My best friend and I have worked together for 24 years. We live just a block apart and have kids in the same age range. We have spent part of almost every day together for over two decades, but we couldn’t be more different. First, there are the obvious things—she’s a cat person, I’m a dog person. She has two girls and I have two boys. She loves the summer and I love the winter. I home schooled my kids, she sent her kids to public school. Even our personalities are complete opposites! The reason our relationship works is because we respect (and laugh about) our differences.
The way we parented our own kids was not at all the same, but we both raised kids that have turned out pretty great in spite of our shortcomings. It helped that we walked a few miles each day and talked through every step in the child-rearing journey. Walking with a good friend is actually a lot cheaper than therapy. We really listened to each other when we shared opposite perspectives. I love her kids dearly and I know she feels the same about mine, so I trusted that her opinion was always for their good and mine.
I guess opposites really do attract, because my husband and I often see things differently too. Since I was the one with a degree in Early Childhood, I appointed myself Boss of All the Things with Children early on in our parenting experience. I would frequently inform him of the sentence I had handed down while he was at work and then expect him to back me up. A kid that back talked his mama or deliberately disobeyed was dealt with swiftly and without mercy. In the heat of the moment, I said all kinds of ridiculous things. I’m not saying that I didn’t occasionally stumble on something brilliant, though! When our son threw a piece of trash out the window of the car and then lied about it I handed him a trash bag and ordered him to pick up litter in a parking lot. To my knowledge, he’s an upstanding citizen that has never littered again. (Now for those of you who are freaking out about all of the crazy things he might have picked up in our current world, this was 20 years ago and I was right there with him.)
Eventually, however, I learned that it was better for me to tell the kids that they would be punished for their crime, but I would have to talk over the sentence with their dad first. That way, I had a little while to cool off and gain some perspective and I also had the balance of a little jelly with all that peanut butter. The thing to remember is that even though we come into parenting with a whole set of ideas and our own baggage, there are a lot of ways that work and a little balance is good and healthy. Where Dad might be an advocate of tough love, Mom provides a soft place to land. That’s ok. Both of those are important for a kid.
When I was in college, I heard an expert speak in a seminar regarding the roles of mothers and fathers in the life of a child. He said that dads tend to rough house and toss the kids high in the air and moms caution them to be careful. Both of those jobs are important—the dad is helping to develop balance skills and moms make sure nobody dies in the process. See that? Peanut butter and jelly together makes a great sandwich.