Thursday, August 25, 2016

Share Their Day With Them

Toddlers are not capable of sharing their day with us as parents; however, they are capable of understanding their day if we share it with them.  Helping a toddler to fall asleep with books, milk, and storytelling about their day helps them connect to us as parents.  Toddlers are accumulating new nouns every day and they are capable of understanding the basics of what happened to them earlier.  A parent can tell them specific names of people they saw, specific names of places they went to, or specific verbs to describe what they did at the park for example.  Most importantly, by recounting their day with them, they feel connected to us emotionally.  

ABOVE PHOTO is taken from flickr creative commons by Rowan Gillette-Fussell at

Monday, August 22, 2016

Act Your Age!

"Act your age!"

The girl is two years old and this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.  Of course she's acting her age.  Not only that, but as parents we need to get down to the God-given treasure of individuation.  Children are continually in a process of becoming individuals.  What we often perceive as stubbornness, being difficult, or even evidence of original sin in conservative religious communities is actually none of it.  God or nature has simply wired our children to slowly turn into adults, and that means as parents, we bear the responsibility for caring for them in the midst of their transformation.

Don't get me wrong.  I get angry.  When my daughter won't stop climbing up on the couch even though she fell on her head two hours earlier, I get angry.  In my head, I've got two attitudes that are in conflict with each other.  The first one is, "Figure it out! and Stop opposing me!"  The other one, and the one that is true to my daughter's design is, "I am so stressed and frustrated, but I have so much joy watching you fighting to become your own individual.  I love it!"  

We need to maintain our boundaries with our children as much as possible because they love consistency and our care for them; yet, our children will continue to test our boundaries as they continue to fight for their personhood and individuation.  This behavior is obstinance, resolution, and determination, not disobedience.  In one hand we must hold our feelings of apprehension as they enter the risk involved with pushing the limits and opposing us, but on the other hand we must hold our feelings of joy in the other hand because they are acting from their God-given nature to fight for individuation.  Our children are resolute to become their own persons, and they can become their own individuals if we bless them in doing so.

In the end, we might feel like our children are trying to harm us through their individuation process, but this is absolutely not the case and far from it.  Instead of placing a burden on our children by telling them to "act their age" or to "figure it out", we need to be moving towards them with fear and joy, telling them with and without words that we are so scared about the risks they are taking, and frustrated over their obstinance, but that we are so elated and full of joy over their fight to become their own individuals in this world. 

Theirs are stories worth telling.

Photo taken from flickr creative commons with permission by mina ngiew win min @

Friday, August 5, 2016

Individuation and Conflict

In this world, some partners look wildly different from one another, as in the photo above, but what I'm really talking about here is relational conflict.  A marriage or partnership is about two very different people with two very different upbringings trying to live together, often finding themselves entering conflict in two very different ways.  

John Gottman, Ph.D. explains in a number of his research based books that approximately 70% of all conflict is unresolvable.   His research often goes back to couples four years after original interviews to find that most of these couples are still arguing about the same issues year-in and year-out.  Four- year old marriages and forty-year old marriages both fall into this 70% unsolvable conflict category.  95 year old couples are still arguing over most of the same issues.  

Gottman explains that the difference between successful and satisfied marriages has to do with how couples deal with all of the unsolvable conflict.  Some couples use humor, some couples listen to each other seriously, and others simply recognize the fact that their spouse is different and chose to accept that part of the spouse's personality.

For me, my method of dealing with unresolvable conflict in my relationship with my wife has to do with what is called individuation.  I have chosen to respect and even cherish the fact that my wife is 100% her own individual.  She sees the world somewhat in the same way I do, but in so many things, she sees things SO differently.  We simply see reality quite differently from one another in certain respects.  

Here's a perfect example.  I am always thinking about what could go wrong in the future and I try to anticipate how to deal with those potential problems.  If I'm not careful this can produce a lot of anxiety.  Thus, it has an upside and a downside.  I can be prepared, but I can also be anxious.  My wife, on the other hand, doesn't worry as much about the future, but she is much more connected to the present.  Ultimately, what this means is that I worry more about the future, but get less stressed about the present.  She worries less about the future, but she gets more downtrodden over problems that are currently happening.  For me, once the problem has already occurred, then I can finally deal with it, so my anxiety fades because I can actually deal with it.  So, you can see that we approach planning and problem solving in two completely different ways.

Many couples spend years trying to convince their partners to "think more like them".  How many times have I heard people say, "If people would just think like me, then the world would be okay."  The reality is that this will never happen, so we have to do something else about it.  In reality, the sooner we are able not only to respect but cherish our partner's individuality, the sooner the world can be a better place.  

I have a hard time doing dishes.  My wife leaves her shoes all over the place.  We problem solve from completely opposite paradigms.  We don't just agree to disagree because that's giving up.  We still engage each other in conversation over unsolvable conflict, but we learn to love and appreciate one another, and recognize each other's complete and utter "separateness" from ourselves.  Once we begin to move towards our partners as completely separate individuals, the deep closeness and intimacy follow.  It is sort of a paradox.

And, final note, on a bit of a spiritual side.  This is not something I believe we can really conjure up on our own.  I often find myself throwing up a prayer to help me desire the separateness of my wife.  It is not something that comes naturally, but it can become more and more natural over time.

Above photo taken from flickr creative commons with permission by Matthew G at

Monday, August 1, 2016

Stroking Her Hair

Every night, my wife and I read books to our daughter, give her milk, and help her into her crib to sleep.  Last night, I realized while we were reading books to her, that I had the opportunity to bless my wife by moving towards her at the same time we were moving towards our daughter through book reading.

While she was reading to our daughter, I stroked her hair.  

After about 10 seconds, my wife looked towards me and let me know without words that she felt emotionally connected to me.  It was a small, but important moment.  I was supporting her emotionally at the same time we were supporting our daughter.

It is so easy to put all of our energy into our children because they have legitimate physical and emotional needs that go beyond our needs as adults.  It is easy to forget to move towards each other in the midst of our children.  Small moments like these, when we stroke our partner's hair in the midst of reading or feeding our children can go a long way over time.

Our wives need our strength and tenderness in the form of emotional connection with them during our time with our children. Small things like these go a long way over time.

Feel free to share this blog with the men in your life.

The above photo was taken with permission from flickr creative commons by Amy Loves Ya.