Last month we took the family bowling for the first time. It was actually at a family reunion, so there were three generations of bowlers. It was, of course, it was my son’s first time at a bowling alley. He loved it! Even with a grand total of 15 points. (Alas, there were no bumpers on our lane).
I had the camera and was busy getting action shots of my many, many cousins. Father and son were arranging the metal ramp thing that the kids can use to aim their roll. Apparently he hit smashed his finger in between the metal and the bowling ball. Ouch. That hurts.
As I took this picture, someone near me, newly pregnant, watched me click away and said, somewhat sarcastically,
“Your son is crying, and you’re taking a picture.”
I looked at her, trying to decide how to answer. It was clear she thought I should put down the camera and rush to my son’s side. Maybe you’re thinking that too. But in this case, I sincerely believe that I was in the right place, which was at the sideline. Why? Because I love and respect my husband, and his abilities as a father.
That bowling moment was between father and son. They had been planning, aiming, figuring how how to bowl with the sweet logic of a 3-year-old mind. They had picked a green ball, carried it together and heaved it onto that aiming thing. The pinched finger was an accident, of course, and he just needed a good cry in Dad’s shoulder to feel much better.
What message would I have sent by swooping in there to “save” my son? “Sorry Hubs, you can’t handle a crying child. Let me do that for you." Or... “It’s ok son, I’ll save you from Dad's mistakes.”
Stepping in at that moment would have undermined my son’s relationship with his father. It also, at a base level, would have undermined my own relationship with my husband, and my trust and faith in his abilities as a parent.
I want my kids to have trusting, loving relationships with both of their parents. I have a way that I do things as a mother, and it’s a good way. My husband has a way of doing things as a father, and it’s a good way. They are different ways. That is good for everyone involved- we learn and grow from each other, refining our personalities and patterns as we go. I see ways my husband talks to the kids, or ways he holds them, distracts them, or comforts them. It’s not often the way I would do things, but it works. It actually works really well, because our kids see that there are lots of ways to do things – that there are many ways to look at a problem, and all of them are valid.
It’s hard to explain this to a non-parent. Actually, it’s hard to explain it to parents sometimes, because it is so easy to become entrenched in the belief that our way is the best way- that only I can rock the baby just right, or that my sleep routine is the one and only way to get the kids to go to sleep. But really, everyone can benefit from the concept that there are many ways to do things- and all of them are valid.
My husband is an incredible father, and I learn so much from watching him parent our children. I learn more about myself and why I do things, and often, how I could do them better.
So I turned to this person, bite my tongue from everything all this explanation that she hasn't experienced yet, and simply said, "Yes, I'm taking a picture. Isn't he a great dad?" I hope she understands someday.