It’s no secret that I’m the bad cop in our family, the one who’s always trying to keep some sort of order in the house, make sure the kids don’t kill each other, etc. In fact, I come from a family of bad cops; I’m pretty sure it’s in our DNA. But it’s definitely not in Ken’s. He comes from Mr. Japanese Nice Guy stock. Pit that against my fiery Balkan stock and it’s easy to see why we have so many ridiculous arguments.
And yet, very few of the how-to parenting manuals out there address these innate differences between us. Instead, they throw around words like Parenting on the Same Page, talk about Consistency and leave it at that. But what if you’re not a consistent person? Or what if you kinda are, sometimes, but right now you’re pissed at your husband because you didn’t give him a clear answer to a question he asked you last week, and he (with his Californian-Japanese upbringing) took this to mean Yes, yes of course, dear. So, even though your semi-silence meant I don’t agree with you but you’re not hearing me so let’s drop it in Chicagoan-Serbian speak, you’re now forced into an extremely belligerent-sounding I said no eighteen times so how the hell could you not have heard me?!
We have far too many conversations like this around our house. We could be talking about toilet paper or stocks; it doesn’t matter. By inevitably, they’re followed by the following thought: I love this man, I truly do. So how come I’m ready to push him off a cliff?
Our most recent ongoing disagreement revolves around house rules. About a year ago, I had an Oprah aha moment (otherwise known as an epiphany) that we could solve a lot of our problems by coming up with some house rules. Help keep the kids safe, lessen the amount of time we were spending arguing, that kind of thing. We’d all decided on our new family rules together, post them on the fridge and viola, problem solved.
Instead, we keep having the same argument over and over again. Every three months. (Or earlier, depending on how long it takes me to freak out.) Ken and I agree on the rules, tape them to the fridge, and then my wonderful, talented, incredibly-intelligent husband forgets them. Every time.
How do I know this? Well, he does it right in front of me. Plus, the kids always rat him out. Not on purpose, of course. They just can’t help it.
Like when my two-year-old, Gabriel, asked me to buy him an iPhone after his nap the other day.
I looked at him in shock. “What?”
“Mommy, buy me iPhone,” he repeated. “I need iPhone.”
And then it clicked. Ken must have been letting him watching YouTube on his iPhone again. At bedtime. Damn that motherfucker. We’ve already had the it’s-time-to-limit-the-video-and-YouTube-conversation at least four different times in the past two months, and god knows how many times we’ve agreed to not let the kids watch video before bed because it makes them so friggin crazy. Every time we discuss it, Ken looks me in the eye, and says “Yes, you’re right—they’re watching too many videos and too much YouTube.”
I eye him warily. I know he doesn’t believe this, that he’s just bowing down to the Commandant. But I’ll play. “OK, so what’s our rule going to be? How much can they watch a day?”
“One video each,” he recites dutifully. “Or no more than 20 minutes of YouTube.”
I sigh. “But, sweetie, we’ve had this same rule for months, and you never follow it. It drives me crazy when you pay lip service, but then turn around and ignore it.”
I rub my temples from the stroke I’m about to have. “I’d much rather we come up with rules we can both stick with,” I say. “So what do you think? If there’s something you want to change, I’d appreciate it if you could tell me now.”
But he just shakes his head. And once again I actually believe him.