My husband and I have 2 sets of twins, 24 months apart. Our first set of twins are two boys( A&C) and the second set is a boy and a girl (E&T). We started our family later in life and it grew suprisingly fast. As we discussed our ideas of parenting prior to A&G’s births, it seemed that we agreed upon what we thought the most important aspects of parenting were. In short, we believe in biblical based discipline and wanted to establish a degree of respect (our children for us and an appropriate respect of us for our children). We also both felt that our children should at an early age be taught to be responsible for things that are age appropriated. Both of us grew up in fairly strict homes, for which we see the goodness and are thankful, however we did wish to allow our children to be children and not push them to grow up too quickly or to assume roles that are typically thought of as adult tasks. We also wanted a strong marriage with both of us interacting heavily in our children’s lives and they in ours. Simple enough, right?? WRONG!
As A&C are now almost 3, my husband and I have struggled extensively with what is and is not allowable, equal “enforcement” of our house rules by both of us and most importantly consistency. I have spent a fair amount of time trying to understand how we got from agreeing on what we thought were the most important foundational blocks of parenting to what sometimes seems to be organized chaos in our home. I have come to a few conclusions: 1) my husband and I grew up in different homes, 2) I am a decade younger than my husband and 3) I am a woman and he is a man.
We have all heard, ad naseum, that our childhood impacts greatly how we see the world, others and how we ourselves we interact with our spouses and our children. Even coming into our parenting journey having discussed things from our individual homes, and being consciously aware of what we did and did not want to do as parents, we have still delt with a lot of issues that I believe stem from our own family environments. I grew up in a home where my mother was the primary care giver and disciplinarian. In fact, due to his work, my father was unable to be around us much until we were old enough to go with him and not need to be constantly monitored. At that point, I did go with my father a lot and actually spent almost every summer as his only “employee” in his business. My husband on the other hand grew up in a very paternally driven home, where his mom was the care giver and somewhat of a protector from a very works driven father. They all worked together daily in a family business and did most everything together as a family.
This information may not seem relevant, but it has played a big role in how my husband and I see “quality time” in our family. I want some time for us to just relax and have a pillow fight, or for us to actually get in the sand box and play with A&C. I want a set story time prior to bed, I want us to say bedtime prayers as a family, particularly expressing non “canned” prayers. My husband feels that we are doing good if at least one of us is present, and it doesn’t REALLY mean we shouldn’t talk on the phone, have the TV on or sit quietly at these times. A family meal time is very important to me, but less so for my husband. I don’t want people interrupting our family time, because I grew up with so little of it. Since my husband’s family was always together, it is less of an important aspect for him.
I recently read an article describing the different perspectives of baby boomers and generations Xers. I happen to fit into the generation X group by birth date, but by the characteristics and qualities that I place on things I’m actually a baby boomer. So, even though we are both baby boomers, I believe that our age gap is an important part of our struggles in parenting. My husband has said that he feels like a dad and a grandpa with our kids (granted, most of his high school classmates do have grandchildren). He tends to find humor in anything the boys do, including using a Sharpie to draw on the couch pillows, playing in the tar on the grain bin and yes, even pooping in their underware. His outlook with them is much more relaxed, and indeed I do see and love some “grandfatherly” qualities about him with our children.
I, on the other hand, tend to be more strict and yes, wound a bit tighter. I am of “advanced maternal age” according to my OB/GYN, but I don’t find myself looking for Miss Clarol yet on a weekly trip to the store. I enjoy my children immensely!! I try to find humor in most everything they do, including dumping a truck load of sand in my living room carpet, eating the goats grain, scrubbing their potty chair with my tooth brush and using my chapstick on the cat’s lips. But my humor sometimes wanes and I try to laugh rather than cry at the new drawing on my freshly painted walls. My husband tends to repeat his instructions or requests multiple times to the boys and often ends up just doing what he asked them to do anyway. I, on the other hand, ask once, twice if I’m busy with something and then let them know that they need to choose to obey, or disobey and receive the disciplinary action that is appropriate. I think this tends to confuse our kids a bit, in that what is firm with mommy is often not firm with daddy. As well, my husband has to see the kids hurt one another before he will administer punishment. Punishment for me is a lengthy process that involves sitting down with the child on my lap and explaining what went wrong and what the outcome for that bad decision will be and then assurance that I love them very much and what has happened does not change that. My husband’s enforcement tends to be swift and without discussion. Both of us, I’m happy to say, readily let the offending child back to a state of grace and don’t hold on to that attitude of “you’ve done wrong”. Something both of us delt with growing up.
Our gender differences add to a lot of fun in our home, but can be confusing as well. I will never understand little boys, ever! My husband sees absolutely nothing wrong with them peeing on EVERYTHING outside and I think actually he enjoys teaching them about this. I am unable to grasp the idea of why peeing on “that rock” or “that stick” or “that weed” is so important. For heaven’s sake, just go! I just thank Our Lord that we live in the sticks!! As well, I’m always in awe of how my boys love to rough house with both my husband and I, but when it comes time to snuggling, it is rarely something they go to their daddy for. My estrogen tainted vision often leads me to scold about things that probably really aren’t that important, like eating with dirty fingers, licking the plate glass door or their favorite, eating chapstick. Whereas my husband’s tolerance of and encouragement of things like going out to chore naked, scratching places I will never understand and saying things like “men ready” when they go outside adn “no comment” when I ask how their day at school was.
I believe that because of my husband’s age, he tends to be more relaxed with the boys, allowing them the freedoms that grandparents often do. He does some spoiling, he lets them share Mt. Dew with him,AUUUGGGGGHHH., that I wouldn’t do and he tends to be less focused on future implications of our discipline. Our age gap has been such a blessing to our marriage and has afforded a wonderful balance for our kids. A wound tight mommy could easily be over bearing if I wasn’t constantly seeing myself through my husband’s eyes and noting the intense nature of myself and dialing it back a bit.
These inconsistencies in displine type and what is and is not allowed I find confusing for me and I’m sure for our children. It is something that we both acknowledge and are working on changing. We are both giving our all to this precious job of parenting and we both take it very seriously. I read a lot of books on how to raise children, search the Bible for guidance and seek advice of others I respect. I try to pass on the information I come across and we discuss it together as partners in this process. I am thankful for the man I have to take this journey with and for our difference. Although they are sometimes challenging we both work together to each others view and then try to meet in the middle and do what is ultimately best for our children.
Sometimes organized chaos isn’t a bad thing, but a bit of structure every now and then mixed in has given us a wonderful home and happy children.