The way I see it, when functioning properly, the two-parent system should work like this: one parent must be willing and able to squash the children when they need it; and the other parent’s job is to keep the children from being squashed by the parent who is willing and able to squash them when they need it.
At our house we refer to those dual roles as Justice and Mercy, and you only have to be around my husband and me for about half a nanosecond to figure out which one of us is Justice and which one is Mercy. I’ll give you the perfect illustration of that in a minute but first let me just say that it’s a darn good thing both of us had a hand in raising our kids; otherwise they would have turned out seriously lopsided. By that I mean, without Marc I’m quite convinced that Lauren and Jason would be totally worthless because I’d have swooped in and solved all their problems for them, thus robbing them of the necessary training for independent adulthood. And without me, well, they probably wouldn’t be around to see independent adulthood anyway because Marc would have squashed them a long time ago.
And now for that promised illustration. To preface it by saying "it’s about Jason” would be superfluous because these types of stories are always about Jason. This particular incident occurred when he was seventeen and it concerns a haircut – or rather the need for one. Setting the stage a bit, you need to know that for the bulk of my husband’s childhood he wore a "burr with a bumper” – that is to say his hair was about a quarter-inch in length all over except at the front hairline, which was about an inch long, and that part stood straight up with the help of butch wax. Enter son Jason with his mane of thick, lustrous, full-bodied, Samson-would-kill-for-this hair (his buddies literally gave him the nickname "Pantene”) and you can see why those two radically different heads were bound to collide sooner or later!
Now I can’t say for sure exactly what led up to the actual confrontation because I wasn’t in the room at the time, but I imagine the dialog went something like this:
Marc (politely), "Son, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, your hair is somewhat in need of a trim. I’d consider it a personal favor if you’d get one.”
Jason (equally politely), "Thank you for your kind concern, Father, but I rather like it this way, so I believe I shan’t cut it”. (As I said, this is how I choose to imagine the conversation. The actual transcript may differ slightly.)
I do, however recall the next part of their "discussion” quite vividly, as it was sufficient in volume to be overheard from the next room, if not the next block. Party A (Dad) reminded Party B (Pantene) of who pays the bills around here; and Party B told Party A he was tired of being bossed around, or something to that effect. Party B then made the tactical blunder of accusing Party A of acting just like, well – like a certain German dictator with a cropped mustache, a signature salute and (coincidentally) a rather weird haircut.
Up to this point I had been keen to stay out of it, but let me tell you as soon as I heard the "H” word my head jerked up like a deer that hears the snap of a twig and immediately senses danger. Instinct told me I had only seconds to act, because the recipient of that "compliment” (Dad) was about to majorly squash the guy who hurled it (Pantene) – and man oh man did he ever deserve it!
I’ll spare you the details of what happened next, but if you’ve ever heard the phrase "standing in the gap” (in the book of Ezekiel, God called for someone to do that between Him and the object of His judgment!) you sort of get a picture of my part in this roiling conflict. Never before has the validity of the two-parent system been tested so severely. And never before has it proven itself so definitively. Thanks to Justice, Pantene did indeed get that much-needed haircut; and thanks to Mercy he was still in one piece (barely) when he got to the barber chair!
You know, as parents, my husband and I admittedly made our fair share of mistakes, but one thing’s for sure. Nobody can ever accuse us of raising lopsided children!