I don’t usually make a habit of comparing our parenting styles. Although I sometimes think my husband could be a little less growly. Or go to the park on Saturday morning with the kids without first making them clean their bedroom. Or take them to see the latest Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks PG-nothing movie with a little more enthusiasm.
So you can imagine my surprise recently when, discussing their Brownie troop leader, the 8 year olds told me they liked her because “she’s really fun, like dad!”
“Is dad more fun than me?” I asked, only half joking.
“Well, you could have a little more fun.”
Ouch. Why am I not fun?
Well for one thing, I’m just not spontaneous with the big stuff. I steer away from any activity that could be crowded, expensive, or noisy/dirty/basically just a hassle. How did I become such a party pooper?
Recently, on one of the first warm nights of summer, I suggested “Let’s take the girls to Dairy Queen!” See, spontaneous. Or so I thought. As we approached DQ we saw the bright lights of a small carnival (noisy, dirty, crowded). My husband pulled a quick u-turn and parked on the street right at the entrance to the small fair. He pulled some bills from his pocket, doled them out the the girls, and we strolled hand-in-hand as they went on some small rides and tried, unsuccessfully, to win stuffed animals.
“This was the best night ever!” they shouted, when it turned dark and we climbed back into the car.
For another thing, I can see tragedy around every corner. When did I become so afraid? Was it motherhood that made me so?
This week, while our family is on vacation in the desert, the girls and I came home one morning from running errands and my husband said “Put your swimsuits on, we’re going on an adventure!”
“Are we going crazy?” asked one of the girls? (Going crazy being a catchphrase he and the girls developed to mean We’re going to do something that will be so much fun but I can’t tell you what it is because it’s a surprise!)
Be spontaneous, I told myself, although I worried about where we could be going that would require I wear a swimsuit in public.
An hour and a half later, and 7,000 feet higher, we arrived at an alpine lake. My husband asked me if we should rent a ski boat to go tubing or a pontoon boat. Every fiber of my being was shouting pontoon boat!, envisioning us puttering to the middle of the lake where we would drop anchor and relax in the sun. “Ski boat,” I said.
Disappointed that the marina’s insurance wouldn’t allow us to rent a speed boat ourselves, my husband chartered one and in just minutes our boat and driver appeared, we climbed aboard, and he drove us out to the middle of the lake where two of my daughters climbed into an inner tubed leashed to the boat.
Oh the places my mind went in fear. Drowning. Another boat running over them. Our boat running over them. Flying off the tube and getting a concussion. And even more worries that are too embarrassing to put into writing.
I held my tongue to keep from shouting out “be careful!” and “take it easy!” and I watched my girls screaming with laughter, giving thumbs up for more speed, deliberately flipping themselves off the tube into the lake, negotiating who would ride together and when they’d get another turn. “This was the best day of my life!” my typically quiet one would exclaim on the way home.
“Your girls are really tough,” the driver of the boat said. “They’re going twice as fast, and over much bumpier wake, than the teenage boys I drove yesterday!”
They get that from their dad, I thought with pride.