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When “Opposites-Attract” Try To Parent Together.

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It was, for me, the only possible conclusion because how else could people throw out all common sense and be in love with someone they didn’t know? They must be cotton-headed ninny-muggins.

My theory was one of those elitist statements that the universe accepted as a challenge, and delightfully nurtured until the day my eyes first landed on my husband. He glowed, as if a spotlight followed him in the crowd. And the instant he spoke – SLAP! – my soul ricocheted to hell and back from the sharp impact of Karma’s fierce backhand. I stood there stunned, from love and humiliation; my cheeks streaked red from Irony’s long fingertips.

I had never met anyone like my husband before. He had traveled all over the world, yet he liked sports and to drink American beer.  He was so different from boys I used to date. He was never pretentious or morose. He didn’t have an artistic bone in his body. He never murmured moodily in corners.

We became a classic love-at-first-sight, opposites-attract romance. He is an optimist; I am positively going to see the negative. He is fun and outgoing. I won’t even look you in the eyes. He likes sports. I like things that make me appear better than you (Not you, them).

We fell hard and got married exactly a year after we met. We melded nicely with each other. He made me more hopeful, and I made him less wild. He loosened my death grip on every penny we made, and I helped him tolerate a nagging woman hog-tying him into a budget.

Our opposites strengthened us into more well-rounded people.

Or maybe that is just my nostalgia talking, but being opposites seemed less important before we started raising kid together. Now, living with someone who has my opposite ideals seems like it could have catastrophic results.

For example, the other day my husband and I had some new friends coming over. I spent the day frantically trying to clean the house in order to trick these people into believing we are not slobs. My husband, on the other hand, was happy to play on the computer all day.

Five minutes before they arrived, as I was scrubbing the last of the sticky finger prints from the walls, my husband sat down on the couch and started watching TV with our boys.

I about lost my mind.

This was not the staged “perfect family” picture that I wanted to represent, “We don’t have time for TV. We’re much too busy building eco-friendly, water filtration systems that we donated to third world countries.  Or we’re playing scrabble. Or learning the Periodic Table.”  Weren’t we? In my mind we were.

But my husband loves the fact that he can enjoy TV with his boys. He loves introducing them to new movies, new shows and new video games.

When our boys were still babies, barely able to throw a ball, my husband went out and bought a Nintendo WWII (pronounced World War We) video game console. Of course I thought he was buying it for himself, but then he said, “I got the Wii so the kids can play with me. It’s important that they learn to play video games.”

“What? I misunderstood you,” I said smelling burnt toast.

“I got the Wii so they can learn to play it, because it is important that they play video games,” he repeated.

Having a priority where kids need to learn video games caused my brain to overload. I couldn’t inquire further into his beliefs because all I could hear was my own brain fizzing and popping in disbelief. In my mind, saying that boys need to learn video games is equal to saying they need to learn to enjoy pornography or they need to practice eating extra fudge, three-scoop, ice cream sundaes.

My theory had always been that you hide the existence of video games from your children until the day you can no longer fight off the evil influence of the outside world. Then once they discover this treacherous past time, maybe they will have experienced enough of real life that their souls will resist being sucked lifeless by the siren’s call of virtual living.

I realized I was playing defense, trying to limit my children’s exposure to movies, TV and video games, and my own husband was actively trying to increase their exposure to it.  Are we on two different teams, because it seemed like we were battling towards opposite goals?

After the video game confession, I spent a few days fuming, smoke billowing out of my ears like the plumes of Rim Fire. What kind of life are these kids going to have if their dad is letting them play video games all day? I could only imagine them as overweight, sweat-pant wearing slobs, whose fingertips are permanently stained radioactive orange from their high Cheeto intake and who never move out of our house because their bodies have developed a symbiotic relationship with the couch cushions.

Eventually, after the smoke cleared, I wondered what their life would look like if they only experienced my non-artificially colored life of forced vegetables, fake smiles and complete ignorance of pop culture. Would their twenties be just as catastrophic if I forced everyone into to doing everything my way?

I have to tell myself that my husband’s ideas on parenting are just as legitimate as mine, not because he has researched, studied or worried as much as I have, but because they are his children too. At least 50% his anyway, and when he is the parent in charge I don’t get to undermined him with statistical, long term, negative analysis.

Out of respect.

His ideas are a little wrong and so are mine. Or a little right, (if you need to interject with your annoying optimism). Maybe our kids think too much about the side-effects of artificial coloring, and maybe they play too many video games, but battling for extremes may leave our kids right about in the middle.

Published inTill Death Do Us Contemplate

One Comment

  1. Cfabington Cfabington

    Oh, Chris, I don’t think you’re so negative! And your smile never looks fake! You can have a real smile over this terrific story….congratulations!

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