But now here we are, back at home, living life, side by side, kids and parents. And while I am pleased we can shout “Hey look kids! Look at us having fun and loving each other and stuff! Isn’t this great that we did this?! Remember this, in the future, taking time away from your kids is great for everybody,” I am still left wondering…
Is that enough?
What about the rest of the time?
What else are they seeing?
Do they know and feel their parents love for each other at the dinner table? In the changing of the guard/ships passing scenarios as one comes homes or leaves? In our conversations and our glances and everyday interactions?
Our children see us embracing and sharing affection. We smile and laugh together. But those things are subtle, and not quite unique to our relationship. Perhaps there is more we can be showing our children in the everyday what it means to live a healthy partnership.
Conveniently, last week just before leaving for our weekend getaway from the children, I listened to one of my most favorite podcast team discussing marriage particularly as it relates to living life with young children. As I’m feeling exhausted and antsy to escape dreaming of the meal I will enjoy where I stay in my seat, people bring me food, I can taste every morsel and I hear zero amounts of whining, naturally you can assume I anticipated their response to keeping marriage alive would most likely be get away from the kids. Good for me. I got this. Yet, as I listened, these ladies had some very insightful intentions they practice in their marriage during the everyday life, beyond just planning date nights and weekends away. They listed simple practices that may seem subtle but those in which I feel could be a valuable challenge for us in our marriage.
- When an argument arises, or a passionate discussion, are we resolving in front of our children?
Quite often I catch myself saying “let’s talk about this later.” And while it is probably more productive to discuss away from the stress of the children running under foot, what my children are seeing is argument begins and no resolution is reached. We may apologize later, practice good listening skills, but they aren’t witnesses to this healthier discussion and thus are not able to learn the positive ways towards conflict resolution. I want to make an intention to let my children see a positive discussion where adults reflect, apologize and resolve, hopefully with a good hug to wrap it all up.
- Do my children witness us praising one another?
I never have a doubt that Mike appreciates the work I do for this family. He thanks me for making his lunch, he compliments my cooking, he praises me for my writing endeavors. Heck he is practically the president and founder of the unofficial Raise &Shine fan club (are you a member yet?) I know he values me and I feel honored and uplifted. I in turn love celebrating his work successes and playing witness to his growing vocation. But these conversations where we praise and compliment one another, these are not happening over the dinner table across two needy children. That scenario, where adults can talk over a meal with children present, that is a unicorn, my friends. One day maybe I will play witness, but not today. So we reflect over coffee in the morning before dawn or at night on the couch with a glass of wine in hand, or when we are really lucky over fancy cocktails in New Orleans. I love that time. But this also means, once again, our children miss out on seeing us celebrating each other. They don’t get to hear our compliments and tone of gratitude. And those are valuable characteristics in a partnership. Simple practices of saying “Did you hear that Daddy got an award for his work? Aren’t you proud of him?” Or “isn’t it nice that mommy packed you such a delicious lunch? Be sure to tell her thank you.” The words are guided but they have meaning. And the meaning has two benefits. It reminds us that our partners support us and thus it reminds our children that we should support one another.
- Finally, are my children seeing us parent together? Do they see us as a partnership?
As mentioned, there are often times when we play the tag team approach to parenting. You get up with the kids and let me sip my coffee just a little longer. You go off to work and I take the kids to school. You take the kids for a walk after work so I can cook dinner and decompress. These are the trench years, they say, and you have to do whatever you can to survive. But I want my children to see us as a team, too. I want them to see us doing parenting together. This means using respectful words, being patient with different parenting strengths and weaknesses, and finding as many opportunities as you can throughout the week to do this parenting gig together as a co-op instead of in shift work. Besides, parenting as two is always WAY easier than one.
So I’m going to take these three lessons and try to work them into our everyday. They say a marriage takes work and the work doesn’t just happen at the corporate retreat. Those children are watching and learning. So we will high five one other with a job well done, and let our kids see us as the bad ass dream team that we know we can be.