I love my wife. She is the reason I’ve been able to write three books. She’s the smartest, kindest person I know. And though it’s a prerequisite that as a Christian husband you’re required by law to say that you “married over your head,” this is actually true with me. That’s not an exaggeration. Ask John Ortberg. When he signed a copy of his fantastic book “The Me I Want to Be” for Jenny he wrote, “Jenny, you married way beneath you.”
That’s just gospel truth. But recently I’ve faced a new dilemma.
We’ve started to get competitive with our parenting.
Not in a bad way. Not in a sad way. Not in a “whoa this is serious Wednesday on Monday” way. We’ve just gotten very competitive on one silly thing:
My daughter’s spelling tests.
Every Friday, our 7 year old L.E. has a spelling test in the first grade. There are five words she has to know how to spell and then five bonus words. So the best she can score is a “5+,” indicating that in addition to the mandatory words, she got all the bonus ones right too.
My wife works on the words with her each afternoon after she gets off the bus before I get home from work. For the entire year, she scored 5+ on every test …
until Jenny went out of town.
One Thursday, Jenny was out of town and I was the one running the show. L.E. and I practiced the words a little and then she said that was enough practice. It felt short to me and so I said, “Is that how long you and your mom normally practice?” L.E. brilliantly responded, “I’ll do my best dad. That’s what matters most, that I do my best.”
That felt like good logic to me. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking they have to earn my love or attention with performance. I like that idea. That seemed right.
At the time I didn’t know I was getting played by a 7 year old.
How did she do on the test?
Her best that week was a 3+.
My wife came home and laughed about it, but since then, on most Friday afternoons my wife or my daughter will call me on the phone. They’ll say, “5+” and then hang up. They’re talking trash, spelling test trash.
I always react in Christian love, but if they’re not careful at some point I’m probably going to juke em. Not L.E. of course, Jesus Juking a kid is like dunking on an 8 foot hoop. You shouldn’t do it, but Jenny? It is on like Hong Kong. (The fun of that statement was really sucked out when Nintendo trademarked the phrase “On like Donkey Kong.”)
Have you and your spouse ever been competitive on the way you parent?