On our drive home on Saturday, Beanie was sleeping in the back seat and Chris and I were talking about all the fun things we’d done this past weekend. We were talking about seeing my extended family at the Christmas tree farm and Chris mentioned one of my relatives in particular.
This lady. The one with the arrow pointed at her head. Yeah, that one.
That is Kristi and she is married to my cousin, Chad. Kristi may be one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Every time I see her – which is just not often enough – she has such kind things to say and is so easy to carry on conversations with. And this last point is exactly what Chris picked up on when he was talking to her.
“She was really nice,” he said. “She asked me all about the Bean.”
“Yeah,” I said. “She asked me how we were adjusting to life with him.”
“That’s funny,” Chris said. “That’s just what she asked me.”
“Oh, yeah? What’d you say?”
“I said it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Chris said. “What’d you say?”
“I said it was so much easier than I expected.”
We kind of laughed. And then we sat there awkwardly. And then we started talking about it. How strange that we both are in the exact same situation day after day and yet we each see it as a completely different experience!
Chris said he found parenting to be incredibly frustrating. He said that sometimes its hard for him to be patient when the baby is crying and that most of the time he feels like he is doing something wrong. Now, I don’t mean that every time Bean whines or cries or needs something, Chris gets frustrated. But there are times when all babies go past the point of crying for need and they lose their little bitty minds for a while. Bean is growing out of these little episodes as he learns other ways to express himself, but they still happen occasionally and its during these stretches that Chris gets overwhelmed a little.
On the other hand, I have become much more patient as a mom. I know that when Beanie is crying or really worked up about something, that its not my fault and I can think through the situation clearly until I find a solution that makes him happy. I think the difference between us is that I don’t take the crying personally. I know that he’s not crying (usually) because I’ve done something wrong and I know he’s not crying because he’s doing something wrong. To me, the crying is just part of the process.
Very seldom to I stereotype things, people, or situations. I think most stereotypes are wrong and I try to stay away from them. But in this instance, I really think this is a difference in gender. I think men, for the most part, tend to want to fix things. To solve a problem. To make things better. I get frustrated with Chris sometimes because when I get upset about something, he doesn’t let me wallow in it! He wants to immediately jump to what steps I can take to fix the problem. I, on the other hand, need that time to think through the situation. I need to roll it around in my head for a couple minutes at least and then come out with a plan.
In parenting, these traits show themselves in a heightened form in our house. Chris gets easily frustrated when Bean is crying uncontrollably for whatever reason. He is concerned for Bean and worried and when he can’t make Beanie feel better, Chris automatically jumps to the conclusion that something is seriously wrong. If I listened to Chris every time, I’d be on the phone with the doctor’s office at least four times a day. To Chris, when Bean cries, it is our responsibility as parents to stop what we’re doing and fix the problem every single time and if, for whatever reason, we can’t stop it, then it must be that something is incredibly wrong. We’re the parents. We’re supposed to be able to fix everything.
I usually think that whatever Bean is freaking out about will eventually pass. So, I hold him or rock him or give him a little juice to distract him until he can calm himself down. I try not to get worked up when Bean is worked up because…well…someone needs to think clearly. Babies cry. And sometimes they get themselves worked up to a point where they can’t calm down right away. This doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t send me into a frizzy while I try to make it stop. I just go with it. If I know Beanie is full, changed, and not sleepy, then I just hang with him until he gets himself under control.
Sometimes this is the approach that works, but sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s where Chris is really important. When Bean gets all revved up, Chris starts spitting out about 1,000 different things we could do to calm Bean down. Usually, this is when I take Beanie and we go into another room so that Chris can settle himself down first. I don’t say anything to Chris and I don’t make a big deal about it, I just mosey on over to another room so that Chris can take a break from the crying. I know it frustrates him and I know that he feels out of control, so I give him a little space. There are times though when I walk out of the room with Beanie that Chris decides to follow us. And this is when I want to kill him because he follows me around while I rock Beanie and he just rambles on and on and on about what all I could be doing.
“Have you given him Tylenol? Is it is teeth? Is his diaper dirty? Does he have a fever? Maybe we should call the doctor. Does he have gas? Maybe he’s tired? Have you tried burping him? Does he need his binky?”
During these times, its all I can to do not turn around to Chris and yell out, “OH MY GOSH! BEAN HAS THE SWINE FLU! BEAN HAS THE SWINE FLU! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!??!?”
But, I have been told that this is cruel. So, I try not to do it.
Most of the time.
The truth is that Bean needs both methods in his life. He needs someone to just hold his hand and rock him when he’s out of sorts and he needs someone who will go to bat for him every single time until he feels better. So, while I have my method and Chris has his, we both know that neither is right or wrong. We’re just different parents.
I think that’s a weird concept. We’re experiencing the same thing, we’re parenting the same child, and yet we are both approaching it in two completely different ways and having two completely different perspectives. When you think about it like that, no wonder over half of today’s marriages end in divorce. If children are involved in the marriage, then you now have two different sets of approaches that have to learn how to work peacefully together in order to achieve the exact same outcome. How freaking hard is that?!?!?
I think the trick is to not think about it as a right or wrong approach. I think that’s what saves Chris and I each time. Don’t get me wrong – we have to remind ourselves all the time not to judge the other. It doesn’t really come naturally. But when we make the effort to stop and think situations through before we immediately jump to the conclusion that the other is different and so the other is wrong, Beanie is the one who benefits.
So, Bean is gonna cry. Chris is gonna get frustrated. I’m gonna assume things will just work themselves out naturally. And life will go on. We might be in this together, but we have to remember that we are three distinctly different people in this together. And I really wouldn’t want it any other way.