Recently a friend of mine wrote me an e-mail that lit up my soul. I wanted to share parts of it because it is an aspect of mine and Jake’s life that we are very proud of. People are continually commenting on how well behaved our kids are. I usually pass it off with a thank you and walk away with a proud feeling. But I wanted to spend some time on these emotions and accomplishments. I do believe that our kids are a reflection of our fruits of labor…but most of the time, parenting doesn’t feel like labor at all. We have a lot of fun in our family and there is ALWAYS laughter present. Here’s some snippets of my friend’s e-mail…
“I watch you and Jake with your kids and see how well behaved they are, how they listen to you both, how they play with each other and can only hope our family ends up like yours. So I am asking for your feedback and input with how you raise your kids. How’d you do it? How do you parent/teach/guide and when and how do you correct bad behavior/poor decisions? What experiences have you had that we can draw from? Obviously we will continue to be the best parents we can be and learn ourselves but it’s always nice to ask for help or advice along the way.”
“My heart is so FULL from this kind e-mail. I have been thinking about this a lot and I think I have come up with the answer:) For Jake and I it all comes down to our marriage. I am pretty sure that this is the secret to being the best parent that you can be. The more time and effort we put into helping each other grow and loving each other in new ways, the more our kids reflect this love back to us.
I feel like a lot of the times people find their purpose in life and identity when they have children. That’s great…but at some point you are always brought back to the drawing board where you are forced to look beyond that title. Maybe the kids don’t meet your expectations, or they hurt you or each other…whatever. You are then forced to look at yourself and I think the difference comes from what you say to yourself in those moments. They are little individuals with their own amazing lives in front of them and the only thing Jake and I can do is give them tools. How and when they choose to use them will be entirely up to them.
As for disciplining…I think the most important thing that Jake and I have been conscious of is being on the same team! We have never played good cop/bad cop. We back each other up no matter what. Also, we are both quick to say that we are sorry and talk through the wrongs and rights. I always apologize for yelling or having to discipline if I am out of line and lost my patience. We are pretty stern with our kids and a lot of the time I feel like we are literally side by side correcting behavior. I don’ think that the details of ‘how’ we parent are as important as the overall big picture. LOVE. We focus on the good and build them up every opportunity we have. We are vulnerable in front of them. We are quick to point out our flaws and tell stories of how we screwed up. And we let them FEEL. We try not to tell them that they are wrong in what they feel….but there is usually a better way to handle those feelings.
I don’t know that this answers your question…I think what you want to know is whether or not you’re doing things the ‘right’ way….and of course you are. You are living your life just how you are suppose too. Everything is in your life for a reason. Just don’t lose your ability to grow and to be curious. These two tools may be the most important in your parenting life and your marriage. Change is good…and you can choose to be anyone you want to be at any given time. If you show your family that you support their changes no matter what that may be, they will always support yours!
It means the world to me that you wrote this and I am so proud that you would ask my advice. I don’t feel like I have anything figured out…I am always learning and change has become a welcomed friend. I just know that I don’t just love my family….I am IN love.”
So let’s recap…suggestion #1 from my experiences…FOCUS ON YOUR MARRIAGE. Be that supportive spouse that stays curious about the smallest of changes that your sig. other tries out. If you can find the curiosity in a marriage it will be easy-peesy with parenting. That way when they walk through the door with a new piercing, or tat with their love one’s name on their boob, you are quicker to say, “I see you…tell me about this” rather than “what the hell are you thinking, this isn’t you!”
Suggestion #2…Open arms, open mind, open heart. You have to stay open to change in life if you are craving positive changes and growth. Who’s to say what someone’s potential is or how far they can spread their wings? We don’t like it when people put limitations on us, so why does it come so naturally to that parenting voice in us. Or telling our spouse that their dream is unrealistic. Let them grow into the people that they are meant to be. Only they can know what that looks like and how far they will go!
Suggestion #3… Add a dog into your family:) It brings someone into the mix that you can all discipline together and love together!
Suggestion #4…Desire…a sense of longing or hoping…wish, fancy, fantasy; want, need, exigency. I think there is a ton of room for desire within a family, but it takes a conscious mind and curiosity to crave it. Not to mention, learning how to have hopes and desires without expectations. Dream together. Be vulnerable together. That is the recipe for soulfood within a family!
Suggestion #5…and finally…did I mention…WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE;) Yeah it’s that important in my book.
Drop a love letter in the mail ….thanks for the amazing pic Tré-Baby:)
Jump up on his hip in public…WHO CARES!!! Just learn how to let go together. Help each other to find that courage to be anything you want to be.
Turn date night into a night where you try to find new tools of communication…don’t just consider a movie and dinner, “working on your marriage”. When was the last time you checked in with his/her “favorites” or dreams?
Read a book together.
Show your kids that showing affection never dies. Be the example of a marriage (and happiness) that you want for them one day….no matter what journey they take to get there.
Have friends over one night and actually talk beneath the surface…what are their dreams together? What are their struggles? Why don’t we talk more about marriages as a society when things are going good, instead of focusing on when they go bad. One day we are beyond curious about everything that makes our spouse the person they are, and then the next, we are saying…”yeah, but they have changes!” Well, no shit, they changed. At what point did you stop caring? The curiosity will fade if you don’t have any tools in the communication bag.
By no means do I think that Jake and I have this marriage and parenting thing perfected…or even figured out…but I do know that the journey is a beautiful one that is worth sharing and celebrating. I also know that we are right where we are suppose to be and I am in love with every second of it:)
Take a second to think about something that you are craving in your our marriage….now go give it to your spouse!
Take another second to figure out what that little child in you is craving…now go give it to your child! Tell them why you are proud of them and why you are proud of yourself. Just talk. They want to be seen and heard….and mainstream doesn’t leave a lot of time for either of those simple acts!