Let’s face it. Moms and dads parent differently. Not exclusively. Not always. But yes, we’re different.
A buddy of mine posted the above duck video on his Facebook page last week. I couldn’t help but see myself in that mother duck who nearly turned her entire brood into road kill. In my parenting tenure I’ve made my mistakes. Fortunately, we’ve all lived to see another day, but I’ve had my moments.
We were new to the neighborhood. Next to our house is a small pond bumped up against a busy street. Standing in our front yard, my daughter, who was six at the time, asked if she could run a lap around the pond.
I looked left. I looked right. Mom was nowhere to be seen.
“Go for it,” I said.
Midway through her lap the front door opens and out walks mom.
“Where’s Ellie?” she asks.
I nonchalantly, as if it was perfectly normal practice, replied, “She’s running around the pond.”
To get the full context, you have to understand this pond was a point of angst before we bought the home. My wife was rightfully concerned about our small children wandering too close to a water hazard. With that in mind, my wife’s response to the liberty I’d given my daugther was a bit surprising.
Her eyes widened. She stared a hole through my chest. She turned around. She went inside.
No lecture. No finger wagging. Nothing.
I was feeling pretty good about myself until my daughter was about 100 yards from me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two–yes two–squad cars come to an abrupt halt directly in front of my house.
“Is that your daughter?” the policeman asked.
“Yes, sir. She’s my daughter.”
“Is everything ok?”
“Yes, everything’s ok.”
“Well, we received two 911 calls from people driving down the street. They’d seen a little girl running down the street by herself. There was an abduction in the neighborhood earlier this week. We were concerned.”
To this day I wonder if my wife went inside and called 911. She, of course, denies this, and to be sure, it would be extremely out of character for her to do so. I have to believe the calls were legit.
So if you’re doing the math, here’s how this one adds up…
1 busy street + 1 water hazard + 2 squad cars + 1 abduction in the neighborhood = 1 GIANT “I TOLD YOU SO.”
That’s case #1
Next to our house, before you get to the pond, is a small, rarely used, utility road. The telephone company uses it to get to their big boxes, but that’s about it. My kids use the road to ride bikes and skateboard. So the three of us–my son, daughter, and me–are on this little road, and they’re both riding their bikes back and forth with training wheels rattling away. I look at them and determine it’s time. The training wheels need to come off. They need to experience the exhilaration and satisfaction of riding a bike for real. I pull out my tools, take off the training wheels, and begin working with them on riding.
The door opens, out walks my wife, and a look of horror crosses her face.
This time, though, I know I’m good. She’s not going to like it, but it really is time, they really are ready. I point to the door, and as lovingly as I know how, I encourage my wife to wait this one out inside. We’d call her when we were ready. To her never-ending credit, she took a deep breath, and went back in.
Within fifteen minutes both kids were riding up and down the road completely free of training wheels.
To this day, my wife readily admits that had it been her way, our kids would be using training wheels to this day.
So what do we do with this?
My wife and I have been married for nearly twenty years and have been parenting more than twelve of those years. We love each other deeply, but in many ways, we couldn’t be more different. The more we live, though, and the more we parent together, the more we see the healthy tension between our two styles.
I push the kids. She protects the kids.
I exhort the kids. She encourages the kids.
I raise the bar just beyond their reach. She puts the bar right where it should be.
Together, we both love the kids.
It’s a fantastic partnership that takes a great deal of work, but in the end, we both know we need the other. Together “Team Shurtz” is a pretty good team. We’re not perfect, and we both make our mistakes, but I’m grateful we’re learning to embrace and appreciate the tension rather than try to get one side or the other to win. Even more, the further we get, the more I see myself doing things she would do, and from time to time, she does things I would do. In short, we make each other better.
All that to say, the tension has been good. If one of us won, we’d both lose, and the kids would suffer. By working together, and valuing the other, we do alright, and are making our way.