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The Parenting Team: Man to Man Defense

Parenting is a team sport. The last post, was two parents and their first child. Typically, families have a second child. That moves the Parenting Game to the next stage, which is man-to-man coverage. In sports, man-to-man coverage is one player guarding against a single opponent. With the addition of the second child, one parent ‘guards’ one child, while the other parent is ‘guarding’ the other child.

Single parents and parents of multiples, I know that your team looks different. This story may not relate directly to you, but perhaps there are some tips you can still use.

As we welcomed our second daughter, Ashley, into our family, we were once again overwhelmed. We quickly learned that when we were in double team coverage, one of us could be on the bench. Now that we had moved to man-to-man coverage, we were both in the game.

Our man-to-man coverage was Dan taking care of Danielle the 1 ½ year old as I breast fed and cared for Ashley. Logically, that made sense, but both Dan and Danielle were noticing the problem. Dan noticed he was not bonding with Ashley as he had with Danielle. Danielle was starting to push herself onto my lap, trying to get my attention, even if I was holding Ashley.

As an overwhelmed mom, I struggled with Dan taking care of Ashley when I was in the room. It just seemed I could do it easier and faster myself. But that wasn’t going to help him bond with Ashley or help me have time with Danielle. To get myself out of the room and time with Danielle, we decided that I would take a toddler swimming class one night a week. Danielle loved her ‘Mommy time’ and Dan had uninterrupted bonding time with Ashley.

Just when I thought we had become masters of the man-on-man defense Danielle was upset every time Dan held baby Ashley. She would cry “My daddy!”

That’s when I realized the pattern we had fallen into. Most of the time, I would take care of Ashley and Dan would be busy with Danielle. But as we started to switch our man-to-man coverage, Danielle didn’t want to share HER Daddy! I had to focus on distracting Danielle. For ‘mommy time’ we would play the piano together, have a tea party, or read a book. That worked sometimes, but other times, she would demand, “No, mommy time. I want daddy!”

It was hard to hear my daughter didn’t want me, especially with post-pregnancy hormones. But I tried to focus on the positive, even though my tears. I had to remember that Dan desired to have a great relationship with both of his daughters, and they needed it too. I had to keep working on being a member of the Parent Team and prevent myself from trying to do it all. I had to let Dan do things his way with his girls and protect his time with them to grow those relationships. I really couldn’t do it all. I needed the team!

The keys to being a team player with man-to-man defense:

  1. Communication Time: We learned over and over again the importance of taking time to talk so we could adjust our own behaviors to be become better parents.

  2. Listen to your first child! Watch their behavior and listening to their words. Danielle demanded our attention with her words and her behavior. Adding the vocabulary ‘mommy time’ and ‘daddy time’, we helped her have words to ask for what she wanted.

  3. Change is the only constant. Just when you have the man-to-man defense figured out your children will change.

The Parent Team will grow stronger with communication, listening skills and the willingness to adapt each step of the way.

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