Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mom vs Dad: Is one more influential?

(From the Best of The Soulful Parent)

Have you ever listen to your child speak and realize that you are listening to a “mini-version” of your spouse? Do you smile or cringe?

My husband and I are very, very different in so many ways. He is a first generation “German-American” while I am a transplant from the tropical lands of Central America. My parents were very involved in the education of all of us (3 girls) in a modern society that still had some vestige of machismo and chauvinism. My dad taught us girls to be self-sufficient and be able to take care of ourselves, always. They were supportive, but incredibly strict. My husband’s parents were concerned with surviving in what seemed like a hostile environment coming from small towns in Germany after WWII.

So, you get the picture. Here comes our daughter, born into this interesting mix of cultures, ethnic backgrounds and men vs women differences. As she's growing up sh is trying to figure her own way around this complicated world we live in. I am proud that since English is my second language, I have put great emphasis on her grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and expressive skills. I have taught her my native Spanish and shared with her the beauty of my native Panama. I have taught her to cook, to knit, to meditate, to pray, but most of all, I have taught her the importance of compassion, generosity , empathy and acceptance.

My husband has taken care of other aspects of her upbringing, that are just as important: pride in her school work, the rewards of getting past the fear and trying something new, the incredible importance of play, what appropriate affection looks like, and the love for the arts. He has shown her so much of his passion, photography, that it brings joy to my heart!

When it comes to parenting this very inquisitive, savvy, eloquent, stubborn, sassy 8 year-old, we find ourselves in the land of conflict many times: eat everything in your plate vs. eat until your tummy is full, go to your room and sit on the bed doing nothing vs. go in your room and read a book until you are ready to talk respectfully; you eat what has been prepared vs. you can make yourself a healthy alternative; you do not talk back at all vs. listen if you speak kindly.

We don’t disagree in front of her. We honor what the other one has decided on a specific situation and give her room to “complain” to the other parent, many times in an attempt to change the outcome of the discipline efforts. She NEVER finds that alternative a reality. But at least, she gets to give her feelings a voice without offending or disregarding the parent that gave the final word.

This morning, I heard our daughter say: I don’t know what the hell that was about! She was referring to something that had happened on a new Wii game she was playing with her dad. Now, for the record, that’s my husband talking. I can’t tell you how annoyed I was. Half of the time I feel I spend “translating” to our daughter my husband colloquial English: “that’s bad” actually means something is really cool. Someone “peels the shirt” means they take it off and so on.

Why can’t she repeat the things I tell her: People first, money second, things third (Suze Orman’s mantra). Or, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. Or, “what matters is what’s on the inside”. Or yet, “Shake your bootie”.. Ok, it can’t all be appropriate!

As I am writing this in my office upstairs, I can hear them laughing hysterically downstairs. Our daughter has challenged him to a game of Wii and they are teasing each other about who is going to “smoke” who. She giggles and he laughs listening to her. She offers him a piece of her Valentine’s candy. I hear her ask him what he wants her to make him for Valentine’s day. His answer is: make me…….. smile! And my heart melts for this man that I adore and who is more than half of who she is at any given time.

My grandma had many wise words of advice and one thing she always told me: Only marry the guy that if your children turned out just like him, you’d be Ok with that. You know what? I did.

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