"Go! Go! Go!" My two-year-old eagerly pulled at my pants, trying to get me into the garage where a drum set was set up, beckoning. We were visiting friends, and while everyone else socialized, I felt obligated to keep our toddler happy and quiet.
My husband stayed planted, ignoring our child's relentless requests, and I felt annoyed by his ability to do so. I felt like he wasn't helping – that he left too much parenting up to me.
I must have made this obvious, because we ended up taking a long walk so he could explain that he doesn't expect me to do everything, but our parenting styles are different. "You do everything he wants just to appease him," he said. "I say 'no' when I don't want to do something so I don't exhaust myself unnecessarily. He needs to know he can't always get what he wants. I don't expect you to say 'yes' just because I say 'no'. I think you should learn to say 'no' too."
He had a point…
In the years since, I learned to trust him. I've even discovered a lot of parenting gold in what sometimes looks lazy.
Below are five ways to be a lazy genius parent like my husband:
Recently, Javin, our 4-year-old, was in the garage trying to get something out while we sat in the driveway. He was frustrated because whatever he was trying to get was stuck, so he threw and kicked some things around in a rage. His behavior was clearly a request for help, but not an appropriate one.
My husband called to Javin, "If you need some help, you have to come ask." It may have looked like we were just too comfortable to get up, but he offered an important lesson: People aren't going to rescue you simply because you look or sound like a disheveled mess. You must ask for what you need.
When Javin came over and said, "Daddy, will you help me?" Josh got up happily and followed him into the garage. Of course, helping his son is part of his fatherly duty, but so is teaching him how to communicate his needs.
Last week, Javin was sitting on the hood of the car, and Asher, our almost-two-year-old wanted to join in on the fun. He whined, wanting me to lift him up. Josh said, "He can do it himself. He's done it before."
Even though I really wanted to resist, I helped him up over and over again as he climbed down over and over, asking to go back up every time. Eventually, I had to go inside for something. When I returned, Josh directed my attention to Asher, who had solved his own problem.
He pulled a little chair over and managed to get himself up. My husband's behavior demonstrated belief in our children and encouraged their ingenuity.
The other day, Javin was working on a craft. But mostly he was getting upset because it wasn't turning out like he wanted. He started screaming and tearing paper, and because he was tired, crying. He was in the midst of a storm, so we didn't do anything but hunker down.
We didn't tell him to stop crying or judge him for his uncomfortable display of emotions. We also didn't rush in to coddle him and make the situation problem-free. We gave Javin the freedom to feel the way he did, and to express it in the privacy of our home.
When the storm calmed, Josh invited him into his lap, saying, "Are you ready to come here, buddy?" He was, and rather than face hostility, he was comforted in his daddy's arms. They talked about the problem and how to solve it, but mostly concluded that it was bedtime.
In the past, I've gotten overly involved in my son's fits. I wanted to be there for him, so I'd try to comfort him, calm him, talk sense into him. Josh would remind me, "He needs to work through it first." With experience, I realized he was right. Whenever I stepped into one of his tantrums, I became a part of it. I'd get as worked up as him and feel compelled to bribe or condemn.
By learning to detach a bit, we maintain our composure and can give our children what they ultimately need: patience, leadership, and love.
(Note: It doesn't work like this in public places. )
One time, while our infant and three-year-old were sleeping, I tried to hand my husband a stack of mail to go through. He scoffed, "I'm not using this precious time to do that." I often used nap time to do chores, prep meals, and make phone calls. Thanks to Josh, I've learned to use my sacred time better.
I no longer get annoyed at my husband for carving out time for his own pleasure because I do the same. Now, as our toddler sleeps, our preschooler gets TV time, and I lie like a queen in my bed, writing on my laptop. I tell everybody to leave me alone because I'm working, and it's truly a pleasure.
The other day, Javin reached into a kitchen drawer and took out a wine key. Excited by the knife tucked inside it, he wanted to know if he could keep it. He promised to never pull the knife out, and assured me he'd share it when I needed it.
Despite how reasonable he sounded, the answer was obviously no. But I delayed his negative reaction and said, "Let me talk to Daddy. It's a tool and it's dangerous. Put it back in the drawer, and I'll get back to you."
Josh, who was standing nearby, looked over at me and quickly said, "No. Just tell him I said no." Then he added with cheek, "Put that in your post, too. I'm not afraid to say no."
I used to think I was the parenting guru in our family, but now, when faced with a parenting decision I find myself thinking, "What would Daddy do?"