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Sneak peek into this post:
- Insights from 25 years of marriage
- Our “perfect” anniversary day: basking in family harmony
- Our ongoing road to family harmony
Happy 25th Anniversary!
Twenty five years ago, my husband and I said, “I do.”
“I do” to what, exactly, I am still discovering and now believe the marriage promise means
- to keep learning from my spouse through an attitude of wonder about him and about life
- to be stubbornly dog-headed about my own need to change
- to choose laughter over tears…which often requires stepping back from a situation to gain a fresh perspective.Thank you, Scarlett O’Hara, for your wisdom & insight: “Tomorrow IS another day.”
The Perfect (!?!) Day
We enjoyed a “perfect” anniversary day: Home improvement chores. Cooking & cleaning. More home improvement chores. Shopping without purchases. Anniversary dinner without a reservation. Hot sex. Exhausted sleep.
We (me, husband, and our sons) all worked hard and together. We created memories and revived the shine of old ones (my job included dusting off bookshelves and picture frames). We sweat and got dirty (both kinds!) together.
I love home decoration and having a welcoming house is important for me. Since I have been traveling several weeks and the boys too had been away, my husband took initiatives such as re-modeling our living room.
“Honey, you chose the paint color without consulting me?!” I wanted to spurt out.
Then I recalled the advice I give to our kids, “Good sex is about performance. Great sex comes with trust.”
My response to my husband’s paint initiative impacts our intimate life. I will trust my husband’s taste…after all, he picked me.
Because I let my man take the home improvement lead, he (not me) recruited the workers. I gladly pitched in and we experienced a Huckleberry Finn-like phenomena. Work looked attractive because when we pitched in together, it WAS fun. The boys joined in quickly too.
Part of me marveled, “Can this be true? Family harmony. Constructive collaboration with teens who tower over the parents. A husband who takes initiatives without nagging?!!?”
I pinch myself awake and, yes, our family is still helping each other with smiles.
How did family harmony happen?
To those hoping family harmony appears auto-magically, think again.
At work, corporate culture develops through strategic planning followed by consistent and inclusive implementation.
In the same way, a family culture focusing on collaboration and harmony is built intentionally, over time, and with less focus on ME-MOI-I and more on others.
My husband and I come from different nationalities, different races, different religions, and different family backgrounds. Early on in our marriage, it became clear that neither of us could replicate our respective family environments AND still respect the other. We would have to create a family culture of our own.This building process implied replacing assumptions with questions. As the American living in France, I often heard, “It’s THE way things are done.” I learned to re-orient my responses from “WHY?” (a.k.a. “My way is better…”) to “Tell me more” (a.k.a. “Help me understand.”) This seemingly minute mindset shift liberated both of us from cultural traps, enabling us to choose the values and practices we wanted in our home.
Effective training is like tiramisu: layer upon layer. One level may seem dull or too sweet or dry. Combined, they taste heavenly. We build family harmony one layer at a time.
When the kids were little, we taught them to do chores. Bye, bye “Mommy = maid.” Hello “Become a man who can attract intelligent women. Learn to do dishes and laundry.”
Later we initiated Jobs-for-the-Family. When the kids wanted to earn money through extra chores, they could AFTER completing a task to better our home life. We hire quality. Show us your engagement and positive attitude by first graciously completing a job for the family.
We maintained an almost-sacred notion of family dinners. Prepare with love and effort. Not to be missed. Come to share. Everyone participates (in help and in conversation.)
Then we invited the kids to “give me jobs.” Every year, at our Family Review, the boys shared what I do well AND an area where they hope to see me grow.
- “Mom, keep letting us invite friends.”
- “Mom, if you want our home to be welcoming, you need to buy fun food to share with friends.”
- “Mom, when you are angry, go to your room!!!!”
- “Mom, you say I manage my studies well. Then let me choose how I use my time.”
With “Less Me” to allow for “More Them”
People describe me in many ways; “wallflower” is not one of them. Yes, I enjoy center stage and being noticed (even better, admired :)).
Yet the bigger I grow, the more shade I cast around me and the harder it is for others to flourish. When I concentrate on being The Amazing Mother, I say I desire my children to grow, yet my focus remains on Me, Myself, and I. My attitude contradicts my words.
As I mellow out (a.k.a. ALLOW FOR MISTAKES…AND SUCCESSES) others enjoy the opportunity to grow and to shine in the limelight.
Specifically, this translates into not telling my husband how to be a great dad. To allow him to choose the color of our living room walls. To let the kids cook dinner; pasta again. To listen to the children before launching into a (redundant) lecture.
To view my loved ones as gardeners who trim me of thorns and unwieldly branches so that I may flourish and blossom. It’s when I have accepted shaping from them that they invite me to return the favor. It’s when I have been vulnerable that we may broach delicate topics like bullying at school, cheating on tests, or sex, drugs, & rock ‘n roll.
- What do you want for your family? If you don’t know where you want to go, it will be hard to recognize when you get “hot” or “cold.”
- What one thing can YOU do differently today move in that direction?
- What will help you continue to do that ONE THING tomorrow, the day after, and all week?