By Laura Lane
One beautiful Saturday evening my husband decided to take our kids to see a local baseball game. As they piled into the car, I reminded my husband to make sure to hold the kids’ hands in the parking lot, to keep a close eye on them in the bleachers, and to make sure they didn’t eat too much junk food at the game. My husband simply shook his head and rolled his eyes at me. As I watched our car pull out of the driveway, I wondered why I always felt the need to give my very capable husband instructions on how to take care of our kids when I wasn’t around.
Part of it has to do with the fact that my husband is much more relaxed than I am when it comes to child rearing. My children love him for it. Daddy lets them eat chocolate donuts for breakfast, run barefoot in the grass, and stay up past bedtime. Sometimes, I worry my husband is a little bit too laid back, so I need to be vigilant enough for both of us. That’s why I dole out tiny reminders before his outings with the kids.
But I had it all wrong. I realized this after my older and wiser mom friend told me about a time, several years earlier, when her husband was watching the kids and she came home early. When she walked in the front door she found her husband and four teenage sons sitting on the steps, all in their boxer shorts, with their dinner–a huge bowl of popcorn–between them. The guys were having a farting contest.
“What in the world are you doing?” my friend asked her husband.
“Winning!” he replied triumphantly.
Instead of groaning and lecturing her husband about proper child care, my friend realized her sons were having fun, learning how to be flexible, and not worrying so much about every little thing.
“Fatherhood isn’t motherhood ‘lite,’” she says. “My husband wasn’t a shoddy substitute for me. He was teaching our boys that there were different ways of doing things, and as long as everyone was safe and happy that’s all that mattered.”
Research confirms that children benefit greatly from spending time with their dads. A recent study by Pennsylvania State University found the more time teenagers spent alone with their dads, the higher their self-esteem. The more time they spent with their dads in a group setting, the better their social skills.
Now, when my husband and kids go out together, they remind me to relax and have fun. I smile and nod and keep my mouth shut. No more instructions. No more phone calls to check up on them. Instead, I relax and enjoy the much needed time to myself, because I know my children are having fun and bonding with their dad.
As a freelance writer and mother of two, Laura Lane enjoys covering the ups and downs of parenting.