Tonight my big kid had a low grade fever and ear pain that was preceded by a couple weeks of cold symptoms and cough. I really thought he had kicked it, but with Christmas just around the corner this wait-it-out mama was feeling impatient. Since it was the weekend and after hours (isn’t it always?) we made a quick trip to the Urgent Care with the shortest wait (thank you Children’s Hospital for the glory that is online check in!).
After the doctor saw our boy I took him to the potty while my husband waited in the room. Upon our return I found the nurse reviewing papers with him. She looked at me and said “I was just going over the doctors orders with him. They’re all written down so he won’t forget to tell you or get confused. Ha!”. At the time I said nothing and let her restate the instructions to me, but the more I thought about it the more it bothered me. Why did she think my husband wasn’t capable of understanding those instructions? Why did she think my son’s father couldn’t have communicated them to me or even executed the orders himself? It bothered me for quite awhile, enough that I jumped on the storage unit for soapboxes that is Facebook and defended my husband. But I still didn’t feel better. And then it hit me: I’m mad at her because I treat him that way too. In fact, I treated him like that in the car on the way there. ::face palm::
You see, my hubs is one of those gloriously even keel fellas. He is the flatline to my tachycardia. Trouble is, when things don’t go quite as expected he is not quite himself. Because I work from home with my kiddos, I exist in the space where things hardly ever go as planned and I have learned to adapt because survival requires it. I often forget that he simply doesn’t get to stretch those muscles as often as I do, so when I jumped into “crisis management: fix it now mode” (which required getting everyone dressed and in the car as quickly as possible with snacks and drinks and entertainment for the inevitable wait with a screaming 4 year old) he almost completely shut down. And what did I do in his time of need? I responded by offering him a pinky finger size amount of grace. I muttered (loudly enough for him to hear) “I should have handled it by myself”. Seriously, sometimes I am such a brat. There he was trying to help, and because he wasn’t operating at crisis level expert I belittled him, which makes me no different than the stranger nurse (except that he held my hand through three deliveries, raises two kiddos with me, and provides for us in more ways than I can count) so it actually makes me worse. Ugh.
You know what else I do? I jump in and rescue him (and by rescue I mean shove him out of the way so that I can do it my way) in tough situations. I tried to hold my flailing four-year-old while the doc checked him out and he said to me “Why don’t you let me hold him?” and I responded “I do this myself all the time. What’s the difference?” and he said “I’m right here. That’s the difference.” Oy. I choose to ignore the tremendous blessing that is my parenting partner, then I expect him to operate with my flexibility in situations he experiences very rarely and (to top it off) when he is there to help I shut him down by excusing him or belittling his efforts while he’s learning. ::long sigh::
You see, that nurse had no right to treat my husband like a sub-par parent, and I don’t either. In fact, she doesn’t know him, so it’s possible she could have been right. Trouble is, I do know him, and she is a special kind of wrong on this one. So as a result of her insult, I am taking a long hard look in the mirror about this and the light in here is pretty harsh. When I put the “get-out-of-the-mess-you-made” filter on it, here’s what I need to do:
Invite him into the mess. I’m going to work hard to share with him some of the challenges that happen during the day and how I make decisions and handle them. This also looks like asking him to engage in difficult situations when I could handle it alone.
Let him struggle. When he’s trying, I’ll let him. And if it’s an ugly effort, I’ll offer him grace. I’ll offer help and let him decide if he wants it and how, but otherwise, I’m going to let him learn (just like I did).
Define our success differently. Just because I do things a certain way doesn’t make it the only way or even the best way. (That one takes a hard swallow to admit, but it’s true).
Oh, and apologize. Because I don’t do it nearly enough.
Here’s what friends: With a little more practice, my husband could be a rock star at handling these sorts of things. With a little more encouragement, he could be off the charts. He’s even smarter than I am, even better under pressure, and he loves our kiddos just as much as me. He totally has the capacity, he just needs practice and a partner. And when it comes to this whole parenting thing, don’t we all?