Disclaimer 1: Offence is taken not given, so if after reading you feel a great desire to start a long life altering journey up the miff tree, remember, I pose topics to think about not absolute truths to believe in.
Disclaimer 2: Generally speaking, men don’t step up to the plate in many families, leaving mom’s to handle the fast balls life catapults at them with the greatest poise they can muster. If you identify with one/many/all it doesn’t mean your parenting skills are more Charles Manson than Nanny Mcphee.
OK, so here it goes!
I love my wife and love my boys, the trouble with English is that both expressions of emotion are spelt the same but hopefully expressed in very different ways. Over the years, watching husbands and wives, counselling children and then attempting to do the same for those children’s parents, one of the strange realities I have come across, and believe me there are many, but for today, one strange reality is that in some marriages, children start to take an emotional place typically reserved for the recipient of the other’s “I Do”. WEIRD? Well yes and no!
One of the peculiarities of human interactions is that if we don’t receive something from a source, we change sources. Many woman find their husbands emotionally unavailable and in a desperate scramble to experience some semblance of a connection if not from their husbands, then from the closest alternative, their children. This connection although weird to the untrained eye, is not necessarily a weird pseudo replacement spouse bond, but can represent itself as one in one way or another. Below are some indicators that perhaps you are getting your emotional jollies from the wrong person.
1. Do your kids fill your love tank?
When I collect my kids from school, I often expect their worlds to pause or at least slow down to a trickle. Daddy has arrived and the very axis around which the world rotates should surely be effected? There aren’t any other dads who do what I do after all, so I should enter the class and as time stands still and my footsteps cause the air around my feet to ripple, they should look up in “slo-mo” and realise their day has just been made. Daddy has arrived!
Well actually, I get a couple of scowls, snorts, glares, stamping feet and mini tantrums. I haven’t actually made their day. What I have just done is ended their game, spoilt their fun and written my name in bold in their book of miffness.
I have to catch myself because I can get extremely offended with our two very different ideas of how this interaction should play out, and if I am expecting them to fill my emotional tank, I am in for a world of pain. This choke hold of a child’s reality can be crazy blunt, like a two-by-four to the knee caps. It stops you dead in your tracks. Who’s to blame? Me unfortunately! I set myself up for hurt by placing my child in a position where I am expecting a pre-schooler to fill my emotional tank. This can take many forms, but be very careful not to outsource your emotional tank filling to a kindergartener or anyone other than your spouse for that matter. Obviously there must still be respect, manners, kindness etc. But if you find yourself being let down by your child, ask yourself, was it his or her job to pick you up in the first place.
2. Are you raising your children to leave or hoping they stay?
This can be a biggy and one area that I must keep myself accountable. I want my kids to always feel at home and know family is home. But after the post pimple years, if Jack or Jill still come down the hill back to the bedrooms they have been residing in since the days of huggies and bum cream, perhaps something is wrong?
Secretly, I never want my kids to leave me, but my role as a father is to create an environment where they will grow and learn and then one day, they will want to earn their own wings. That’s not to say it should fill you with joy and give you a sick little smirk as you watch them plummet from the nest after you’ve kicked them out. When they jump, they should be able to fly. Preparing them to stay in the nest will not serve them as much as preparing them to fly from the nest.
The nest doesn’t have to move, but if you want your stones to cause ripples in the world and take what you’ve taught them and benefit others, those stones need to experience distance from your hand.
3. How is the co-sleeping going?
Ok, so I like it when my boys come and give me a snuggle and I have no problem with my boys climbing into my bed, many folks have their side of the fence and both sides have solid reasons I’m sure. When I grew up I was petrified of coming into my folks room that I often just slept on the cold floor at the foot of their bed, (you now have my permission to go “shame man”) All I am saying is, Mommy and Daddy have a room, so do they. We have a bed, so do they. When the family room consists of a king size bed, side tables and an en suite bathroom consisting of mom and dad’s toiletries, maybe there are some boundaries that have been overlooked.
4. Is it easier to leave your husband behind or your children?
I often struggle to leave my boys behind when we go away and it is not very often that we outsource our parenting for a weekend or even a night. But recently I went away with the boys for a weekend and then the next weekend just my wife and I took some time away. I am happy to report that it was easier and more comfortable being without my children than it was being without my wife. There will come a day where it will be the two of us again and I don’t want to get to that point and find that I need to get to know my wife again because our lives for the last 21 odd years have revolved and been consumed by our relationship with our children.
Children benefit more from a healthy, loving and real example of a marriage relationship between their mom and dad than they do from a relationship with their folks that blurs the lines between child and partner #Justsaying.
5. Is it difficult to leave “your” child with your husband?
Mom’s I know it can be very hard to place the life of “your” child in the hands of the one person who promised to love and protect you till death separates you, but lets remember, they have as much, or should have as much vested in “your” child as you do, after all, they played a part in their creation, albeit a small one, but crucial nonetheless. For dads to rise to the occasion, many moms need to let them do more than provide financially. Heres a list of provisions/needs children have:
- Physical; and
Both of you need to fulfill these, most are dealt with by mom, but dads need to provide more and be expected to provide more. That is their task, yours is to unclench, turn off the lojack and let the dads form a relationship. Even if you disapprove of the mess, the danger, the impending doom from the slide that starts the adventure in the heavenlies and projects your child to near light speed velocities as they come plummeting into the arms of your husband readying himself awkwardly at the bottom of the ride. He will catch them! You need time alone from your child, your child needs time alone from you and Daddy needs to see, hear and feel what you go through for him to fully appreciate the glare you give him when he arrives home in the evening and compares his day to storming the beaches of Normandy and yours to a bubble bath.
At the end of the day, you are in this together, might aswell present a united front.