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 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?

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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  • Hey Anita … good to see you again!

    Yep, my girls still live out what their daddy taught them … I see it in the choices they make and the heart attitudes that guide those choices now that they’re in their mid-30s. They’re not holding on to the sides of shopping carts … or maybe they are! I’ll have to check that out …

    Appreciate your bountiful wisdom here. I sure could have used it back in the day …

    Hope you’re doing well!
    Linda Stoll recently posted…morning invitations * savorMy Profile

  • I need to tell you that your story, your series right here on this page is helpful not only to me but so many others. Depression is real and also can be so devastating. Every word here can make a difference for someone else. I have been praying for you as you lay out your words here on this page with vulnerability. You are brave my friend!
    Mary Geisen recently posted…Brave Needs Community ~ Day 7My Profile

    • Mary, I’m so glad to hear that our story is helpful–that is our prayer and desire. It’s not an easy subject to talk about at all, and I’m so glad Sarah is brave and willing to share our journey with everyone!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Tell Me How to Do Tough LoveMy Profile

  • Isn’t it cool how God leads us to blog post that are timely? That is what He has done in my 5 for 5 today. My husband and I are in the midst of making sure we are parenting on the same page through a situation with on of our children. Thankful for a husband who wants to lead as unto the Lord. Thank you for your post. Have a blessed day!

    • It’s so difficult to blend two different backgrounds and come up with a vibrant, authoritative, God-centered parenting style! Without God, I’d say it was impossible! May the Father lead you as you navigate the difficult waters with your child.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Sliding Towards the Pit of DepressionMy Profile

  • This is so good… and I am praying for you and Sarah as you write your way through this again! I have learned that usually (read – almost always!) Dave is right… sometimes that brings me comfort, but sometimes… not so much! 😉
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted…31 Days of Truths We Know… Hold On Loosely – DAY SEVENMy Profile

    • Thank you, my friend! Marriage is all about balance, isn’t it?! And without communication, it’s hard to get the balance right. I’m usually right about directions (as in, which way is home 😉 ), and he’s usually right about being consistent and how important that is!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Doubts and Decisions in ArgentinaMy Profile

  • I admit I don’t know much of anything about parenting on the same page as your spouse as a single parent, but it is good to learn how people can take their differences and learn to work together on them. I do see my daughter growing up and taking on the characteristics she has learned from observing myself and her father, and it is teaching me alot about how others perceive my actions and how it affects them! Thx for sharing! 😀
    Michelle recently posted…Day 5: TransparencyMy Profile

    • That must be so difficult, Michelle! May your heavenly Father be a father to both you and your daughter and give you the wisdom and insight that you need to raise her.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Out of the Frying Pan and Into the FireMy Profile

  • I appreciate your sharing this story, Anita. So many parents have kids or teens who struggle with depression, and we rarely talk about it. Thanks so much for your openness.

    Yes, I have learned that I must be on the same page with Jose. So often I want to barrel my way through and make decisions, but we’re always more effective TOGETHER. Takes time to talk things out.
    Betsy de Cruz recently posted…If You Want to Grow More Beautiful Each YearMy Profile

    • As a teacher, I’m coming to realize just how great the number of struggling teenagers really is. God has already used our experience to open my eyes to suffering right in my own classroom.

      It DOES take time to talk things out–but boy, it sure makes a difference!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Doubts and Decisions in ArgentinaMy Profile

  • Oh friend this is such a difficult journey. Praying as you continue to write and share your story.
    Tara recently posted…Forgiveness as a Gift of GraceMy Profile

  • Ingrid

    Dear Anita. It’s so insightful reading Sarah’s and your story. It’s unsettling because it makes me realize how many different possibilities I may be unprepared for. It’s also encouraging as I take note of how you met the unexpected with grace and love. I know that I’m guilty of beating myself up over what I perceive as my many parenting errors, but thank God He doesn’t waste anything. I don’t even fully comprehend what that means yet, but am trying to trust that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Thanks for sharing this deep, painful story for the help of others on the journey.

  • Jeff and I have had moments of both: sometimes we agreed, sometimes we disagreed. It definitely can be hard on a relationship when you’re not on the same page with how to raise your kids but thankfully most of our differences were minor (well, looking back anyway, ha).

    This is such an important series you’re doing here, Anita. Having a daughter myself who suffered through depression, I view all this so differently now. Tears still come when I relive it in my mind, even though she’s now on the other side of it.
    Lisa notes recently posted…Day 8: Make it personal {Tools for memorizing}My Profile

    • I’m so glad that your daughter is on the other side of depression now–it is such a scary time. I often wonder if I’ll every be able to speak about this time out loud–writing about it and doing my crying/slobbering in private is one thing–but to actually say the words out loud–that’s difficult!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…When You Feel Inadequate: It’s Ok to Just Come AlongsideMy Profile

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  • Sounds as if you have had to work through some of the same strategies that have kept our household from imploding! I enjoyed this series, but may have missed this installment so thanks for sharing it today!
    Michele Morin recently posted…The Temporary DissonanceMy Profile

  • I know this was hard: hard to live through and hard to write. I understand. Depression has visited my family too. It’s not welcome and still wants to move in. I don’t understand how those without Christ can live through it. Thank you for your encouragement and realness. It’s spot on. Blessings, Chris writing from a yielded heart.
    Christine Malkemes recently posted…The Loft – A Mother’s TrustMy Profile

  • What a great post! Thank you for sharing at The Loft today. It’s wonderful that you and your husband work together to present a united front to your daughters.

    The last part of your post touched me deeply. My husband has suffered with depression and severe bipolar disorder over the years so I understand. I have a daughter too, teetering on the brink of depression … I will be interested in reading more about your situation.
    Jerralea recently posted…Family … at The LoftMy Profile

    • I’m so sorry you have first-hand knowledge of bipolar disorder and depression. Have you read the Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide (it’s written for patients AND family members). It’s a wonderful resource and answered so many of my questions when my daughter was diagnosed.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Nothing Says L-O-V-E Like ChocolateMy Profile

  • Anita, what a powerful and passionate post. Depression hurts…the person living with it and those who love that person. Eating disorders are equally painful. I’ve walked both roads. The fact that you were brave enough to share this story touches me deeply. I know many will be blessed because you shared. Thanks for linking up at The Loft this week.
    Leah Adams recently posted…The Loft Link~Up ~ FamilyMy Profile

  • Thank you for stopping by, Leah. I’m sorry you’ve walked those two roads. They aren’t easy. May God continue to hold you and mold you as you serve him.
    Anita Ojeda recently posted…Snow Angel BlessingsMy Profile