If parenting was a sport, I would say it is most like tag team wrestling. You’re there in the ring trying to take down the opponents (also known as “The Kids”), and it’s a battle of strength, wits and tenacity.
You know, like getting your youngest to wash his hands before a meal. You try your best – cajoling, wheedling, threatening – until you are about to explode. But instead of tapping out and letting your son get away – you tag your partner, who leaps over the top rope right into the ring. With some showmanship and theatrics, he delivers the finishing move with finesse. 1... 2... 3... The little boy trots to the sink and washes his hands and you both retain the World Wrestling Edutainment Tag Time Title for another few hours.
Parenting is better when done as a team. And there’s no other person I’d rather step into the ring with than my husband, Victor.
My husband brings out the worst in me but he also brings out the best. Marriage and parenting have certainly taught me that my way of doing things is just one out of many and mine may not be the best way of doing things (although sometimes it is).
How we parent is often reflective of our own childhood experiences. In the crucible of family life, Victor and I have had no choice but to debate, discuss and devise our shared parenting priorities, identifying the values that are important to us and then inculcating the children with them.
As the saying goes – iron sharpens iron – so my husband has definitely helped me grow as a mother.
1. Teaching me to say “I’m sorry”
To Victor, a sincere apology is a very important part of resolving any conflict. Many times after we quarrel, we’ve had to apologise to each other – in private and in front of the children.
Saying sorry shows the kids that we adults make mistakes too and we can learn from them. This is hard for me because I wasn’t required to apologise growing up. My husband is never one to shy away from apologising to the children after he had wrongly accused one of them or was overly harsh. Seeing us model this behaviour, the children are also more willing to apologise to us and to one another.
2. Being more empathetic to emotional outbursts
My kids have big emotions. Sometimes I understand them and sometimes I don’t. More often than not, I catch myself telling the kids to get over it, stop crying and move on to the next thing.
But Victor usually responds to them empathetically – validating their feelings and connecting with them, demonstrating principles that I’ve seen in parenting books despite him not having read a single one!
In my book, empathy is the most electrifying move in World Wrestling Parenting.
3. Learning the value of packing every day
One of Victor’s mantras is “outer order, inner calm”; whereas I am happy to live in “organised chaos”.
With four kids, the amount of stuff (toys, LEGO, books, random plastic freebies from fast food joints) we’ve accumulated can be astonishing. Victor’s penchant for neatness has helped us as a family form habits of packing up after each session of play and packing a little every day.
With the daily practice, the kids have also stepped up to the task and are able to pack independently with some prompting and patience. It makes life a little more bearable for everybody when we’re not constantly stepping on little pieces of LEGO.
A word from the husband:
Let the reader beware: don’t let what Sue has written above mislead you. Far from being the finest specimen of the human race, the truth is I still fail constantly. Every community, relationship or friendship needs something to hold the pieces together. Sue is that glue. Here is how this Sue (or “Sueper mother”, as I’m fond of calling her) has helped me become a better parent:
1. Intervening in heated moments
The lyrics of a children’s song, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” is the exact opposite of reality. Words can sometimes cause more lasting damage than physical injuries, which is why I am thankful that Sue intervenes in those moments when I lose my temper. By stepping in, she allows me to tap out before any real damage is done. Adults and children alike respond to situations better when our emotions are not raging.
2. Believing that I am a good dad
My father was not a very positive role model when I was a child. Yet being a dad is one of my greatest joys. Sue’s unwavering belief in me grows my confidence that I can actually be a good father to the children. She believes in me even when I don’t believe it myself!
3. Displaying forgiveness
If we agree that to err is human, then I must be very human. Without forgiveness, no amount of “sorrys” or “Hail Marys” will mean anything. Sue’s forgiveness strengthens our marriage and helps us to start afresh. The kids also need forgiveness time and time again when they make mistakes. Our forgiveness reminds them that they will always be loved and accepted – even if they have to bear the consequences of their actions.
In the wrestling ring of parenting, we’ve had victories – when we feel that we’ve parented lovingly and firmly, and we’ve had knock-outs – when we’ve lost it at the kids. We’ve suffered our share of bruises and tears, but we’re going to keep at it. Just. Bring. It.
Sue-Anne Wu is a nature seeker and avid reader. She manages her 5 rambunctious boys (aged 4 months, 4, 7, 9 and 39) with a healthy dose of optimism and several shots of coffee.
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