Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to help your marriage outlast your kids' childhood. Part I.

giggling, always a good way to start a marriage

I've been thinking lately about marriage*. And about how our current culture (cult?) of the Magical Childhood may be obscuring or perhaps interfering with some of our relationships.

I used to think, "If I had to choose between my husband or my children, I'd choose my children."

And that may still be true, in a fire or a cruise ship accident. As Mother, my fierce protection instincts for my children will win out over all.

But. "I'd choose my children" does not hold true for our daily, non emergency situation Life. Nor should it, I think.

Because the marriage came first. It was the foundation upon which this family with children is built. And one day (not too long from now), the children will grow up. And the marriage will remain. We certainly hope.

I read a book a couple of summers ago (during my obsession with all things House) about designing homes for children.  It has lovely glossy photos of impossibly clean homes with sweet little nooks and child size furniture and adorable antique toys. I'm certain no actual children lived there, or maybe they were heavily sedated. Anyway, one of the houses had a slide built into the floor of the master bedroom that led down to a ball pit in the living area.

Let's think about that.

A SLIDE, built into the FLOOR of the MASTER BEDROOM that led into a BALL PIT.


And at first I was like, oh that is so fun! What a cool idea!

And then I thought about it for a second...

What if you are stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you forgot the slide hatch was open?

What if all the children in the neighborhood find out you have an indoor slide and suddenly you are hosting a daily play date party?

What happens when the children grow up?! Now you have a SLIDE in your BEDROOM.

Lately I've been wondering: are we building figurative slide hatches in our houses? When our children are grown, are we going to be left with a hole in the floor?
Are we creating adorable, magical homes for our children, and neglecting the foundation, the marriage?

There is definitely a strong push in our current culture towards creating homes around our children. Creating schedules and routines and traditions around our children. We've got Elves on our Shelves (don't. even. get. me. started.). We've got entire weekends spent watching soccer practices-games-trophy ceremonies. We've got race car beds and Princess Fairy Birthday Party Extravaganzas.

 Certainly, it would be fun for the kids to have an indoor slide. But childhood is fleeting. We aren't trying to raise perfect, adorable children. We are trying to raise responsible, independent adults. Right? Adults who don't think the world revolves around them. (Right!?!)

And when the children leave, what will you do with all those traditions and routines? Will you force your grown children to re-enact them like in some horrible sitcom?

Let's all watch Johnny put the star on the tree! Then let's all take a turn on the magical slide! 

Johnny is 26 years old. This isn't magical; it's just weird. And he doesn't fit in the slide anymore.

I'd like to think that we can create homes, routines, traditions that nurture and create magic for everyone. That our traditions and our homes will grow with our family. That in 10 years, instead of having a whole bunch of tiny furniture and stale rituals I have a home that embraces each individuals'  tastes and celebrates our grown-up family.

And I hope that our marriage is as healthy after the kids have grown up as it was before they came home. I wonder if the "empty nest" syndrome is more severe for folks who've built indoor slides. Every time they see that hole in that floor, they think, Oh, remember when the kids were little and they used that fun slide. What will we do now!?!

So, I'm making a clear intention these days to choose my marriage. To choose my husband and myself. The kids have plenty (plenty!) of special things (They have an entire floor of our house!)

What do those choices look like? Next post...

*Ours is doing well, FYI. Nobody panic!

** Speaking of homes for children, here is a beautiful and heartbreaking photo essay about where Syrian refugee children are sleeping. And here is a link to an organization that is trying to help them.

All children deserve a safe home.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Three Rules

Say it loud; let them hear you!

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.

Henry James (1843-1916)

The last couple of weeks have been rough. ROUGH. Crying in the bathroom rough. (Can I get an amen- crying in the bathroom at work is pretty much as low as it can get, right?)

But I'm hear to report that James' 3 rules work. 

Let me back up a bit...

Lily has always been a challenging child to raise. As I said before, she's a strong willed child. She was a strong willed toddler and she was a Strong Willed 4 year old. 

She was a strong willed baby, which is what kept her alive. I'm not a big believer in angels or fate or fairies, but this I know for sure: Lily's mother passed on to her some amazing strength, strength that is still protecting her to this day and will hopefully keep enveloping her the rest of her life.

But inside of that amazingly strong child is still a sensitive, sometimes sad and lonely girl. And that sad and lonely girl was acting out terribly the past few weeks. New school. New routines. New teachers. New friends. It was all too much. (And then there was Ballet. ugh.)

So last week we started the positive reinforcement. We just killed her with kindness- we marinated her in love and support and reminders of just how wonderful she is. 

We taught our daughter the 3 rules, and we started practicing them ourselves.

And it's working.

This may be the most "Well, DUH!" moment of my parenting career. 

For a while now Lily has been thinking of herself as the "bad girl".  Now all day every day I remind her, "Who are you?" 

Funny, smart, loving, kind, GOOD. 

This is not to say we aren't correcting mis-behavior, rudeness or disobedience. We are just spending more energy and time on the good stuff, and giving her low key time outs and calm corrections for mistakes. 

Parenting: just when you think you're reaching the top of the steep learning curve, another hill appears.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween 2015

Trick or treat! This year after MUCH deliberation, the kids dressed as a gladiator and Elsa from Frozen. (That Etsy Frozen dress has seen ALOT of wear!)

Trick or Treating with friends Fairy and Panda.

Inspecting her candy

The haul.