Pushing Buttons

Many years ago, in the Time Before Kids, I witnessed an argument between my husband and his mother. As they were just getting warmed up with the objections and counterpoints, my husband said something to my mother-in-law that I knew would send her off the charts. Which it did. They went at it with gusto. Went to bed furious with each other.

The next morning, it was as if nothing had happened.

Coming from a family where verbal fights very rarely happened, I found this very strange. I’ve since learned that, for many families, bickering and quarrelling is the norm. It’s just the way they converse, debate, process and eventually resolve things. Tempers may fly, accusations may be made but, in the end, everyone still loves each other. Sometimes all the more for the spa-ing.

That night, after he and his Mom went at each other, I asked my husband why on earth he said the very thing that propelled the argument into the stratosphere.

He replied, “Because I love her and I like pushing her buttons.”

Go figure. He was actually egging her on, seeking out a grand old fight. Because that’s how he and she got it done.

I was thinking about this incident today because my kids were pushing my buttons big time. Bickering with each other over everything and anything. Assuming I would schlep their multiple bags, coats and random art projects from school to car to house. Telling me they don’t like pasta today when they loved it yesterday. Demanding “I want this, I need that, I don’t like this, don’t give me that.” (Insert grating, whiny voice.) Objecting to my every request. Being. Generally. Annoying.

“Why do they push my buttons?!” I despaired to myself.

I’m sure all those child psychologists have a lot of theories on the subject. Stuff to do with boundaries, working through conflict, touch points and all that. However those same psychologists might not be taking into account the long day I just spent at work, the fact that I need a glass of wine (stat) or just that my threshold for kiddo nonsense is running low today.

But I’m choosing to go with my husband’s rationale. Evidently it’s because they love me. And just like my hubs and his mother, I may well yell at them when they push my buttons and they will probably yell back – but tomorrow is another day. It’s all good.

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  1. Annie Moore

     /  March 13, 2012

    Another thumbs up, Sam! I love this one! And how was the glass of wine? Well done and thought provoking. So, next time I’m being provoked, I will try to keep in mind, it is because that person loves me! Takes all the anger out of it and puts it where it should be! A matter of the heart!

  2. My parents always encouraged me and my brothers to have our own points of view – discussions/arguments were welcomed provided our points were well thought through. My husband’s family … not at all … in fact, it’s taken as an insult if you do anything other than smile, nod and aim to please at all times. It took us a while to find the balance when we first moved in together – he thought that if we argued/disagreed then it must mean we were on the verge of splitting up whereas I thought is was great to have such a healthy exchange. Our son is only 17 months old, so we’ve not had a situation like yours to deal with yet. Should be ‘fun’.

    • Family dynamics are always interesting. There’s no right or wrong, just different ways we handle stuff. I know my siblings and I bickered but big, hot arguments and fights between my parents or us – or even extended family members – were never part of the day to day. This has always made me uncomfortable in situations where people are arguing.

  3. I actually think you’re right. Kids push your buttons because they know you love them unconditionally – no matter what they say or do, you’re going to be there for them. Kids are asses. 😉

    • True that! I guess mine are young enough to push my buttons unintentionally – I wonder at what point they start doing it intentionally – for the joy of the fight – like how my hubs and his mom operated. It’s so diff from the relationship I had with my mother that I find it hard to process.


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