My wife and I have many things in common. We were both school administrators. We were both teachers. She finished her PhD recently and if everything goes according to plan I will finish my PhD in the next 18 months. We have almost identical formal training in child development and we are both pretty laid back when it comes to our parenting. All that being said, if you ask either of us if we parent like the other we would both say we are very, very different. That is a good thing. A little story to illustrate my point.
I tend to overestimate what our children are capable of doing. That is probably more wishful thinking than anything else, but I also tend only to consider the positive outcomes. My motto is often, "What is the worst that could happen?" followed by the shrug emoji (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), while Sarah's motto is more often "What IS the worst thing that could happen" followed by the terrified emoji.
A couple of years ago, when our twins were just learning to ride bikes, we went over to our local park to ride around on some trails. At this park is a very large hill. I encouraged the boys to go ahead and ride down it, even though Sarah was not so sure they should because they were just getting comfortable on the bikes and could crash pretty hard. Even though Sarah was apprehensive she didn't say anything.
Long story short, both twins made it all the way down the hill without incident . . .THE FIRST TIME. After getting comfortable, one of the twins, Jack, got a little less cautious and wiped out pretty hard. Even though her natural instinct was to run over and help him up Sarah didn't. She looked to me to help him. I ran over, helped him up, dusted him off, and put him back on the bike. As anyone would be after a crash, he was tentative for the next couple of hours, but he was riding around.
Flash forward one week. I come home late from class, and the boys were all super excited to tell me about the huge crash Jack had riding his bike earlier in the day. As little (and big) boys often do, they had made a jump out of some lumber and were daring each other to go over it. None of them were willing until Sarah came out and encouraged each of them to just go ahead and jump it. Jack was the only one brave enough to do it and he crashed spectacularly. He was scrapped up and bloody, but after a few minutes he was totally consumed with telling the story of the crash, because it made him a hero in his brothers’ eyes. He was so excited to tell me and show me his scrapped knees.
Later that night, I asked Sarah what in the world she was thinking when she encouraged him to jump off a super sketchy ramp constructed by 6- and 8-year-old boys, and made up of loose lumber. She admitted she thought it was a bad idea, but she said she knew I would say "What is the worst that could happen" (¯\_(ツ)_/¯)?” I told her that since we didn't have to go to the hospital and we got a couple of good stories out of it, I guess it was the right call. Isn’t that what a “good dad” is supposed to say to a mother who recognizes the need for risk, even though her own tendency might be to protect her young? Personally, I’m glad there are two of us in this parenting arrangement. It’s helps to keep perspective for both of us and I’m sure our kids benefit.
A. Minor Baker
A. Minor Baker is the father of four. He and his wife, Sarah, reside in Austin, TX where they do their best to keep up with the activities and antics of four children, 9 and under. He can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.