Like it or not, our culture seems to expect different things of dads and moms. Dads are often praised for completing even the most basic parenting tasks, while moms are criticized when they don't do everything perfectly all of the time. It really sucks. On the other side of the equation, however, dads are not expected to be good (or even competent) parents. Dads on sitcoms are often clueless, and when they mess up, moms swoop in to fix their mistakes. So it might surprise you to learn how much my significant other has taught me about parenthood.
Those lessons started from the beginning of our relationship. The very first conversation we had was about bedtime (so sexy, right?). My kids were finally asleep after an hour-long bedtime routine, and his were getting there. He actually messaged me from the big chair outside their rooms, where he sat each night until they fell asleep. I remember thinking that it was so nice to chat with another parent about the realities of being a single parent and strategies for getting your kids to go the f*ck to sleep, when so many times, the people I dated didn't want to hear about my kids at all. Through these stories about his parenting adventures, I got to know him and love him, not only as a man but as a dad, too. Plus, he had so many tricks up his sleeves.
Years later, after blending our families, having a baby together, and facing new challenges as a united front, my partner still teaches me things and shows me new ways to raise our children that I honestly would never have tried, had I not had him in my life.
Get Silly With Your Kids
It's hard to find laughter and break tension when you have a lot on your plate. As parents, we often find ourselves in tough situations, pleading with our children to listen to what we said, eat the food we cooked, and for the love of all that is holy, go to sleep. My significant other has an innate ability to get even the most crabby kid to laugh, or at least crack a smile. Mostly with dad humor, because dad humor totally works.
Fill Your Kids' Buckets
In our family we often talk about feeling happy and sad in terms of buckets. This comes from a brilliant book about kindness called "Have You Filled A Bucket Today." In the story, everybody has an invisible bucket. When it's full, they feel happy, and when it's empty, they feel sad. You can fill someone's bucket through acts of kindness.
When my husband sees that one of our kids is feeling down, he finds a way to fill their bucket via a smile, a high five, a joke, a complement, some one-on-one time, or even a video game. No matter what, and always, he finds out what they need and tries to make it happen.
Find Out If Your Kids Are Hungry
When one of our children is having a hard time (or giving us a hard time), my first question is, "What's wrong with you?" My partner's first question is always, "When did you eat last?" I always forget that we all get cranky when our blood sugar is low.
Do One-On-One Time With Your Kids
Each of our five children thrive when they get one-on-one time with a parent every day. This personal attention shows them that they matter and allows them to shine.
Make Sure Your Kids Take Screen Breaks
As tempting as it is to let your kids watch TV or play video games all day on a Saturday, my husband taught me the importance of screen breaks. While allowing our kids to zone out on screens all day might be the easier way to go in theory, doing so usually backfires. When your kids' bodies need to get some energy out but they've been sitting on the couch all day, they'll probably end up starting a fight club in the basement. Just sayin'.
Tire Your Kids Out
Yes, a little exercise is necessary every day. It helps us all be calmer and sleep better. Do you have crabby or antsy kids? Make them run laps or jump on the trampoline. It seriously works.
Cooperative Games Foster Friendship With Your Kids
Before I met my partner, I had never heard of cooperative games. What's the point of playing a game that no one wins? It turns out there are several, actually. Cooperative games teach team-building, problem-solving, leadership, and collaboration, and when you learn those things, everyone wins.
A Routine For Your Kids Is Key
It was hard to maintain routines as a single parent, which totally sucked, because kids thrive on routines. My husband is the king of checklists, goal sheets, calendars, and meal plans. We all thrive when we know what to expect.
It's OK To Break The Rules Sometimes
However, it's also OK to break the rules sometimes. I was pretty set in my ways before I met my husband. Our parenting styles were pretty different. I have definitely learned to lighten up on the rules that don't matter.
Find Time For You & Your Partner Every Day
My partner and I need to fill each other's buckets, too. It can be hard to find time to nourish our relationship so it can thrive, though, and especially in the middle of all that parenting we do every damn day. My partner prioritizes time for us frequently, though, whether it's asking each other silly questions (and constantly being surprised by the answers), having spontaneous sexy time, or simply rubbing my tired feet while I feed the baby. It may be hard, but it's totally worth it, and totally makes us better parents.