My Kids Always Love Dad Best

19 Sep

I keep coming home from work to find my family in a great mood. The kids are getting along wonderfully. Maybe everyone is playing Monopoly. Maybe they are all in the kitchen doing homework together. Regardless, everyone is smiling and interacting beautifully.

It’s really starting to tick me off.

Not too long ago, we had dinner together every night. Studies showed that kids who ate nightly family dinners were less likely to drink, do drugs, smoke, get depressed, have eating disorders and begin reading sooner. If studies showed it, I was all for it.

So, I made sure we had dinner together every night. When we first started family dinners, I had visions of me in the kitchen, rattling the pots and pans, with the kids around the table, peacefully completing their homework. As dad entered our charming abode, the kids would put their homework away and promptly start setting the table.

I was delusional. What I get on the nights I’m home for dinner is my son popping down from his cave around 5 to ask what’s for dinner. News of the night’s meal is met with “Awesome!” or “You’re freaking kidding me!” Fried chicken? “Awesome!” Grilled salmon with a butter dill sauce? “You’re freaking kidding me!” He has learned to replace “You’re freaking kidding me!” with “I’ll make myself a pot pie.”

My daughter is usually either playing at her friend’s house, or, on a day when she needs a break, watching TV and scattering five million Littlest Pet Shop figurines around the family room.

Sometime between 6 and 6:30, I start dinner. I call my daughter to do her homework. I bang on the ceiling for my son to come unload the dishwasher.

Silence. I remain alone in the kitchen.

I call to my daughter again. I bang on the ceiling again.

Eventually, my son bounds down the stairs, growling, “What!?” if it’s a “you’re freaking kidding me” dinner or “Is dinner ready?” if it’s an awesome! dinner night.

“Have you done your homework?” I say.

“I’ll do it later,” he says.

“Then you can unload the dishwasher,” I say.

“Later. I have to do my homework.” And he’s off to the cave.

“It’s time to do your homework,” I say to my daughter.

“I don’t have any,” she says, plopping on the couch.

“I need you to clean up your Littlest Pet Shop things so we don’t have to look at the messy family room during dinner,” I say. Ok, I probably actually say something like, “I need you to pick up all of your things in the family room. I’m sick of living in a pig mess.” I give myself Good Mom points for saying “I need” instead of just going straight for “Pick those toys up before I throw them all away.”

At this point, we have a meltdown. My daughter begins crying that I am mean. I don’t particularly care if she calls me mean. With me, it’s all about tone of voice and my daughter has a tone somewhere between a car alarm and a banshee’s wail.

“Fine!” I yell. “Don’t clean up the toys, but I’m going to throw away these things you’ve left on the kitchen table if you don’t come get them right now.”

She doesn’t move; she doesn’t flinch. Eyes glued to the TV she says, “Ok.”

By the time my husband gets home, I have generally had two fights with my daughter over toys and homework. My son, being 16, is far less predictable. We may be laughing and joking when dad comes home, or I may have left the house, mumbling something like, “I bet Mexico’s nice this time of year.” I pretend I am so eager to see my husband that I had to come meet him at his bus stop. I’m sure he has an inkling that I’m eager to see him, but maybe not for the reason he’d prefer.

So, when I come home from work and find that dinner has been made and eaten with no fuss and the entire brood is happily doing homework, playing cards or just hanging together, I want to strangle someone.

I am convinced that my kids love Dad best and it’s not just the difference in dinnertime that provides my evidence.

Take, for example, how our son treats each of us. My husband is affectionately known as “Daddy Poo-pookins.” He gets head rubs. He gets hugs.

I am known as “Big Dumb Mom” and it is said in a voice something like the Hulk’s. I get woken at 6:15 a.m. every morning and told, “I’m leaving.” This is code for “Come downstairs and say ‘goodbye to me’ .” I do, giving my son a hug that he accepts standing completely still. When I kiss him, he turns his head so that the kiss lands not on his cheek, but somewhere between his neck and his chin. I tried not giving the hug, and just saying “goodbye” once. My son glowered at me, refusing to budge until I gave him the unreturned hug.

My husband wakes at 5 every morning and doesn’t get home until 7:15 at night. On the weekends, we let him sleep. This means that he stays in bed until 10 a.m. The children tiptoe past the bedroom door. When I tell them to “get your father out of bed,” they balk.

Recently, while I was taking a nap after getting about four hours of sleep the night prior, my daughter came skipping in the room, jumped on me and said, “Mom, you only have ten more minutes to nap.” Then she left.

Another recent incident gave me a window of opportunity into why Daddy Poo-pookins gets away with parenting murder while Big Dumb Mom gets the shaft. At the grocery store, my son snarls when I suggest a store-brand alternative to his favorite cereal. “It will taste like (insert disgusting noun modified by equally disgusting adjective).” Son and husband came home from the grocery store last night with store-brand frosted wheats. I snarled at my son.

When my son explained that Daddy Poo-pookins would get mad, I said, Big Dumb Mom gets mad. “But he really means it,” my son said, “you’ll change your mind.” And he’s right. I will change my mind, given a good enough argument. Throwing away generic frosted cereal has taught me that some things are worth a little flexibility. By the way, I’m looking forward to saying, “I told you so” about the cereal.

One Response to “My Kids Always Love Dad Best”

  1. The Hook November 22, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Another one knocked out of the park!

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