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He Said, She Said: When Mom and Dad Disagree, Who Wins, Who Loses, and How We ZagZig Through

As a self-professed Kevin Bacon fan – yes, I spent my teen-formative years in the 80s – I thought, on my walk today, of the 1991 movie, He Said, She Said. Kevin and his co-star Elizabeth Perkins play journalists who work in the same office, and often have opposing views. The person who plays the television producer in the movie gives them their own show, called, of course, He Said, She Said.

It was fresh on my mind after my husband and I had our own He Said, She Said moment, although had cameras been running, we might at least have acted like we were better listeners for each other. After nearly 25 years of marriage, we know each other’s go-to expressions for “SAY WHAT?” or the furrow in his brow that reveals his internal conversation: “I am trying hard to listen to you, but I have no idea why you brought this up again and I really want to run away, so I am pretending like I am listening but I am planning my escape.”

MIKE (said): Ok, maybe that is what I was thinking…or maybe not. What do I do when my wife has brought this issue up a number of times and she has her view and I have mine? If she is trying to wear me down, she may be getting close, but I still have some strength -- Fight or flight? Hmmmm…

Over the years, we have had our disagreements. We tried not to argue in front of the kids, but then what do you do when those little buggers – with all due love and affection meant by that pet name – become the cause of a heated discussion? At times, we did argue in front of the kids, and when they asked us to stop, my husband obliged while I still kept moving, fueled off the energy of a heated engagement.

MIKE (said): While, yes, I will be the first to stop an argument, looking for a way to escape, we did on occasion have a heated discussion in front of the kids, because ultimately, it is good for them to see the resolution part (according to my wife). I still wanted to run, but my wife insists on rehashing each message until there is some sort of alignment, concession or apology and then we move on.

Who knows what is right. Paralleling the words of Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb,” we never failed, just found 10,000 wrong ways to do it.” So, experience in this case, just means we have tried to resolve conflicts in life a number of ways. My husband thinks I love conflict and I thrive in it, but I can’t think of anyone who loves it. From my standpoint, it is a means to an end.

MIKE: She loves it! I can see the twinkle in her eye – like she is competing as a champion debater. She presents her point and before I can even think about a counterpoint, she has listed two or three other points. One or two of them may be legit, but I don’t let on – partly because I am still on point one while she is on point three.

So, what was the topic of last night’s He Said, She Said episode at our house? It was over the topic of completing a task. You might remember, that I am outnumbered in the house these days. With our girls off at college, both boys – Numbers 3 and Number 4 – and my husband share a similar outlook.

I have read the book Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus, and it is not gender bashing to say the two think differently on occasion. Ask my husband about the time he told people I had a problem with drinking – what he meant was NOT because I was a lush, but because I have strong opinions about drinking and driving. He said it in the same vane he would say that I have a problem with the boys leaving laundry on the floor or dirty dishes in the sink.

MIKE (said): OK, in fairness to me, I meant nothing disrespectful. I just interpreted it differently than she did. I did not INTEND it to be taken out of context by our friends, but it did get a lot of laughter when my wife reacted with this appalled face as she sipped on her Ginger Ale.

After I got over comments about being a lush…. I asked Number 3 if his room was clean and done and he said yes. A few minutes later, I asked my husband if he checked on Number 3’s room, and he said yes. Let me be clear, at no point in this conversation, did I feel like I had to clarify what is meant by clean. I had a clear picture in my mind. I also did not think I had to define what done means; but just for grins, it is about the task being complete. Well, when I entered my son’s room, it was not clean or done. He was still working on it, and it was about 80 percent done.

MIKE (said): OK, he was near done. I mean, I did not know my wife was going to go up there right away. I mean it was done, or rather it would be done in an hour so, and I checked that one off my list.

The discussion that ensued was in front of Number 3, directed toward my “enabling” husband and it was a proverbial “He said, She said” on the definition of being done, to which I also threw in a few words about integrity, grit and perseverance and honestly all rolled up in one discussion. I was upset, my husband kept working on the room to really finish and Number 3…I think he decided that the best method for him was FLIGHT. He won, mom and dad lost and the “he said, she said” continues.

To read more He Said, She Said situation, read the book Zag Zig Parenting: (Mis) Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and Stay-At-Home Dad.

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