Suburban Snapshots

Parenting Ad Hoc

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I rolled out of bed a luxurious half hour after my family one weekday morning, hearing Steve making his tea and packing leftovers for lunch, the sound of his heavy work boots tromping over the voice of the weather man announcing probably more snow. By the time I made it down the hall to the living room, Steve was in the bathroom and Anna was alone on the couch. The weather report had ended, and the news anchors were breathlessly recounting the latest fire/school shooting/drug-fueled crime spree. I could see she wasn't fully paying attention, but she'd recently been asking a lot of questions about fire and I didn't need a sensationalized news report getting her any more anxious.

When Steve came back into the room I asked if he could be more mindful of what's on the television when the 5-year-old is present, and he muttered something like "Not a big deal" or "The real world" or something, and I refrained from kicking him in the tender, post-vasectomy testicles.

This is ad hoc parenting. These are the things you didn't think to talk about when you were deciding on education and religion, corporal punishment, circumcision, disposable vs. cloth, and savings accounts. If you thought agreeing on your baby's name was a struggle, wait until you realize that you and your partner have completely different views on your toddler's eating habits.

In our house, Steve is very strict around dinner time: Sit, use a fork, napkin, no hugging during meal times, clean your plate. My philosophy is sit, put food into your body until you don't want any more, but don't think two rigatoni are going to get you dessert. I let her hug me and listen for Steve's heavy sigh, then I joke about him being raised in a Russian orphanage.

On the other hand, I want that kid in bed at 7:30, and Steve is very flexible about bedtime. Stories usually creep past the 8:00 mark while I bide time waiting for my adult company to return to the couch.

You don't sit down and hash out these parenting decisions, you make them on the fly and sometimes resign yourself to your partner's methods because you know this is a shared responsibility and ultimately you trust their parenting. Mostly. On occasion, you'll mutter, "She's not going to go soft because I let her hug me at dinner."

The only way to prepare for this is to know that you can't prepare for it. You'll find yourself in it, living it, arguing about it, and then finally coming to some kind of agreement, even if it's tenuous one. It's a compromise, just like every other part of sharing your life and space with other people.

I know sometimes it's hard for Steve to let go of his tendencies and submit to my parenting style and I might never understand some of the battles he picks. The important thing is that we give each other the trust and respect to make decisions independently of each other. Based on how the five-year-old is turning out, I think so far we're doing all right.

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