Mr. Rathroy is the cool uncle. He hangs you upside down, he makes awesome truck sound effects, and he’s really comfy to nap with.
He’s so awesome with kids that it makes my ovaries physically ache. And it makes me really self-conscious about the ways that I interact with kids when he’s around. Because, let’s be honest, no one wants to follow the guy that hung you upside down and incited the biggest giggle fest of your life.
After spending Thanksgiving with his brother’s kids (my new niece and nephew thanks to that sweet wedding we just had), I was forced to confront the fact that I would be the boring parent. I would be the mom that causes eye rolls in our pre-teens and he would be the dad that causes excitement screams when he comes home from work.
Despite my efforts to play race cars or start dance parties before the turkey was done, I always ended up filling a lull in activity with an interview. Seriously, if a kid comes up to me with a toy, instead of ripping into it and using funny voices to participate in the fun, I just ask the kid a bunch of questions.
A sample interview from my Thanksgiving evening:
Kid: “Look at these cool cars!” (One Formula 1 and one Nascar)
Me: “Wow. What kind of cars are those?”
Kid: “Um, really fast ones that race!”
Me: “Oh, cool. Do they race each other?”
Kid: “Um…yeah…and they go really fast!”
Me: “So, they participate in the same kind of race? Like, do they use the same kind of fuel?”
Kid: Re-iterates that they’re both fast and then runs away because I obviously do not understand how awesome and fast his race cars are.
After that exchange, I spend most of the rest of the evening projecting as much awkward, non-verbal kid repellent I could muster. I mean, I’m the new kid on the block with this family and the last thing I want is to look dumb around a 4 year old in front of everyone. So, I sipped wine and sat in the formal living room with the adults and stayed a safe distance away from the race cars. My first Thanksgiving as a wife would not be ending in confused child tears, thank you very much.
But as bedtime approached and giggly turned into sleepy, my niece and nephew migrated over to the couch (no doubt because I was sitting next to their cool uncle). They climbed up, toys in hand, ready to sabotage my plan of avoidance. And suddenly, they snuggled. They snuggled with me just as much as they snuggled with Mr. Gigglefest Rathroy and I felt my heart swell as their sleepy faces disappeared in our arms.
As we drove home, we joked about our opposite interaction styles when it comes to kids. I love that Mr. Rathroy is such an awesome uncle and I love the way he talks and teases with kids (it’s also usually how he talks and teases with me). He brings so much laughter and comfort into their world. And, as it turns out, he loves the way I speak to them too. My favorite thing to do is watch children learn and when they realize that they actually do know the answer to one of my ridiculous questions, I like to think that it builds their confidence. Even though we’re considerably different as individuals, I think the Rathroys will make a pretty dynamite parenting team. Between all that laughter and confidence building, you’re bound to turn out like a good kid right? Right?
That’s just what I’ll keep telling myself…