Did you ever see the movie, Yours, Mine and Ours? In this large blended family the mom’s (Rene Russo) parenting style is what you might call, “free to be me.” “Homes are for exploration and creativity!” and, “Now, let’s have a group hug….” are the mantras by which she doles out the “talking stick.” Dad (Dennis Quaid) on the other hand, wants his “crew” to run a tight ship and fall into line as he barks orders. Sound familiar?
I’ve rarely found two parents whose “management” styles seamlessly blend together in a perfectly orchestrated round. Many of the couples I know seem to have one parent that’s a bit more authoritarian, while the other provides the soft place to land. You know, the one who’s more likely to cave. Where do you weigh in, Lucky Kat parents?
Well, I admit – the “caver” in our family is, you guessed it, me. Guilty! (Only please don’t tell my husband I admitted that so easily to you. I’ve been known to balk at his suggestions to this sentiment in the past.)
Yes – it’s me that is more likely to give in when my kids wear me down for 15 more minutes at bedtime, for another cookie, or when I feel my husband’s tone or punishments are too hard on the fruit of my loins. I major in nurturing and minor in discipline; and the opposite is true for the Big Dog Daddy in our house.
While you’d think that we’d achieve some sort of balance, it’s often far from the case. Our goal is to present a harmonious, respectful, united front to our kids. In our little suburban utopia, we’d bite our tongues when we disagreed with how the other parent handled a particular issue, and take it up later over pillow talk and a glass of chardonnay.
But that rarely happens.
True confessions: it’s more likely that my husband will issue a command, or execute some form of punishment he feels fits the crime – and I’ll roll my eyes or sigh or intervene in some way. I’m not proud if it - but sometimes his, “I’m the dad; that’s why!” style makes me harken back to days of staring bleakly at a plate full of broccoli for an hour after the table was cleared. Conversely, hubby often swoops in when I’m negotiating a peace treaty during sibling warfare and simply takes over. (Yes – I know his way is often more effective for the moment, but it’s hardly the point!)
Neither one of us are doing ourselves - or our kids - any favors. First – and I’m talking to myself here – it’s important for the kids to see that we’re on the same page. Those little angels are master manipulators until they mature a bit, and they’ll seek every opportunity to divide and conquer. I need to carefully determine when it’s time to bite my tongue and affirm my husband’s direction, and when it’s time to have my say.
In the end, I think it’s OK for parents to show their kids different styles. They adapt. They’re going to have to get used to the range of personalities in the world with whom they’ll have to collaborate and work for. So until we reach the pinnacle in our own parenting zenith, for now, I figure we’re just modeling for them another life lesson – that we sometimes see things differently. But when we disagree, we should try hard to support the other, or at least, disagree agreeably.
Good luck with that!