When I got married, I thought having grown up with four sisters, I had a pretty good understanding of women. Two weeks into my marriage I realized I had no freakin’ clue. Two “years” into my marriage I completely threw my arms up in defeat and I’m pretty sure my wife, who grew up with only brothers, did the same.
So now I find myself watching my own kids and I swear, I’m learning more about girls than I ever learned watching my own sisters or living with my wife. So often my immediate reaction when I see my girls arguing is to intervene and explain how lucky they are to have each other. There was a time, not that long ago, when their words really hurt each other and I felt compelled to force feed them the knowledge that as sisters they needed to learn to appreciate each other. I’m beginning to grasp the possible reality that sometimes the best thing to do is just let them hash it out.
As parents the very idea of our kids arguing triggers an internal fear that we’ve completely screwed up as parents and we immediately feel it necessary to jump in and turn it into a life lesson about getting along. Perhaps some times the best thing we can do is give them room to work it out. One day in the car the girls got into a horrible fight that had them crying to each other with one weeping about how hard it is to be the older sister and the other how difficult it is to live in the other’s shadow. They were screaming unbridled at each other and in full on tears sobbing through their closing arguments. But there was something different about this argument. They were not only sharing their perspectives, but then validating each other in the process. I was floored. Ten minutes later they were singing Lemonade Mouth tunes together.
As they’re getting older their bickering is almost turning into their own means of communication that only they understand. It’s like they bond through calling each other stupid head and smacking each other for sitting in the wrong seat at the dinner table. Sure there are still plenty of discussions needed about the correct way to approach conflict and handle altercations. And I believe my role as a dad is to provide them with the tools they need to maintain respect while sharing a difference of opinion. Those times are typically during the calm long after the storm when they’re more reasonable and open to listening. But as I watch them grow into young ladies, I’m learning that as sisters, they’re going to have emotional moments that a lot of guys probably will never understand and that’s O.K.. As siblings, they’re going to have abrasive opinions about each other and will express them quite openly almost as if their love language is their hatred for each other. I’d rather have that than quiet resentment that builds over time.
So after over 40 years of living with women and trying to understand how they think and why they sometimes react the way they do, it’s taken two young children to help me understand, even if just a little, that all they need is the room to freely express themselves without judgement and feel validated and appreciated for who they are both good and bad.
Not really all that different than us guys …