For most of my children’s lives I have been the primary parent. Partly because Husband has usually worked out of the home, but even when we went through long periods of unemployment I still ruled the roost. Mostly because I’m a very dominant woman and generally get my way, and I’ve always felt that I did a better job of parenting than he did b/c I’d studied and thought about it so hard for so long and have a very clear philosophy behind what I do and why.
However, over the years I’ve tried to let go of my controlling nature and give him a chance to spread his wings a bit in the parenting department. For the last several months, with him working mostly from home and me working more outside the home, we’ve had a schedule whereby he is the Parent in Charge for a day or two each week. I’ve decided that on those days, even if I’m home, I have to let him find his way with the kids and not interfere. Deep in my heart I know it’s good for the kids to experience different styles of parenting (and it’s not like he’s all that extremely different from me), and it’s also good for Husband to be allowed to find his own way without interference.
So lately I’ve started noticing that not only does he have his moments where he handles things well but…dare I admit to myself that he actually betters me in a few areas? Yes, I dare.
For example, I’m the one who does bedtime around here, which means getting their teeth brushed and flossed (which generally involves a lot of story-telling, gentle coercion, and attempts to introduce fun and humour to the activity). It takes a lot of energy at a time of day when I have virtually none. So, I’m ashamed to admit, that I often just skip the process altogether (thank goodness my kids have my cavity-resistant enamel). The other night I was working on a lecture for the next morning and asked husband if he could “do teeth” with the kids. Daughter is actually fine with it and often does it of her own accord, but with Son it’s always a tough convincing act. Well, Husband got it done with a minimum of effort, exhibiting a firm (but not punitive) attitude that obviously is respected. There was no cajoling with stories and clown-acts designed to distract.
Today I had the opportunity to meet them at the grocery store and I admit I was impressed, a wee bit jealous, and somewhat ill from the taste of humble pie as I watched him with the kids. First, I always use a cart b/c that keeps the younger one from wandering off. Husband never uses a cart and apparently does not worry that Son is going to book it down an aisle while the adult-in-charge is holding two large chickens and trying to help Daughter pick an item off the shelf without having it all tumble into the aisle. Honestly, I have to practically chain that kid to my wrist some days and would never let him loose in the store. But Husband seems to have no concerns that Son will run off. Second, while Husband told each child they could have a treat he later removed that privilege from Son after he kept tossing items out of the cart. I would not have done this, myself, as I don’t wish to use such things as coercive tools. However, what surprised me was how readily Son accepted his fate. If that were me saying he couldn’t have a treat (after saying he could) he’d have starting crying (and Son doesn’t actually cry, he screeches) and possibly a little tantrum. Instead, I watched in amazement as he stood close by – not even in the cart! – while his sister picked out something from the bulk candy section. No crying, no complaining, nothing. Then I found out that while I always give them the treat as soon as it’s paid for (mostly to shut them up as by this time they have generally had enough of shopping and are getting restless), Husband doesn’t let them eat it right away. If they haven’t had a meal recently he makes them wait until they get home and have eaten. There was no whining or crying about it, they just accepted it.
To be honest, it’s all thrown me for a bit of a loop and caused me to rethink the way I do some things (which I’ve been doing lately anyways – I’ll write more on that later), but I know that my deficiencies as a parent tend toward being too permissive (I’m a sucker for anybody who feels bad and always want everyone to be “happy”). Husband’s deficiencies err on the other side – he gets too controlling and punitive when he’s not in his groove. But obviously I have some lessons to learn from him as I was just really amazed at how well they behaved for him in the store given that his rules and expectations are different from mine.
It’s given me a lot to think about, that’s for sure. I can do that while I choke down the rest of my Humble Pie.