This past week, our second-born son broke our six-year streak of no serious injuries in our family. We were at a neighborhood park, where I was relishing some time with a good friend and the kids were enjoying another week of school done and dusted, drinking milkshakes and playing.
An ill-timed and unprepared spin on a piece of playground equipment sent my two-year-old careening off of his seat and, in the process, he sliced his forehead open on a well-disguised but sharp piece of metal. There was blood everywhere. I panicked a little bit. We raced to the nearest Urgent Care.
After a long wait, painful iodine washes, a numbing shot and staples, the ordeal was over. I cried for the pain that his little brain didn’t quite understand. I kept replaying those moments in my head. I mourned my son’s perfect, still slightly baby-like body, which only hours before was blemish-free and still so fresh and soft and smooth. His first scar.
It’s days later and I still wince a little bit at the sight of his wound. I expressed that to my husband as we were brushing our teeth this morning. His response? “I think he looks pretty bad ass. I’m kinda proud of him.”
Opposite reactions. I couldn’t help but be amused. I laughed.
It hits me every now and then how different we can be. Instead of being utterly confused or put off by it, I find myself appreciating the way he balances me out. (This wasn’t always the case, FYI).
Sometimes, for instance, when another child bullies our kindergartener and I’m feeling emotional, it’s like he’s smoothing my edges, or bringing me down. His perspective encourages me.
Other times, like when it’s the end of a long day and the last thing I feel like doing is getting down on the floor to wrestle with the kids, I tap out, so to speak, and he jumps in, ready to entertain.
When I’m at a loss on how to get our children to gobble up their veggies without whining straight through dinner, he’ll pull out a trick that is nothing short of miraculous. I often find myself thinking, “I never would have thought of that.”
The truth is, as clinical as it may sound, for those of us who are fortunate enough to have partners in this thing called parenting, we have an incredible resource.
Instead of being frustrated by our different standards of cleanliness, I need to look past the mess when I get home from an appointment and see two happy kids who have been played with until they’re exhausted and a husband who is thrilled to give me some alone time. Clean is (overwhelmingly) not the most important thing.
Instead of wishing the kids were asleep precisely at their bed time every single night, I need to listen harder for the giggles and whispers coming from our daughter’s room as my husband slows time to tickle her a little more and pray for the world. Rigidity can take away from bonding.
The days of following my husband around and showing him precisely how to rock our newborn are long over. Less because we have no newborn in our home, and more because I have come to deeply respect the way my husband does things. He has a beautifully unique way of loving, comforting, and teaching our kids.
Two parents are involved in the making of a child, and two should certainly put their personality and gifts into raising them. Maybe we need to learn to step back and just watch, appreciate, and learn.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.