Kids are always watching and always listening. This is especially true with my own children, who seem to appear out of nowhere at the slightest elevation of either mine or my partner's voice. I know they're naturally curious and want to be "in the know" while simultaneously making sure that their dad and I remain cool, calm, and collected, but damn are they nosey. I've realized our "fights" are teachable moments, though, and that there are arguments you'll have with your partner that'll teach your kids something positive, even if it wasn't your initial intention. At the end of the day, arguments and disagreements happen, but it's how you navigate those potentially tense situations that make all the difference.
Just this week, my partner and I have had more than our fair share of arguments. I wish I could say otherwise, but after relocating from the Midwest down to Florid a couple months ago, we're still struggling. Everything seems different, there's been a period of mass readjustment, and we're still picking up the pieces in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Our emotions are running hot, our patience is dangerously thin, and as a result of the seemingly never-ending stress we're arguing about everything. Who's getting up first to start breakfast? Who's going to get milk from the store? Who deleted the DVR on accident? Who is sleeping more? Who is cooking less? Seriously, it's been a long week.
In the end, I've been forced to not only confront the real issues behind these arguments, but realize how to argue in a way that's beneficial for all involved — including my children. I want them to realize that a healthy debate is OK, that two people don't always have to agree, and that a resolution based on mutual compromise is possible. So with that in mind, here are a few "fights" that might just end up benefitting your children.
The Money Argument
My partner and I have argued about money since the day we met. It's not something either of us had very much of, and it took both of us awhile to figure out how to manage it. As a result, it's important our children see these arguments as examples of how to manage money at an early age. I want both of my kids to be independent, and I definitely don't want them to have to rely on a romantic partner in order to move about the world. When my partner and I argue about spending, savings, and grocery lists, our kids get to watch us find solutions to finance troubles and how much thought goes into providing for a household. In my opinion, that's a good thing.
The Bodily Autonomy Argument
Whatever I do to or with my body is my choice. Sometimes, my well-meaning partner tries to show me physical affection that I'm simply not ready for. When I tell him "no" and he asks me why (usually to make sure I'm OK and nothing is wrong), my kids get to witness consent in action. No one has the right to touch me without my permission, including my husband.
The Consent Argument
Likewise, we have some growing concerns with consent in my house and it's bugging the hell out of me. While I'm constantly trying to get my 5-year-old son to understand that he cannot touch my butt whenever he wants, I'm also trying to get my 10-year-old daughter to stop hugging her little brother when he's pushing her away.
I have high-functioning depression, which means my mood can shift at any moment and, when it does, I want to be left alone. When I change my mind and want my personal space, instead of time cuddling with my husband, and I let my partner know in front of my kids, they are learning that they can withdrawal their consent at any moment. They're learning that "yes" doesn't mean "yes forever," and "no" never means "try harder."
The Political Argument
There's no better way to show your children that their voice matters than choosing to speak up about politics. My partner and I disagree on a few subjects, so when our oldest overhears our politically-charged discussions I make sure to pull her aside and explain the often complex topics. At the end of the day, even if my daughter doesn't understand the current political climate in its entirety, she realizes that there's absolutely no reason to sit on the sidelines and not be involved.
The Date Night Argument
I want both my kids to have partners who make their relationship a priority. I'd love to lead by example, of course, but there's only so many hours in the day. So, at the very least, my children realize that a romantic relationship takes work. It's an investment.
The Teamwork Argument
More often than not, if my partner and I are arguing it's about my workload versus his. I do a lot for my family. Like, a lot. Hell, I do damn near everything and it's exhausting. When my kids overhear us discuss the unfair distribution of household responsibilities, they realize that it's important to address any unbalance within a relationship, especially if it involves parenting.
The Grocery List Argument
I don't want to be rude, but if my kids catch me yelling about the meal planning or grocery list — that no one helps with but feels the need to constantly complain about after I've come home from the damn store — so be it. If anything, it'll teach my partner, and my kids, to be more involved.
The Self-Care Argument
I make no apologies for holding space for myself so I can care for my mental or physical health. Every now and then, though, it becomes an issue due to my partner's schedule. And when it does, you better believe we discuss it. My kids are going to learn (sometimes through our arguments and when I'm frustrated) that without proper self-care, you cannot care for anyone else. Ever.
The Right Vs. Wrong Argument
My partner and I are polar opposites. Sometimes it works and we can play off one another's strengths, but other times, well, we just argue. Sometimes we have different ideas of what is "right" and "wrong," especially when it comes to parenting, and we have to discuss our differences in order to get back on the same page.
After 13 years together, we're still working out the kinks. Through all the arguments our kids have witnessed, though, I hope that we're teaching them that even though we're not perfect, we're still willing to do the work to find common ground and better understand one another. That, in the end, is what a partnership is really all about.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.