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Mother Knows Best… But Father Gets Heard?

Does this happen in your house: Mom makes a reasonable request, and gets hammered with pushback, arguments, and grief? Dad makes the same request, and it’s no big deal. These are some frustrating gender dynamics, to say the least, and an important reminder that every parent needs back up from time to time.

Isaac comes downstairs this morning wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

“What are you doing?!” Laurie says to him. “It’s 35 degrees outside!”

Isaac gives her a look of genuine confusion.

“The high today is in the 40s,” she continues.

“But I like this shirt,” Isaac says.

“I know this,” she says. “That’s what you said two days ago when you tried to wear it and I told you to change.”

He takes a moment to consider his next move, which I can tell is just another attempt to stay in the outfit. Laurie reads his body language the same way and jumps in before he can has a chance. “It’s December. I’m not sending you to school wearing a yellow shirt with surf boards on it!”

“But…” he says.

This is where I hop in. “Son, the wind chill is about 20 degrees. So the thermometer says 35 but it feels like 15.”

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“Really?” he says. His demeanor completely changes from defensive to concerned. “Gotcha. I better change.” Then he rushes upstairs.

“This is ridiculous!” Laurie says. “Why does he always do that? He always argues with me, but totally accepts what you say.”

“I have no idea,” I tell her.

I genuinely don’t have any idea why our boys do this. Jayden does the same thing: He argues with Mom, but does exactly what I say. It’s as if “BOY” is a separate and primitive language — and both my wife and sons require me to act as their translator.

Laurie says, “Five glasses of milk is enough,” and the boys think, Mom’s talking, but I don’t understand. On the other hand, I point my fork at them and say, “The next time you get up from this kitchen table to get a refill, or sneak a peek at your phone, or see if there’s a squirrel in the backyard, I’m going to superglue your butt to the chair,” and the boys think, Dad’s talking. Makes sense.

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If I’m honest, I have to admit I do the same thing. Yesterday morning Laurie said to me, “Aren’t you tired of packing the same lunch every day?” And I actually thought, I’m a grown-up and can eat what I want. Why does she get to tell me what to eat? Once I got to work, I realized exactly why she gets to tell me what to eat. I opened the refrigerator at my office and saw that, not only did I pack the exact same lunch yesterday, but I didn’t eat that lunch either because I was sick of it.

I try to explain to my boys that their mother knows what she’s talking about. I plead with them, “You’ve worn a purple hoodie three times this week. She’s going to chew you out. Go change before she sees you. You have at most two minutes.” They say, “Yes,” but then they don’t. Maybe they forget, or get distracted, or want to take their chances Mom won’t notice. Then she notices, because she always notices.

“Honey!” she shouts from across the house. “I need you to come in here and deal with your boys.”

And I rush to the situation, like a fireman rushes into a burning building, knowing from past experience that, regardless of the circumstances, she’s right and they’re wrong.  And while it’s too late for the boys, I dang sure don’t want to land on her hit list.

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Updated on December 16, 2019

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  1. “I rush to the situation, like a fireman rushes into a burning building, knowing from past experience that, regardless of the circumstances, she’s right and they’re wrong. And while it’s too late for the boys, I dang sure don’t want to land on her hit list.”

    Here is the problem. If she is always right and they are always wrong, they will not listen to her. She needs to show that she is listening to them. My kids complain that their mother never listens, so they get along better with me. Be open to compromise. “Well, you’ll be wearing a jacket outside. So the t-shirt is OK. Maybe wear an unzipped hoodie too. But your legs will be completely exposed to the cold and wind outside, so you have to change those.”

    Also, pick your battles. Shorts in winter is important. Wearing a purple hoodie multiple times in the same week? No big deal. Ask, “Why do you want to wear that again?” AND listen. Unless the purple hoodie is smelly or visibly dirty, or they are going to a formal occasion, ANY reason for wearing the purple hoodie is valid.

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