Robin (38) and Max (40) have been married for 15 years. Robin is a stay-at-home mom who studied art and sometimes does silk screens-which she gives as special presents. Max is a corporate lawyer. They have three kids: Tanya is 12. Dylan is 10, and Amanda is 7. The family is coming home from a dinner at Max's boss's house early because Dylan (10) misbehaved. He poured a drink down his sister's shirt, and she started screaming.
Max grabs Dylan by the hand: You are going to be in your room the rest of the night, Dylan. You can't behave like that, especially not at my boss's house.
Dylan sees a cricket jumping on the sidewalk and stomps it dead.
Robin: Dylan, how could you do that?
Max: Because he's a cruel, that's why.
Robin: Max, how can you say that?
Max: For God's sake Robin, that's cruel. He doesn't care about anybody but himself. Look at how he behaved at dinner.
Robin: Don't call him cruel.
Max: He has to behave better.
Robin: You're always labeling him. You call him lazy, you call him cruel, you call him selfish. How do you expect him to behave?
Tanya: Would you two be quiet?
Robin: And I don't think he should be sent to his room for the rest of the night. That's not fair.
Max: You know what, let's just stop talking about it, okay?
Later that night.
Robin: How could you say he was cruel in front of him?
Max: He is cruel. He liked stepping on that bug. Dylan has to know that he should work on feeling compassion. There's a lack of feeling there.
Robin: You made him feel terrible. I think you should apologize.
Max: And you, as usual, are focusing on the wrong issue. I am not going to apologize.
Robin: You, the father, the all knowing father tell this ten- year- old child that he is a cruel person. He is going to believe it.
Max: Why is every word I utter analyzed, obsessed about, and evaluated? He wasn't harmed, believe me.
Robin: Ask any child psychologist if it's okay to call your son cruel.
Max: All right, so maybe I made a mistake. But you don't have to criticize me in front of the kids. He's okay. Do you want to hear the things my father said to me?
Robin: Just because he was a bad father doesn't mean that you have to be one too.
Max: Why are you in the middle of this anyway? Why can't you let me relate to Dylan on my own terms? And why do you say things about my discipline? You're not supposed to do that. We've discussed this already.
Robin: I see you hurting my children, and I can't just stand by.
Max: Then maybe you should've married someone else who wouldn't hurt your children.
Robin: That is a ridiculous thing to say. Are we gonna try to talk about this or are we gonna say ridiculous things?
Max: You talk to me in front of the other children as if I am another child, you tell me you don't like this, you don't like that, you tell me not to discipline them so strictly. You are sabotaging my relationship with them.
Robin: That's not what I want to do. I'm just afraid. You get that tense, irritated voice with them. It makes them think you can't stand them.
Max: You're right. I'm terrible.
Robin: Oh that really helps!
Max: I should be locked up and ...and sent to a school for daddies. I am not perfect like you are.
Robin: Perfect like I am? Did I ever say I was perfect?
Max: No, but why do you have to interfere with everything? You are always telling me how to be, what to do, how my relationship with my children should be...You have to let me be. You have to let go.
Robin: I'm trying. But you have to try harder. You have to relax.
Max: No. You have to leave me alone in front of the kids. Don't criticize me in front of them. That's more toxic than anything I am doing.