Part of the advantage to having both a son and daughters is the opportunity to teach them, by observation, the differences that exist between them. We spend a lot of time teaching our son about the nature of women as well as teaching our daughters the nature of men.
Earlier last week, our youngest daughter was told by RLB to move her plate off the table where he needed to set down his laptop. She didn't do it right away so he repeated himself sternly. To which she rejoined: "I'm getting it!" It took all of about one second for her to realize what she had done, which was about five seconds too late. She began apologizing. I know had she given any thought to what she was about to say, she wouldn't respond to her father that way, if she had been paying attention, she wouldn't have needed to be told a second time. However, I, as her mother, will not give her that inch. What followed was a conversation about respect and not allowing what first comes to mind to be blurted out. As well as instruction on how to change her heart so that words of indignation are not her first reaction. And as I have in the past, I promised her that I will continue to have these talks with her every time she is disrespectful, after every eye roll I see of hers, and after every emotional outburst. Like her sister, she is doing exceptionally well changing her heart and recognizing how important it is to think first and filter her words, calm her heart and become deliberately aware of what influences her thought processes (hormones, lack of sleep, negative association, and, quite simply, the natural rebellion within her).
Two weekends ago we were all playing Mexican Train dominoes and as every game we play does, it became very competitive. As long as I can discern that expressions are made in jest and out of competition, the taunting and screams of indignation are allowed. As soon as it becomes personal, the game is paused and we are back into teaching mode. There is a new expression that started with the youngest daughter. It was hilarious when first delivered. You might wonder how games of dominoes or Pictionary can get so intense...actually, I hope you aren't wondering, I hope you are making every game you play during family time just as cut throat and loud as ours are. Anyway, in a move to cut off my daughter's ability to play and stick her with a ridiculous number of points, I laid a matching domino right where she was going to put hers. She jumped at me and yelled, while laughing, "Imma cut you!!!" This escalated into everyone belly roll laughing. And like I said, it has become the go to phrase now when one of us is the victim of a strategic move, in any game, that ensures defeat.
This last weekend they decided a rematch was needed to see if Mom's victory was by chance or skill (I demonstrated it was all skill, once again...). It was our son's turn and of course someone was about to go out (probably me) and he had several dominoes left to play, he was searching them trying to find a match and was taking a long time. The yells started, "Go!!" To which he yelled in frustration, "I ammm!"
The youngest was confused and asked me, "Mom, how come when I say something disrespectful you correct me, but you don't correct him?"
The game was paused and instruction on the difference between men and women ensued.
I started by telling her that I know he didn't say it out of disrespect. I asked my son, "tell me, with complete honesty, the motivation behind what you said, was it a) frustration with me telling you to go and indignation towards me, or b) frustration with your dominoes and impending defeat?" The answer was b, which I already knew. He is seventeen and while still capable of being disrespectful to me or his father, he rarely is and certainly wouldn't be in this situation, but it takes discernment to know this.
What I also have come to understand about men is this, they would literally have to feel hate in their heart toward someone to respond as flippantly and disrespectfully as women will thoughtlessly toward people they not only love, but aren't even upset with. It is women who will often treat those closest to them, those whom they love most, the worst while preserving a polite disposition toward friends and acquaintances.
The men in our house definitely have times they are ornery and irritable, don't get me wrong, but in parenting and giving correction like our daughter received earlier that week, it takes discernment. I reminded her of the situation. She had placed a plate where her father puts his computer all the time (her first mistake). She was using her Kindle and not paying attention to him when he told her to move the plate (her second mistake). Having to be told a second time to move her plate, not obeying his first instruction, coupled with an indignant outburst was beyond appropriate. Especially considering the tone RLB had in his voice. Had the situation have happened with our son, the second command, in the tone it was given, would have gotten his attention, snapped him out of it and he would have swiftly moved the plate while saying, "Sorry Dad, I wasn't paying attention." For him to respond the way our daughter did, he'd have to have very deep-seated anger with his father. It would have been a huge red flag for us.
Our daughter doesn't have deep-seated anger with her father, her response to him was flippant and not thought out but does not represent a deeper relational issue between them outside of her needing to learn how to guard her tongue. But, on the flip side, this is not how a man receives it unless he too understands the nature of women and can properly discern the motivation. To him it sounds like hate and horrendous disrespect. This is how our husbands receive our flippant remarks, our eye rolls, our indignant outbursts. In receiving these measures of disrespect, they consider what it would take for them to dole them out, how angry they would have to be toward someone, how negatively they would have to feel towards them. If you ever wonder why your husband, in that moment, literally hates you and has to talk himself down from reacting in kind, it is a natural projection of what he interprets you are feeling towards him.
If there is one thing that you can control to help your marriage, it is learning how he receives these disrespectful acts and deciding it is not up to him to change how he receives it, it is up to you to stop doing it.
This post on Alpha Game today ties in well: Don't accept neutering of yourself or others.