Apples and oranges of parenting
by Donna Tull-Cox
About eight years ago I took a week-long business trip. As I shared my plans with colleagues, there was concern over what would happen to our two children? With whom was I leaving them? Who would cook their meals? Who would get them ready for school? I had not given that much thought to our children’s new ‘predicament’ because I was the only parent travelling. Their father with whom they lived was going to take care of his children for a whole week. Big deal! However, many of my colleagues, friends and even family offered to take on various tasks. Needless to say, the food and baked goods were readily accepted, however, everything else the children needed was provided by their father.
On my return, I was met at the airport by a toddler in clean pyjamas, a nine-year-old wearing her Sunday School skirt, an old tee-shirt and flip-flops and a surprisingly happy, well-rested-looking husband! They were happy to see me after my trip, but wanted one more afternoon of Daddy-in-charge. I was shocked, and secretly disappointed that I did not return to find chaos. How did they manage without me?
Years later I finally had the nerve to ask our children who was the better parent, their father, or me. I was told that you cannot compare apples and oranges, they are both good, just different.
They told me that their father simply did things differently. He is not as gentle in handling them, but his roughness toughened them up. With me they are washed, with him they are scrubbed. With me hair is brushed and teased into style, with him it is raked and pulled into submission. With me, clothes are to be worn at certain times, and to specific places. With him as long as clothes are clean and still fit, they could be worn. They welcome the different style of parenting their father brings.
They said that their father has taught them about men, in a way that I could never teach. While our daughter has learnt about being treated like a lady from her father, our son has learnt how a man should treat a lady, and stand up for what he knows is right, even though it might not be popular. And my son added that he has also learned how to urinate while standing in the bathroom. A feat he was especially proud to add that I could never teach him.
Their father’s physical play, is very different from my mind games, giving them the best of both worlds. They could wrestle and negotiate at the same time. Where I would jump in to help them with their challenges, their father’s approach is to watch them get out of their challenges on their own, but be there for them should they become overwhelmed. It has built their confidence.
Their father does not mince words when it comes to discipline; there are no discussions, nor acceptable excuses for wrongdoings. Wrong is wrong, and rules are to be changed not broken. It has taught them about responsibility for their actions, about considering the consequences of their actions before they commit any act, good or bad.
Through our daily father led prayers, our children have learnt that they are a part of something much greater than they and that respect is due.
Our children learned that fatherhood is about ownership, responsibility, and relationship. They are their father’s children, he takes care of them because they are his responsibility, and in doing so, they have a loving relationship that is so strong it helps them grow.
Am I jealous? No. Not really. Children need apples and oranges. I am willing to make some room in the fruit basket to celebrate fatherhood!
*Donna Tull-Cox is the Managing Director of Parent Empowerment Network. # 46 Dayrells Rd. St. Michael 271-0975