Type B parenting is still OK, right?
Photo by: Chloe Hague.
Sometimes I forget just how type B my little family is.
This past weekend my wife, Kat, and several other moms were gathering to pick up cases and cases of Girl Scout cookies that were to live in our house for a few days. Kat was the Cookie Regent for my nine-year-old’s troop. Her role was to bring all the troop’s boxes back to our house for distribution to the rest of the troop. My role, on the other hand, was to be the adult in charge of two additional girls at my house so that all the carspace possible could be used to transport Thin Mints.
I sat outside reading a magazine while the four girls ran around outside for a few minutes, then they wanted to go inside so I read my magazine *inside* while they played Sorry!. I wasn’t aloof or inaccessible, I was just in the next room and able to hear any violence or address any tiny human’s needs, but they ended up not needing me at all.
They were loud in the way that gathered children are, but they didn’t need to be hovered over or engaged or have me guide their activity. The only reason I was *only* in the next room, instead of on a comfy couch further away from the noise, was that I didn’t know the visiting children very well. Once we’ve established a precedent that you are a child who will either: not get gravely injured at my house, or come find me if you *are* then I safely retreat from the fray.
I didn’t know how long I had. This was Kat’s first year as Cookie Regent for the troop, and it could take anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple hours. I set up a contingency plan that I’d call the cookie retrievers if they weren’t going to be back by the time the children started getting hungry, and then I’d use my magic powers to turn money into delivered pizza.
Most of it is just my natural tendency, but I do worry that I put up a front to try and seem laid back around other people. I have this idea in my head that the “cool” parents are cool with “whatever.” Look at ME, I’m sitting on the bench and not getting involved in the playground drama. Where’s my kid right now? Over there somewhere? I don’t know because I’m *that rad*.
By the second camping trip, I had made a rule: I’m not going to help you find your flashlight.
Sometimes, I’m not as good at hiding it. There’s a group of Northside dads who do daddy-daughter camping through a program at the Y. The best part of the camping trips is when the dads are all sitting around the fire and the daughters are all running around doing whatever. I was able to keep my faux-relaxed dad persona up while it was just me and the nine-year-old, but her little sister is old enough to go with us now, and two is *way* more than one. During the first trip, I almost lost my mind trying to keep my daughters from losing all of their things.
By the second trip, I had made a rule: I’m not going to help you find your flashlight. That made things a lot better.
I’m a little sad because it’s winter and I can’t drink yard beers like I do in the spring and summer. I go outside with my iPad, a lawn chair, and beer, and drink the beer, while sitting in the lawn chair, and playing on my iPad. The children run around and do children things. I’m outside, they’re outside, everyone’s happy.
That’s my ideal, but I know that I’m not great at avoiding laid-back excesses. On a weekend, I know it’s better for us to go out to a park on a lovely day, but I’m not going to push it. Do you guys want to go out to a park today? No? Fine, we can just read and play video games. We’d all be happier if we walked around Maymont for an hour *then* played video games, but how much fight is it worth to get everyone, including me, out the door? The video games are already here. Sure, we’ll all be grumpy after two hours of iPadding, but it certainly was easier than putting on pants.
Of course, I’m my best at parenting when I can get out of my head and just *be* with my family, whether that’s reading a book to them, playing a game with them, or reading a book while they do their own thing. Sometimes, I need to be the grown-up and provide some momentum to our days, but other days I can just be OK with my kids having personalities similar to mine. And, I can stop trying to project an air of exaggerated nonchalance when around other parents who don’t particularly care how I parent my kids.