Have you ever heard those words? Whether the words came from your child or you, it’s a sure-fire sign that you are headed down the wrong path. I don’t say that in judgment. I say it because I’ve been on that path more times than I care to recall, and it never took me where I wanted to go.
Sometimes, after you’ve established consequences for your child, time goes by, and it can be tempting to give in “just this once” to a child who is asking for some leeway. They beg and plead and look like the sweet little children you once held in your arms, and your mama heart melts in your chest, and even though you know caving in isn’t what’s best for them, there’s also a part of you that wants to see them happy. So you give in. Just this once. And when you do, you say… “Don’t tell Dad.”
There were also times when my kids came to me to confess something they saw no way of getting out of. Sometimes their confession would be followed by… “Please don’t tell Dad.”
What I’m about to say is all the proof I need to convince myself that I am certifiably insane. During those moments, I would convince myself how amazing it was that my children felt like they could come and talk to me. I mean, it’s what I always wanted. How many times had I said to them, “Don’t lie to me, just tell me the truth.” And here they were, being open and honest with me, their mother. All because they trusted me and loved me, and at that moment, it felt like I was nailing this whole parenting thing. It sounds silly, but it felt amazing. It felt like I had reached this higher ground with them that my husband hadn’t yet. Like I was finally IN.
Even though I knew that it was more important for me to parent well than it was to be liked by my teenagers, I’m not going to lie….I wanted to be liked. I was tired of the eye rolls, the heavy sighs, and the “whatever’s.” I was tired of feeling like an outsider every time I asked how their day was their answer was…. fine. I missed the days they ran to my arms and hugged my neck and told me I was the “Best Mom Ever,” and if this little bit of information followed by a “Don’t tell Dad” got me a little closer to that….well I was willing to take it. But here’s what I learned. I wasn’t any closer to that. I….was a sucker.
There’s only one reason they didn’t care if I knew but didn’t want dad to know. I was soft. As a mom, I was the one who was more likely to come to the rescue. I never wanted to stop believing in our child’s ability to achieve more and do more. I always held on to the thought that this time things would be different. And so, again and again, I positioned myself under them to be that safe place to fall. No matter how banged I got, here’s what I never stopped to ask myself…
How often was I making things worse by healing the discomfort of truly taking ownership of their actions? What kind of lessons did I rob them of learning by trying to ease the struggle that comes from learning from your mistakes?
Most importantly…what message was I sending about my husband and his love for them by keeping their secret? Was it that his love was not capable of seeing past their mistake, the way mine was?
What value did they miss out on because I was willing to violate my husband’s role as their father? He was often robbed of imparting his wisdom and life lessons simply because his way of dealing with things was different from mine.
I was wrong, and I often wonder how things would be different if, instead, I said, “I can’t promise I won’t tell your dad because we are a team. We both love you so much. Your dad’s input on this is important.”
Remembering that you and your spouse/partner are part of the same team is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family. It’s not about doing things your way. It’s not doing things their way. Instead, parenting is a dance you create together. When you listen to each other and are willing to consider a different way of doing things, the result is more beautiful than anything you could do independently.