July 22, 2010...11:42 am

What’s gonna work? TEAMWORK!

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If you don’t automatically start singing the theme song to Wonder Pets when you read the above words, you either 1) Don’t have a toddler or 2) Are a much better parent than I am and don’t allow your toddler near the brain sucking powers of Nick Jr.

But, alas, I’m a TV girl. I always have been, no matter how much smarter I know I’d be if I just turned the TV off and read in the evening. So, despite my attempts at “no TV before the age of 2!” it just didn’t happen. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re an all TV all the time kind of family. My goal is no more than an hour a day for August…a show in the morning and one the afternoon. Sometimes I fail at that. Rarely I shock myself and we make it through a day with only 30 minutes worth of mind warping.

And I’d have to say that if there’s a marital parenting issue between my husband and I, it’s the TV thing. Chris doesn’t like that August watches TV. It’s not like I disagree. I don’t like it either. I feel serious guilt when I see his perfectly still body engrossed in the mesmerizing glitter of Yo Gabba Gabba. Toddlers aren’t supposed to sit still, eyes transfixed for thirty minutes at a time. They’re supposed to run and crash and build towers and make grown-ups beg for silence.

That’s why I let August watch TV: The need for silence.  I’ve got to take a shower. Or I need a break. Or I’ve got to get my post up and he’s crying every time I open my computer. For thousands of years, mothers have begged their toddlers to just sit still for half an hour so they can get something done. And here, in this moment of history, we actually have a tool that will silence our children! Too bad it also leads to ADHD and poorer performance in school.

So, when the subject comes up, I know where my husband stands on the issue. He knows where I stand: somewhere between guilt and relief that I could wash my hair today. And he chooses to submit to my need for a break, since I’m the one at home and he’s the one in work-ville. He submits out of love and also out of a desire for my sanity.

Today I came across two different pieces detailing the same sort of crisis, except much more extreme in terms of parental disagreement. Yesterday, a NYTimes blog Motherlode posted about a mother whose parenting style is so different from her spouse’s that it’s breaking apart their marriage. Parents magazine recently ran an article titled “How to Fight in Front of Your Kids,” which was basically the tale of one uptight Give-the-kids-a-healthy-breakfast-and-get-them-outside-mama versus her Sit-in-front-of-the-laptop-while-the-kids-watch-TV-husband.

Those articles have made me think today about what it means for husbands and wives to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” especially when it comes to the passionate, craze-inducing issues of child-rearing.

What do you think? Do you and your spouse usually agree on issues of parenting? What do you do when you can’t agree?


  • Loren says to tell you that when we can’t agree we play bloody knuckles until someone can’t handle the pain anymore. :)

    We have always the hardest time with parenting issues in the first year of each child’s life (so far). I think it mostly comes down to a mother’s inability to withstand her child crying for too long and a father’s seeming inability to be affected by it at all. (How do they do that?) We just have some different ideas about what babies need. And mostly, we try to work out some sort of reasonable consensus, while agreeing that probably neither one of us can say for sure that he/she is right. And, we have had lots of conversations where, at the end, the best we could do was acknowledge that we truly believe the other wants what is best and isn’t attacking our ability as a parent. Those words, and the knowledge that they are said in all sincerity, go a long way in smoothing over some of the conflicts in our style. Because when your spouse thinks you are a great parent and tells you so, it makes you more apt to hear their ideas as ideas rather than as an attack on your ability.

  • Wow. I really appreciate this post, Micha! Partially, because I’ve found that recently the TV and Kids issue is a controversial one. I am much like you - I grew up on TV - and while it doesn’t rule my life, I really enjoy it. And I turned out ok. Sometimes with life - it is a matter of what works for you. I don’t LOVE that Lucy watches TV. But she does. Like August, I aim for no more than 60 minutes a day. That might mean 1 Sesame Street in the morning, and nothing in the afternoon. Or, maybe one Calliou in the afternoon if our morning was busy. On rainy, bad days, it might be more. Many days it might be no TV at all! But Lucy is turning out great. She’s smart, kind, funny. I try to monitor WHAT TV she watches - I go for PBS/Sprout and educational. She likes Sesame Street, Sid, Super Why, Calliou and The Wiggles. She has learned things - new words, new ideas, new concepts. So I don’t feel terrible - but you are right - in some ways, I WISH I could have been the Mom who never introduced the TV - the simple woman who leads the simple life. But I’m not. Not yet. And we’ll all be ok.

    Sometimes, Bill and I don’t see eye to eye on parenting. Mainly, we are on the same page. Bill used to not like that Lucy watched TV sometimes. But since he comes home all Summer, he has started to realize it helps. And isn’t awful. And he allows her too.

    What I don’t appreciate - and I hope to post on this soon, because it’s been an issue really eating at me - is how many parents (particularly Moms) are REALLY judgemental. I try to have the perspective that people do what works for THEM. As long as a child is getting their basic needs met (love being a basic need, mind you), and is not in danger - people have to do what gets them through the day. Sure, there are limits to that. But I think sometimes it is difficult for the working spouse to understand why the stay-at-home spouse makes the decisions they make. But I believe that if the working spouse spent a week or 2 ALONE caring for the child day and in day out, they might have a better understanding? BUT - we as parents should SUPPORT one another, try to understand - even if we don’t necessarily agree.

    That’s why I love your blog - I really resound with your perspective on a lot of things. Thanks, Micha!

  • I am not a parent. I’m not even married. So I have nothing to add to this discussion… except bewilderment that I know that song from Wonder Pets and was totally just singing it in my head. In fact, it will probably be stuck there for the rest of the day.

    Pathetic? Or a testament to Nick Jr.’s brain sucking powers? :)

  • Love this discussion. My husband and I were raised so differently, and so we sometimes do clash over parenting issues. The TV is a major thing - I also try to limit how long my son watches TV, but I make sure what he watches is good stuff - PBS, mostly (we don’t get Sprout on our cable lineup, which is good, since I am afraid I would totally abuse it.) We do love TV in our house - unabashedly - and I worry about watching certain things in front of Thomas, while my husband doesn’t. I was a really scaredy cat kid who had nightmares about Freddy Kruger and Jason from scary movies, even though I never SAW those movies. I have no idea if I saw commercials or just was spooked by the movie posters at the video stores. Who knows? My husband went to scary movies with his grandma in the theater - so our ideas of appropriate are very different!

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