Let me tell you how I’m an amazing dad, person, husband, and lover.
Well… that might be what you were thinking I was going to write about (per the title of this post) but that’s not it.
What I am going to write about is my relationship with Michelle and how putting the well-being of my marriage to her in front of my big plans and dreams for my babies is my long-term parenting strategy.
Recently, Giuliana and Bill Rancic were heavily criticized for saying nearly the same thing – that they would always put their marriage before their child. So, before you call CPS on the Petersons, allow me to explain.
OF COURSE I want my baby girls to grow up with the best that the world has to offer. OF COURSE I want to see them mature into responsible, intelligent, creative, and generous adults. OF COURSE I want to set them up for success in their future relationships. But I believe the way to do that, is to model it through the relationship they’ll be watching, scrutinizing, and eventually mimicking for the next 18+ years of their life.
They will learn how to do almost everything from me and Michelle, whether we purposefully teach it to them, or they pick it up from watching and ultimately understanding. From managing money, handling stress, and driving a car – to fighting fair, reconciling, forgiving, and giving up oneself for something better than a selfish desire. This list is endless, and I can’t write every single detail I want my girls to be equipped to handle, let alone sit down and teach them face-to-face. So, I’ve decided to live my life as ethically and transparently as I can, and I’ll hope that they find confidence and encouragement in watching me, mistakes and all. This will always start with how I treat my wife.
In the future, there WILL be a time when Claire disagrees with her significant other. Now, although I don’t know who this man is, or how he will treat Claire in this scenario, I can paint a picture for her of a healthy outcome that will be ingrained in her subconscious. Either they yell and argue and find each other at odds in the ring… or they discuss, defuse, and strive to understand over demanding to be understood.
Let’s take that above scene and paint a couple of images in Claire’s mind as she’s in a hostile argument…
If Michelle and I handled conflict in a very loud, aggressive, or even abusive way, Claire would say to herself, “Oh yeah… this yelling is familiar. This feeling I’ve had and seen before is normal. Mom and dad used to do this.” She would find a skewed sense of comfort in that place, dwell in it, and make decisions based off of the defense mechanism to emotionally protect herself by lashing out and deflect hostility with hostility.
Conversely, if Michelle and I handled conflict in a calm, cooperative, and united way, Claire would wonder to herself, “What is this douche yelling at me for? I didn’t do anything to deserve him yelling at me. Mom and dad never did this. I don’t like this feeling at all… I don’t have to take this!” She would see the telltale red flag very early and innately know that there is a better way of handling conflict. Whether she respond by leaving that guy, or were they married, she might request the same rule we have in our house: no yelling.
Working on being the kind of husband my wife deserves is going to be my secret weapon to being the kind of dad my kids need.
Dr. John Medina, in his book Brain Rules for Baby, writes:
Even in an emotionally stable home, one without regular marital hostility, there will be fights. Fortunately, research shows that the amount of fighting couples do in front of their children is less damaging than the lack of reconciliation the kids observe. Many couples will fight in front of their children but reconcile in private. This skews a child’s perceptions, even at early ages, for the child always sees the wounding but never the bandaging. Parents who practice bandaging each other after a fight, deliberately and explicitly, allow their children to model both how to fight fair and how to make up.
So, do you know what that means? Really, practically, what it means? Here’s what I think…
It’s not always guaranteed that your children will remember (or even listen to) the lessons you find significant. To combat this, and as a little fun for myself, I’ve reserved email addresses for both of my girls. When something happens that was a significant memory for me, I email them about it. I know they won’t receive these emails until well into their teens, but when the time is right they’ll have a whole inbox full of memories to relive. It is my way of ensuring that they still have these memories of their Dad, their mom, and their childhood, even though at the time, they were too young to store them away in their memory banks. It’s a free and easy way to connect with my girls, and in the process, it changes me and keeps my priorities straight.
We get asked to write about parenting from time to time, but dads, this is for you especially… Good parenting starts with being a good spouse. So read the other blog posts, read the recommended resources, invest time and money in your wife, and #staymarried.
P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read Fathers Matter. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my wife’s first entry to get a little background. Thanks for reading!
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