A two parent family should be just that. Two parents. And I’m going to confess that sometimes I don’t allow my husband to really be himself as a parent. If I’m planning to be away for any period of time, it’s normal for me to run down how the few hours away should play out. From what activities to do with the kids, to what to feed them, and warnings about giving them too much cheese or too much screen time. Even when I’m home, I find myself running the show. And for us Mamas it’s natural and often expected of us to take the lead on parenting and routines.
My work-outside-the-home job leaves me with a lot of evening meetings and I have to really work on my ability to trust that my husband can manage all three kids. And I say “my ability” because the issue really is all about me. He has never done anything to break my trust, has never put our kids in immediate danger, has never let them stay up till midnight eating cheese balls… yet I have this built in unrest about letting him be the sole children keeper for an extended period of time. Why is that?
I have strong, fond memories of evenings spent with my Dad while my Mother was working. He made an amazing grilled cheese sandwich with genuine Cheese Whiz that Mom would never even attempt to replicate. I imagine however it had something to do with the cheese product from a jar and less about trying to compete with his mean sandwich flipping technique. I watched his favorite TV shows with him and the night often ended with us kids playing a board game or eating popcorn with perfectly melted butter drizzled atop. It was definitely not the way that mom would have scheduled the evening which made it special and memorable now decades later.
Just as my husband and I are unique individuals with different strengths, different interests and hobbies, we have different things to offer our children. I very much want our kids to remember the quirks of each of us, the different book reading voices during bedtime tuck-ins, and the differences in how we parent. It’s important to note, that my husband and I do have common parenting goals, philosophies, and general consensus on discipline and the importance of routines and schedules for our family. This is always an ongoing discussion in our house and we adjust together as needed. Slight variations in the way he gets meals on the table, puts the kids down for naps or bedtime, or allows for “wrestle time” right when I would normally be making an effort to calm them down, should be the everyday, beautiful differences that make up those distinct memories of childhood and the two parent family.
I had an epiphany the other night when I returned home from a late meeting and slowly opened the door, to prevent those old house creaks, only to find that the kids were up a few minutes past their normal bedtime to finish watching their favorite cartoon. Two things I normally wouldn’t allow. I was on verge of storming through the house to track HIM down (how dare he?!), when my three-year old ran up to me with a big embrace and whispered gleefully into my ear, “Guess what we had for dinner?” Her smile was so big, I couldn’t help laughing out loud. “What?” I replied, knowing what the answer would be. “Mac and Cheese!” she exclaimed with disbelief, “Can you even believe it?”
I instantly realized what I was missing. The deep joy that ran in both of them as they told me about the surprises that night. The things that were out of the ordinary. That they were both happy, safe, and had enjoyed the night with Dad. I noticed the excitement in my son’s voice when he happily announced that Dad said they could only watch one episode, and then it was bedtime. He must be familiar now with how this wouldn’t pass with Mom as to give a proper disclaimer. And my daughter’s delight with Mac & Cheese for dinner when it is something we wouldn’t normally serve.
I was missing the opportunity to be thankful. I was missing gratitude for a caring partner and wonderful father. And I was missing a chance to celebrate with my kids these differences that make us two different contributing parents. I’m vowing to embrace the father my husband is, and to support him, like he supports me. And yes, to let him run the show every once and awhile (cringe). As hard as it is for me to relinquish, I know my children will benefit from being able to distinguish the unique traits that make up both their mother and father. I want it to be obvious to my children why I married this man. I want them to see him for who he really is and experience how he likes to do things. To allow him to parent in his own way, not mom’s way. I vow to make “Mom Knows Best”… “We Know Best!”