The first year of marriage is always the hardest. Your job as a cook/caretaker is to make meals exactly like June Cleaver. Your spouse’s is to eat them even if they don’t care for meatloaf or shepherds pie. You must figure out how chores can be divided equally, and when controlling the TV, the clicker takes on a new meaning. A watchful eye detects clothes on the floor, shoes left in the walking path, and toilets where the seats remain up and even worse unflushed. Ten pounds and ten raging arguments later, you come out with a stronger bond, ready to climb the next mountain. Parenting.
When they are little, the team sport of is physically taxing, but emotionally simple. Saturday nights come down to who is drinking and who is chasing. You can’t do both. The catch is on Sunday, when your drinking pass surpasses your trips around the Monopoly board and your chasing duties begin.
As your relationships skills sharpen, and your kids become tweens, you and your spouse are about to tackle a different level of hiking similar to climbing Mt Everest. You begin to see each other as different people with often times different parenting styles. While agreeing on a blender was simple, agreeing on where parental boundaries are drawn in the sand, presents a greater challenge.
- One parent may play the good cop while the other plays the bad. “Let her go out. You are only young once. Remember when you were young?” ... “That’s the point,” your spouse replies....“I KNOW what I did when I was young and that isn’t happening.”
- One parent may want to be their friend and labeled the “cool parent” while the other will declare that they are parents, NOT friends. They believe their role is to be the disciplinarian. They are there to “tow the line” and illustrate by example the right and wrong way to live. Then it becomes the scenario of the kids and the easy parent against the disciplinarian.
- One parent wants their kids to work through high school while the other wants them engulfed in the world of sports and academia.
- One parent wants to pay for college, while the other feels that working their way and owning part of the financial experience would be a learning experience.
- One parents wants their kids to be their own person and not feel the pressures that teenage years bring. The other is adamant about putting them in the sports arena where they as kids didn’t get their break. As my daughter would tell me, “Mom if you want to swim, you get into the water. I don’t want to make it to the Olympics, you do.”
You married someone who is your opposite. Their strengths counterbalanced your weaknesses. It was great. Now it’s the defining moment, where the road hit the pavement and you pray that it’s just the road and not your spouse.
In their 40’s, many of my friends are separating and often because they cannot come to terms on a parenting style. The mellower parent confides that their marriages are suffering because they don’t like the way their spouse handles their children. They disapprove of the harsh way they communicate and the negativity that permeates their homes when they are around.
So how do we handle this? My friend gave me the best advice that my husband and I have used in raising our four.
“Blend your ideas with your spouse and treat your children like they belong to someone else. If you wouldn’t talk to someone else’s child that way, don’t use that tone for your children. Respect them. They don’t belong to you; you are simply their teacher and teach the way you would like to be taught. ”
When you win the battle on individual issues, sometimes you lose the war in your marriage. So the next time you find yourself beginning to blow thinking your way is the right way, pressure your child, or engage in an argument with your spouse, remember these words of wisdom. Years down the road when you both hit the pavement together, you will look back and be thankful you did.
For more work by me, please visit Life With Wendy.