My partner and I are going on 13 years together. We've been in a band together, left the band together, had children together, suffered two miscarriages together, and fought through the usual ups and downs of any long relationship. We've essentially grown up together, having spent almost as much of our time together as we have apart. It's funny to think of it in those terms, specifically because we're so different. Despite my usually authoritarian parenting philosophy, there's some positive lessons I've actually learned from my passive parenting partner. Without them, I wouldn't have anything to balance me out when it comes to raising our precious children.
Don't get me wrong — I'm not all rules and "fun police," as I'm so affectionally called when I insist a rule is followed in order for danger to be averted. It's just that I'm home with my two children all day while my partner works, so I'm typically the "ruler of all things." I didn't apply for that position so much as it was given to me. Hey, someone has to do the dirty work, right?
In being the rule-enforcer most of the time, my passive partner tends to sit back and let things ride. That's so not my thing. In all this time together as parents, though, I've learned from this attitude and have tried to lean into it as much as possible and as much as my personality will allow. Here are some of those lessons I've picked up during our parenting journey, with the hopes that I've rubbed off on him, too.
Take A Breath
My partner is great at forcing me out of a panic-stricken state and into a calmer, more aware place of parenting. His gentle parenting and passivity, while frustrating at times, also reminds me that not everything is the end of the world. When I'm hyperventilating over food smashed into the couch cushion, he's right there to help me find my breaths so I can bring myself back to a rational place before reacting.
Don't Rule From Emotion
I react to things quickly. I can't help it, as it's honestly just a consequence of my passionate personality. It's not always the right way to handle things when you're a parent,t hough.
While I never react with physical anger, I sometimes speak from frustration when I catch my kids in trouble and it can make the situation worse. When my partner is around dealing with the very same situations, he (mostly) takes a moment to calm himself before handling things.
Not Everything Is A Big Deal
I'm a mom who, from time to time, overreacts. Shocking, I know.
If my son skins his knee, I'm ready to rush him to the closest emergency room. If my daughter fails a single math test, I'm looking up numbers of tutors. My partner is more likely to see how things play out before stepping in. It's against my nature, but I'm finding the more I take a page out of his book, the easier it is for my kids to find their own way.
It's OK To Live Beyond The Kids
Before I fell into competitive running, or poured myself into writing full-time, my partner was amazing at ensuring he did self-care things that made him happy. In making sure he was happy all on his own, he improved as a father.
In the beginning, I took this personally. I felt it was counter-intuitive to put yourself first when you have small children; selfish, even. In being a passive parent and taking time for himself, though, my partner has showed me that the opposite is actually true. I don't have to be so strict, especially when it comes to my own happiness.
Let Kids Be Kids
I still struggle with this one because, at times, my anxiety is so severe I have a hard time letting go. My kids want to play in the mud, for example, but I can't get past the mess or the germs. My partner , on the other hand, would let them have fun and worry about the inevitable mess later. He lets them enjoy more of their childhood than I typically do, so I'm trying to let them play a more active role in their own lives without my constant hovering or rule-making.
To balance things, I only ask that my partner is the next one to announce when it's bedtime (aka the worst announcement of the day).
It's OK To Chill Out
Before I met my partner I didn't know how to relax. Like, at all. To be honest, I still haven't embraced the mindset because I'm so busy taking care of everything all the time. Who has time to "relax?" My partner does, apparently, and he seems to be a lot happier and more carefree than me so it can't be all bad to chill out a little, right? I'm working on it.
I'll Always Be Loved
After all this time together, the biggest lesson I've learned from my parenting partner — despite the differences in our natural parenting philosophies — is that there's little we can do that will affect how much our children love us. I tend to be very hard on myself, especially if I've done something to hurt one of my children's feelings. My partner, on the other hand, just intuitively knows his kids love him when he makes mistakes. The longer we're together, the more I appreciate our differing takes on parenting. It's helped us evolve far past anything we could do individually, and while I don't tell him nearly enough, he's helped me become the mom I've always wanted to be.