There’s the kind of person who may appear to be over-invested in their child’s emotional health. Perhaps this investment appears unhealthy in itself; I’m not sure, being one of those kind of people, and lacking in enough perspective to see the situation clearly. But I keep forging ahead, trying to do what I think is right for my kids: filtering media content, sitting at the bedside of an anxious child, staying an extra five minutes at drop off for the nervous child, carefully choosing my words about diet to reflect health rather than image, making sure to validate feelings and separate them from behaviors and actions in both praise and punishment. I try not to helicopter, I try to encourage discovery and agency and initiative, to teach critical thinking as well as compassion.
The tricky thing is that I’m married to someone who is practical, pragmatic through and through, and has a very difficult time valuing the emotional realm, let alone acknowledging its existence. Through my lens, his insistence on things “making sense” and “being smart” above how things might just feel is myopic and puts us all at a disadvantage. To me, yelling at a child for having feelings he or she can’t work through appropriately on his or her own is tantamount to abuse.
So the question is, if I know I would immediately take the kids and leave a spouse who physically harmed them, first strike you’re out, why is it so much less clear when I feel like he sometimes emotionally harms them? Do I subscribe to his theory, that it’s a cruel world and they need to learn how to navigate it? Do I allow the generous excuse that his upbringing did not teach him how to have a healthy emotional life and he’s still working on it forty years later? What are my children learning from me, as I protest but don’t altogether stop the way their father speaks to them?