Monday, August 24, 2009
The Fun Parent
Everyone brings something different to the table when it comes to parenting. Jeff and I found this out pretty quickly after the first baby joined our family. Some parents feel comfortable letting the baby fuss for a bit before running in to rescue her. Others would prefer to jump at the first hint of squawking. (I won’t tell you which one of us I’m talking about, I’m sure you can accurately guess).
Fortunately Jeff shared with me his desire for respectful kids early on in our relationship and once the kids started coming he reminded me that if our goal was to have independent, respectful kids, it was imperative that we set down some rules and enforce them. It went against my mothering urges sometimes but he was right. Kids enjoy life more when there are guidelines and structure.
But it’s not just in discipline that we differ in our parenting styles. Take, for example, family outings. One of our favorite weekend activities is setting off to find adventure. One of our favorite destinations is New York City. One cold weekend in December of last year we had planned such a trip. I went against our usual fly by the seat of our pants technique and decided to be a bit more prepared. It was the holiday season, after all, and I didn’t want to miss the special exhibits and tourist spots that only appear in the City in the weeks before Christmas.
I went online and spent hours doing research. I lined up a parking garage and reserved a spot. (who knew this was even possible?) I reviewed all the holiday window decorations and figured out which ones would appeal the most to older kids. Then I made up a map showing the best routes to take to see all those specific windows. Of course I also put on that map the huge Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and a swing through Times Square. It was all lined up. I was prepared. I did my research and printed out handfuls of papers, maps and tourist instructions.
Then we hit the road.
I organized my papers on the drive down and reviewed the plans with the driver (the husband). He patiently nodded his head and said ‘um - hmmm’ in all the right places.
We arrived in the city and started to make our way to my perfectly planned reserved parking garage spot. On the way there we passed many other garages. Garages that had posted prices much less than the one I had reserved. I had to admit defeat on that point and we pulled into a random garage, saving ourselves ten bucks right off the bat.
The rest of the day followed the same pattern. The wads of folded papers I had stuffed in my fanny pack failed us time after time. Either the exhibits we were going to see were not as spectacular as I had imagined and the kids complained, “we came all this way for THAT?” or the attractions were too far apart to realistically hop from one to the other. Most of my research had been for nothing.
This is when Jeff stepped up and saved the day. With his knack for snooping out a good time, we found things I had never seen advertised on line. We rode the subway to places he’d seen when he was in the City for work and even getting to those spots we came across interesting people and experiences. For every item on my perfectly planned list that didn’t come to fruition he found two others that were twice as fun.
I learned a lesson that day. For the seventeen years that we have had children, Jeff has never failed to show them a fun time when the weekends rolled around. He doesn’t research and plan. He studies the map, but he doesn’t print out dozens of pages off tourist websites. He just follows his instincts and fun finds him. This is not a parenting trait I was born with or one I sought out when looking for a mate, but I am incredibly glad he has it.
And a few weekends ago he came through again. It was a sweltering hot Sunday that made me want to hole up in the one air conditioned room of our house. Going outside didn’t feel like an option. But Jeff isn’t capable of sitting inside on a perfectly good weekend day. He announced to the kids that he was off to find fun and whoever wanted to come with him should put on a swimsuit and get in the van. Two kids took him up on his offer.
When they came back four hours later their cheeks were flush with excitement and they couldn’t talk fast enough as they shared their stories. As they were driving down a back road they had seen a bunch of college aged kids walking into the woods with towels. They pulled over and followed the kids. What they found at the end of the path was a perfect summer fun spot. A wide creek with nice cool refreshing water and deep pools that were perfect for jumping into. The college kids were jumping from small cliffs and before the afternoon was over my boys were trying it too.
This is an activity that my kids would never have found if it had been up to me. First, I would never have found such a spot without my hours of research. And second, I might not have been brave enough to let them jump. But dad found the spot and dad supervised the jumping. And in the end his parenting style came through once again.
I’m just thankful he’s on my team.