With the new summertime schedule, the Ex and I decided to try out a new way of sharing time with our kids. Starting in a couple of weeks, the plan is to have the kids alternate weeks at each other’s house. Because the Taz has a lot of baseball coming up until closing ceremonies, we decided to wait until after then to try out this new arrangement. But DQ had other plans.
“I want to stay at Dad’s house this week,” she told me as I picked them up from our meeting place in between our hometowns. She insisted that she had enough clothes packed for a whole week, and barely gave me a second glance as she climbed back into her father’s truck and waited for him to follow suit.
I have to admit, I was hurt. I didn’t show it, and smiled and waved to her as the Taz and I pulled away. But inside, I couldn’t help but notice that a bit of jealousy was creeping up as DQ made it clear that she would rather spend time with her father.
It only makes sense that she wanted to hang out with her dad. During the school year, he has them on the weekends. On those days, there is no school or homework, and their dad is available to spend the whole time with them. From the time they wake up to their very late bedtime, their only obligation is to play. At my house, on the other hand, it’s another story. Monday through Friday is work for me and school for them. Free time only happens after 6pm, and it is spent making dinner and doing homework before getting ready for bed around 9pm. It is also when we take care of any miscellaneous errands or chores that need to be done, or attend a baseball practice or game. In essence, this makes me the strict, all about business, boring parent, and the kids’ father the fun, spur-of-the moment, “let’s go to Discovery Kingdom” parent.
In a two parent household, different parenting styles are the norm. In my childhood house growing up, my mom was the one who set our schedules, made the rules, got us to do chores around the house (or at least tried to), and was always open for a “just between us” heart-to-heart. My dad was the one taking us on cool road trips, coaching our soccer team, introducing us to swimming holes all over the county, and was the enforcer of the rules my mom had set. I’m sure that each parent may have felt twinges of jealousy as we favored one parent over the other from time to time. But being that we all lived under one roof, it all worked out. We kids were happy as we got the best of both worlds, and my parents each took turns being the “fun parent”.
However, it’s different in single parent homes. Parenting alone means that we have to play the good guy and bad guy simultaneously. In essence, we are both mom and dad. We have to set and enforce the rules, and we have to play catch and wrestle with our kids. But sometimes life gets in the way, such as working all week long during time with the kids while the other parent gets to play and have fun with them until it’s time to say goodbye.
Back to DQ. We chatted some during the week, in as meaningful a chat as a tween and her old fogey mom can have (“How are you?” “Ungh.” “Are you having fun?” “Ungh.” “Anything new and exciting?” “Ungh.”). And in between her grunts, she let me know that she was a little homesick, and wondered when she was coming back to my house. She even chatted with her brother (“Hi.” “Hi.” “Bye.” “Bye.” Literally, that was it.). And after telling her that I loved her and missed her, she told me the same – actually using the words. For those of you with tweens, you know that’s huge.
Once the summertime schedule starts, both the Ex and I will get the better parts of the week and the more down to business parts of the week. And perhaps we’ll be able to hone in on our less familiar parenting styles as we each get in some true quality time with our kids. But for now, Dq, and now her brother, come back this Wednesday. And I’m counting down the days.
I found your post ‘Jealously Over The Fun Parent’ article to be really interesting; and it actually brought me back to that place in my life when I had to process through having my kids spend time with their dad and myself. I did’nt realize how hard it was until I read your article. You’ve reminded me in my understanding on what is usually a hard to tackle subject. It all works well in the end once the parents stay focus on what is the best interest for their children.