Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dad in Charge

My wife is out of town for a few days and I have the run of the house…with the girls. It’s really fun getting to play mom sometimes. It’s a lot like people who love kids, but don’t have kids of their own. Maybe an aunt or uncle who get to swoop in and spoil their nieces and nephews and then escape back to their regular life. You can have the fun and enjoyment of being a parent without the long term responsibility of being a parent 24/7.

Before you get too concerned about those comments, let me make it perfectly clear…. I love being a parent. I love my children, I love my family. To be 100% honest though, I doubt I do half the work in our household when it comes to the kids. Not only do I feel like I do less than half the work, I’m pretty sure my wife has to take care of me part-time as well. I am just a big kid after all.

If you were to look back at an old post of mine, “When mom’s away the kids will play,” you will see the kind of shenanigans us kids get into when my wife is away. It probably shouldn’t be like that considering my wife and I are very good at maintaining a common front and setting consistent standards, but here in the real world there just seems to be something different when dad is in charge.

I would like to say that it’s because I have some amazing ability as a parent to take charge and maintain a little order in our house, but I know that’s not the case. I am almost certain that my girls know I am just a big kid trying not to get in trouble by letting them get away with too much. I’m pretty sure they realize that I will let them get away with a lot of stuff, but they don’t want me to get in trouble for it….so they behave for me.

I think that deep down though they are just smart enough to realize that I have earned my stripes as a former unruly kid and I know where to draw the line. I have always been a “learn things the hard way” kind of person and I think they somehow sense that. Let me give you an example….

One day, when I was a wee lad of about eight years old, my buddy and I were given the opportunity to spend the afternoon at my buddy’s house under the supervision of his grandfather who we called “Papa.” He wasn’t much of a “play with kids” kind of guy, but he certainly understood the mind of a young boy. He only had one rule for us: “You can do whatever you want, but don’t make a mess.”

As kids, we thought that was awesome. (Little did we know the brilliance in his simplistic rule.) So, what did we do first? We brought the garden hose over to the sandbox (where we were never allowed to bring a hose because it would make a mess) and somehow managed to flood the sandbox. We then spent the next two hours trying to clean up the mess. [That’s two hours he didn’t really have to supervise us.]
Once we (thought we had) finished that cleanup, we decided to drink a few cold sodas to cool off.

Normally, we would only be allowed one soda, but since it clearly wouldn’t make a mess, we decided to drink a 12 pack of Dr. Pepper. Of course we managed to spill a couple of the sodas and spent an hour trying to clean up the mess so we wouldn’t get in trouble. [Another hour he didn’t have to worry about us.]

The list of messes went on. It seemed like everything we tried to do either broke something or made a mess of some sort. We spent 75% of our time “doing anything we wanted” cleaning up messes so we wouldn’t break the one and only rule we had. I think it comes down to the ideology behind “give ’em enough rope to hang themselves,” and you have a pretty solid kid-watching plan. Let them do whatever they want, with very basic parameters, and they somehow realize that they are liable for everything they do wrong.

At the end of that day, Papa got a really good nap in and my buddy and I worked our butts off trying to clean up after ourselves. It wasn’t a totally blissful end though. The flooded sandbox gave us away and we got a good whooping for that…..but it was a great day nonetheless. It’s my fondest memory of Papa and regardless of whether he ever knew it or not, it was a great life lesson.

Long story short, I use a bit of that with my girls. I give them a little extra freedom under the “daddy doesn’t know any better” law, but I hold them accountable for their results. It’s like they know they better do it right or else I might not let them do it again next time.

It’s probably not fair to my wife, but let’s be honest, she’s already way better at parenting than me. She gets practice with three kids (my 2 daughters and me) and I only get practice with our two daughters. Truth be told, I’m just happy she gets to spend a few nights away enjoying time with her sister (and her brand new baby niece). I know the only way she could truly enjoy that time away is knowing that her own girls are behaving for her husband. (FYI Honey- They went to bed without a ruckus, neither came out for anything and they’re both fast asleep.)

I will leave it at that for tonight. Enjoy your family. Set rules, follow rules and know when to “slightly” bend the rules. Sometimes bending the rules can work in your favor. Until next time….