Being the Bad Guy Versus Being The Fun One

We have had a shortage of coaches at a few of our Little League games over the last couple of weeks. And when we are short a coach I am always the first parent happy to step into the all-important Little League roll of child wrangler. When the other coaches have to be out on the field I stand guard in the dugout make sure the kids that are up at bat get out there and more importantly there is no spitting, hitting, cussing, pushing, stealing, climbing up the walls, fires, balls thrown at each other or batting practice happening there in the dugout. Basically, any of the kind of things that sometimes happens when you leave 10, 7 year olds alone in a small area without an adult. I love being more than a spectator at the games and being in the dugout to really root for the kids. But I’ve developed a bit of a reputation according to my son.

“Mom, are you going to be in the dugout tonight?” he asked before today’s game. “Yes, I think so. Why? That’s OK isn’t it?” I asked him. He responded with a resounding, “No.” Wondering what I had done to no longer be welcomed into the dugout I asked him why not. “Because, you don’t let us do anything fun.”

Well, I guess I’m the mean lady in the dugout. But, I’m OK with that.

I know my son has a sense of humor and he knows I have one too. I may be all business one moment and silly giggler the next. That’s what being a parent is. Well in my mind anyway. Like anything else in life it’s about finding a delicate balance–The yin and yang of it all really.

It’s funny that while thinking these thoughts I came across an interesting theory from the author of Selfish Reasons to Have Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, U.S. economist Bryan Caplan. In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail ( website he explained how the easiest path to better parenting is by doing less parenting.

According to the interview in the Globe Caplan believes ““investment parenting” – music classes, organized sports and educational games – doesn’t really translate into much when kids become adults. Instead, we should let our kids drop hockey, watch a little TV and spend some quality time with a babysitter. We might like our lives enough to actually have more kids.”

He goes on to say in the interview, “The most meaningful effect that parents have is on how your kids see and feel about and remember them. This really is a long-lasting effect. What’s sad to me is that parents put so much energy into molding their child and saying, “I’m your parent, not your friend. I’m willing to be the bad guy.” They get little or no payoff for their suffering, but they do wind up messing up the relationship in a lot of cases.”

So you can imagine reading this interview made me go over the dugout situation in my mind. Is “not being fun” and being the bad guy sometimes doing more harm than good? Is Caplan right? Should we take the bad guy bit down a notch and focus a little more on the friendship we share with our child?

Hmm, my mom was a stay at home mom, meaning she had to be the bad guy a lot of the time. But you know as an adult I talk to her everyday. What does that say about how our relationship turned out?

I think the trick is, like with any other aspect of parenting, to find the right balance. Being the bad guy and not being any fun is just the role of the parent sometimes. Yes, your kids will tell you that you’re no fun. They will tell you they hate you for making them clean their rooms. That just comes with the territory. It doesn’t mean you let them do whatever they want or avoid cleaning their rooms.

When you look at your family, just make sure there is more laughing than yelling and more jumping than sitting. And when it comes to being your child’s friend or being the bad guy, just choose wisely.

The mud in the backyard won’t kill them (though cleaning the mud off the carpet might kill you). But a baseball thrown in the dugout might. So pick you battles and remember that in the end, in situations like me hanging out in the dugout, my son won’t remember how I wasn’t any fun, he’ll just remember that at every game I was right their cheering him on and a part of the game.