My husband and I didn’t live together before we got married.
On our wedding day we had been together for exactly three years and two weeks. That’s 1,109 days of getting to know each other, of staying up late to swap stories and share dreams, whispering in the back of movie theaters. We were on the same page about everything, it seemed.
So you can imagine my surprise when we finally moved into the same house and I discovered that the man I had loved for three whole years had a slew of habits—good and bad—that I knew nothing about. From the little things, like the way he got water in the toothpaste cap, to the big things, like his constant struggle with anxiety, at times I felt like I had married a stranger. I’m sure he felt the same way after discovering my childlike impatience, infuriating stubbornness, and Real Housewives addiction.
That first year of marriage was an adjustment as we learned to live together. We bickered and argued over dumb things and constantly reevaluated our much-too-high expectations of what marriage was going to be like.
I was reminded daily that two imperfect people do not make a perfect marriage. And while I had claimed to know this all along, I finally understood that there was no such thing as a perfect marriage. There was only grace, and forgiveness, and commitment, and hard work, and more grace, and love.
Fast forward almost five years and I found myself standing in front of a stranger again, only this time with a newborn baby in between us. Nothing changes you like becoming a parent, and the day our first baby was born, my husband and I had to get to know each other all over again.
I’ll never forget the first argument we had pertaining to our new roles as mom and dad. Our son was running a small fever and my husband wanted to call the doctor. I didn’t.
“What if it’s something serious?!” he persisted.
“It’s probably not. Babies get fevers sometimes. He’ll be fine,” I reassured him, confident in my mother’s intuition (and equally confident in WebMD).
And our son was fine, but that’s not the point. The point is: my husband and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on the decisions we make as parents.
My husband is cautious, and anxious, and worries a lot. I let our kids eat food off the floor. I couldn’t care less about things like outlet covers; baby proofing keeps him up at night. My husband always “cares too much” and I always “care too little”. I tend to worry about long-term issues, like where our kids will go to school. My husband worries about the day-to-day stuff, like figuring out if a rash on our son’s leg is ringworm (it was, and I didn’t even notice).
We are 2.5 years into this parenting gig, and we are still learning the ins and outs of our own parenting styles, for better and for worse.
We do things differently, we worry differently, we parent differently. He thinks I make the bath too hot, I think he makes the bath too cold. We are technically parenting side-by-side, yes, but sometimes it feels like we’re on opposite sides in a fierce game of tug-of-war. I often feel like we're each trying to pull the other person over to our own side. The Right Side.
But if co-parenting is teaching me anything, it is teaching me this: there is no "right" way to parent these children when both of us love them unconditionally. There is no right way to make a snack or pour a bath or sing a song or even, much to my dismay, dress a baby. There is His Way and there is My Way, and they are each right in their own way. We do things differently, and that’s okay. We are passionate about different issues, and that’s okay. Our parenting styles are not one in the same, and probably never will be. We are learning to be consistent with rules and discipline, but there is also a lot of grey area that we’re simply learning to embrace.
Maybe that’s the beauty of parenting alongside someone else. Maybe we each make up for what the other person lacks, and maybe our strengths and weaknesses balance each other out. Maybe it’s okay for one parent to worry about preschool enrollment while the other parent diagnoses mysterious rashes. After all—both need to be taken care of, right?
The daunting part of parenting little children is knowing that we’re only in the beginning. We have a whole lifetime of parenting ahead of us, years and years of setting boundaries and having hard conversations and making decisions that will impact our children. We’re going to have to teach them about love and God and bullies and sex and how to be compassionate and kind. This is not a responsibility we take lightly. On that much, we agree.
My husband and I celebrated ten years together last summer. Even after a decade of loving one another, there is still more I am learning about him every day. We are constantly evolving as people and parents, and I’m sure we will have to recalibrate every so often as our relationship and children grow simultaneously.
Our tug-of-war rope seems to be getting shorter, as we're learning to listen to each other with open minds. It’s my hope that as our children grow up, we will figure out how to accept our differences on the little things and keep our eyes on the prize. We want to raise our kids to be kind, generous, loving, and selfless. We want them to be good stewards of the earth, passionate about things that matter, humble and hardworking. We want them to know Jesus, to know hope, to believe in the God that created them. We want them to be brave, to take risks, to chase their biggest dreams, to stand up for what is right at all times even when it’s hard.
And if we can agree on that much, I have no doubt that we will continue to pull ourselves along the tug-of-war rope, hands scarred with battered palms, slowly and steadily, until we meet right in the middle.
Written by Ashlee Gadd.