I’ll say it now, our kids have us whipped. At Two and Five, these guys already know exactly how to work the parental system. Five tiptoes into the living room after I’ve lovingly and firmly tucked him into bed, gravely lays his night fears out like ominous Tarot cards for his father, then smirks at me over dad’s shoulder when he snuggles in on the couch for some extra iPhone time. Two nods earnestly at her father’s cleanup warnings, then cons me into an elaborate tea party while dad’s busy helping Five with homework.
My husband and I are both very involved in parenting our kids, so lines of responsibility aren’t always clear. Taking turns with child rearing tasks like bedtime or homework means that we each bring different expectations, skills, strengths (weaknesses), and preferences to each event. And our kids know it. It’s hard to find the time, and even harder to find the energy, for effective conversations about how we’re going to do things around here, especially when parenting shoves us up against differences in background or values.
What we need is a code. Single words or phrases we parents can use when we don’t want to say it all in front of the kids. Spelling it out doesn’t work when the message is: This kid is getting away with murder here! or You don’t know the whole story yet! Plus, spelling went out the window three years ago when I hinted to my husband, “I think it’s time for N-A-P,” and our oldest interrupted his two-tantrum to insist, “Not tired!” A fellow mom shared in a recent post that she and her husband use “The eagle has landed,” to remind each other to be on best behavior when their son is near.
Those of you who have been at this longer than us have perhaps worked it all out to the point of seamless alliance. What codes do you use to communicate with your partner when you’re out-teamed? Words? Phrases? Non-verbal signals? What do you wish your partner would understand, and how would you reduce it to a word that could invoke humor and solidarity between the two of you, and confusion to the enemy? We’d love to know. We seem to have lost our codebook.
Your stories and advice would be most welcome—share your best code words by leaving a comment below.