By Rachel Pieh Jones
I get it. I’m not that fun. Though part of me wants to be jealous of my husband’s carefree, fun-loving, able to play like a toddler even though he is thirty-nine, attitude.
“Dad is more fun.”
“Mom takes cares of us.”
These are direct quotes from my kids at lunch one day. And there it was, clear as the zit on a teenager’s forehead. Dad is awesome. Mom is boring. I know that isn’t what the kids said but that is absolutely what I heard. And this conversation around the lunch table wasn’t the first time these types of things slipped out of the mouths of my three kids and sliced through my self-perception. And my ego.
Of course, Dad thought this was fantastic and laughed so hard he sprayed iced tea across the table, which the kids thought was oh-so-hilarious. This time I managed to refrain from asking that he wipe it up. Didn’t want to appear too boring or unable to join the fun.
But as the family continued laughing and snorting, the iced tea splatters stayed right where they were on the table. They slowly turned into sticky puddles that would be harder to scrub off later than if someone had simply swiped a napkin over them now. While laughing, fine, but also while the liquid was still liquidy. But later? Ants would pile into the puddle and get stuck, I might have to scrape at stubborn patches with my fingernail. So, yeah, maybe Dad is more fun. But at least the family doesn’t live in sticky-iced-tea-ant-pile-goopiness. Who would be laughing then, huh?
I didn’t say this out loud. I don’t think I need to explain why not. And anyway the answer to that question is: my family would still be laughing. That’s what we do and more often than not, I join in.
Instead, I tried to think of a time I had been really fun. We had a dance party the other day, a Wii dance party. We played Settlers of Catan every Wednesday night. About a week ago I made that one joke about that one kid who had eaten that thing. Everyone laughed. Okay, they laughed at me for getting the story all tangled up in the retelling of it but still, I made ’em laugh.
Fine. I get it. I’m not that fun. Though part of me wants to be jealous of my husband’s carefree, fun-loving, able to play like a toddler even though he is thirty-nine, attitude, I don’t really want to be jealous of it. I want to enjoy it. I love it. It is a huge part of why I fell in love with him in the first place and why I keep falling in love with him year after year.
I once sat with my Somali landlady outside our shared duplex and watched my husband play on the slackline with our kids and with her grandchildren.
“You have four kids,” she said and pointed at my husband.
“That’s why I married him,” I said.
I think I totally lucked out in having such a fun husband and that my kids totally lucked out in having such a fun dad.
One study found that playful people are more innovative, another found playful people did better academically, another found playful people either experienced less stress or handled stress better, and yet another found that playful people were more attractive to the opposite gender.
In comparison to my husband, I’m not very playful. But I’m learning to appreciate his play and to make space for it in our family and in my attitude, especially as our kids get older. The sound of teenagers laughing at something I said (it has been known to happen on occasion) or Nerf gun battles and roars of laughter during wrestling matches and mud-ball soccer games with dad is pure gold. I’m learning to laugh at myself and to not care about the iced tea on the table. I’m even learning to let go of my schedule and routine and shoot off a Nerf dart or two of my own.
Dad might always be more fun while mom takes care of the family but the least this mom can do is take care that the fun times roll on and on and on.
Rachel Pieh Jones lives in Djibouti with her husband and three children: 14-year old twins and a 9-year old who feel most at home when they are in Africa. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, FamilyFun, Babble, and Running Times. Visit her at:Djibouti Jones, her Facebook page or on Twitter @rachelpiehjones.