Parenting is the thing Tony and I fight about the most. We don’t fight about it because we have vastly different philosophies on parenting– for the most part, we agree on how we want to raise our girls. But the act of parenting is very different from the idea of it, and that’s where we find ourselves butting heads.
It’s been awhile since we posted here in #staymarried, but the #staymarried vision of offering hope, stories, and resources to couples who want to stay married is never far from our hearts. The simple truth of our absence is that we have been working on focusing our energy on our own marriage and family, which has desperately needed our attention.
Tony has been busy working his usual 9-5 and then coming home and spending most evenings in the office working on freelance projects. He is very talented, and I am so proud of him, but it’s meant that our time together as a family has been limited. It’s not just the work on his plate that has filled up our time.
I have been speaking regularly since January. Public speaking was never a part of my vision for my life or for #staymarried, so I am still wrapping my brain around it. Each time I get to share, speaking my own heart, using my real voice, I feel so fortunate! Fortunate that people would trust me to deliver a message. Fortunate that I get to write and process in a totally new way. Writing to speak is completely different for me than writing to post on the blog. I’m still figuring out the process, but so far, the biggest difference is that it takes me A LOT longer. So, I’m still writing, but I haven’t had the brain space to write both for #staymarried and to write for speaking.
Sometimes in order to say “yes” to great things, we have to say “no” to good things. Writing for #staymarried is the good thing I’ve had to say “no” to lately. Not a total NO, but more like a “Not right now”… It is the only child in my family that I am willing to completely neglect while I pay attention to the living, breathing ones that are pulling on my yoga pants right this second asking for a snack… brb…
So, Tony has been busy and I have been busy. We have been separately busy and trying to be supportive of each other’s endeavors. In the busyness, we have been trading off with the kids instead of parenting as a team. The lack of family time has caused quite a bit of tension. You just can’t neglect your family and your marriage and expect them to be healthy and thriving when you re-enter the scene. Re-entering is the season I would say we are in right now. Re-entering and re-connecting. We don’t have the perfect system figured out, but we know that connection is greater than perfection.
Connection is Greater than Perfection
As we re-connect, which lately looks like 45 minutes in the living room after we put the kids to bed and before he heads into the office to work, our children have been the focus of a lot of our conversations. We know there is no perfect way to parent, and perfection is not the goal. I’ve been reading and re-reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, trying to let her message of strength found in vulnerability sink in, so I quote her a lot in those late evening conversations. She says…
“It’s a terrible myth to believe that once we have children, our journey ends and theirs begins.”
As parents, as a team, we have to admit that we are still on a journey. Our thoughts on parenting are still changing and evolving. We want so badly to raise children who are happy, healthy, and brave and that means we need to be more intentional and less haphazard with our parenting. So, we are working on connection over perfection and learning how to be more connected as parents. Here are a few things we’re working on.
3 Better Ways To Connect with Your Kids
1. Listen Eagerly
We’ve shared many times about the importance of listening in your marriage. But, listening is just as important when it comes to our children. In the busyness and chaos of trying to keep everything together, slowing down to listen can be really tough. When they’re little, their stories can go on and on and never end and you’ve really got to get dinner out of the oven or it will BURN. But, our children need to know that we WANT to hear from them. They need to learn patience also, so it could be as simple as saying, “Sweetie, I want to listen to you. Just give me five minutes to finish dinner and then I’m all yours.” Then listen. Even if it means dinner is getting cold.
Catherine M. Wallace says, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they’re little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big. Because to them, all of it has always been big stuff.”
2. Admit Failure and Ask Forgiveness
Perfectionism says, “Failure is not an option.” But, when we decide what we really want is to connect with our children, our relationship with them becomes more important than being right. Once we let go of the myth that there is a perfect way to parent, it becomes a lot easier to admit when we’ve made a mistake.
I try really hard to be patient and not to yell and scream at my kids. But, sometimes, especially when I’m feeling pressed for time and trying to get everyone in the car and out of the house, I lose it. I don’t love those moments. But instead of continuing to fume or try to move on, I want to choose to make those moments of connection for us. If I want to connect, I know I need to come back to my daughter, crouch down so I can look into her eyes, and say, “I’m sorry I lost my temper. I was frustrated that you disobeyed, but I shouldn’t have screamed at you. Will you forgive me?”
It is very humbling to ask your preschooler for forgiveness. But, we believe it’s important. Life really is a string of mistakes, so we consider it an essential life skill to teach them to be able to ask for forgiveness. If we want them to do it well, we’ve got to be willing to model it ourselves.
3. Make Your Marriage a Priority
This is where we have struggled the most lately. In this season where it feels like everything is a priority, we have given attention to many things, but our marriage hasn’t been one of them. There were several weeks where it felt like we didn’t exchange more than a handful of sentences in a day. The distance made our interactions around parenting, around everything really, pretty tense. We were in survival mode and each of us had figured out our own way of handling the kids and we were not communicating these things with each other.
Everything finally came to a head one night as I came out into the living room and yelled at EVERYONE – including Tony – to stop whatever they were doing and GO TO BED! I’d had enough of bedtime getting later and later and I snapped.
What I snapped over, really, wasn’t so much the later bedtime as it was that Tony had his ideas of how bedtime would go (let’s clean up before we get in bed) and I had mine (get everyone in bed right on time so I can be done parenting for the night). We fought, I cried, we apologized to each other, we hugged. We realized that it was our lack of time together, our lack of time looking each other in the face and hearing each other’s voices that was really causing the tension between us. We weren’t mad at each other, we missed each other. So, we are working on making face-time, like real live face-time, a priority.
Joseph Chilton Pearce said, “What we are teaches our children more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.” This is so heavy on both of us lately. We are still not sure what we are. The beginning of our children’s lives didn’t mean the end of our journey to figure out who we are and what we want out of life. We are still in process. So, now, the five of us journey together.
Since we know that connection is greater than perfection, part of that journey for us is figuring out how to be parents who are connected. Connected to each other, connected to our children, connected to the values that keep us close as a family. We hope that pursuing connection will help us #staymarried.
The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.
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