A storm had just passed. She was dressed for rain, in her Hello Kitty boots. We were waiting by the front stoop for my husband. The puddle I chose was dirty, but exactly the right size for maximum splash. I had my rain-boots on too -- navy blue, no cats. So I went first and showed my toddler how to jump: bend your knees, spring up, see the splash ... and, she cracked up every time. She ran in circles and kicked at the puddle over and over.
I felt like I was in a PSA for mother-daughter bonding. The only thing missing was the "Gilmore Girls" theme song.
"What's going on here?" Scott asked when he arrived and saw us sloshing around.
"We are puddle-jumping!" I said as I picked up my 2-year-old and let her boots skim the surface of the puddle just enough to make her giggle again.
I never thought I'd be the "fun parent" -- the one who riles up the kid before bedtime and, on TV, is often a dad. When Zadie was still an infant, and all she did was lie in her car seat and coo at a clip-on mobile or cry, we met a friend with her toddler son for lunch at the park. The little boy wanted to run (fast) and I watched my friend chase, grab, tackle and tickle him on the grass. It seemed like such an innate skill, one I wasn't sure that I had.
Because as a little kid, I wasn't silly. In high school, I broke curfew only once and it was because I missed a train. I was pensive and wrote terrible poetry as only an angsty teenage girl in suburbia can. And, when I went to a college known for its parties, I opted out of that scene whenever possible.
Instead, I chose to capitalize on my strengths. I was a good listener, a very strong ... advice giver. My poetry improved only enough to hold my own at readings with other literary types. In a recent unofficial poll of my closest girlfriends, the ones who knew me when, they said their first impressions of me were that I was down-to-earth, witty, and "maybe a little stressed."*
I'm sure at some point those are qualities that will come in handy with Zadie, but she hasn't approached me with any problems yet, hasn't needed to talk anything out.
And, like most parents I know, I have a whole list of things at which I suck. That includes being a klutzy and reluctant cook, pathologically late, and forever running out of wipes. Which during Zadie's early years has left only one trait that I feel confident about: I am a Fun Mom.
I found this out during Zadie's second week of life. Scott was back at work, the gaggles of visitors had tapered off and it was just me, a baby and colic. I called my best friend whose daughter was a full year and a half older than my alien newborn which, to my sleep-deprived mind, meant she knew everything about children.
Me: What the heck is going on?
Friend: You have a fussy baby.
Me: What? How do you know? Are you sure?
Me: Why? What did I do? Can she sense my anxiety about breastfeeding? Is it because it's winter?
Friend: No. There is no explanation for colic.
Me: I don't understand ... WHAT DO I DO?
Friend: You dance.
Friend: Preferably to metal.
Friend: Or anything loud. Then, she explained that babies like noise and movement because it's like the womb, fourth trimester, yadda yadda. Oh, and eat a lot of good food. That helps. Bye!
A few days later, my mother came over. We couldn't leave the apartment because it was snowing non-stop. (I was the lucky parent who had my colicky baby during one of the very worst winters in New York City history.) Mom was trying out various indoor baby-soothing techniques -- a lot of shushing in Zadie's ear and using a caaaalm voice to repeat "Aw aw baby" 237 times. None of it worked.
I grabbed my hysterical infant and started singing, Oh, the weather outside is frightful ... And spinning. But the fire is so delightful. And rocking. And since we've no place to go. Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it SNOW.
After two verses, she fell asleep in my arms. My mom, an easy crier herself, got weepy. "It's just so good, [sob], to see you having, [sob], fun," she said.
And so, I sang -- approximately 1,237 songs. And danced for 168 hours, give or take, right through to spring, when the colic miraculously disappeared.
Now that Zadie is 2, and those early months are a distant (if terrifying) memory, we don't have to put on loud music and have dance parties. But, we do. She likes the same playlist from infanthood. It's an excellent pre-dinner activity for us, and usually involves skipping back and forth across the apartment. She mimics all my geeky moves, one involving aerobic squats so I can claim that this is all in the name of fitness.
We also "fly" around the house. I hold her belly and tell her to stick out her little arms like Supergirl. We play hide-and-seek, have marvelous tea parties and make Jackson Pollock-esque projects on her easel together.
My daughter thinks I'm a riot. I think the same about her. And, while I may not be the first mom to hold funny- face contests or start up a game of Simon Says that involves wiggling, all to make a toddler laugh, every giggle makes me feel proud, alive and ready to be unabashedly silly, sometimes in the rain.
This post is part of The Confidence Game. We're challenging moms to tell HuffPost Parents what they do right when it comes to parenting. Share your personal successes with us by tweeting one thing you are proud of to @HuffPostParents with the hashtag #theconfidencegame.
Oh and Z, If you read this one day when you are a teenager and think, Mom, you are so not fun, and want to tell me I am a dork (or whatever kids are calling their parents in 2024), please keep that to yourself so I can go on thinking I am hilarious.