The inevitable office politics of parenting

It's not uncommon for me get all mushy about how well Edan's mom, stepdad, stepmom and I get along -- stridently casting aside our differences as we find common ground through the noble quest of parenthood, blah blah, etc. And don't get me wrong, that happens, but the truth is -- especially considering we're parenting the same kid -- the four of us hardly know each other.

And I know people tackle important tasks with relative strangers all the time. Four-person, international teams pilot space shuttles for crying out loud. Compared with all those procedures to learn and buttons to press -- really, how hard could this parenting stuff be? Our lives usually aren't at risk, there's no bulky headgear, and we're rarely subjected to anything that'll give us motion sickness.

But -- like space travelers -- groups of parents face a daunting set of challenges in their quest to explore uncharted new frontiers. Mostly, we have to figure out how to get along, even when we don't want to -- which isn't rocket science, but instead something far more complicated.

Because every time you get a group together to accomplish anything whatsoever, personal politics are inevitably part of the equation. Who gets to sit by the window on the space shuttle? Who gets the best moon rock? Who can take home the best flavors of astronaut ice cream? These are important questions that can't be answered by rank and protocol. The winner in every one of these circumstances is the one who effectively manipulated the others (or their boss). Parenting is more or less the same, just with real ice cream, not the dry stuff.

Not that Edan's other parents and I jockeying for power, or that we have the opportunity to get promoted, or that we have a communal water cooler where we can share gossip about other members of our parenting posse (though that would be awesome). In fact, I'd like to think that we're fairly open about our intentions.

However, the only time we interact with one another is when we're exchanging Edan. Even then, we stand around, more or less focused on the kid, mumbling half-sentences to one another while laughing at whatever new dance, or song, or commando movement routine she's demanding that we watch. I imagine this is similar to how most people interact with their bosses, just with slightly shorter sentences. And, just like in an office, when the boss is around, we're all momentarily under the impression that the other employees don't have lives outside of their job. Thus, everything that happens during that brief amount of time we spend together feels like it must, therefore, be a reflection on the state of our relationship.

I feel like I'm stretching this metaphor a little thin, but the point is, when someone's having family trouble, or has guests from out of town, or their dog is sick -- or whatever -- chances are, they'll seem irritable, distracted, and frustrated with existence. But, because our relationship -- while wonderful and unique -- wasn't exactly established on a foundation of trust and mutual admiration, it's common to feel like any sign of discontent is a signal that our fragile arrangement is about to implode. Under these heightened circumstances, it's easy to get defensive, or suspicious, or concerned that I've made some embarrassing parental oversight that -- in an effort to keep things cordial -- Edan's mom isn't talking about.

Then, at other times, everything seems fine -- the only problem being, I'm never entirely sure why.

I'm sure there's an impractical, teamwork-seminar style answer to this dilemma, like "be open to honesty as your greatest asset in the workplace" (or something). But, chances are, I won't be able to do that. Instead, I'll carry on in astronaut fashion, hurtling toward outer space at some unthinkable speed, trying not to burn up in the atmosphere.

And hopefully I'll score the best ice cream.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.