Parenting Wes was a whole lot easier when it was just me.
No one was questioning me. No one was making me second guess my discipline. No one was probing me on the why’s of my decisions. I would just make my parental rulings and move on.
B was the same way. He wasn’t used to anyone inquiring about his parental verdicts. He wasn’t used to anyone exploring other options to handle discipline encounters. He was used to supervising things all on his own.
Now here we are, in this new thing we call a blended family. And we have slowly entered into the phase of disciplining each other’s kids and that is one of the hardest parts of the blend.
Two imperfect parents, three imperfect kids, all trying to mesh together under two very different parenting styles.
First: The conflict.
B and I have very different personalities, so the way we discipline our children is very different.
I tend to be the person who responds immediately. I’m a teacher. It’s who I am. And it’s literally what I do for 90% of the time in the classroom. I do damage control, all day long.
B is a processor. At work, he thinks through procedures and business situations all day long, so 90% of his day is spent thinking, in order to come up with the best possible solution.
A teacher doesn’t have that luxury. You have to have a plan and a way to handle these things straightaway or you’ll be eaten alive by a bunch of ravenous six year olds.
B though needs to be able to see a problem, take the time to think through multiple solutions, and then must process through each of those scenarios to find the most profitable solution so that all involved are receiving the best answers.
That being said, when you bring these two styles together…hmmm, let’s just say that it doesn’t always bring seamless parenting encounters. (Insert scared face emoji.)
Second: The conversation about the conflict.
B and I talked.
He has been known to think, “Lauren, I think this was handled too quickly. You need to take some time to think through this. Give it some time.”
I’ve been known to think, “B, you’ve got to get on this. You can’t just let this go. It needs to be corrected in the moment. This is important.”
We came to the agreement that somewhere in the middle of this, we were both right. I need to take time to think more and to process the situation more thoroughly. He needs to respond with more immediacy and place more importance on correction for the moment.
We finished the conversation believing our kids could benefit from both.
We went to work.
Hard at work.
I cried on occasion as I missed several opportunities to give it more time but didn’t. It doesn’t come naturally to me.
He got frustrated seeing he missed several opportunities to respond in the moment, but didn’t. It doesn’t come naturally to him.
We talked again and continued to work again.
I began to catch B trying to respond more “in the moment”.
I worked harder at taking the time to think, instead of responding immediately.
Results: Two small successes that felt huge.
The other day, we caught one of our beloved children in a lie. (Those people that say children are innately good…please come spend a week at our house.) I looked at B. He clued in with me. We were hitting the same wavelength for once.
He responded in the moment. We handled the situation together. Our kiddo was corrected (firmly) and while sad, said child handled the consequences.
B and I talked later about how refreshed we felt to have captured the moment when it happened. It felt as though we had chiseled out a rough spot of our kid’s character and hopefully left it just an ounce smoother than it was the day before.
A few days later, one of our other kids was disciplined. This time it happened in our bathroom and I headed it up first. I left the bathroom, walked into the kitchen to discuss it with B.
“He is still upset in the bathroom. I don’t know what to do. I’ve told him how much we love him and how much God loves him and that we all forgive him. He just keeps crying. It’s been going on for the past ten minutes. I’ve done my “more time to think” thing and it isn’t helping right now. I am at a loss of what to do.”
Take note: In the weeks before, several discipline encounters had presented themselves that were very similar to this one. Each of those times B had asked if he could talk with said child. I responded with an immediate ‘no’. I didn’t even think about it. (It was the immediate respond-er in me.) Later, having processed it, I regretted not allowing B to be involved.
The above scenarios came to mind, so I thought, “Hmmm, maybe the contemplative parent should go chat with our kid.”
So I asked him this time, “B, will you go talk to him?”
“Sure, I’ll go. Anything in particular you want me to say?”
“No. Whatever comes to your mind would be great.”
About five minutes later, B walked out. Fifteen seconds later, our kid walked out too, no more tears, peaceful face, ready to play with the other two.
“What in the world? What did you say to him?”
“The same things you did. Maybe I just said it differently.”
I unexpectedly got teary with B.
I was clearly lacking the words, but he brought just the right ones.
We still miss moments. All the time. We keep talking. We keep working. We keep praying. We ask God to pour His grace over us, discipline moment by discipline moment.
Parenting without him really was so much easier.
But parenting with him is without question, undoubtedly better.