Another lie that parents tell kids?
Husband and wife are fighting over something kid-related. Junior approaches Parent afterwards and asks, “Are you fighting because of me?”
“No, Sweetie, of course not.”
There’s one of those bold-faced lies that parents tell their kids. Isn’t it?
My husband and I hardly ever used to fight. In fact I couldn’t understand why other couples would fight so much. I remember a conversation with my mother-in-law where she said she couldn’t understand how we never got angry with each other, never fought. Jack and I have been together for over twelve years and friends for a few years before that. We got along like best friends. What was there to fight about? Nothing. But now it seems that we fight all the time. What changed? We had a baby.
Friday night’s fight went something like this:
Context: Sam is going to have an evaluation done because of our concerns regarding his delayed language.
Me: Perhaps it would be better if you (hubby) were not present for the evaluation.
Jack: Maybe they want parents to be there.
Me: Well, yeah, it’s important that a parent is there. I’ll be there.
Then somehow as he’s arguing why can’t he be the parent that is there, I might have said something about me being the primary parent. I admit (to myself and three days later) that “primary parent” was completely the wrong phrase to use because by default it labels Jack as the obviously less appealing “secondary parent.” He pointed this out to me quickly and angrily. However, when I said “primary parent” my thinking was that I am the parent that is with Sam for most of his waking hours, so perhaps I would have a better chance of getting Sam to “perform” for the evaluator. Back to the fight…
Jack: I can’t believe you’re doing this!
Me: Doing what?
Jack: Marginalizing me as a parent!
Me: What? I am not marginalizing you as a parent. I would never do that! That’s not who we are! That’s not what we’re about! And you know what? This is not about you! It’s not all about you! It’s about Sam! It’s about a concern that I had, and I wanted what’s best for Sam.
Jack: Based on nothing! No one told you that. They didn’t tell you that it would be best if there was only one other person there. You’re basing that on nothing!
Me: Oh! So my feelings and concerns are NOTHING?
Jack: Oh, please!
Me: And how can you accuse me of such a horrible thing as trying to marginalize you as a parent? I would never do that! Just like you accused me of thinking our son was stupid because I was concerned about him. I can’t believe you accuse me of such horrible things! I would NEVER try to marginalize you as a parent!
Jack: Well, that’s certainly what it sounded like.
Me: Well, maybe you should say to yourself “Gee, Gwen would never try to marginalize me as a parent. She must not have realized how that sounded. Let me see what she really meant instead.” Instead of attacking me and accusing me!
Jack: Well, I was hurt and that’s my defensive move.
Long pause… is the fight over? Nah, not yet.
Jack: So why can’t we both be there? I think we should both be there.
Me: I think it would be better if only one of us is there.
Jack: And why is that?
Me: I think it might be too distracting for Sam if we’re both there.
Jack: You think it would be too distracting if we’re both there?
Me: Yeah, maybe.
Jack: But not if you’re there?
Jack: So what is it exactly about my presence that would be so distracting?
Silence for the next hour. Which signified the end of the fight.
Yeah, I admit, when reading the words in black and white, I don’t come out looking too great. So what was I thinking? I thought that the calmest atmosphere would be best for Sam. I thought that he might get confused, overwhelmed, or fussy if he had two parental voices commanding that he GET THE BALL THE BALL, SAM, WHERE’S THE BALL CAN YOU GET THE BALL? Or even worse, one parent tells him to get the ball while the other parent, seeing that Sam is not moving towards the ball, decides to prompt him to get the cow. GET THE BALL, SAM, GET THE BALL, HOW ABOUT THE COW, SAM, GET THE COW, THE BALL, GET THE BALL, GET THE COW, C-OOO-W, GET THE COW! BALL! Cowball?
I was also a bit worried that Jack wouldn’t want to sit back and allow Sam to play and explore on his own. Maybe he would try to guide Sam towards certain toys and activities for the evaluator’s benefit. (Although I suppose for all I know, he/she may prefer guided play for the observation.) However, Jack will often leave Sam to play and entertain himself. So, really, I’m not sure what I’m worried about. Perhaps I’m just worried, period.
But back to my original question – which bothers me because I don’t want to be the kind of parent who lies. Our whole fight was because of Sam, was it not? If Sam were to ask me if it was his fault that we were fighting, I could confidently say “NO.” It is not his fault if we disagree, even vehemently, about some parenting issue. But, we are fighting because of him. Am I just splitting hairs? Can any other parents shed some light on this question for me? I remember my parents fighting when I was young, and there was nothing wrong with my ears. I knew full well that they were arguing about me. I assume that if I had asked my mother if they were arguing because of me, she would have hugged me and said, “No, Sweetie, of course not.” And I probably would have thought she was lying.