Mindful Parenting Collaboration - Topic 4: Partners in Parenting
If you’re reading this, you might have the feeling that you want to change some of your parenting practices or, perhaps, you're curious about “mindful parenting” and what it could be. Well, congratulations for taking a moment from your day to click on the link. Erin of it’s OK and I are going to be working together over the next 40 weeks (!) on a journey toward more mindful parenting and would love to have you join us. To learn how we envision The Mindful Parenting Collaboration working, please read the introductory post HERE.
However, this "broken" relationship makes parenting as partners really tough. Over the past year or so, I've slowly taken over all aspects of the role of "parent". My husband has become the teenage roommate who happens to share our space. He is a fun companion for the kids... when he feels like spending some time with them. He doesn't regularly enforce rules, he allows Little Guy to manipulate him into giving him whatever he wants. This will go on for 10 minutes to an hour until my hubby just boils over and starts yelling and threatening to spank. Not cool with me at all. Especially after he's gotten the kid all wired up and made him think that he rules all. It literally goes from "Super Crazy Fun Time" to "I've Had it!!!" in seconds. There are lots more things I could while about on the subject, but I think you might get the idea.
I don't yell at my husband. I wait until they're asleep before I attempt to confront any situations from earlier that day that I think need discussing. The spanking issue is a hot button around here. He never spanked his older kids. It's one of the things that attracted me to the guy. But now, rather than actually working at figuring out why the behavior from Little Guy is defiant, he would rather just jump to threatening to hit him. His reason for thinking spanking this child is because, "... he's just like I was as a kid and I know how to handle a kid like that." Um... yeah. So spanking kept you from starting your "career" as a drug addict at 11 years old? Spanking kept you from burning down a neighbor's house 'just because' at 13? Spanking kept you from running away from home at 15? I can go on, but you get the picture here, too, right? Anyway, that's the biggest issue we have in the parenting arena.
There are others. I really would like him to be more consistent with the time he spends with the kids. One day, he'll hang out with the family all day long. Then, there might be an entire week where he's so wrapped up in himself that he won't even bother to look at the kids. I know some of this has to do with pain. I can be understanding when he hurts so badly that he just can't concentrate on the kids. But, I really think that most of it has to do with him not feeling like it.
So, I talk to him when the kids aren't awake. I explain my reasons for how I would like the kids raised. I listen to what he has to say. Our conversations don't (usually) get out of hand and to the bitching, nagging, or yelling stage. By the time we're done, he will usually agree that he needs to work more on being consistent, not giving in to puppy dog eyes and tantrums, being around on a regular basis, etc. We'll make a plan of action so he can ease into this more easily and so the kids can get used to the changes, too. It'll work for a week or so, then it becomes too much work and he goes back to the old way of "parenting".
This past week, I followed Erin's advice of what to work on in my relationship. I'm going to have to do this more often because I'm just not sure how it's going to work out over a long period of time. The first thing she asked that we do for the topic "Partners in Parenting" was figure out what your relationship needs most and work on that one thing. The next step was to take a day and put my partner first for the entire day. They both kind of backfired on me. I think that the change in me might have confused hubby some, so I'll keep this up and see if it doesn't get better.
I think that our relationship, as a married couple and not parents, is honesty. I don't lie to my husband, but I will withhold information if it makes me "right" and him "wrong". That's a deception, too. So, I flat out told him what I was up to. I explained that I think we both need to be 100% honest about our feelings, actions, thoughts... everything. Yes, it might sting a little to hear certain things from one another, but it's important to share them rather than bottle them up. And, we're in this together: this marriage, this parenting thing, this LIFE. We have to be able to trust one another above anyone else in the world! I told him that, rather than trying to find the lie in everything he says (I swear, he lies and doesn't even have a reason except to "see if I can get away with it"), I'm going to trust that he's being honest. I do it with my kids, why not him? Well, he's been lying like crazy about all kinds of stupid things since. I think he, just like a child, is testing to see if I'll fall back into second-guessing everything he says. To see if I'll still love him even if he lies. So, it's not been all that great. I hate being lied to - it makes me feel as if I am not valuable as a person to the one who's lying. I really hope his little testing phase will be over soon...
As for the putting your partner first for the entire day... Ha! He's suspicious. Asking if he'd like me to make him a snack rather than just leaving him to do it kind of freaked him out a little. Seeing that he was having computer problems, I offered to help. I usually let him deal on his own - that man can download 1,00 viruses in five minutes flat - because it always, always, always takes hours to fix his mistakes... and he always claims he wasn't doing anything but reading his Facebook news feed. I offered to help, then didn't get frustrated with him for screwing it up so badly, as I usually do. I asked him if he wanted a back rub when he complained about it hurting. Once he got used to the idea that I was trying to be nice and think of his needs, he started to take advantage... just like a child would. He was asking me to hand him the phone that was ringing and sitting 1 foot away from him. He asked me to do all kinds of silly little things that he didn't need help with just to see if I'd do them. It was really annoying and, when I was busy with Little Guy, I had to tell him to do it himself. But I did try to put him before myself. I can't do this everyday, but I will revisit this again, whenever I can. My theory is that he'll eventually stop taking advantage. Then, maybe he'll even reciprocate. That's how a marriage should be, right?
So, while there really is not conclusion to this topic for me right now, I will continue working at it. I think that, once we can get our relationship with each other going in the right direction, we can work on the parenting aspect. For now, I can accept being the parent. Oh, and my kids will never hear me bad-mouthing my husband. They will, however, hear and see me trying my best to treat him with respect. It's important, not only to them, but to our entire family.