Divided (In Parenting) We Fall

BY: - 27 Jan '12 | Parenting

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by  Arnebya Herndon

I try to remind myself that one right way to parent does not exist. Though I’d like it to always be “our” way, there are definitely times when it’s my way or it’s his way, and my way usually does not like my husband’s way.

We’ve been married for nine years and have three children: two girls ages 11 and 8, and the boy who is two. Parenting this boy has us questioning whether we’ll make it to marriage year number 10. OK, not really, but the boy is demanding. And feisty. And dramatic. He screams. He cries — a lot. He is a typical toddler. He’s stubborn and argumentative using that un-baby, not-quite-big-boy babble. You know, incoherent syllables punctuated with real words. He gets frustrated. He wants what he wants and he wants it now.

Let me back up. He is not a tantrum thrower, per se. He is not an out of control child who will make you regret running into Safeway for just two items, having to step over him at the doorway as he’s writhing on the floor screaming for chips. No, that’s not him. (He only screams for chips at home, thank you very much). He is usually simply just a disarming smile user (like when he goes to color on the wall and glances back to see if I’m watching, and then smiles because he knows he’s wrong).

When he does something blatantly unacceptable (like throw down the DVD we’ve said he cannot watch for the third time that day), we are in accordance in our discipline. When he screams to be taken out of his high chair and begins to forcibly scoot it across the dining room floor, spilling peas because we are taking too long to remove him, we are together in our discipline. When he wants to ride his bike and it is pouring rain and he pitches a fit landing him in a puddle, we are united in our discipline. Paragons of parenting perfection and togetherness, no? No.

Our girls were eight and six when the boy was born. That’s a long time to not deal with a toddler on a regular basis. Add to that that he is all outgoing boy compared to their docile girlishness, and you find me at odds with myself. On one hand, he needs to be taught proper behavior (it is achievable!). On the other hand, he is my baby, perhaps my last. And I tend to cater to him because of that.

Sometimes I give him a cookie after daddy has said no more. Sometimes I rub his back after he’s done something he had no business doing and daddy tells him so. And each time I do these things, I am ruining this boy’s perception of discipline. I am teaching him to come to mommy after he’s done something wrong and daddy has chided him. I am teaching him that mommy will make it all better, mommy will wipe the tears, mommy will nod in secret agreement that we’ll pop the corn daddy said he can’t have (once daddy leaves).

Oh, it sounds obvious that I would know what I was doing, what I was creating. But until recently I realized that he is fully aware that it’s OK if daddy sometimes says no, I’ll just go to Mommy. I didn’t fully get it. When he began to demand that I change him because he knows daddy will give him the “poop on the pot” speech, I finally got it. I know that there is nothing more detrimental to marriage and parenting than undermining your partner. Yet, this is exactly what I’ve been doing. Two recent events made me stop and think about our secret pact of him getting what he wants when daddy’s back is turned: one night of bath time and one of bedtime.

When I give him a bath the boy smiles and laughs and splashes and plays. He is lotioned and dry and teeth brushed and happy, all while singing. When daddy bathes him there are screams and fits and sounds of struggle. The only song he is singing is “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

Bedtime usually goes smoothly. Until it doesn’t. This boy picks random days to simply refuse to go to bed. He screams and cries and swings a leg over the crib before realizing he’s too high up to make it down without his forehead meeting the hardwood. There are way too many tears and hiccups, too much snot, and expressions of “Please save me from the evil that is my bed.”

At bath time, I want to “help.” I want to go to him and let him know that I will give him a bath the correct way. The scream-less way. And then I remember: my way is just my way. At bedtime, Daddy lets him work through his emotions on his own. I tend to go to him. Repeatedly. Because he won’t stop calling me (duh!). He clings to me and says, “I go you bed, pease.” I fight the urge to simply remove him from his bed and place him into ours, cuddling and sniffing the folds of his neck.

Realizing that he probably only “wants” me because he’ll get his way is hard to take. It’s even harder to accept that I am the culprit; I’ve done this. The boy isn’t being hurt when he cries at daddy-run bath or bedtime. He’s expressing his displeasure at daddy’s routine being different from mine. He’ll live. And so I sit and do not intervene because I know that if I do it will  send the message that mommy does it correctly and daddy need not apply.

The boy knows I am his sucker. And I know that he cannot be disciplined or taught properly if I tear down every effort my husband makes to teach him what is acceptable. Or, at the very least, teach him to just be normal enough to not leave the house with underwear  on his head.

I don’t make new year resolutions. But if I had to resolve to trying to be better at one thing this year, making more of an effort to parent this boy in harmony would be it. Oh, and not succumbing to pretty brown eyes that beg through tears for just one  more cup of juice.

Do you and your spouse work together in harmony on parenting matters or do you sometimes find yourself going rouge?  

Arnebya Herndon is a technical writer in Washington, DC where she also lives. Mother of three and wife to the best husband she’s had so far, she’s a yoga practicing, sometimes foul language using, lover of all things made with avocado. She writes about living on the cusp of crazy at What Now And Why.  

 

 

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11 WordPress comments on “Divided (In Parenting) We Fall

    1. Arnebya

      LaKecia, I truly believe that as long as we want to do better, we will continue to strive toward it. If we learn from our mistakes,  it works out in the end.

  1. Karen

    At this age, it is very important to show a united front.   In situations where my husband says yes and I say no (I’m the naysayer), I explain to my husband why the answers should be no.   We don’t have this conversation in front of our 3-year old because children are a LOT smarter than adults give them credit for. If we agree, then the next time my husband can implement it and he can see that we’re on the same page.   And then he’ll try to get over on something else…

    1. Arnebya

      I agree with the no discipline discussion in front of them (with our girls, who are older, we discuss then talk with them so that they’re in on our DECISION but now how we reached it). With my girls, I’m usually seen as the bad guy. Maybe that’s another reason I’m a sucker for the boy. And you’re right; they are smart. And they pay attention even when they appear not to be.

  2. Tameka Jackson-Smith

    LOL & OMG! I swear you just described my house! We’ve been married 6 years (together 12) and have 2 girls- 9 & 10 and the boy is 2. He is our last, and I know that’s why I let him get away with so much. The fact that he is also a flirt with smiling dimples & long eyelashes that he knows how to use to effect don’t help the situation! I have recently realized that he knows how to divide & conquesr, so  I am trying to do better. It’s so refreshing to know that other families are dealing with the same issues we are.

    1. Arnebya

      Oh, Tameka, never think you’re the only family. Believe me, we all have something going on in our home that’ll resonate with another. And yeah, the lashes!

  3. Martha A. Snowden

    there is a book you should read Its called Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Leman
    It tells   about this and many other parenting pitfals along with lots of helpful hints and tools..btw Im a sucker for a brown eyed 4yr old myself and its okay if I know in my heart that im his superwoman just so long as his daddy is not his joker, more like Batman

  4. Pingback: BLACKCELEBKIDS.COM- Black Celebrity Kids,babies,and their Parents » A CELEBRITY BABY BLOG PARTY: “JADEN SMITH, BLUE IVY CARTER, AND MORE

  5. Gmartin5337

    OMGOSH OK HERE GOES! IN MY OPINION MOST WIVES DON’T SPEAK UP AND COUPLES DON’T DISCUSS THE NITTY GRITTY OF PARENTING THEY JUST GO WITH THE FLOW AND PRAY THAT THERE’S NO BLOWS-LOL. MY HUBBY AND & I THOUGHT WE HAD THIS PARENTING THANG LICKED BUT GOT SPUNNED AROUND AND REALIZED THAT WE DID’NT. WE KEPT BUMPING HEADS ON ALL KINDS OF ISSUES SUCH AS SEX, DATING, BEING RESPONSIBLE BASED ON GENDER. NOW THIS WAS A SERIOUS PROBLEM FOR ME BECAUSE I DON’T BELIEVE IN SEPARATING THE GENDER UNLESS IT’S NECESSARY BUT NOT FOR THE THINGS THAT I JUST MENTIONED. OUR DAUGHTER HAD TO WAIT UNTIL MARRIED TO HAVE SEX WHEN OUR SON COULD HAVE SEX WHEN HE TURNED 17-WTHECK WAS MY HUBBY THINKING! WELL TIME PAST ON AND HE CLAIMS HE DON’T REMEMBER SAYING THAT CRAP.  MY DAUGHTER & I ARGUE WITH HIM ABOUT THIS AND OUR SON EVEN TOLD HIM THAT HE SAID THIS. A LONG STORY SHORT OUR DAUGHTER IS IN THE ARMY, MARRIED BUT GETTING A DIVORCE AND THEY HAVE 2 YOUNG CHILDREN  AND OUR SON IS NOT MARRIED AND NO CHILDDREN. MY POINT IS IF ONE PARENT FEELS THAT ONE GENDER IS MORE SUPERIOR THEN THERE  WILL ALWAYS BE ISSUES.  

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Will Your Kids Have Happy Stories to Tell?

BY: - 27 Jan '12 | Home

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As we sat in a dessert parlor right outside of the University of Georgia campus eating our ice cream and crepe desserts today, I asked the kids to tell me about their favorite books or stories. At first, they seemed to struggle with that question.

Our 9 year old finally admitted that she didn’t have a favorite story. Our 5 year finally said she loved the story about the hungry caterpillar that ate all of the food (The Very Hungry Caterpillar.) I asked her why she liked that story. She said because at the end, the caterpillar turned into a butterfly with beautiful colors. I thought, yep, that’s her story because she’s our little princess and she loves all things that are beautiful.

I asked our 3 year old the same question and received the answer that I expected. She said: “I love the story with the caterpillar.” I said you copied your big sister and she just giggled.

I finally asked my nine year old if she could write a story about her life, what it would be. And she said she would write about all of her favorite adventures like the one we were on today. And she would write about hanging out with her friends which is her absolute favorite thing to do in the world. I was happy that she considered our impromptu family outing to tour the University of Georgia campus as one of her adventures. I smiled and was glad that she was enjoying herself.

I was also secretly glad that each of them had happy stories to tell me. This has not always been the case for all of my kids though. I can recall the stories that our oldest child (who is almost 19) would write in his daily journals. They were not so happy.

When he was in 2nd or 3rd grade, he brought home his daily writing journal at the end of the semester. I felt so sad and embarrassed when I read the stories that depicted his father and me arguing. Prior to reading his journal, I wasn’t even aware that he was watching us. He wasn’t just playing with his Legos or watching TV. He was soaking it all in. He knew that I was not happy. And as a result, neither was he.

His journal told me that I was not providing a happy, safe, peaceful, stable environment for my child. I didn’t think about the affect that my tumultuous relationship would have on him. But it came out in his writing and in his behavior at school.

That journal was a wake up call for me. What type of environment and home life was I making for my child? What type of childhood memories would he have? I had to make some serious changes over the years in order to change his story and the story of his siblings.

Those changes started with me doing the following:

  • Focusing on my own emotional well being. Kids are very intuitive and can take on a lot of stress and anxiety when their parents are unhappy. For me this involved prayer and counseling.   It also meant getting out of a dysfunctional relationship.
  • Ensuring that I am present for my kids each and everyday. I can’t parent on auto-pilot. And I can’t be so distracted with work or other relationships (especially bad ones) that my kids become invisible. I have to give them my attention.
  • Being very intentional about creating special moments with the kids that include: family vacations, Friday night movie night, board game tournaments (our favorite is Zingo) Playing Uno (and getting beat by my 5 year old almost every game), dance contests in the kitchen, singing songs from Youtube (until Daddy says stop re-playing that song”...I’m sick of it) our nightly bath time routine, and talking at the dinner table each night. You name it and we’re doing it.
  • Providing examples of healthy relationships. I am happily married now to a wonderful man that helps me to provide an example of a healthy relationship on daily basis. They see how we love and support each other. They see the sacrifices that we make for each other and they see how we manage conflict. But even before I met my husband and married him, I moved back to my hometown so that I could be near family and friends that could help me to provide those examples.

How can we expect our kids to be happy if they are surrounded by unhappiness at home. If you are not happy with your present situation, then you owe it to yourself and your kids to make some changes.   Not only do you deserve to have a happy story, but your kids do too!

BMWK Family – If your kids told a story of their life, what would it be? Have your kids ever written or said things that made you want to make some changes?   What things are you doing to ensure that your kids have a happy story to tell?

 Each new day provides you with an opportunity to have special moments with your family.

Disclosure:     This post is part of a series that is sponsored by Hallmark and the  Life is a Special Occasion  campaign.     All opinions and editorial content expressed are my own.


About the author

Ronnie Tyler wrote 504 articles on this blog.

Ronnie Tyler is the co-creator of BlackandMarriedWithKids.com and co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing. The proud mom of 4 has been selected by Parenting Magazine as a Must-Read Mom and is one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Bloggers.

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