Once upon a time, when I was maybe 11 years old, my parents had a fight. I don’t remember what it was about, but I do remember voices raised and my mother eventually storming out of the house, yelling something about wanting a divorce.* It was evening, after dinner, and the scene was terrifying to watch—although, at the same time, the terror was somehow muted. Perhaps it was because half my friends’ parents were divorced, so the prospect of a split seemed almost normal.
But actually, I think it was because their having a yell-at-each-other fight was so absolutely unusual, so completely bizarre, that it didn’t seem entirely real. Was it staged? Or purely a figment of my imagination? In any event, a couple of hours later, my mom came home, my parents stayed together, and now I have to deal with the question of whether to yell at Jean (or be yelled at by her) in front of Sasha.
It’s not an easy question to address, simply because Jean and I don’t fight. Or at least not like that. We have what I imagine are the usual disagreements and occasional moments of discourtesy, but we haven’t truly argued about anything in years. (Jean: Any idea what we last argued about?) And raise our voices? A sniffy “Hmph!” is usually all it takes for each of us to convey our annoyance.
In theory, though, I am in favor of yelling in front of the kids—as long as it leads to a real resolution. The idea being, I guess, that the drama and aural violence produce catharsis and compromise. If you’re just going to yell and be mad, um, that might not be great for the kids to see.
Not arguing, meanwhile, can be dangerous, especially if one or both parties has real issues that need to be aired. I may have once been in a relationship like that, where any kind of conflict was utterly inexpressable. That kind of repression, too, has got to rub off weirdly on the children.
So: Fight. Yell. Scream. Throw dishes (but not the really good ones). But have it all amount to something, please.
And also: Can you invite me over to watch? I want to see what it looks like.
[*Sorry, Mom & Dad, if my memory’s faulty, but that’s what’s in my head.]