spent the day at EPCOT, which runs at a decidedly slower pace than the Magic Kingdom but is still better-run than Sea World. We were able to snag lunch at the Coral Reef Restaurant, despite forgetting to make reservations, and remembered to get Fast Pass tickets for the new (to me, anyway) Test Track ride, which filled up long before the end of the day. (Jacob pronounced it “fun at first but then too too fast,” while Willem thought the beginning was lame but the fast part was fun. Between them, they either had a perfect ride or a terrible one.) Both kids announced that their favorite part of the day was getting soaked in the fountain at the end, the little beasts. Next year, we’ll just install a fountain in the front yard and will probably save some money anyway.

It’s been a while since Willem and I have both had this much time together around the kids. During the school year, I work three 12-hour shifts per week, during which I’m sometimes home in the evenings but on-call and often at a hospital. On the other two weeknights, Willem is either in class or imprisoned in his office doing some bizarre form of math-without-numbers. Weekends are better, but there’s often varying social and professional/academic commitments that end with us alternating parenting.

It was nice to see, over the past few days, that we still have a basic shared parenting philosophy. We often end up interrupting each other to deliver the same lecture, or praise the same success. We don’t scream, or hit… at least not until the offenses reach up into the thousands. We also don’t baby-talk, or make empty threats. It’s a well-oiled machine.

Within the machine, though, there are differences. Willem is more… protective, perhaps. Not in terms of dangerous situations; we’re both pretty predictable there. (We only let them play with knives if there’s a really good reason for it.) His is more a protection from failure or frustration; he tends to step in and do things for them, or tell them not to do things, when I’m more prone to sitting back and watching to see how they handle it. I’ve never considered his way to be a problem, and in fact until he mentioned it this morning, I’d never consciously recognized it. I don’t think he coddles them; if anything, our kids are more independent and self-assured than many of their peers. It’s just a mindset, a tendency to step in without being asked while I wait for them to request help.

On the flip side, Willem is the Fun Parent, leaving me in the super-enviable position of Boring. He plays Daddy Games with them, which involve wrestling and tickling and a lot more giggling – and end with a lot more crying – than time with me. It’s not that I avoid playing with them; I was in the pool with them, without complaint, yesterday afternoon, and am ready to get on the floor and play as needed. But those words – “as needed” – distinguish us. I wait for the kids to let me know that they need entertainment, that they’re bored or irritated (or irritating, as the case may be), before I step in and guide their play. My philosophy includes something to the effect of, “My energy is limited, and is better saved for when they need me. If I step in and offer ideas and entertainment too soon, then when they inevitably get bored and need me, I may be out of time and energy.”

Of course, since it’s me writing, I make it sound all thought-out and solid. Sometimes it’s just plain selfishness on my part; I’d rather sit and knit than swim in a 66-degree pool at sundown. Willem feels (completely unnecessary and illogical but not terribly surprising) guilt that he doesn’t see them enough during the school year, and so when he does have time with them, he throws himself in with abandon.

But whatever the reasons, we balance. And the kids totally recognize it. When we were talking about how I’m not going home with them, Emily immediately piped up with, “Yeah, we’ll get a whole week of Daddy Games, with nobody to tell us to dial it down a notch!”

Never fear, Miss Emily. The Boring Parent will return… eventually.

On a side note… we’re spending tomorrow morning at Sea World, then the evening flying back to Boston. I depart for Jamaica at 6:00a on Thursday, and yes, I’m fully aware of how insane it is to fly from Orlando to Boston to Miami to Jamaica. I don’t know yet whether our hotel in Jamaica has Internet access at all, or how much it might cost to use. If I can get online, I’ll be posting to the same vacation blog that we used last year: If not, Willem has promised to keep this blog up and running in my absence. Come and visit him, give him lots of comments and praise, and maybe he’ll come out and play a little more often. He’s a funny guy. You’ll like him. I do.


  1. I’m happy you had the time to post during your trip. It’s always a pleasure to hear about a vacation spot you’ve always wanted to take an adventure to;yet, probably will not. Oh, and please do hurry home from the tropics I doubt your old man has anything even remotely interesting to say. : P

    Travel safe my lady, I hope the return trip is free from hassle.

  2. Well, Bob, we are planning a return trip in five or six years, and we’re totally going to need someone to entertain the kids while Willem and I sleep in… and Willem will need a golf buddy.

  3. With my stepson, I’m the boring parent too. It took a while, but he finally figured out that I don’t play games like Dad does, so he doesn’t bother asking anymore.

  4. I’m the boring parent, too. B is all about the fun and games, and I am constantly telling them to ‘take it down a notch’, complete with Ross Gellar hand motions. They’re goin to hate me one day, aren’t they?

    Have a great time in Jamaica, Mon. I’ll look forward to Willem’s posts in your absence.

  5. I’m the boring parent…but last night I realized that a little and me and the boy made a tent in the playroom and giggled until our bellies hurt. Have a great time in Jamaica Kate!!!!

  6. Yep, I’m the Boring One, too. I like to think that I’m fostering much-needed independence for my daughter who is an only child. Hey, she needs to figure out how to play on her own, right? My husband takes care of playing tag, hide-and-seek, puzzles, and Barbies. To be honest, those things bore me to tears. I’m just not that kind of a mom. But, I let her help me cook and do other things and Josh hates it when she tries to help him.

    Have a great time in Jamaica!

  7. It sounds like a great trip! I hope Jamaica is just as much fun, and lots more relaxing!

  8. I think it’a a mother’s lot to be the boring one . . .we tend to spend more time with them in their formative years and theres always a squeal of delight “Daddy’s home! . . .” I’ve been a single parent since mine were 2 and 4 so I’ve adopted a sort of androgenous parenting style! Weird. You’re mad doing all that toing and froing! Have a lovely relax in Jamaica! Defo will drop in on Willem!

  9. […] is the karma of the boring parent: less fun brings less laughter, but also less spaz brings less […]

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