| LifeTakes |


It’s hard to be strict when your husband is giving rides

I always think I must have been asleep — probably due to exhaustion — when Shlomo Hamelech said, “Yemin mekareves, the right hand brings them closer.” And my husband? He must have nodded off just when Shlomo Hamelech said, “U’smol docheh, and the left hand pushes them away.”

Because this is what a squabble looks like in our house:

Kid A: (sobbing) Wahhh! Kid B hit me!

Mommy: Oy! Did you do anything to him first? (I know, right? I’m already at the intermediate level of mothering.)

Kid A: No! He started it.

Mommy: (in a very scary, raised voice) Kid B! Come here! NOW!

Kid B: (puppy-eyed) Yes?

Mommy: In this house, we don’t hit our siblings, you hear? Apologize to Kid A right now!

Kid B: Sorry.

Mommy: Louder! Kid A has to hear you!

Tatty: (appears in the left wing and gives Kid A a kiss) What happened? I know Kid B is a tzaddik! A TZADDIK! He must have made a mistake. Come here, Kid B.

Kid B hurries to Tatty.

Tatty: (grasps Kid B’s hands and begins stomping across the room, singing at the top of his lungs) Kid B is a tzaddik, a tzaddik, a tzaddik; Kid B is a TZADDIK, and he feels so bad!

And where is Mommy? In the wings, looking on with narrowed eyes.

See, I don’t believe in rewarding a child for being difficult. But along with this parenting belief comes a love so fierce that my kids have no doubt that I love them. Is that so bad?

My husband, ever mild-mannered, always agrees to discipline more firmly when I explain this to him. And for a few days after that, there’s less stomping, less giggling, and more rigid parenting, until Mommy suddenly fears that maybe she has a bit of Mrs. Hannigan in her. (“Do I hear some… HAPPINESS around here?”) Until Tatty assures her that she doesn’t, but she resolves to be softer anyway.

Then, ever so slowly, both of us fall back into our default settings. There’s firm rebuke, and laughter-suffused reproach. At the same time. Guess who’s everyone’s favorite parent?

So we quickly recalibrate and try to meet each other on the parenting barometer. Again.

But then there’s yet another scene, and it looks like this:

Mommy: Kid A, bedtime! It shouldn’t take that long to brush your teeth!


Mommy: Kid A! Bedtime!!!


Mommy: What is taking so long?! BEDTIME!!!


Kid A appears sheepishly in the kitchen.

Mommy: And you’re STILL not asleep?! GO. TO. BED!!!

Tatty: (appears in the wings, beaming)  Come here, Kid A!

Kid A: (shrieking with delight, gets tossed over Tatty’s shoulder for a ride to bed, and the two scream) Weeeeeeeee!!!

The worst part about this scene is that Kid A... stays in bed. I struggle mightily to make sense of this. Must I reward my child to get her to do as she’s told? But there’s something in this scene that’s niggling at my heart.

A few minutes later, Tatty reappears in the kitchen, and the sheepish expression on his face is familiar.

I shake my head wordlessly, and he says, “I know, I know. Next time I’ll give her a ride only if she’s ready by bedtime.”

And with a sigh, we recalibrate. Again.

But slowly, slowly, after a few years of parenting and a few hundred recalibrations, we begin to hover in the same area on the parenting barometer. My husband learns to delay the fun until after he’s delivered words of rebuke, and as for myself? I learn to hold my child tight when I speak reproachfully.

And then, as I feel my child’s soft breathing against my chest, and hear his little sigh as he relaxes in my arms, I must admit this isn’t so bad. There’s something to all this right-handed parenting after all, and my love is no less fierce for it.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 768)

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