Who’s Got Your Back? December 3rd, 2010
IEP’s second birthday brought with it many of the expected two-year-old challenges. Most namely strong opinions backed by a strong will. Among those opinions is, “I hate having my diaper changed, and I really hate Desitin.” So I was not surprised yesterday morning when I told IEP that it was time for a diaper change and he made it quite plain that he had other ideas.
He whined. I corrected. He squirmed. My voice got sterner as I explained that a clean diaper was non-negotiable. He shouted, “Nnnnnno!” Then, like a night in shining armor, GAP walked in from our bedroom, looked down at IEP on the changing table, and in a very deep and very stern voice said, “You do NOT talk to Mommy like that.”
IEP shut right up, looked at his dad and made his “Sorry” sign. GAP responded, “Say you’re sorry to Mommy.” He looked at me and made the sign again. I told IEP thank you, and then GAP left the room to finish getting ready for work. IEP smiled at me and was unusually cooperative through the Desitin application, and promptly gave hugs and kisses to both of us (GAP had wandered back in) after I zipped his footed PJs back up and stood him up on the changing table.
Initially I was thankful for GAPs intervention. Actually, I still am. It made that particular moment much easier. But as I gained some distance from it, I began to question it. What does it say to our son if only one parent is the enforcer?
Naturally I am grateful to have a husband who has my back. I am grateful that he respects me and is invested in raising a son who also respects me. But there is a part of me that wonders if my authority is weakened if its credibility does not stand alone, but requires the endorsement of my husband. To clarify, IEP does recognize my authority. He sits in the corner when I tell him to sit in the corner. He knows what it means when he looks at me as he tries to pick a glass of water up off my nightstand and I shoot him a knowing glance. And he obeys my instructions most of the time. But when tantrums strike it is GAP whose voice he is most likely to heed.
I realize that most two-parent families have one parent who wears the disciplinarian hat more frequently. And I realize that in my own family it is unlikely that GAP and I will be perfectly equal in our disciplinary roles. But I want my son to respect me and my parental authority because of me, not because of my husband standing behind me. And further, I don’t want GAP always stuck being the “bad guy.”
There are times when IEP challenges me and GAP begins to intervene and I call him off. I want to resolve these toddler issues on my own. But sometimes it’s so much easier to let my tall and deep voiced husband step in and command our son’s attention.
So, what’s a girl to do? I’m eager for your advice on this, so please chime in!