Tom and I have different parenting philosophies. We make it work but there have been countless times in the past almost thirteen years of us parenting together that I’ve felt run over, as if my thoughts and feelings and philosophies are wrong just because they might be different from this.
We’ve never sat down and talked about any of this. I’m a crier and so when I’m sad, frustrated, angry, happy, whatever, I cry and I hate that. I don’t want to have this conversation with him when it will end in tears for me and frustration for him. So usually, I clam up and shut down and by process of elimination, he ‘wins.’
But this weekend, I spoke up. And there were no tears from me, no anger from him. Just, you know, communication. Go figure.
Sunday found us doing our usual things. I’d started a load of laundry and was at the computer waiting for Alyssa to come home from the slumber party she’d attended the night before. Olivia had found an empty box by the garbage and turned it first into a helmet and then into a playhouse for her dolls. She asked me if she could draw on the box. I said sure.
She wanted to know what she could use to draw on it, I found her dry-erase markers and handed them to her. She went to work.
About ten minutes later, Tom came in from his work outside to wash his hands. As he passed where I was sitting and O was marker-ing, he said, “Those better not be dry-erase markers.”
Olivia looked up at me. I called out, “Why not?”
He didn’t answer for a few seconds and then finally said, “Aren’t they supposed to be for her dry-erase board?”
“Sure,” I replied calmly, “but she wanted to color on the box and I gave her the markers. What would you suggest she color on the box with?”
He suggested, “You could have given her crayons.”
“I could have,” I answered, “But the markers were more convenient.”
He finished the conversation with, “I don’t care if they dry out.”
I managed to not roll my eyes and told Olivia, “It’s okay, go ahead and keep using those markers.”
Tom went about his business, Olivia went about her marker-ing and Alyssa was home about fifteen minutes later.
Later in the afternoon, Tom suggested that he cook hotdogs over charcoal. Anything that leads to less cooking (even hotdogs) is okay with me.
As the girls and I sat at the table, eating our hotdogs and other things that yes, I cooked or at least heated up, Tom was rummaging through the refrigerator. He was trying to make space for leftovers and came across a container with one chicken leg. He’d baked drumsticks early last week.
He held it up and said, “Alyssa should have had this with dinner.”
I raised an eyebrow and said, “Why? She’s eating the hotdogs you just cooked for her.”
He laughed at that and put the chicken back in the fridge.
I decided it was a good opening and said, “You know, there are people in this world who don’t actually enjoy eating the same thing every single night for a week at a time.”
“You mean like me and my lentils and peas?” he asked.
“Exactly,” I said. I went on, “Some of us actually need variety to keep us from getting tired of certain foods. I think Livie is over the twice baked potatoes for a while and I know Lyss really does not want to eat that chicken after having it three times last week.”
All of this was said calmly, without tears and it was heard calmly without anger.
Later Lyssie actually thanked me for telling him that.
Sometimes, the stars align, there’s the perfect opening, everyone is in the right mood and conversations are had that lead to actual communication.
There is hope for us yet.