Parents do not have to always be on the same page but balance helps

I am the gentle, emotion-fuelled parent who soothes tantrums. He is the fun, boisterous, competitive parent who will not hang back and let kids win a race

“Our kids will not play with guns,” I said over coffee in my mother’s kitchen one day to my then fiance. He mumbled something about not seeing the harm, and a wry smile curled at the corner of my mother’s mouth as she raised her mug to hide the knowing smirk.

My brother had a paper cap gun as a kid, which I loved. Not so much the aiming and firing but the timid plume of smoke and the sharp smell of sulphur that filled the room. I was rarely allowed to hold, let alone shoot, the western gun. He was protective of his toy, and I, the little sister, would surely break it. But he was a few years older than me, and our school schedules didn’t always line up. I would sneak into his room and count the caps, wondering how many I would get away with firing without him noticing or delighting at finding a loose roll under the bed. The gun disappeared after a few summers, and we were left with a roll of unused paper caps found at the bottom of a bag of kinder surprise toys.

“Times change,” I said, knowing my mother’s grin was her way of saying, “oh, how little you know”.

But I genuinely thought I had a say over my children’s choices as they veered into their primary school years. Bear in mind I had no children at the time and also believed our kids would sleep in their own beds and eat more than a medley of cheese, ham, and breadsticks for dinner.


The idea that my future children would play with anything that resembled a weapon went against what I considered to be my deeply embedded beliefs. “It’s a toy,” my other half would argue as I retaliated, “but it’s the connotation of what it embodies.”

Yes, I have my opinions on guns, more so in this decade than before, but aside from the great debate of: should kids play with guns, this was what I believed parenting was about. Laying down the law, insisting the kids listen, learn, and abide by our “rules”. Most importantly, these “rules” would be a joint collaboration between myself, the “no swords or guns” brigade, and my other half, who spent much of his childhood playing Street Fighter that he can still wax lyrical on the difference between Ken and Ryu’s specials. A reinforced, unshakeable parenting duo. I always assumed we would be on the same page.

Our kids are now eight and five. As parents, we clearly don’t make all the rules. And we don’t always parent on the same page. Same book, hopefully, the same chapter, but not always the same page.

I am the gentle, emotion-fuelled, and patient parent who soothes tantrums and upsets with mindfulness and deep breaths. He is the fun, boisterous, competitive, and spontaneous parent who will not simply hang back and let the kids win a race on Mario Kart or a game of Snap. I abide by the recommended age ratings while he uses his judgment about what our daughters can handle. He mostly gets it right, and I mostly overprotect as a consequence of my anxious controlling nature.

There is a balance to how we individually parent. We each have our pros and cons, we play good cop bad cop, and we roll our eyes behind each other’s backs when we don’t agree with how the other handles a situation. As someone who believes she is almost always right, the eye-rolling mostly comes from me, but he does his fair share too. From the beginning, I have been the parent who mothers well under routine and comes undone around the edges when that structure falls apart.

I need to know what my other half equates good parenting to be and what his “rules” are. But we had different upbringings, varying belief systems, and a unique understanding of parenthood. Whatever rules he has, have become consumed into our daily life before we have a chance to talk it through. Because this is parenting — winging it, finding the flow, and realising you can’t ban every toy you invariably don’t agree with. The parenting “rules” that mould you as a parent and nurture your kids, grow and develop as the years go by.

There are two nerf guns in our house, which I routinely hide, and they routinely find — bought by their dad on a sunny Friday afternoon as a surprise. For them or me, I’m not sure. I imagine he doesn’t remember that conversation in my parents’ house, but my eye-rolling could have won a medal that day as the soft yellow bullet hit my back repeatedly, the girls giggling and high-fiving their dad.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t always have to be on the same page.