Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day to My Partner in Crime Childrearing

I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say that my husband is the best dad ever. And he’s not just a great dad, but he helps me be a better mom too. Not in that annoying, “you could really do this better…” kind of way, but in the way that his parenting strengths (hopefully) make up for my weaknesses. For instance, he’s patient and I’m not. He takes big messes and household chaos in stride while I can completely lose it at the sight of two Legos left on the living room floor. Of course he’s not perfect, but it’s Father’s Day so we’ll just talk about the good. For today.

One of the ways we are most lucky as partners is that we hardly ever have to argue about important parenting issues. I say lucky because it wasn’t planned. We each just sort of took what we thought our own parents did right or wrong, some knowledge from some books we’ve read and our general philosophies about life and it turns out we both have an “authoritarian” parenting style – we took a quiz once so we know it’s true. Don’t get me wrong, we’re as touchy-feely as the next semi-crunchy middle-class parents, but at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, we expect our kids to do what we say. Period.

We also share the view that it’s our job as parents to help our kids acquire the knowledge and skills they’ll need to create good lives for themselves as adults and that it’s important for us to not give up on our own dreams just because we have children now, so as to not fall into the trap of burdening them to somehow accomplish what we’ve failed to. Along the same lines we require them to learn how to read, write, compute and swim – anything else they learn or don’t is according to their own interest: football, soccer, saxophone, Chess, whatever. We have our own hobbies and we try to support whatever they’re interested in without forcing them into things that WE think they should be interested in.

Oh yeah and we love them to the degree that the word “love” or any other words just can’t describe – I suspect that comes in handy too.

But the differences that we bring to parenting are often just as helpful as the similarities. We have two boys and that my husband was once a boy comes in really handy sometimes when I’m trying to figure out just what in the hell is going on around here. “I nursed him, slept with him, stayed by him 24/7, loved him, read to him, sang to him, played classical music for him, he’s never seen anything violent – HOW can he be so destructive at only 2 years old – what did we do wrong?” I lamented.

My husband said carefully, as if I were a mental patient on the verge, “Honey, little boys love to destroy things – even normal, healthy boys who are loved by their mamas.”

“No,” I said, “Mine won’t because I’m going to teach them not to. That’s ‘society’ talking.”

“Oh,” he shook his head, sounding worried, “I think we should have had girls.”

As the kids have gotten older I’ve watched with interest how they love all things violent – explosions and play-fighting and so on. Yet, they’re not aggressive with other children. In fact, we’re always on them to make sure they’re remembering (and learning how) to stand up for themselves at school, because they’re really nice boys (if I do say so myself). And you should see how sweet and gentle they are with babies and animals. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised - their dad is the same with his silly fascination with weapons and combat sports, even as he’s the biggest softie with babies, cats - and even hermit crabs for gods sake.

Another way my husband helps me be a more understanding mother is he had a sibling growing up and I was an only child. Having been an only child is a HUGE handicap if you’re trying to raise siblings. To the point there are times when I think I really should have only had one kid, but then I try to figure out which one I’d want to send back, and I’m sort of attached to both of them at this point so I figure I’ll have to make the best of it. But seriously, the bickering and fighting just enrages me sometimes – until I scream at no one in particular, “WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG!”

I just don’t understand why they have to fight. Having been an only child I have this “ideal” in my head about siblings, and what I want for my children more than anything is for them to be close to each other as adults, to be friends, to love each other and to have each other to depend on when their dad and I are dead and gone. My husband is good friends with his sister and he promises they fought a lot growing up. My best friend from high school used to make me cringe when we were kids because I couldn’t believe how mean she was to her little brother, but they’re very close today. So I sort of understand that’s the way it works. Still…

That doesn’t keep me from periodically freaking out and saying, “We’re just going to put that toy in the garbage if it’s going to make us be mean to each other – no stupid piece of plastic crap is more important than loving our brother.”

Poor kids, I know. Their dad helps them out sometimes by taking me aside and quietly saying, “Jesus Christ Staci, they’re brothers, just leave them alone!”

The kids help me sometimes too, like the day that J told me he has two best friends, one of his classmates at school and Little One. And when I overhear them helping each other or laughing together or comforting each other when one is hurt or sick, it makes me so glad that I didn’t kill one of them while refereeing the most recent fight they’d had.

So Happy Father’s Day to my husband. When I worry about all the things I do and have done wrong as a mother I always take comfort knowing that if I do nothing else right, I picked the best father for my kids that anyone could hope for.


landismom said...

Great post. I think it's wonderful that you so fully understand your complementary parenting styles!

Rebecca said...

Beautiful :)

Both my Partner in Childrearing and I are only children. We are definitely handicapped.Our kids are the ones who turn around and tell us to stay out of it...that brothers and sisters are Supposed to fight. It's still hard to just let them. I say a lot ,"The rest of the world is mean enough,you shouldn't be mean to each other.". They roll their eyes at me a lot ;)

Ms Picket To You said...

You are lucky and so is he!

kevin said...

That rug in the foyer -- Target, right?

Shelly said...

Aww - what an amazing tribute on such an important day. Kudos to you both for having such a great relationship - I hope your husband was able to read it and appreciate the heartfelt love that's so evident in it.