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Parenting as Venn Diagram

by The Next Family June 01, 2011

By: Danny Thomas

Jen and I co-parent  (as much as I dislike that term, I haven’t come up with a better one, yet).  We operate as a team on so many levels, always have, even before we were parents, instinctively, and yet…

There is so much to talk about and so much that we don’t have time to talk about.

I think we, as parents, have instincts, techniques, styles that are not always the same, and I often have to remind myself that both perspectives, even while they are divergent, are valuable to our children’s experience and development. We give each other little reminders now and then, temper, tone, patience, relax… Sometimes the reminder happens now when it should wait until then…

In some cases, obviously, we have to come to an agreement, a compromise; in others we are seeking solutions together, sometimes desperately; and in still others we coax each other along – it requires fluid, on-the-fly, adaptability… as well as a solid plan of action.  We took some classes, we’ve talked things thru… we’ve had some counseling, all of that has helped, and yet…

There are things that are not so much situations or decisions, just the how of parenting… the moments, our bodies and our voices, how we talk and move, how we play and work…

And there are times when I find myself thinking, by reflex, that my “how” is better or smarter or more efficient. Or times when I feel guilty or bad for not being able to work or talk with our kids the way Jen does. I try to remind myself, in those moments, that neither is better, neither is worse, that both ways have value, in fact, that the old platitude, “it takes a village to raise a kid…” while it may seem trite, is, after all, a belief I subscribe too. Many points of view, many styles of motivation, discipline, many styles of work, and play are important, healthy for my kids to experience. Even beyond Jen and me, our friends and family, teachers and coaches, directors and dance instructors, all have something to offer, a different viewpoint or strategy for tackling a problem, celebrating an accomplishment.

The kids respond differently to us, we respond differently to the kids and that’s a good thing… the kids are not the only ones who have something to learn from that experience.

This last month Jen and I each took a week to travel. We are not generally a couple who travel apart, and the idea of separate vacations, while in theory may sound nice, I think we depend on and enjoy each other too much for the reality of that to appeal to us.  We just both happened to have things come up – neither of which was vacation, per se, but I think both of us felt rested and refreshed as a result. I think the time away gave us perspective.

It certainly allowed me to see, both while she was gone, and while I was away, how much we work together as a team, how much we accomplish together, and how much I depend on her voice, her strength, and her humor. It became crystal clear to me, the venn diagram that is our relationship, our marriage, and our family…

There are places where we intersect, we meet in the middle, on occasion we push, pull, or cajole each other into that middle ground, and there are parts of us that will never intersect. And our kids need all of that, and bring their own stuff into the mix as well…

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