what all kids need: someone to push them, someone not to

This morning, we awoke to nine inches of freshly fallen snow at my in-laws’ house, which is just ten minutes away from a ski mountain. We had decided to spend the long weekend here in hopes that the kids might ski; after the freakish 67-degree February day we had last week, we weren’t so sure. This was almost too good to be true. 

The boys dragged me out of bed early so I could show them where I had packed all their ski stuff (in plain sight, by the way), and they were halfway dressed when Connor suddenly started complaining of a stomachache. “I wish I could ski SOOO MUCH, but I c-can’t, because my tummy REALLY HURTS,” he whined.

My husband wasn’t having it. Neither was I, really; Connor is the Boy Who Cries I-Don’t-Want-To-Go, and then he always has the time of his life. “You are GOING,” David growled, and I was totally with him, until I remembered that my son has been taking antibiotics for the past five days. And not really eating. Which can cause stomach pain. And maybe, just maybe, in this particular circumstance, he was telling the truth.

Next stop: a classic mother-father standoff, with David saying this was nonsense and put your ski pants on and we are going RIGHT NOW, and Connor crying, and me saying will you calm down he is SICK. Maybe. And are you really going to *make* him go skiing, is that the kind of memory you want to create?

And what was weird about it all is while David was saying “This is IT, I am drawing a line in the sand,” I could tell he wasn’t 100% sure he was right. And when I responded, “You are being ridiculous,” I wasn’t so sure he was wrong.

I had one card left to play, and so I did: I told the boys that if they went skiing, I would too. And I REALLY did not want to go. I never ever downhill skied until a year ago, and while I was at that time quite proud of myself for mastering the bunny slope, I’m in no rush to repeat the experience. But Connor didn’t budge– not even laughing at Mommy on skis was enough to sway him– and that’s when I was pretty almost definitely sure that he really was sick.

In the end, no one skied, Daddy went to the gym, and now everyone’s playing Legos while Maggie naps. I got Connor some probiotics at the drugstore; on the way I called my mom and told her the whole story. “That’s why kids need a mother and a father,” she said. “They need someone to comfort them, and someone to push them.” 

In other words, that disagreement is at the center of what parenting is all about.  My God, she’s right. Kids need the yin and the yang. And while neither I (nor my mother) think that only heterosexual couples– or only two-parent families–  can provide that for their children, I do think that all children need someone fulfilling each of those roles in their lives: someone to say “Be careful on those monkey bars,” and someone else to say, “Let me see how high you can climb.” 

Which one are you?