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My Husband's the Good Guy and I'm the Bad Guy

It’s one of those nights. I’m tired, my husband’s had a long day, and our kid is in a bad mood that he’s determined to inflict upon us as hard as possible. What is it about a 2-year-old where the crabbier he is, the clingier he gets? I know when I’m feeling grouchy, I try to keep to myself but when our kid is cranky, he’s all over me--especially when I’m doing something like cooking a meal that involves sharp knives and flames.

My instinct, when the kid is in one of those moods (which, to his credit, is only maybe once or twice a week), is to ignore him as much as possible and hope that perhaps he’ll get distracted by a toy or something else. My husband’s approach, on the other hand, is a much more kid-friendly. He entertains Paul, tries to distract him with jokes and songs and laughs, seems impervious to the whining and crying and whining-crying. Sometimes it works! Other times it doesn’t. We have two different approaches. So why does that bother me?

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Because, I know that Steve’s version is kinder than ignoring our son, and it’s definitely kinder than snapping and yelling “ALL RIGHT!” and maybe later, during the extended remix portion of the tantrum, pouring the shampoo-rinseout water on his head a little more aggressively than normal. Steve’s version is not just kinder to Paul, but a sign of a better person, a gentler, more good-humored, more patient person. It’s proof that he’s nice and I’m mean.

But at other times, whether he does it on purpose or not, my husband reverse-psychologies me, and I work to prove to him that I can be gentle and sing songs and be kind when my son really, really makes it hard.

Occasionally, I feel a little bit sancti-daddied. Steve doesn’t try make me feel bad, but he isn’t afraid to point out that my kid and I know how to get under each others’ skin. What I really dislike is when Steve jumps in and offers to run interference when Paul’s in a horrible mood, because I resent the implication that I somehow can’t control myself or be kind or gentle. “You two can just push each other’s buttons,” he explains. Yeah, but maybe I want the opportunity to work on my patience or at least don’t want to feel like I’m doing a bad job. I know he’s trying to help, but sometimes it just feels like I’m being told I need my own time-out.

Sometimes, I just give in and let Steve take over in those situations. Why be stupid? I worked a full workday, drove two hours in traffic, made dinner. It’s not wrong to accept some time to myself when it’s offered to me. But at other times, whether he does it on purpose or not, my husband reverse-psychologies me, and I work to prove to him that I can be gentle and sing songs and be kind when my son really, really makes it hard. Even in those moments, I can’t be as fun and clowny as Daddy can, but at least I can be quiet and non-reactively let my son have his angry or exhausted moment and then be there when he’s done.

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I actually feel like I’m doing a pretty okay job so far (I know how new at this I am: check in in about 28 years.) But having someone show you how much better you could be doing sometimes makes you feel bad.

As a very strange aside, the other day I looked up my son’s astrological sign, Leo, and marveled at what a Leo he is—outgoing, courageous, a showboat, everything that I love about him. And I realized that he and I, an Aries, have the same astrological element—we’re both fire signs. So maybe it’s not just me. Whether it’s in the stars or just in our blood, my son and I are cut from the same cloth. Pushing each others’ buttons isn’t always a good thing, but knowing that it means we’re close in a certain way_a sometimes obnoxious, exhausting way—makes me smile. I might be the bad guy (at least, in comparison to the good guy), but that’s still my boy.

Image via Flickr/Carl Carpenter

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