by MESHEL LAURIE
My son brought a rock home from our walk around the block the other day. It’s from a meticulously kept garden in the street behind ours. I always try to make sure the rocks end up back where their master intended them, but on this day, one rock was skillfully secreted in a pocket and made it all the way back around the block to our house.
It wasn’t until about 3 hours later actually, when the rock smuggler emerged from his afternoon nap clutching the rock that I realised what had happened.
Unfortunately my husband realised too.
It’s sixteen years next month since we met at a work-for-the-dole scheme in Melbourne. Good times. Since that magical day on the smoker’s landing of a Salvation Army facility, we have endured the usual ups and downs of coupledom. We’ve lived in countless dodgy flats, endured endless family visits and dragged ourselves through plenty of ill-conceived holidays. We pushed through the emotional minefield of infertility more or less together and ended up with IVF twins for our trouble. But that you see, is where our trouble begins.
Parenting with my husband has shown me a whole new side of his character, and frankly, I don’t like it!
I really thought we’d had pretty much every argument we were ever going to have by about 11 years in. Which is not to say we never argued. We did, but our arguments were always about the same things. He spends too much money on cigarettes and beer, I always bring every argument around to cigarettes and beer, blah, blah, blah. However, parenting together introduced a whole new world of issues and ideas about which to blue.
On the day of the rock, as it is now known in our home, as my son strolled out of his bedroom looking for his customary post-nap narna, he was leapt upon from a great height by his father. Dad seemed to believe it was a miracle that no one had been bludgeoned to death in that closed bedroom our boy shares with his sister during their 2 hour sleep. He grabbed the weapon from our sleepy little man, who immediately arched his back and screamed bloody-murder in a reflection of his father’s hysteria.
I stepped in and made it all about Dad’s fixation with power points which he insists are so dangerous they must all have enormous pieces of furniture in front of them, no matter how awkward it renders the room, even though all the points have those child safe plugs in them. Who could care less about his cigarette and beer absorption anymore? I find myself begging him to go out and waste money at the pub just so I don’t have to parent by committee for an afternoon, or is it parenting by competition? The message between the lines that day and many days like it being that I am irresponsible and put the kids in harm’s way.
I can’t help envying my mum, who had no such battles with my father. He didn’t have any input into how we were raised. We could’ve been mining asbestos in the afternoons for all he knew, or cared for that matter. I remember her trying to get him involved in our day to day lives, but to no avail. On the rare occasions he had to “mind” us, his own children, he would feed us pizza, try to teach us how to play cards and unskillfully skip pages in our favourite books. Mum would pretend to be cross with him for sending us to bed with dirty feet, but was clearly thrilled for us that we’d had his undivided attention for a couple of hours. My kids have at least as much attention from their dad as they do from me, which is terrific! (On paper.)
I recently caught up with a friend of mine, a lovely man, who has separated from his equally lovely partner. They are trying to co parent their three year old son who’s birth was an incredibly joyous occasion for them and for both their families. This baby was so longed for, the first grandchild on both sides, with aunts and uncles galore.
Everyone else at the gathering tip toed around him, which made him more uncomfortable, but I really thought I might have had an insight into what was going on, so I took a chance.
“Parenting with another person is really hard isn’t it? No matter how well you know each other, parenting unleashes a whole other side to a person.”
As everyone else held their breath, he exhaled. His shoulders released. He smiled warmly, and a bit tearily. “It really does.” He said.
My husband and I have a choice. We can parent together, all the while annoying the crap out of each other, or we can separate and take turns in doing it all our own way, confusing the crap out of our kids. I think we probably have enough love for each other still buried under the piles of frustration and point scoring to push through this, but I can tell you one thing for sure, parenting is a lot harder than working for the dole ever was!
Parenting together or parenting separate. Your thoughts?