How to Parent on the Same Page (Even When it isn’t Easy)

Parenting on the Same Page

Continued from yesterday…

Ever since we had children, I have fought my helicopter nature. Pedro constantly reminds me that God created me with a huge, empathetic heart, but that I need to carefully balance between empathy and enabling. He, on the other hand, has a natural knack for consistency.

Pedro spent two years at home with our girls whilst attending graduate school, and he taught them procedures with a gentle consistency that sticks to this day. For example, once they outgrew the seats inside the shopping cart, he taught the girls to always walk through the store with one hand on the side of the cart. I kid you not, twenty years later they’ll still put one hand on the side of the shopping cart when I go shopping with them at Costco!

We always agreed on the importance of presenting a united front to our children.  As our girls grew, so did our need to communicate about how we wanted to handle difficult situations.  Neither one of us wanted to undermine the other’s authority by giving in or having different standards.  So when our church sponsored a parenting class, we both went so that we could learn to parent on the same page. I probably needed the class more than Pedro did, because I’m a consummate conflict avoider.

This has made parenting on the same page difficult at times because of my eagerness to avoid any kind of conflict.  Pedro and I have spent the last 26 years learning how to fight fairly and communicate clearly.  Ever since we had children (Laura turns 23 next month), we have worked on creating a family culture that taught our core values to our kids.

We shared a common goal as parents—to raise our children to be God-loving, law-abiding, independent citizens. We hoped that they would end up choosing to be friends with us once they reached adulthood, too. We tried to be authoritative parents, not authoritarian or permissive. We had our fair share of arguments about how that would play out in day-to-day life.

Pedro wanted to scrub their faces when they went through their early-teen-raccoon-look phase, and I would gently remind him that it would pass—after all, I didn’t wear makeup and I had gone through the same raccoon phase as a youngster (I had long ago decided purchasing it wasted my money and if people didn’t like me the way I looked, well, that was their problem). If we set good examples, they would eventually embrace our values.

If we set good examples for our kids, they will eventually adopt our values...that's the theory, anyway! Click To Tweet

I wanted to wrap them in cotton wool and keep them out of their cars (anyone’s car, for that matter) when a speck of snow fell on the roads (difficult to do when one lives in Montana). He took them out and taught them how to slide around in control on icy roads. He taught them to change the oil and change their flat tires.

But this depression/eating disorder/what-in-the-world-has-happened-to-our-daughter thing? How does one negotiate and navigate that? We agreed that based on the facts that the Zoloft didn’t seem to help Sarah’s depression, family members who had seen her recently had started calling and asking if we knew how depressed Sarah acted, and treatment centers in the Portland area wouldn’t accept her as a patient, our plan had to change.  We knew Sarah was safe and had friends and family nearby, but we felt an urgency get together and talk before we took our next step.

Pedro planned to drive down to Phoenix to meet my flight from North Carolina, and we would have a chance to talk in person before taking any action.

I prayed fervently that Sarah wouldn’t do anything rash before I could make it to Portland. Her angst had escalated, and she had added to her list of why she had failed at life and used the list to refuse help.

Sarah Ojeda: But my problem is that I don’t want to do anything…this program won’t organize my belongings and get me a job and money and motivation to do things, call people, sign up for classes, get me more clothes, fix my greasy and damaged hair…
Anita Ojeda: Step one: get help with your depression. Step two: get help with your eating disorder. Step three: get help with life decisions. Step four: get help with clothes, hair, job, etc.
Sarah Ojeda: But I just spend my hours observing other people…and twisting my hair. And feeling like I don’t belong anywhere.
Anita Ojeda: My dear Sarah. You would NEVER say all of the mean things that you say about yourself to another person, no matter how different, disgusting or disagreeable that person is. Why do you talk about yourself that way? It’s the same thing as telling God that he is all of those things, because you are created in his image and He loves you so very much.
You are DEPRESSED. Depressed people have a hard time concentrating. They have a hard time taking initiative. They don’t shower. Their hair gets greasy. They say hateful things about themselves.
Once a depressed person starts getting help, they are able to work on things. It doesn’t happen instantly. It takes work. But you CAN change. You WILL change.
I love you! Good night. Tomorrow we can chat. I’d love to hear your voice!
I LOVE YOU!
I pray for you without ceasing like breathing out and breathing in. You belong to ME! (But I share you with Dad and Laura 😉 ).
Sarah Ojeda:
Ok. Thank you for your prayers!!! I love you!
I can but I just want to lie in my bed.
I’m that horrible.
I don’t want to talk because I’m too negative.
I just want to lie here.
I have nothing.
Because I didn’t make plans and because I don’t want to do anything.
Anita Ojeda: Hey! We love you. You have that :).

Convincing a depressed person that they need help without actually having the ability to drive them to a place to get help is like threading a needle when you’re blind whilst feeling as if someone’s life depends on your ability to thread the needle.

I landed in Phoenix late in the evening, and Pedro and I spent the night in a hotel where we came to a final decision. I had a week before I needed to report to pre-session meetings at school, so I would fly standby to Portland using his brother’s companion passes.

We had a plan. First, I would see Sarah in person and hopefully help her understand how much she needed help. Second, I would find a place to help her.  I had my doubts as to which task would prove more difficult.

…to be continued.

What about you?  What have you discovered about parenting on the same page as your spouse?

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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