My husband and I were arguing yesterday in the car. (Why yes! We do argue! Although it’s only about, you know, whether Ernie or Burt is cooler, or what the lyrics really are to Blondie’s “Rapture.” Never any REAL. ISSUES. This is blogland, after all!) Punky and Bruiser were sitting in the backseat behind us.
Like most parents, Hubs and I are in agreement that we shouldn’t argue in front of the kids. The problem is that the kids are always with me. Always. Hubs and I literally have an hour and a half to ourselves each night, which is fine in general and we make the most of it, but when things get heated between us (“Burt!” “Ernie!”), I’ve found that my anger isn’t always willing to make an appointment.
So this particular argument ended with Hubs saying some not-very-nice words to me and me saying some to him. I’ll tell you what mine were:
Now, I know this kind of thing doesn’t come anywhere near Jerry Springer/Cheaters/COPS territory. But that didn’t matter. Because as we parked at the YMCA and I helped Punky out of the backseat, she said quietly, “Mommy, what you are doing makes me very sad. Because we’re not supposed to say mean things to people or say ‘shut up,’ and you and Daddy both did that.”
In that moment, I felt like a cold claw had clutched my heart.
“I know, Punky,” I said, holding both her hands in mine. “I made a mistake and I shouldn’t have used those words. And I’m sorry.” I got her out of the car and we walked quietly to the nursery. And then I got on the elliptical and thought about what I had done.
I have spent five long years carefully guarding the hearts and minds of my children. I have done everything I could to teach them the virtues of love, generosity, patience, and forgiveness. I have spent thousands of hours of time with them, reinforcing those virtues at every opportunity.
And here I was, undoing all that work with my own bad behavior.
My kids don’t need to hear me argue with their father and they certainly don’t need to hear me say things to him that I’ve taught them never to say. What was I doing to my daughter by showing her that side of me? Why would I spend so much time tending and protecting my children and then introduce fear and worry into their hearts because of my own actions? And I’ll be honest- I’ve let my anger with Hubs get the best of me more than once when they’ve been around.
Coincidentally, I’m reading a book called Revolutionary Parenting right now that details the results of extensive research on parents who have raised “spiritual champions.” Here’s what it says about the parents of these now-grown children:
From my observation of and conversations with these parents, it appears that their core values- love, obedience, servanthood, compassion, grace, good citizenship, humility, respect and so forth- were consistently put into practice, enabling their budding spiritual champions to pick up those values, whether they were verbalized or not.
I think that as a parent, I really need to focus a little less on teaching and more on doing.
Because in that hour that I was exercising at the Y, the full realization of what I was doing to my children hit me, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so ashamed of myself in my entire life. When it was time to go, I went to my husband and told him I was sorry. I told him I would never, ever argue with him like that in front of the kids again. Ever.
And that’s why I’m writing this post now, I suppose. Because I really did mean what I said. I’m going cold turkey on this one. Too much is at stake. And if you’re where I am as a parent, I hope you’ll join me.
Originally published on SuburbanTurmoil