Before we had children, my husband assured me that he would be the tougher one in terms of discipline. Now that our son is walking and asserting his independence, the issue of discipline is finally upon us and I am finding that I tend to be the “bad cop” while my husband is the “good cop.” The reason for this is simple: I am at home with the baby during the day and thus am constantly re-directing him as he approaches a light socket with a ill-disguised gleeful smile or reprimanding him for trying to crawl off the changing table or biting me. There are fewer opportunities for my husband to be the enforcer of discipline.
Knowing my expertise at diapering, feeding, and putting clothes on a squirmy almost one-year-old, my husband began to avoid doing these things when he was home. Not out of laziness, but because he knows how much the baby dislikes having these things done to him and that I can accomplish them quicker, causing the baby less distress. However, we realized that we had begun to compartmentalize our tasks withregard to our son so that my husband dealt primarily with playing and soothing and I dealt with the things that tend to involve a lot of wrestling. So, we resolved to make a conscious effort to change this.
My husband now does more diapering and other chores, although sometimes with me nearby to let him in on my secrets. Our cloth diapering system is intimidating enough to the uninitiated, but keeping the baby on his back long enough to fasten it is the biggest challenge. Now my husband knows to distract him with a toy or a song while he positions the insert in the cover and snaps it on. When our son manages to wriggle free and crawl across the bed while being dressed and my husband shoots me a “How do you do this?” look, I reassure him that the baby’s shoes do fit and it is possible to put them on him. You just have to find the right angle, as he curls his toes up when you are trying to do it.
Not only has my husband learned some of my strategies, but he has also reminded me to see things from my son’s perspective. When the baby recently had a cold, I was clearing his nose multiple times daily with the nasal aspirator. When I didn’t use it, he couldn’t breathe through his nose when trying to breastfeed and would get frustrated and bite me. I had taken on a stoic “it’s a dirty job, but it must be done” attitude to the whole thing, while my son was getting more and more fed up with having his nose cleared. In the midst of a wailing and wrestling match, my husband looked in and said, “Is that really helping?” My initial reaction was to be irritated, because I was tired of the battle as well, but also tired of being bitten.
My husband offered to help hold the baby down, and his gentle words of comfort to our son made me realize that my stoicism was probably making things worse. I had become so focused on getting the job done that I was no longer reassuring my son while he underwent this hated procedure. Unfortunately, the nasal aspirator had ceased to be effective and when I took my son to the doctor the next day, she recommended that I stop using it for a while as it was probably
irritating his nose. In the end, my husband was right and I would have done well to read the signs in my son’s ever-louder protestations.
We are already beginning to blur the lines of “Good Cop, Bad Cop” so that our son sees two loving parents who also enforce rules.
J LeBlanc is a former high school teacher who resides in Lebanon, N.H. She is currently taking a break from teaching to stay home with her 8-month-old son.
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