"We Can't Agree on How to Raise Our Child"

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His Turn

"I don't know what's gotten into my wife," said Ron, 42, a high school history teacher. "She used to be so much fun, but motherhood has turned her into a stressed-out control freak. Every five seconds it seems Jill's checking on Ashley to make sure she's okay, and Jill never gives Ashley a chance to handle everyday challenges on her own. Maybe if Jill would lighten up Ashley wouldn't be so timid and afraid of life.

"Here's the problem: I want Ashley to be rough-and-tumble, the kind of kid who, if she falls down and scrapes her knee, gets right back up and tries again. Jill wants to keep her in a bubble. And our differences have driven a wedge between us. It's true, I do mock Jill's warnings, ignore her rules, and disagree with her in front of Ashley. I'm not proud of this behavior. It sets a terrible example for our daughter, but I'm going nuts.

"As Jill said, the early years of our marriage were great. She's beautiful, intelligent, and energetic, and from the moment she caught my eye at that party I wanted to be with her. When she got pregnant I was really looking forward to being a dad, but I'm totally shut out by her overprotectiveness. Okay, I understand why she'd be nervous at first because Ashley was premature. But she's always been healthy, so why is Jill such a worrywart? Plus she talks about her worries to anyone who's listening -- and a lot of the time that's Ashley. You'll never convince me that Ashley dreamed up all these fears on her own. It's Jill who complains about keeping the house clean, who obsesses out loud about Ashley making friends, who carries on about a child who drowned in a nearby pool. Of course the kid's anxious!

"My wife paints me as the bad guy who encourages dangerous behavior. That's not true! I spot Ashley when she's playing, staying close enough to make sure she won't get hurt. But I also give her some room to figure things out for herself. In Jill's view, anything short of holding Ashley's hand and reminding her to watch out is being inattentive. As for cleanliness, Jill's over the top. I wish she'd chill out and let Ashley enjoy playing instead of nagging her to wash her hands or pick up her toys.

"Jill treats me as an afterthought, but don't I get a say in our daughter's upbringing? I want to be an involved dad, unlike hers or mine. My folks split up when I was 6. My dad simply moved out one Sunday when the rest of us were at church, and he and I never got close. I'm determined to be a hands-on father and I refuse to give in to Jill. Our daughter needs a dad who'll defend her right to be a kid -- a kid who's free to play, get dirty, and make mistakes.

"And I need a wife who enjoys being with her husband once in a while. I like family time, too, but I miss going out alone with Jill, and I really miss our sex life. I love her but if things don't change our marriage is doomed."

Continued on page 3:  The Counselor's Turn


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