More than ants at a picnic, rain at a parade, or Tom Brady at a Super Bowl, nothing ruins a good time like a kid who’s having a good time. Actually, I take that back. Parades aren’t fun in the first place, so there is no good time to be ruined. Attending a parade at all ruins the fun you would have had doing something else. Anyway, a kid’s good time will inevitably end by their own doing.
What parent hasn’t seen this scenario play out before? Your kid is having a good day – they’ve listened, they’ve shared, maybe they even lasted a whole car ride without crying. Such good behavior deserves a reward, so you decide they should get a treat! Yay, ice cream! A kiddie cone and some sprinkles blows their little mind. And their good day. The excitement of the fun day combined with the sugar of the ice cream is just to much for them, and the next thing you know they are covered in melted ice cream, quickly covering everything they touch in melted ice cream, and not listening to a word you say because they are just having so much fun. The fun day now ends with you demanding they be quiet and listen, and stop touching that, and sit still, and be quiet. Onlookers must look at you and wonder how you could be in such a bad mood while doing something as fun as having ice cream. What kind of wet blanket are you? Are you a bad parent or something? Let me tell you, no, you aren’t a bad parent. You just waited to keep the fun in check.
Much like every action has an equal and opposite reaction, every child’s mood has an equal and opposite mood. Laughs inevitably turn to cries. Being grumpy will turn to being giggly. Being tired will turn to being awake for hours past bedtime. I’ll call it the Third Law of Emotion. I’ll come up with the first two later.
As a parent, you have now moved from being the fun parent who got them ice cream to being the fun police. I get that temperance is a virtue and you need moderation in all things, but it just makes you feel like you’re being the kind of parent you never set out to be. It turns out an under-appreciated part of parenting is the ability to allow your kids to have fun, but not too much fun, and I’m not sure I know how to do that.
Rather than reward them with ice cream, should I give them cottage cheese? I mean, it’s still cold dairy? When they are running around being silly, should I inturrupt their fun to remind them about the shots they’ll get at their next doctor’s appointment? Maybe knock over thier Lego tower for no reason? Where is the line on what is keeping them in check and what is being a dick? Who’s to know? But I do know that letting their good time get too good will end badly.
Which sucks, but is also why the fun parent isn’t always the good parent. A major part of he job is protecting your kids, mostly from themselves. I’ve spent infinatly more time not letting my kids eat as many chocolate chips as they want than I have baby-proofing the house. I’m yet to have a kid try to shove something in an electrical socket, but I have had three kids try to shove a pound of chocolate in their faces. Would it have been fun to see them try to chew fistfulls of ghirardelli, yes. Would the aftermath of wound up kids leaving chocolatey fingerprints all over the house have ended in tears? Without a doubt.
Dad just can’t be that fun. Uncle can be sometimes. Hell, grandpa can see their chocolate chips and raise them gummy bears. Dad needs to keep everything in check. At least until the kids are old enough to keep to the promise of not telling mom.