Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Marital Bliss And Toddler Upchuck

As I said in my last post, my family and I have been battling a flu. First it was me, in all my belly-clutching, sleep-demanding grumpiness. Then my lovely wife got it (Tag, you’re it, Honey!), with requisite barfing and long sleep hours. Now my toddler daughter has it, but in her sweet, straightforward manner that only a young child could have she just cried a little and then upchucked onto the linoleum (thank goodness it wasn’t the carpet!), followed by lots of sleep. We could have done without the rotten-egg farts and diarrhea, though. Have I grossed you out yet? Doubtless my 2 ½ year old son will get it next, as he shares cups and such with my daughter despite our best efforts. All the while we’ve had to stir into the stew a heaping portion of long work hours for both of us, including night work, with a soup base of fatigue, and a dash of irritability, just for flavor. And daycare won’t take a sick child.

It’s times like this that make me happy I’m in a strong marriage. Yes, my fellow parenting types, I think back to all those countless bottles, diapers, tantrums, thrown food, hyperactivity, and just plain neediness that have filled two and a half years between the smiles and laughs and sweetness, and I realize how much it has bonded me and my wife. I think even if we had had to deal with babies who had colic or some major medical need, we still could have weathered it. I feel sorry for those “kids” out there who get married right out of school and have babies before they’ve even had a chance to bond with each other, much less mentally mature on their own, or for single moms with few folks to turn to (like my mom was). Just last Sunday marked the 13th anniversary of when my wife and I met each other, as well as the 12th anniversary of my proposal to her. By the time kids came around, we had worked out enough of the relationship glitches to weather the rough spots of parenting.

Well, a study has just been released about “coparenting relationships” with small children (a.k.a. the ability for you and your spouse not to strangle each other when the kids are screaming, poopy, breaking fragile keepsakes, falling off tabletops, and wiping runny noses on their arms all at the same time):


Researchers through Ohio State University studied 97 Illinois couples who were expecting a child (2/3 of them would have their first child), giving them a questionnaire and videotaping their interaction. When their child was 3.5 years old, the researchers came back and videotaped the couple playing together with their child and cooperating to change their child’s clothes. Their goal was to study how well the couples interacted with each other as well as the child, how “close” their marriage relationship was, and how well they cooperated with each other. Not surprisingly, those couples found to be less “close” had more difficulty cooperating with tasks and were more critical with each other. Previous studies by the authors had shown how negative coparenting relationships affected the children in negative ways down the line, such as in aggressiveness and inappropriate behavior at home and school.

Duh. But I guess it’s good to show it in an irrefutable way.

What I’d be more interested in studying is the effects on marriage of having children who were behaviorally difficult, especially spirited, or had special needs. Do couples tend to grow closer from the strain, on average, or is the divorce rate much higher? I wonder. Personally, I’d like to think they tend to grow closer. Getting toddler puke on me and working with my wife despite our own sickness has made me think so.


Maggie said...

I thought about this post all day yesterday. I wish I could say that my husband and I were a perfect team all the time. But what I love is that we are getting better and better at the cooperating thing and we always talk things out. Which draws us closer each time. Knowing that no matter what, we will always be there to hold each other up, work side by side, even if we don't always agree, its what makes it work. Thanks for a post that made me think so much.

Angry Lab Rat said...

Wow, I'm blushing. I consider myself no more thought-provoking than a stapler. Glad I could help.

Just call me "Dear Labbie".