It’s an all-too familiar pattern. The girls, having asked me for something, then ignore my response and go straight to Dad. Cuddles and kisses and ‘we love you Daddy’ ensues and suddenly they triumphantly walk away with the response they were after. I swear they also flip me the bird as they walk by. Well not really, but I can see they want to do it in their eyes. If they knew what flipping the bird was. Which they don’t. They only know swear words, not gestures. THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT.
We used to joke about it pre-kids, that he would be the pushover doting Dad, and I’d have to lay the smackdown. And like a bad horoscope it’s all come to fruition. He doesn’t bat an eyelid when they go traipsing around with a fistful of sultanas they stole from the cupboard (OK…. fistful of chocolate. Who even am I trying to be all wholesome and stuff?) , he’ll agree to whatever they ask….. when they’ve come directly from No-town via cranky-Mumville, and when they’ve gotten in trouble from me, they’ll run to him for a cuddle. I swear he’s got a glint in his eye when they come over too. A glint of glory, from someone who has secured their spot as favourite parent. It’s like his eyes are flipping the bird.
Party Dad is a thing. It really is. The Dads that come in, throw some parenting glitter into the air, whoop it up, wave glow sticks around, rev the crowd up and then drop the mic in full “We out” rock star fashion. Then Mum comes in to clean up that shit, and consequently glitter gets stuck in places it should never get stuck to. I hate glitter. I wish it nothing but pain.
Now, we can be equalists here- there are plenty of Party Mums too. But for the most part, Mums tend to put the smackdown on and Dads get the adulation. And I can only say from what I’ve seen- professionally and personally. Professionally, I think it’s hilarious, watching Party Dad crack all the jokes while Mum nearly rolls her eyes straight up into her brain. Personally? I want to pluck out his nose hairs one by one with the Party Dad shit sometimes. While Party Mums certainly can party, they don’t have the dance down pat quite as well as Dads do. They do the daggy step-tap, whereas Dad is cracking out the sprinkler and breakdancing.
These kids of ours, they’re clever little things. They know way more than they like to let on. Or if you’re my girls, they openly let on that they know the business up in here. I can see it play out like a predictable episode of Bold and the Beautiful. They saunter over to PD (Party Dad), snuggle in and cuddle, stroke his ego by talking random things about computer games or football, then pounce with a request, all the while keeping one eye on me to ensure I don’t derail their plans. AT 5 AND 3 PEOPLE. 5 AND 3. What does this bode for 15 and 13?? It bodes me with Dan Murphy’s on speed dial, that’s what.
All this time while the girls are executing Operation Flip Mum the Bird, I’m standing in the kitchen, staring over trying to use my Jedi mind force on PD and my own version of Mum squinty eye.
“Don’t you say yes to them buddy. Don’t.you.say.yes”
And then he says yes.
I have clearly perfected the art of Jedi mind tricks. My squinty eye turns twitchy eye. Of the psychotic variety.
I’m sure my teeth grinding can be heard in the next suburb.
My little ladies, with a look of satisfaction, profess their love for Daddy and bound away as merry as can be.
Party Dad wins again. Pass the wine.
While it’s all a bit of a laugh, PD can actually step up when he needs to. And when it really comes to the crunch, we’re on the same page with the big stuff.
And that’s the hard part sometimes, isn’t it? Being on the same page. It is hands down one of the main issues I see when families come and work with me. Kids sense parents being on different pages like dogs sniff butts- they’re all up in it before you’ve even realised. And once they can see it they pounce.
In its extreme it can be a deal breaker for some. When one parent just will.not meet in the middle, or they realise that their styles are so vastly different they can’t work together. And ultimately having two different styles just leaves kids going back and forth like Ridge to Brooke and Taylor in B&B. And that’s a lot of going back and forth.
If you’re on a different page to your partner, can you sort it out? Totally! It’s all about communication- what do you both feel is important? What are your non-negotiables. Parenting is like running a marathon- you need to pace yourself and go in with a solid game plan. If you just try to sprint the whole way you’re going to burn out. So you need to know when to speed up, when to slow down, where the important twists and turns in the course are. And there’s going to be mind games in a marathon so you have to be able to stick to your guns.
FYI the kids are going to orchestrate some of those mind games. Wily little suckers they are.
Get your game plan written down if you need to. Refer back to the non-negotiables. And it’s really important to say ‘we’ with the big decisions. None of this ‘your Mother said no’ or ‘Dad won’t let me’ crap. You might as well paint a big sign on your forehead saying ‘we don’t have a united front! Conquer and divide now kids!’
Some things might need to be compromised. Others you might need to really stand firm on. But don’t move forward until an agreement is made. And ensure it covers all bases when it comes to the kids.
When you do back each other up? Recognise that shit! Tell your partner how awesome it was to have them jump in when the kids have you in a sleeper hold. We all like to hear that stuff. Except for the kids. They want you to choke out so they can get what they want. Brutal, huh?
Do you have a party parent in the house? Or are you the party parent? How bloody hard is it to do this stuff when you’re on different pages?