Thursday, September 29, 2011

Paternal and Maternal Love: Necessities

Back on Labor Day weekend, we and Chanel's sisters had a wonderful time visiting her father in Cincinnati. It's always a blast when we all get together and occasionally, as with this trip, there's a little gem that comes out of it.

Chanel and I have always handled the kids a little differently. She'd often find my eyes rolling from how she responds to the kids' falling down, getting bumped and bruised, etc. Conversely, with the exception of one time where I successfully used her strategies, I'd often get evil eyes shot at me from her when I'm more cold after one of the kids has something not go his way. I always struggled with justification against her adamant stance of redirection for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that I saw it as largely ineffective in some circumstances.

Redirection is basically this: kid has something happen to him that he didn't expect and starts crying about it, you encourage behavior that is good. When his tower falls over, you get excited about a different toy to entice him over to play with it. When he's crying hysterically about...well...anything, you ask him questions or make a joke.

The gem from this family gathering is not that the two points of view we work from are competitive--at least not directly. We don't need to get into arguments--ahem, I mean, discussions over which way is better or which is a waste of time because each has a proper role in child rearing.

I've heard of plenty of studies done about the differences between boys and girls in school: they differ in the way they learn, play, socialize, pretty much everything. You still hear, too, differences between men and women. The Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus books changed society in ways only historians will be able to discuss with any level of seriousness. What is rare to hear is the differences between mothers and fathers, and therein was the gem: the difference between maternal and paternal love. Finally, words to overlay the ideas I had but was unable to express!

Essentially, as it was explained (and further researched with this article), maternal love is unconditional with images of a nurturing, caring warmth. Little Timmy doesn't make the sports team and his mom tells him, "It's ok. You did your best and I love you. You can try again next year...or not. Maybe you'll want to try something else. We'll see. You want to go for some ice cream?" He then goes to his dad and hears, "Too bad, son. Let's work on some of your skills for next season/year. We can practice together on the weekends. We'll get your [insert skill here] to where they'd be fools to not put you on the team." You could look at fathering as being cold, but more accurately it is just a different kind of caring; it's as different from mothering as boys from girls and men from women.

Is it a perfect system? Probably not. Neither of us uses our tactics exclusively, either, somewhat complicating the comparison. For the most part, though, Chanel follows the roll of the unconditionally-loving, redirecting mother and I toe the results-seeking, problem-solving father line. Having both, the kids will know that there are limits to acceptable behavior, rewards for hard work, and that we love them more than they'll know...until we have grandkids.

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