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On love, arguing, and psychosis: yes, we’re married with kids

Yes, were married with children.

By Shannon Michaels |

I met my husband when I was twenty years old. Most people enter marriage with their parents’ old china and Velvet Elvis paintings; we had those plus abandonment issues, histories of domestic assault, and a complete inability to communicate on every level – oh, and youth, which is arguably the greatest obstacle we had to overcome.

During the first decade of our lives together, we grew up together, grew apart together, fell out of love, figured out who we were as individual people, fell back in love with those people, and had three children. And today I can say that we’ve finally figured this “married with kids” thing out.

Well, yesterday we had it figured out. Today my husband and I fought in front of our children for the first time ever – like, in twelve and a half years of having kids ever. I don’t mean to say that we don’t ever fight because god knows we do; it’s just that, when we fight, we make sure our kids never see it. We both come from split families – I had the domestic assault one; his had the abandonment – so we’ve worked really hard to keep our crap between us. Sure, we fight, but we don’t do it often, and when we do, it’s in private and it’s over almost as soon as it starts.

Usually, I will start being an insane a**hole and he’ll tell me to go take a five-minute walk to sort it out. Or he’ll open a big, fat can of jerkface and I’ll tell him to check it before I am forced to wreck it. (That usually works.) We’ve learned over the years to mitigate each other’s mood-swings, and, because of that, our kids had never once born witness to anything more than a long scowl or a stern “Other room, NOW.”

But today it would seem that my Mercury was firmly lodged in his Uranus, because while I was trying to get my middle son to clean the damn bathroom, my husband decided that at that very second, that same child needed to take the vacuum to his brother. I was so sick and tired of trying to get the kid upstairs to the bathroom, I told my son no. And my husband told him yes. So I told my husband no, and he told me to f— off, and I told him to shove it, and he threw the vacuum, and I told him to get the f— out.

Because we’re five, that’s why.

Meanwhile, my nine-year-old was just standing there, watching this whole parade of lunacy unfold before him, and as soon as dad walked out of the room, he started to cry.

Because we’re fantastic parents, that’s why.

He cried and told me he was scared. I held him and reminded him that he fights worse than that with his brother every day, pointed out that I am a pain in the butt and his dad is an overbearing know-it-all and we’ve lived together for 15 long, long years. So of course we fight sometimes.

And now I don’t know if I’m sad that my kid had to see us acting like three-year-olds or if I’m secretly a little glad that he witnessed an argument that resolved itself within ten minutes with a big hug and two unprompted and very sincere apologies (that I made sure happened right in front of that kid) and then ice cream, because ice cream cures all evils. Am I wrong to think that I should be teaching him that it’s okay to have conflicts and that the world doesn’t end when you have them? Because I lived thirty years thinking one raised voice meant the End Of Civilization as we know it, and I never learned how to fight and get over it until I had to learn the hard way.

Perhaps that’s a rhetorical question. I just worry sometimes that my kids think their parents’ marriage is this perfect, happy-go-lucky thing and because of that, when their time comes, they will have no clue how to deal with the reality of marriage – the reality that our partners are all, on occasion, more than a little crazy, but we love each other through it anyway.

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About Shannon Michaels


Shannon Michaels

Shannon Michaels is another persona of Mr Lady, a blogger, a freelance writer, someone's mother three times over, and someone's wife, just once so far. She's been blogging at Whiskey in my Sippy Cup since January of 2005 and she still can't figure out why anyone reads it... or why she keeps writing it, for that matter.

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10 thoughts on “On love, arguing, and psychosis: yes, we’re married with kids

  1. 2cents says:

    I think its good modeling for kids to see that we can fight and work it out.

  2. lynn says:

    My parents fought in front of me and my brother all the time, but they did it wrong. And we never saw them make up.

    My husband and I believe it’s important to fight in front of the kids, so that they see the right way to do it and that it doesn’t mean the end of a relationship. How are they supposed to learn how to fight right if you don’t show them?

  3. Anon says:

    name calling and vacuum cleaner throwing are not behaviors you want your kids to model. good modeling would be to fight like adults and work it out like adults.

  4. Meh Great says:

    Woah. There is so much cursing in this post that it should be rated R. Serious; in front of the kids? You rock, babble. ;(

    But yes, icecream cures all evils.

  5. kaypea says:

    When you’re going to fight, do it in front of the kids so they learn the right way to work out disagreements. But obey the one key rule: clean fighting! No cursing, no throwing things, no saying things you can’t take back.

  6. Jenna Boettger Boring says:

    I used to work with a woman who always said that fighting in front of the kids was a good thing, but you never fought about sex, money, or discipline within their ear shot. I always found that to be good advice.

  7. Polar says:

    This rang so true for me because my husband (of 13 years) and I just had our first major fight in front of the kids this past week. It was not filled with perfect calm voiced adults airing their grievances in a fully grown-up manner–there was yelling (not the norm for our house) and childishness, and daddy walking out of the house for a long walk so that he could cool down. But there was also daddy coming back, and apologies, and hugs, and talking about how we might have done that differently. I think kids are part of life, and life is messy sometimes. I think there is something positive in teaching kids that they don’t need to be terrified of strong emotions, that anger is not something that will cause life to end, and that grown-ups can be really mad, and still love each other at the end of the day.

  8. Nora Phemister says:

    There are events in our lives that happened only once and we remembered them forever. Good events or bad events, it doesn’t matter. The point is that they were so “striking”, we were never able to forget them.
    That day when dad threw the vacuum at mom, she answered back with some “big” words and then you hugged, kissed and ate ice cream, could be one of those events. An akward scene that turned out to be a good lesson: dealing with conflict without exterminating our sudden enemy, moving on and being able to make peace.
    If the vacuum gets thrown at mom, she answers back with big words and then you apologize, hug, kiss and eat ice cream, not once, but over and over again, I’m sure your kids will remember then, that crazy, dysfunctional home, they were forced to live in. Not so great!!
    Dealing with conflict is an important part of our lives that needs to be taught rather than ignoring it. Using our own home situations or adult misbehavior as a “sporadic” example is totally right. I think “one time event” vs. “frequent events” makes a huge difference.

  9. BrokenHome2 says:

    I believe that it isn’t that you fought in front of them, but that they also saw you resolve it and apologize. We are all human and make mistakes. I agree that if kids don’t see how to properly argue and resolve it they won’t know the proper way to handle it in their own relationships. In fact, they might end up thinking something is wrong when they do have a disagreement with their partner since “mom and dad never fought”. As an aside>> I knew my step-mom and dad were heading for divorce when my dad told me they NEVER fought (he was proud of it, he doesn’t handle conflict well due to PTSD)…. I knew that just meant she wasn’t allowed / didn’t voice her differing opinions about ANYTHING and that one day she would break and just walk away. Which she did about after they had been together for 10 years.

  10. fightingwords says:

    I’m married to one of those men who never really saw his parents fight (or kiss, or anything, but that’s a whole other can of worms). Because of that we’ve had to work really hard to get him to open up when we’re having a disagreement rather than just shutting down, because the second he shuts down I take it as he doesn’t care and I go off even more. We both agree that kids need to see parents argue, work it out and move on. (we don’t have children yet) And I love the advice about never fighting about sex, money or discipline in front of the kids….that would have made my childhood better.

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