“Mommy and Daddy aren’t fighting. We are having a discussion.”
I’ve heard that line overused so many times in the movies. The scene is always the same. It happens when a child inadvertently walks in on a possible domestic dispute and the parents have to cover their tracks quick, lest their six year old calls the police and reports mommy for spousal abuse. Hey Luke, please remember that when we’re in court. Mommy was the aggressor. Daddy just wanted to sit on his fat ass and eat a hoagie.
But seriously, why do parents feel the need to hide their squabble from little Billy or Laverne? It doesn’t make the fight go away and you aren’t doing the kid any favors either. They’ll start to get the idea that you just put off your problems and store them away, until you wind up on a therapist’s couch getting a prescription for heavy duty anti-depression drugs. Does anyone else feel like there must be a better way?
Here’s my solution; Call it what it is, a disagreement, an argument, a fight. Then pop some popcorn and score the kids some ring side seats for the title match of the household. The Big Buffoon in one corner, The Milk Machine in the other, winner takes all in a title match for parental pride and respect. Now that there is no more confusion, the kids will know exactly what they are watching; healthy conflict resolution.
It’s up to you, the parents. to keep things classy. Name calling, low blows, biting, and spiteful comebacks have no place here. (Unless you’re into that kind of thing. In which case, maybe the kids shouldn’t watch. Maybe you ignore my advice and make a quick call to the babysitter instead. But if you’re like Bex and I,) We want a nice clean fight. State the issue and personal position. Then listen while the other parent does the same. The key here is to really listen. Most people listen only to reply. Listen to hear the other spouse out. Now compromise, meet in the middle, and walk away as a unified front.
I know that I am an untried, armchair general, as of yet, but I really believe there is merit to this idea. It will demonstrate essential life skills for the tiny humans in the house. Communication, compassion, and compromise are on display, turning this into a valuable parental teaching moment.
Why do I feel so passionately about this, you might ask? Well there are two reasons. The first is that my parents fought in front of me and other than dodging the occasional flying shoe, I came out relatively unscathed. The second reason is that Bex once told me about a friend of hers whose parents constantly hid their fights. They firmly believed that their children should never see them argue. That friend of Bex’s turned out to be a serial killer. I’m joking. He actually turned into something worse, an ex-boyfriend. She told me that they’d broke up because he had trouble communicating or really showing much compassion. And, he always refused to compromise. Hmmm, that sounds like something he would have learned if he had only watched mom and dad fight once in a while.
I get where parents like that are coming from. It’s a kid’s job to find the chink in the parental armor and exploit it for all it’s worth. As soon as they find out who the soft touch in the family is, everyone is fucked. That kid will play one against the other for as long as he can get away with it. I’m definitely not speaking from experience here, right mom? Somewhere in the world, I hear her sweetly saying “Bite me, child.” Ah, now that’s healthy conflict resolution.
So here’s the thing, all of this advice is completely theoretical. What’s more, there is nothing that qualifies me to give it to you, other than you’re visiting my website and I feel like I should give you your money’s worth. Don’t say I never gave you anything for free.
Our little guy is to young to understand what fighting is but that doesn’t stop us. Bex and I are not afraid to hold back our opinions with each other or in front of him. Our disagreements can get pretty heated but sometimes they are just entertaining. Someone told us once that when it comes to the baby, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
So imagine my fiery eyed wife after I say something stupid. She would probably reply in a sweet and sing songy voice,
“We should tell Daddy to get his head out of his ass, shouldn’t we?”
Of course, I would never say anything so elegant, never.
For right now, the quickest way to end a fight, is to walk into the nursery and look down at the sleeping guy in the crib. All our petty problems just don’t seem to mean as much from there.