Lately Nick and I have found ourselves in major disagreement over parental issues. I think that his leniency is aggravating and lazy, and he thinks that I'm too strict and bitchy. Surprisingly enough, these endearing terms cause defensive arguments and angry, frigid bedtimes (marital advice from my sister: never go to bed angry. Stay up and fight all night.) My argument has always been that I am strict because I want good kids. I want kids who say please and thank you and excuse me. I don't want to be the parent of a child that slaps other kids at playgroup. I want kids who understand that when I say "That's enough!" I mean it...that's enough of that behaviour- proceed and perish. When Nick and I are out in public and we come across a child in the midst of acting like an arsehole, I carefully meet Nick's eye and raise one of my eyebrows. In this way I am saying, 'there, aren't you glad that I'm strict and our kids aren't nearly this obnoxious?" It is my non-verbal way of saying, "I told you so."
Earlier this week we were watching a show on OWN (in Nick's defense, we were only watching it in between hockey periods) and something sparked an interaction that has stayed with me all week. Author Toni Morrison said that your face should visibly light up when your child enters the room. The child will know that they are loved by the look on your face. If you are frowning at their rumpled clothes or annoyed by their presence, then your face will show it and the child will feel criticized, unloved, and unwanted. I might have disregarded this statement as hippy, crunchy granola bull shit, except that Nick said that is how he feels. He doesn't want to be remembered as a mean Dad- he wants the kids to know that when they were little, he thought everything they did was cute and funny. So what? I get to be the disciplinarian and get stuck doing all the hard stuff and he gets to be the awesome parent? I don't think so Buster! I'm going to be the fun parent.
All week my mantra was: Your face lights up when they are in the room,
Your face lights up when they are in the room,
Your face lights up when they are in the room...
When Raegan woke me up five times in one night, I was too tired to light my face up so I just smiled at her a few times as she ate...until she threw up on me. No more smiles for you Barfy. I decided to concentrate my efforts on Dryden, as he usually bears the brunt of my criticisms and instructions. I greeted him with an animated "Good Morning Handsome!" in the morning, showered praise on him as he helped do the dishes, and sat and listened carefully as he rambled on about his hot wheel cars for 118 minutes straight. I was getting good at lighting my face up for him when he was in the room until he invented the game "Kick Mommy as Hard as You Can." You can imagine that the rules are simple. After the first kick, I exclaimed, "Wow D, you're going to be an amazing soccer player, but don't kick people please." He looked right at me and kicked me in the shin again. Through clenched teeth, I smiled and said, dangerously slow, "Don't. Do that. Again." He raised his little hand to smack me and...well, I blacked out and wrung his neck. Kidding. But I did shut the light off in my face for the rest of the day. Now when Noelle enters the room my face usually naturally lights up because her nature and energy are so pure and innocent. On this day, I opened her bedroom door after nap time and said cheerfully, "Wake up Noelley...er...What the Fuck?!" We had ourselves a genuine shit-uations on our hands. Noelle had smeared poop in her room. For the third day in a row.
That's it- my face isn't a god damn light bulb anyways. Let Nick be the awesome parent. It feels too fake on me.
All kidding aside, I did learn a lesson: along with showing the kids that I love them by teaching them and moulding them into fantastically fabulous people, I also have to show them that I love them by smiling more, by paying attention to them when they are speaking or showing me something, and by softening my tone and mannerisms when I am correcting them. Little does Nick know, I will always be the awesome parent: I sneak them chocolate when he is not home :)