My husband grew up with a father that was stern, no-nonsense, and ruled with a “do as I say not as I do” mentality. He was a provider and survivor who had traveled on a cargo plane in the fall of Saigon with a pregnant wife and three sons under the age of seven; settling into a refugee camp in California until he was able to create a new life in the United States and provide for his family. Nurturing was not his thing. His highest values were hard work and practicality.
I grew up with a father that was the fun guy. He liked camping and trips to the park and having a beer with friends. He became a dad at 18, and so he learned quickly to be a hard worker to provide for his family. Nurturing was not his thing. His highest values were at work and fun.
Now that my husband is a father we are learning to merge the example we both had in our fathers with the way we want our children to be fathered. This has been hard for us. When my husband became a father, it was only natural for him to emulate the father he had. It was what he knew.
It was in parenting that our relationship started taking some hard blows. We would argue as I pointed out to my husband that he should be more fun and less iron fist with his approach to the kids. I wanted to teach my husband the skills of nurturing, however, revealing my desires of how I wanted our children fathered made him feel I was just pointing out his flaws.
Each conversation we had about parenting would lead to an argument. He would walk away mad, feeling attacked. I would walk away hurt, feeling defeated and like I needed to defend my children. While I speak in past tense, I need to point out that this is the recent past tense. This has been our parenting walk, but it has improved. There are ways I have learned to communicate with my husband and encourage my husband rather than critique his fathering skills. These small changes have transformed our relationship and cut down on the arguments.
I observed the relationship he has with our children with new eyes. Rather than watching my husband for ways, he wasn’t parenting correctly (in my opinion) I started looking at how the children responded to him. I watched as their eyes lit up when he wrestled with them or indulged them with treats. I watched them fall into line as he created a structure that just doesn’t come naturally to me. I watched them cuddle up on his lap even after he disciplined them. I didn’t need to protect my kids or teach my husband to nurture. I needed to provide him space to be a dad and parent in ways I can’t.
We have created space to discuss our relationships with our fathers. My husband and I love our fathers but also have father wounds. When we have honest conversations with each other about our parents and are vulnerable in showing where we were hurt and where we soared in our relationships with our fathers we learn how to let go of hurts and expectations and just become the best parents we can be. These conversations build intimacy in our relationship and allow us to encourage each other in ways we wouldn’t know otherwise.
I have stopped expecting my husband to be a certain type of father. Repeat after me. My husband does not need to make up for the things I wish my father were. OR My husband does not need to father my kids as my perfect father parented me. When we can accept our husbands as they are and encourage them in their unique personalities and gifts, it alleviates fights and hurt feelings.
I allow my husband to make fathering mistakes without correcting him in front of the kids. It’s not fair for us to expect perfection from our husbands as fathers. We are not, nor will ever be, perfect moms. Let’s cut our men some slack. It’s OK to point out ways we would like to see our husbands interact or not interact with our kids, but not in front of the kids. It undermines their authority which will get you nowhere with your husband…or the kids.
I have become an encourager and influencer with my husband. When God created Eve, Adam was ecstatic. Finally, he had his perfect counterpart on the earth. “At last,” he breathed. Eve had a special place in the heart of Adam that remains today as a woman holds a special place in the heart of man. As women, that special place allows us a unique role – influencer. Men were built with physical strength, but women were built with an inner strength to influence man. Eve abused it by influencing Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. He was with her, he saw the tree it came from, he could have said no, she didn’t deceive him, she influenced him. Somehow, she convinced Adam to do the wrong thing. As wives, we have a responsibility to influence our husbands with our reverence and righteousness, encouraging them towards a deeper relationship with God so that they walk in their full calling as men and fathers.