I have tried writing this post for two days now. It’s really hard to write for a couple reasons. First, I try to make sure on my blog when I talk about problems or arguments or fights Chris and I have that I don’t present them in a manner that allows you as a reader to take sides. Sure, I like to rag on Chris and make fun of him, but for more serious issues, I really do try to be as middle of the road as possible because this blog isn’t meant as a place for you to judge my marriage, necessarily. It should be a place where anyone’s marriage can be inserted into my situation and you can see yourself in our position. So, I make a focused effort to not finger point or place blame and if I do, I try to be balanced and point the finger at myself as well. I hope that comes across to you in my writing.
It’s also hard to write this post because I’ve never experienced this kind of fighting before and so I don’t feel as though I have any real wisdom to impart or anything profound to say. But I’m going to share the story anyways because I think that Chris and I surely can’t be the only two parents who have dealt with this before.
Yesterday morning, Chris and I got into a really big fight. And I’ll be the first to admit that I was probably harsher and meaner than I needed to be. But it was about Bean and something primal came out in me. I’ve heard motherhood described as being like a mother bear and I totally felt that yesterday. As much as I love Chris and would never want to say anything to intentionally hurt him, the fact that this was an issue with my son seemed to trump that and my gloves came off and the momma bear came out swinging.
Here’s the thing…
Chris has an idea in his head of the kind of parent he wants to be. And I love that about him because he has this amazingly cool, laid back, just hangin’ with my favorite little guy image for himself and I think Bean is so lucky to have a dad like that in Chris. In fact, my parenting style is pretty laid back as well. I don’t really get wigged out over messes Bean makes. I don’t follow him around with antibacterial wipes and cans of Lysol. I don’t freak out if Chris sneaks him a pretzel or two. There really hasn’t been too much that rattles me.
But Bean’s safety is a different matter.
When it comes to Bean, I want him to be as safe as possible. No negotiations. No exceptions. If it’s unsafe, he’s not going to be near it. Or if he has to be near it, then I’m going to be right there beside him. And I don’t consider that to be a hovering parent or an uptight parent (and even if it is, I don’t really care). Bean’s safety is my responsibility and I don’t take that lightly at all.
Chris is slightly different. It’s not that he doesn’t take Bean’s safety and well-being just as seriously as me. But he thinks that Bean will learn by experiencing things and so he doesn’t jump right in when Bean is about to fall off of something or is doing something that might be questionable. Instead he tells me, “He’ll learn.”
And I agree with him to a certain extent. I do think kids learn best by experiencing things themselves. And when they’re learning and growing, I think it is the parent’s role to be supportive, nurturing, and encouraging, without being overbearing. You should let your child succeed AND fail.
But Bean is one year old. He isn’t capable of learning cause and effect right now. Maybe in a year or two we can start letting him learn a little that way (nothing wrong with a little pinch on his fingers when he’s slamming cabinets that he’s not supposed to be playing in…). But I mean, right now, how many times am I going to have to take him out of the dog bowls before he learns that he can’t play in them? His little bitty brain just isn’t that logical yet. He is growing like a weed and becoming so big, but we can’t forget that he is still a little guy. And so I’m not going to sit there while he needlessly falls off the couch or off a step and say, “Oh, he’ll learn.” We’re not to that stage yet.
In the past few weeks as Bean has become more mobile and a lot braver, he has really started climbing and getting into a lot of things. And it just seems that lately he has been getting hurt more and more while Chris is watching him. Nothing major – just a little cut in his lip here or a head bump there. And I know it isn’t a lack of attention on Chris’ part and that he’s trying to be the best dad he knows how to be, but there comes a point when – as Bean’s mom – I have to step up and say, “Hey, you’re not doing this right and you’ve got to change.”
So, that’s what I said yesterday morning. Only I think it went more like this, “I’m just saying that he doesn’t get hurt when he’s on MY watch!”
And there was also the, “You’re not being a responsible parent” remark. That one didn’t go over too well.
And of course there was the fatal, “I’m tired of feeling like I can’t trust you with the baby!”
And when I said these things, Chris responded back that I was being dramatic and that nothing that had happened have been too bad. And that’s when I said that, true, nothing YET had been too bad, but what happens the ONE TIME it really is bad? Do I have to wait for that point where Bean is really hurt before I have the right to speak up? And I think that’s when I said something like, “It is your responsibility to be a responsible parent – not Bean’s buddy.”
Yeah. It was a pretty rough fight. And I really didn’t say things the way I wanted to say them. They came out harshly and, more regrettable than anything, I pitted me against Chris. And as parents, I think we should try to stay on the same team here. Otherwise, we’ve got no chance against Bean Man, especially as he gets older.
The reason it came out so harshly was because I have been biting my tongue for weeks. Every time I’d see something that made me nervous, I wouldn’t say anything. I didn’t want to nag. I didn’t want to be that wife or that mom who thinks that it’s my way or the highway. Chris has his own style of parenting and he brings things to the table for Bean that I could never bring. So I know that Chris’ methods are different than mine, but that they are just as necessary as mine.
But when it comes to safety, I shouldn’t have just sat there until I festered to the point where it just came spewing out of me. What could have – and should have – been a good conversation about safe practices in our home became a really big fight. So big that it’s been two days and we still aren’t really speaking yet.
This was a big fight for us. And I think the fact that we were attacking each other as parents made it feel so much more personal. I think Chris was embarrassed and hurt and upset that I was questioning any aspect of his parenting because he makes that his number one priority. And I was frustrated and angry that it felt like I was always the one having to be the grown up. Those are two things neither of us have felt or dealt with before in an argument before and, let me tell you, it was really hard.
I called Chris at work today and told him that I didn’t want to fight anymore and that I missed talking to him and that I loved him. He agreed and things have been quiet at our house tonight, but better. I don’t think there will be any apologies. To be honest, we usually don’t apologize when we fight (analyze that!…actually, don’t…) and there isn’t a need for apologies with this. I think we both made our points and there’s no need to drag this out any longer. Chris seems to be making more of an effort to keep a better eye on Bean and I am really focusing on my words and how hurtful they can be.
Some days I don’t know how I would do this parenting gig if I weren’t married. And then other days I actually wonder if it would be easier to parent with Chris if we were business partners instead of best friends who share checking accounts and toothpaste. But in the end, no matter how hard it is to be parents, we’re only able to get better at it because we have a strong, solid marriage to build on. And that marriage is, for us, what makes us better people, better spouses, and better parents.