Amber and Max, June 2020

Can we just admit that parenting can be boring sometimes?

(I had a couple of requests for this post in the comments section of this one, so, slightly against my better judgement, here you go…)

Did I ever tell you about Terry and The Cups?

No, that’s not the name of some kind of indie rock band he was once a member of: if only it were that cool. No, it actually refers to a period of our lives a few years ago when Terry became obsessed with cup stacking. Yes, cup stacking: as in, stacking cups on top of one another. 

It all started with this video from Anna Kendrick, shortly after we’d watched Pitch Perfect. In the video, Anna stacks cups. Terry wanted to stack cups too. So Terry bought some special, stacking cups. Then he discovered that cup stacking is actually a sport. Like, not an Olympic one, obviously, but one where people compete to see who can stack cups the fastest. So Terry bought some new, professional cups, and so began a period of our lives when basically EVERYTHING we ever did would turn into cup stacking. Everything.

Christmas at his mum’s house, for instance, became a contest to see which family member was going to be the Miaoulis Cup Stacking Campion. There was a League Table, and everything. (If you’re wondering if Terry was always at the top of it, then all I can say is that you’ve obviously never met Terry…)

Dinner with friends, meanwhile? Cup stacking. 

A quick chat with the neighbours? Would end with a quick cup stacking demonstration. 

Finally, one night we were invited to a house party. (Because this was obviously in the era Before Max, and Before Covid, when we got to do things like that…) There we were, laughing and joking and having a lovely time, when, all of a sudden…

“I’ve got The Cups outside in the car,” said Terry. “Will I bring them in, and everyone can have a go?”

And, before I knew quite what had happened, the party was over, and everyone was sitting on the floor, watching Terry demonstrate how to stack cups. The same thing happened at the next couple of parties we were invited to, and, after that, we stopped being invited to parties: we never did find out why.

UK parenting blog, Forever Amber

Now, I hated the cup stacking. Hated it. No matter how hard I tried (Which, to be fair, wasn’t all that hard, really…), I couldn’t find any interest at all in The Cups, or the stacking thereof. I just didn’t care how fast I was at stacking at them, and I cared even less if someone beat me. I’ve been like this for most of my life, really. Like, I’m the kind of person who, when forced to play a game of charades, say, will wait for the first person to hazard a guess at what I’m trying to act out, and be all, “Wow, great guess, got it in one!” just so I can sit back down again. (In related news, it’s possibly not JUST the cups that makes me unpopular at parties…) 

So, I did not like The Cups. In fact, every time they came out, my heart would sink, as I realised I was about to spend the next hour or so of my life being bored rigid, while attempting to feign polite interest in everyone’s score. As with so many things in my life, I figured I was alone in this: but then, slowly but surely, I started to gain alies. Every so often, someone would sidle up to me at a house party – or, well, Terry’s mum’s house – and shamefacedly confess that they, too, did not “get” the appeal of The Cups. Like, why was everyone playing with cups? Why had all other conversation stopped? What was the POINT? In these moments, I found my people: kindred spirits who understood the boredom of The Cups, and secretly wished they would one day come to a sticky end. And, OK, this didn’t lessen the power of The Cups any (Just a few weeks before lockdown, in fact, my hairdresser friend came over to cut Max’s hair, and left with a set of The Cups, and the promise to let Terry know what her score was. I messaged her later and asked her to just keep the things…), but it DID make me feel a bit less of a freak, so at least that was something

mummy blogger and son

Why am I telling you this long story about cups, in a post about parenthood, though? 

Because parenthood is much like The Cups, basically: it’s a period of your life in which you are frequently forced to do something you find deathly boring, over and over again, simply because someone you love finds that thing enjoyable, and you want them to do the thing they enjoy, even if it kills you.  Sometimes, in other words, parenting – like The Cups – is boring: and this is me sidling up to you to confess that I feel it too, and I wish more people would be honest about it. 

Can we just admit that parenting can sometimes be boring? 

And, while we’re at it, can we ALSO admit that finding some aspects of child-rearing boring doesn’t make us bad parents, or mean that we love our children any less? Because that is ALSO true, although you wouldn’t necessarily think it from the reactions you’re likely to get if you dare to admit that you don’t actually enjoy picking LEGO pieces out of the rug every night, or trying to make a necklace out of macaroni. The fact is, though, many of the things we do as parents aren’t intrinsically fun or interesting, are they? 

Playing with soft toys.

Lining up cars along the sofa so your toddler can knock them all off again. 

Reading the same book over and over, and answering exactly the same questions about it, every single time. 

Constantly cleaning and tidying and doing laundry. 

Pretty much ALL forms of crafting. (OK, that one might just be me…)

I mean, let’s face it: none of these are things that adults typically do just for the sheer thrill of it. Left to my own devices, for instance, I would probably NOT have spent most of this morning tucking Marvin the Monkey up in the chunky blanket that has now been totally ruined by repeated spillages, before preparing to do the same thing again, all afternoon.

Max and Amber, summer 2020

I did it, though: and not only did I do it, I did it with a smile on my face, and while giving an Oscar-worthy performance as Someone Who Really Freaking Loves Playing Tuck-In. I did it because, while playing with soft toys is something I personally find mind-numbingly boring, my child loves it, and I love my child. I do not find Max in the least bit boring, either. No, at two and a half, Max is still endlessly fascinating to me: he’s funny and cute, and just bursting with fun and imagination. I love spending time with him: I just don’t happen to love all of the same things he loves.

Is it OK to admit that you sometimes find parenting boring?I’d be happy to never see another tub of Play Doh in my life, for instance. I’d be really, REALLY happy if Peppa Pig would jump in her last ever muddy puddle, and never be heard from again. I wish the Very Hungry Caterpillar would turn into a butterfly and then FLY AWAY FOR GOOD. Most of all, I wish Max would come to realise there’s more to life than tucking soft toys up in blankets, because, just as everything we ever did a few years ago seemed to end up being about The Cups, I feel like everything I try to do now ends with me and Marvin lying on the floor with a pile of blankets on top of us. If we were actually allowed to go to sleep – which is the stated objective of ‘Tuck In’ – it wouldn’t be so bad. Actually, though, we’re only ever allowed to lie down for a few seconds at a time, before another toy is invited to join us, and the ‘Tuck-In’ must be completed all over again. 

I challenge anyone to NOT find that deathly boring. (Anyone who isn’t two years old, obviously.) And don’t even get me started on the relentless daily slog of brushing teeth, changing nappies, washing clothes, making food, making different food when the first lot of food is rejected… Boring. Just boring. I know it, you know it: it’s just that very few of us are actually admitting it, because we’re scared we’ll be branded bad parents – or even just bad people – because it’s taboo not to claim to find every second magical.

Not every second of parenting is magical, though – and, of course, not every second is painfully boring, either. Some parts undoubtedly are, though, and those are the parts that no one really tells you about – which is why today I’m sticking my head above the parapet, and admitting that I love my child to bits: but parenting – just like more or less anything else in life – can sometimes be incredibly boring. 

Who’s with me?

 

Amber

COMMENTS
  • Anna RIDDELL-ROBERTS

    REPLY

    I am 100% with you on parts of parenting being boring, and the cup stacking just being plain weird.
    Thankfully we have moved on from Peppa – current obsession is an Italian cartoon called 44 cats…and I am currently wishing ill on all felines ever as a result!
    Thank you for your honesty, as always! Makes it so much better to know you’re not alone in these things! x

    July 1, 2020
  • Maria

    REPLY

    Yes to all of this! And especially true during lockdown. The other day Netflix sent me an email suggesting that I finish watching Mother Goose Club. Don’t they know we have finished and started watching again for the millionth time?!

    July 1, 2020
      • Maria

        REPLY

        I know, right?! Jokes aside, thank you for writing these posts. You have been one of the few people I can agree with re parenting. While I am on my wits‘ end, everyone else seems to have become Mary Poppins during lockdown. If I hear one more “I feel blessed to have spent so much time with my children”, I am going to lose it.

        July 1, 2020
  • Lucie

    REPLY

    Very true! I would even say some parts of parenting are annoying… Like why do they have to make a scene after you did exactly what they wanted you to do (but then they apparently changed their minds without telling you).

    July 1, 2020
  • Anne Byrne

    REPLY

    Hey Amber,

    Thanks for being so honest, I agree completely. I just have the one and admittedly he’s a lot older than Max having just turned 13, but I was always inclined to encourage him to do his own thing. We’re all introverts in this house and you can hardly move for books, but although I was a full time Mum when he was little, I didn’t see why he shouldn’t be able to amuse himself even when he was too small to read. Unless you’re a teacher or childcare worker (in which case you have hopefully chosen that path because you like hanging out with young children and you’re good at it) playing with youngsters when you have an adult brain can make you lose the will to live, and I don’t think we should feel guilty about it. Like you I would happily take a bullet for my child, but frankly I’d much rather do that than spend hours doing something brain numbing and pretending it’s fun. Surely it’s healthy for them to be able to potter about and find their own fun anyway? One thing I did do (maybe when he was a bit older than Max but not much) was allow him to have dry things in his toy kitchen – so dried pasta, rice or even flour – and he spent ages concocting gourmet ‘meals’ with these, pouring things from one container into another. I just had to ‘eat’ them up and show lots of appreciation when they were served up to me. It could get messy, but it’s all dry stuff so easy to hoover up, and if if buys you twenty minutes of peace so you can get to the end of a cup of coffee it’s worth it. When I was a toddler, my mother used to let me play with the little bath of water when she took my baby brother out of it (she’d be keeping an eye on me obviously so I didn’t stick my face in it and drown) and apparently after twenty minutes of (you guessed it) pouring the water from one container to another I was apparently as blissed out and happy as if I’d been smoking something highly illegal. I guess my mum felt any mess was worth it too. There must be something about kids and small containers, otherwise known as cups – I’d just be happy Terry knocks so much fun out of his without leaving a mess behind!! 🙂

    July 1, 2020
  • Snowygirl

    REPLY

    Although I’m not parent to a human, I can completely identify with this post! “Fetch!” – for an hour – gets tedious, even if you are doing it in paradise. And my Vizsla, Annika, has quirks: the ball must be thrown or she will not leave the back deck to potty, she will only drop the ball in front of the shed (or directly under the chair, so Mum can’t get it without getting up) to have it thrown OVER the shed. She loves hiking; I am a couch potato. But I get up from the chair and retrieve the ball. I drive her to the beach, the lake, walk her around the block whilst grocery shopping is being done. I also find her fascinating and she creates so many moments of unexpected, pure joy- – much like the wonderful photos accompanying this blog post. People say “It must be great to have such a dog!” and if it has been a day when my arthritis is bad, I’m behind in my chores, and there is ANOTHER mess to clean up, I’m tempted to snap at them “Yeah! Frickin’ ‘wonderful!'” But it doesn’t mean I love her less. It’s harder on social media, where people do not see the struggles I have because of my health & finances. Life is nuanced, layered, complex, varied and ever-changing. It’s what makes it Life!

    July 1, 2020
  • Miss Kitty

    REPLY

    So glad you decided to publish this! I hope you don’t get too much flak for it, because I think it’s a conversation that needs to happen. I don’t have children myself and part of the reason is because I get so BORED doing things with kids, I always thought that must mean I would be a terrible mother. It’s very heartening to see how many other people are admitting to being as bored by it as I would be, and it makes me think that maybe I don’t need to count myself out just for that reason (there’s a few other reasons at the moment though).

    It’s also interesting to see the different things people get bored with. I love crafts and I don’t mind reading books to kids for ages on end (but not the same one over and over!), and I also don’t mind Peppa or playdough. But I would get bored playing tuck in or the other myriad repetitive games kids invent, and I hate taking kids to the playground. What am I meant to do while they have fun, I just sit to the side like a spare part, thinking of all the things I could be doing at home.

    July 2, 2020
  • Emerald

    REPLY

    I’m an auntie and so I imagined I would have bags of energy and patience to amuse little people. When my little brother was three (he’s fifteen now – long story as to why I have a sibling that age!) he wanted to play a game of ball which meant him standing against a wall, throwing it me me, I catch then run to him with it and run back. Once I asked if he wanted to swap sides and the “game” lasted two “rounds”. Dull! But I’d do anything for him, hence plodded on. And on. And on.

    There are now a new crop of children in my life since my mum has grandchildren now thanks to my other siblings. My little nephew Max has a great game – let’s roll Auntie Emily’s yoga mat into a big tube and look through it like a telescope. Recommended!

    July 3, 2020
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