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.
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.
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.
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.
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.