As I mentioned before, there’s a new little life in our household. Baby Liana is healthy as can be, though she’d already suffered through her first cold before she was 2 months old.
Our 4-year-old son, however, has been sick more times than I can count. If you have little kids, you know. It’s ridiculous. The first few years are just a total snotfest.
In fact, one of my nicknames for Z is Boogie. Not because he loves to dance (that’s what my sweet, innocent mom thought), but because, until he was about 3, he almost always had a nose full of boogers. Guuuuuhross.
Anyway, Liana is still pretty little. If she gets really sick, I’m going to be a wreck. I have anxiety, and anytime something is wrong with the girl I go all worst-case-scenario and freak the heck out.
The other day I took her to the doctor because one of her hands was randomly turning red and looked puffy, and then it would go away and come back. I was imagining that she had some kind of crazy blood clot that was slowly making its way to her brain.
Hi! Long time no see! I had to take a break from the ol’ blog for a while for various reasons. For one, I was working full-time on a project, so I decided to put all my energy into that. I figured, work for money > work for free. When that was over, I had a baby. I figured, work for family > work for me. Rhyming unintentional, but pretty fantastic.
But now, the baby and I have found a sort of rhythm, I’m not so terribly sleep deprived, and I am back to not getting paid… Which honestly kind of sucks, but at least it gives me time to do this again.
So we just celebrated various holidays—in my family, we do Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a light version of Hanukkah… and you know, a parents’ version of New Year’s Eve, which consists of saying, “Hey, it’s New Year’s Eve,” going to bed at 9:00, and waking up in the morning saying, “Hey, Happy New Year.”
A Gift That Improved My Marriage
My focus on this post is going to be our recent Christmas gift exchange, and how it affected my marriage, helping me be kinder to my husband.
Well, after this past Christmas, I have a piece of advice of my own. And honestly, I have heard it before. But it is so valuable and so easily lost when we are involved in just making it through each day as parents to young children.
I’ve always been the kind of person whose motto is “expect the worst, but hope for the best.” I know, that’s totally not positive and seems counter to the general vibe of this blog.
But that’s me, in reality.
I really try to avoid getting my hopes up, because I would rather be joyful at an unexpectedly good outcome than bummed at an unexpectedly bad one. I believe this is what we call “self-preservation.” Here’s why:
So, I think there is a lot of value in listening to her when she doles out marriage advice. Admittedly, I do brush off some of her ideas because they can sometimes be a little “50s housewife” for me, but this one really makes sense!
I talk a lot about modeling for your kids . . .
And model, they have.
For as long as I can remember, “Thank you for [doing the dishes],” has been a commonly-spoken phrase in my parents’ home. Usually it’s accompanied by a small kiss.
Yeah I know . . . as their kid, it’s totally gross to witness! But as an observer of a healthy marriage, it’s a super-important gesture.
The gratitude, followed by physical affection, keeps their bond firmly intact on a daily basis.
What it looks like in my marriage
As my husband and I have settled into a routine with caring for our home and caring for our son, routine (and non-routine) gratitude has become more important than ever.
It’s so easy to take your partner for granted, and it’s so, super easy to feel like you’re being taken for granted!
So, in my marriage, there are really two important parts to heeding my mom’s excellent advice:
1. Be aware.
I make a concerted effort to be aware of what’s happening in our home, and I try to acknowledge when my partner does something that makes our lives happier, easier, or just keeps the flow going.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying, “Thank you for being such a great partner.” That might sound silly, but in my mind it’s really important. I want Josh to know that I truly value everything he does in our relationship, and that I see our marriage as a partnership—that I don’t feel that either of us carries more than our fair share of the load.
2. Speak up.
If I am feeling unappreciated, I have to say something before that feeling turns to resentment. This involves a lot of introspection, because resentment builds quickly and without warning.
As with everything I write about on this blog, this aspect of our marriage is absolutely a work in progress. I’m sure it’s something we will never actually get perfect.
• There are days when I stand in the kitchen and visibly and audibly cringe at the way Josh loads the dishwasher: “Aack! If you don’t turn the big spoon upside down, it will collect water and gunk and be totally nasty!!”
Oops. Gratitude fail.
• There are days when I explode in a fury of tears, claiming that I am completely unappreciated for all of the things I do in this house.
Oops. I let it get too far, and didn’t talk about it soon enough. Martyr alert! Martyr alert!!!
But the point is that we are trying. And I really think it makes a huge difference.
One Last Thing
Since I just love to shove statistics and studies at you in my blog posts, I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that many experts also tout the awesomeness of gratitude in marriage! You can read some of these opinions here, here, and here. You’re welcome. 🙂
What’s your take? Do you practice gratitude in your marriage? How does it work for you?
What is the best piece of marriage advice you’ve gotten?
I love talking to him—he’s so funny and creative, conversations are usually pretty interesting.
I love reading to him—he is a very enthusiastic book lover, and that gives me an insane amount of joy.
I love snuggling with him—we snuggle every morning, and it always starts the day off right.
I love watching him draw—he has this crazy innate talent (and love for it) that I can only assume was a recessive gene from his grandmothers, because neither Josh nor I have much in the way of artistic ability!
I do not love playing with my son.
Okay, before you get all, “How can she say that?!” on me, let me explain. I like playing with him, but I for sure don’t love it.
It’s almost always the same thing, and I almost always do it wrong, regardless of what I’m doing! Let me paint you a picture (with words since, as noted above, I have zero talent in the visual arts):
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning. Josh is still sleeping, and Z and I have been up for a while. Z’s done watching Daniel Tiger and eating breakfast. He’s ready to play!
We get into his playroom, and Z makes a beeline to his drawer of cars. I desperately try to convince him to do anything else.
Me: “Hey, you know, we haven’t built a train track in a long time! I bet that’d be really fun. We could even put trees and dinosaurs around the track. Doesn’t that sound cool?”
Z: “No, I want to play cars.” Blargh. I tried.
I sit and wait for direction. I would never just grab a car and start driving it around the room! That is strictly forbidden, let me tell you.
Z: “Mommy, why aren’t you playing with me?”
Me: “I don’t know what you want to do yet.”
Z: “I want to play cars!” Oh . . . Duh.
Me: “Okay, but how do you want to play? What do you want to do with the cars?”
Z: “Let’s race!” Yes, that’s what I figured.
I pick a car from the two choices he’s offered me. He decides that’s actually the car he wanted, so he takes that one and hands me the other.
We race. And race. And race.
For. Ev. Er.
Now, to be fair to Z, I will admit that sometimes playing with cars is not racing. Sometimes we crash over them with monster trucks or put them down the big ramp with the loop in it. Ahh, such variety—the spice of life!
I’m going to give myself a bit of a break from guilt here:
I don’t hate playing everything. There are lots of things I happily play with him—soccer, catch, puzzles, board games, roughhousing on the super-soft, pillowy blankets on our bed, hide and seek, and many more like those.
But he never wants to do those things!! He loves to hang in his playroom and do the very things that bore me to tears.
So how have I been handling this situation?
Here’s where I get real with you.
I have found myself doing two things lately that I am totally not proud of.
1. Making excuses to either shorten playtime or get out of it altogether.
For example, “Oh I’d love to buddy, but I have to start making dinner!” or “Yeah, just let me get this one thing done first.”
Ugh. Even writing that out makes me feel like a horrible person!!!
2. Bringing my phone in the playroom and looking at it when he seems engaged in his own play.
This has gotten worse since I started the blog, unfortunately. I have a lot of social media irons in the fire, in an attempt to get this little blog noticed, and I get notifications that, well, have to be checked right away, you know.
Otherwise they’ll go away. Or something. Or I just suck.
Every time I do either of these things, I feel absolutely awful afterward. But I continue to do them anyway! What is wrong with me?
How can I (and you!) become a reformed play hater??
I’ll start by listing a few things I have been trying lately:
1. Infuse his play with my own style of play.
While playing cars, I’ll engage him in some kind of funny word play, or maybe I’ll pull him into my lap and cover him with kisses and tickles. It breaks up the monotony and either puts our brains to work or adds an element of physical affection, which is always a positive thing.
2. Break his “rules,” just to switch things up and keep him on his toes.
I’ll introduce monster trucks to the race, even though he explicitly stated it was only for race cars! Gasp!! Most days, this elicits a fit of giggles . . . If it doesn’t, and instead becomes a battle of wills, I drop the idea and play by his rules.
I’m not cruel. 😉
3. Set time frames for how long I’ll play before I go do whatever else needs to get done (usually dinner).
I got this idea from an article by Joshua Freedman, in which he suggests that we basically establish the ground rules for when we play and how long we play. This act can help us to more fully embrace and make the most of the playtime that we do give.
So far, I’ve found this to be a pretty useful strategy. Z and I have quality time together, and I know that (and this is going to sound terrible) my commitment to playing cars will end.
And here are a couple of suggestions from others:
1. Don’t let our kids boss us around.
Peter Gray Ph.D. asserts that it’s actually best if we basically stand up to our kids during play and try to get them to play the way we want to. He says that when a child is confronted with a playmate who does not bend to his will, he begins to develop valuable social skills, like being aware and considerate of the needs of others.
I have to admit that I’ve tried this a couple of times, with very little success. As I have mentioned previously, my little man is very willful and things can escalate pretty quickly. Playtime is generally one of those times when I choose not to fight battles if possible.
There are plenty of other times that I have to assert myself. I hate the idea of fighting during play.
But, since I’m actively trying to develop social skills in my kiddo, I may have to revisit this and give it another go.
The other day I was talking with one of my best friends, when the topic (as it often does) turned to Adventures in Childrearing. Specifically, we were talking about how our kids are starting to ask the tough questions. As interesting as it is to see our little babies grow into these critically-thinking mini-people, it can be really, really tricky when they ask questions that have deep, and sometimes disturbing, answers.
In these early years, they’re still so little.
How much should we really say? We have to walk a fine line between totally glossing over something that deserves to be discussed and overwhelming them with unnecessary, sometimes scary, information.
If you’re the one your kid likes best, I’m sure you get what I’m saying. If you don’t feel me yet, check out this scenario:
It’s nearing bedtime and you’ve spent the day doing all kinds of parenting tasks: preparing and serving meals, brushing teeth, putting on and taking off shoes, providing potty assistance, playing cars, playing superheroes, playing more cars and more superheroes, and so on. You are tired. You say, “Daddy needs to help you get into your pajamas now.” This is met with a flood of tears and screams of “You do it! I want Mommy to do it!!”
Not only is it exhausting, it’s also heartbreaking.
Is there a way to guide children toward being kinder to the parent who is not the “preferred” one? How can we do it without making it into an awkward situation every time?
Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means in my family.
I’m wondering if anyone else out there is like me—a total oddball when it comes to holidays like this.
Almost every day lately, I am bombarded with Pinterest pins, blog posts, emails, and Facebook posts about the “5 Best Gifts for Mom on Mother’s Day” or “Check Out These Unique Mother’s Day Gifts!”
Friends and media personalities talk about their plans to take Mom out to a nice brunch and give her flowers and chocolate.
Hmm. Well, I think my family is weird. We don’t do that stuff. I don’t remember the last time I got my mom a Mother’s Day gift, or even a card. Continue reading “When Mother’s Day Isn’t a Big Deal”
This morning I broke down. I was feeling really lousy about something and I just couldn’t keep my emotions at bay. When my husband asked what I was thinking about as I stared off into space, I promptly began sobbing and the floodgates were open.
Then my son came back to the table, book in hand, asking me to read to him while he ate his breakfast. Avoiding eye contact with him, I quickly wiped my tears away and began reading with as controlled a voice as I could muster. Z was none the wiser.
I felt good, because I was able to keep our morning going smoothly and he didn’t have to deal with a sobbing mama and the potential awkwardness that might bring along with it.
Then I checked my Twitter feed and saw an article by Six Seconds, basically saying that we need to talk about feelings with our kids in order to develop their sense of empathy. While the focus of the article is mainly on simple activities you can do to help children be aware of their own emotions, the point was driven home: I have to be more open about how I’m feeling if I want Z to be able to recognize and empathize with others’ emotions.
As I did more research, I found some other great reasons to stop shielding my son from my negative feelings.