In every two-parent home, there is the “fun” parent and the one who makes sure things gets done. These roles are almost always mutually exclusive. The parent who makes a fort in the basement with 47 blankets and every chair in the house is not usually the one who nags the kids for three days to clean it up. The parent who ignores bedtime is not typically the one who spends the next day being screamed at and sobbed to by Junior Jeckel & Hyde. And the parent who allows the double scoop with sprinkles in a waffle cone after dinner, is almost never the one who cleans the barf off the carpet before the dog can eat it.
In perhaps the best pearl of wisdom ever to come out of network television, the Mom on ABC’s Modern Family explains to her young son that you can’t have two fun parents. “It’s a carnival,” she says, “You know that kid Liam who wears pajama pants to school and pays for everything with $100 bills? Two fun parents.” And she’s right. Someone’s got to be the one to say it’s time to go home. Someone has to reapply the sunscreen and get the tangles out. And someone has to be willing to take flack for doing all these things because not to would be a carnival – that is to say, a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.
If you are the Fun parent, you likely live by the code, “What the hell?” You live in the moment. You don’t think too far ahead. You have a fairly high tolerance for noise and you don’t mind being late. You probably have low blood pressure.
If you are the Un-Fun parent, you’re motto is, “Not on my watch.” You are a planner. Your brain is ten steps ahead and can smell a meltdown hours before it happens. You look at most situations through the lens of “How likely is this to end us in the ER?” and/or “How much laundry will this create?” You are often referred to as “the fun police.”
In my family, I am the Fun Police. If you met my husband, you would understand why. He is naturally irreverent and silly and loud and was often compared to Jim Carrey when Jim Carrey was funny. Obviously, I never stood a chance. But I am okay with that. I’m okay with saying it’s time for bed in the middle of a movie, with refusing their requests for a fourth cookie, and with kicking them out of my bed in the hopes of sleeping more than four consecutive hours without being kicked in the groin. Because the thing no one tells you about being the Un-Fun parent, is you also get to be the Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper may not be as sexy a role as being the Fun parent, but the Gatekeeper has something the Fun parent does not: Power. Dark, delicious, power. (Muhahaha…)
You know you have achieved Gatekeeper status when your daughter asks you if she can have an Oreo, when you’ve just heard your spouse say that she can. Or when your son says he can’t “just hop into the front seat” because Mom wouldn’t like that very much. That is power, my friends. And if you are a benevolent Gatekeeper, you use your power wisely. You back up your partner. You present a united front. You show your children that you are and your spouse are on the same page. Then, you privately rejoice in your small victory of being the one the kids fear more.
After all, just because you’re the un-fun parent, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself once in a while, right?