When my children were very young, I often responded to their questions with, “Why don’t you ask Daddy? He’ll explain it better.”
One time, my mother—who had been widowed when I was three years old—remarked, “I wasn’t able to say that to you.”
I think of that now that we’ve got two teenagers, a six-year-old figuring out the world, and a nine-year-old intensely interested in, well, everything. Darren has a wide knowledge of many subjects, and he enjoys discussing it. Anytime I feel out of my depth, I can say, “Let’s ask Dad about that.”
The flipside is that Darren often comes to me when he’s at a loss. His questions are more often about whether he’s considering the emotional needs of our kids. Since I’m the one who lives most closely with them—and since I am, after all, the mother—I can often gauge what they need.
We make a lot of mistakes. But recently we did it right.
Over supper, Darren found out that one child didn’t complete the day’s school. This is a recurring problem, so Darren laid down the punishment: no electronics until tomorrow’s supper.
But he shot me a questioning glance: Is that what I should have done? So I scheduled a teacher’s meeting ten minutes later. We conducted it in hushed tones while passing one another in the kitchen.
He was right that we couldn’t let this habit go. But I reminded him that I’d been out of commission with a headache for the bulk of the day. I hadn’t officially declared that school was “on.” Our kids operate under the assumption that every day is a holiday unless I specifically state otherwise.
Not only that, but this child did help out with the household while I was down. All that taken together, I suggested lightening the punishment a little.
But I left it to him to decide. The next morning, I found a note outside this child’s bedroom door:
Mom has interceded on your behalf (as mothers are wont to do) so I’m changing what I said last night.
Once you are COMPLETELY done with school today, you may get on electronics.
I love you. I always want the best for you.
As it happened, the child was nearly finished with school before I pointed out the note. It was a lovely moment of unexpected mercy. Our child was thrilled, and I gave Darren a virtual high-five.
Too many women, like my mother, don’t have the option of sharing the decisions with a partner. Your job is harder, and I am in awe of your courage. So for the woman (like me) who is raising a family together with your husband… this is a pretty nifty setup for both of you. If you pool your gifts and knowledge and work together, the task is much lighter. As my favorite band Carbon Leaf sings, My yoke is — your yoke is — resting on our shoulders as we share the weary load.
It requires a lot of communication and trust, but the effort to work as a team pays off. You feel it that moment when your child’s face lights up, and you know you’ve done it right this time.