I ain't got no kids. But someday I might. And sometimes Greg and I lie down in the bed at night and talk about everything the future holds. Are we going to be good parents? Are we going to be able to provide for ourselves? Are all of our kids going to come out as pale freckly ginger freaks? (Hey! The odds are in their favor!)
Last night we had a conversation about how one day we'd be parents and one day we'd have to make tough calls with our children and we might want to parent differently and how in the world do you raise a teenager?
And do you know what I got to thinking?
How about fights? (I guess I like to talk about fighting in marriage!) Is it okay to argue/discuss/disagree in front of children? In my home when my parents were having a disagreement they went into another room, or else sent us kids downstairs. I'll be the first to admit that I sat on the stairs and listened to their arguments. I wanted to know how it worked. Why was dad frustrated? Why was mom crying? What was going on here and why couldn't I listen to it?
A month or so ago I read something that said parents shouldn't argue in front of their kids. And I guess that thought has just been mulling around up in my head ever since. Then tonight I read another article that said that when parents argue in front of kids it can cause the kids to have unhealthy future relationships.
So I got to thinking about it all.
And you know what I think?
I think that's crap.
Of course I don't want to be at Greg's throat all the time with little kids around, and no one wants parents who can't stop bickering. But I think kids can see the way their parents argue and learn from it. I think a positive role model of how to work through disagreements is not only okay, but preferable.
My parents always worked out their issues behind closed doors. It didn't even dawn on me until I was married that they had big issues. Of course they do. Every couple does. But I honestly did not know this until I was married myself.
The first few months of marriage I was overwhelmed. I couldn't cook to save my life, Greg and I both had crazy expectations, and it seemed like we were disappointing each other over and over. Neither of us wanted to make the other one upset, but it was like we just couldn't help it, we kept not coming through for the other one.
I felt almost guilty for these disagreements. Like we weren't a perfect enough couple or in love enough because there were suddenly so many things we needed to work through. I've mentioned before that early on in our marriage I thought every fight meant we were getting divorced. I honestly started to wonder if we weren't going to make it because we had fights. I didn't realize that this is normal. No other couples talked about their arguments. My newly married friends never admitted to me that they argued (Of course not, every relationship is perfect!) And I didn't see my parents work through their disagreements. In fact, the only thing that helped me was knowing that my brother and his wife had also had a hard time adjusting to marriage. That was the sole thing that let me know that maybe Greg and I weren't freaks, maybe we weren't mismatched, maybe it was just a natural getting married and moving in together and learning how to make all your decisions together stage. I wonder if I had watched my parents/ siblings/ friends/ neighbors work through disagreements if I would have been more comfortable in my own marriage those first months. If I would have had more confidence and security knowing that surely every couple has to figure out how to work through problems together?
Maybe I'm way off base here, but I'd love your opinion on the matter. Do you have arguments in front of your kids or do you take them to another room? Did your parents argue in front of you? And please, someone, can't you just give us all the right answers already?
(excerpts of this originally published January 2013)