HOWTO Not Undermine Each Other In Front Of The Kids
Update: I neglected to mention that this is, obviously, an expansion pack for the well-known collectible card game, "Frantic: The Parenting"...
If you'll pardon a few things, dear readers -- a perhaps overly firm and hortatory tone, sweeping generalizations from my own experience, references to "your kids" when you might not have any -- I have a handy HOWTO to offer you. This might be most useful if you are me, or, failing that, if you are raising small children with some kind of partner and collaborator. Caveat lector.
I don't think it's so bad to fight in front of your kids. Whether your fighting style is WASPish reticence, Californian I-feel-when-you-because, or Mediterannean shouts and door-slammings, as long as you don't lose sight of basic mutual love and respect, as long as you try to fight towards and not against each other, you are probably teaching useful skills; and you are at least being real. It's a fine line; I find that if I try to be totally sweet and in solidarity with Esther all the time in front of our younguns, even when I'm angry, it only makes the anger linger longer.
But I think there are two sorts of fights you don't really want to have in front of your kids. One is the fight where you are too cranky, upset, or hurt to fight responsibly; I'll leave it to you, readers, to determine your own limits here. The other is a fight about the kids themselves.
Parents fight about childrearing in front of kids a lot; it's hard not to. The kids are always underfoot, and the raising of them so important -- it's hard to wait for a nap or a babysitter to address your concerns. I too, dear reader, was often in this benighted condition, before I discovered this handy HOWTO. Even though you know it dilutes and debases your shared authority, even though you know it can make the kids deeply uneasy, even though, indeed, it's just plain rude (you wouldn't fight about your mutual adult friend Fred in front of Fred, and the kids have at least as much claim upon your courtesy), it's hard not to roll your eyes at a piece of overprotectiveness, to stick up sharply for the little one when the other parent is having their own tantrum -- or contrariwise, to jump in when murder is being gotten away with. And sometimes, indeed, it is problematic to say nothing at all -- sometimes intercession, or a different perspective, or a reminder, is important when Dearest Childcare Collaborator is, say, locked into a poorly chosen struggle. The problem is that weighing in verbally usually does more harm than good.
We keep these cards in the kitchen drawer and the glove compartment of the car. You'll notice they are mostly negative; they're the things you *don't* want to say aloud. If you strive to present a united front, parenting in collaboration is a little like improv theater -- if you are opening your mouth to say "No, you can't have another slice", and sweetie gets "yes" out first, you need to be able to follow up "No --" with " -- problem." The cards, though, mean you have a second channel of communication.
There are times, of course, when a freewheeling family debate is perfectly appropriate; there are other times when sweetie is handling things and you're well advised stay out of it entirely. In between these times, though, when you are trying and failing to button your intrusive lip, here's hoping the marvelous Parenting Backchannel Cards preserve the peace of your familial encampment.
(Now that Aviva has broken our sophisticated encryption mechanism (that is, learned to read), I don't know how much longer this will work; unless, out of sheer politeness, she refrains from reading the notes we pass in class.)
Anyway, dear readers, let me know how it goes (and also let me know how this post displays on your browser of choice; I am dipping my toe in the Pool of Fancy CSS).