That’s Not What I Said

Or, Why You Need Couple’s Therapy (Hint: because you’re human.)

You don’t know everything. You own up to this human imperfection every time you call on a mechanic to fix your car or a plumber to address your pipes or that slightly annoying Mac genius to troubleshoot your computer. We humans cannot possibly know everything about everything and we very intelligently rely on experts to fill in the gaps in our individual knowledge. Millennia of collective data has proven that this system works, and most of us subscribe to it implicitly.

So why aren’t you seeking the help of a relationship expert to improve your relationship?

 Whether your relationship challenges are subtle or glaring (because nonexistent is not an option), couples therapy can have a huge positive impact. And while I do believe that any opportunity or effort to focus solely on your relationship for some amount of time can be a good thing (i.e. the proverbial date night), the specialness of therapy lies in the presence of a knowledgeable and objective third party.

The right therapist (more on finding the “right” one in a later post, I promise) will help shine a light on the good parts of your relationship, even in times of darkness. Beyond that, she will astutely identify the tools you have, or lack, to make things right.

 To me, couples therapy is akin to staring at one of those Magic Eye images that were crazy popular in the 90s – remember the jumble of horizontal patterns and pictures that you had to UN-focus on in order to make sense of? At first glance you may feel absolutely certain that there’s nothing more to it than those patterns and colors forming a pile of nonsense. But a great therapist will teach you how to diverge your vision so that you can see the 3-D image inside the mess before you.

If I’m making any sense at all here, then you probably understand that the 3-D image is the truth of what’s going on with you two. It’s the reality of your situation minus the resentment, self-doubt, hurt feelings and anger that cloud your view of your partner. With the guidance of a great therapist, you’ll find that you can even move around within that 3-D image. You can explore the depths and corners and jagged edges without fearing that this wonderfully clear vision will slip away into the mess again. 

Another huge bonus my husband and I discovered in working with our therapist is the creation of a productive safe zone. It sounds hokey and new-agey and that’s okay, because the fact is that we can attempt to have the exact same conversation on our couch and it will end drastically differently than it would on the therapist’s couch.

The key difference is that a therapist can listen without being limited by the stories that we have in our heads. These old, often incorrect or maladapted narratives, cause many of us to decide that we know exactly how our partner will react to something before that thing is even presented. They take away our ability to actually hear what’s being said and that’s when things go off the rails. In therapy, this is simply not allowed. 

The therapist is there to keep things grounded in reality; to guide us back to truth when my old injuries are talking or his outdated assumptions of me are getting in the way. She is just impartial enough to keep things on an honest, productive level, something we are not always capable of on our own.

My husband and I have been seeing a therapist on and off for six years. We go in for regular maintenance and when there’s a need for crisis intervention. In either case, we are never sad that we did. It is always helpful. I mean it. Every time. Can you say that about your mechanic?

Posted on Categories Advice

3 Things I Learned by Transitioning from SAHM to Working Mom

Recently I’ve made the monumental shift from stay at home mom to full time career lady. My first kid was born nine years ago, and while I worked for a small boutique in the years after his birth, I left the job and never went back after having my second. For the last three years, I’ve been knee deep in library story hours, music times, and wiping things. Wiping so.many.things.

A little over a year ago, I needed an outlet. Something that required me to use my brain for something other than making snacks and reading Good Night Moon over and over again. Like tens of thousands of women before me, I started a blog. But I made a promise to myself and anyone that would be so gracious as to take time reading, I wasn’t going to subject anyone to another crafty, recipe laden aren’t-kids-just-the-most-magical-creatures-fake-fest. I set out to be honest. Often, life with kids is awesome. Occasionally it blows chunks. (Literally.)

For a few hours each week, I would sneak off to a coffee shop and hunker down to peck out 600-1000 words on something that had me thinking. I harassed my friends to read it and they were kind enough to share it with theirs. The universe conspired to parlay those efforts into what you are reading right now.

These are a few things I’ve come to realize in this change.

1. I truly enjoy being around adults.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent the first years of my youngest’s life at her beck and call. Yet as much as I made a concerted effort to get out of the house and socialize both of us, I’d still find myself engaging everyone from cashiers to the mailman in inane conversation just because they spoke actual words. On more than a few occasions, I accusingly asked my husband if he washed his hands upon exiting the bathroom. When you’re with kids all day, it comes with the territory.

Personally, I love kiddos. Even ones that aren’t mine. They are startlingly honest, delightfully irreverent, and often easy to please. Plus, they’ll clear their schedule at the drop of a hat for an ice cream date. (Adults could really stand to learn a few things.) However, they’re terrible at discussing the intricacies of Breaking Bad, they sneeze directly into your mouth, and some days they rapidly fire questions that would make Albert Einstein feel like taking a nap in traffic.

Spending large stretches of the day creating something with intelligent, forward thinking people who don’t wear diapers (so far as I know, though this is totally unconfirmed) is fantastic.

2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Allegedly, that phrase was penned around 1839 by Thomas Haynes Bayly, but that’s a really strange name for a working mom. I’m going to have to credit Tina Fey instead, as that suits my needs better.

In any event, I am going to go on record and say that there’s no better feeling than a small person who thinks you’re cooler than Gwen Stefani (spoiler alert, children who may need glasses:this is not possible) launches like a flying squirrel into your arms before you can even take off your coat. That never happens when you’re nose to nose day in and day out.

3. I’m a better parent when I feel more financially secure.

There’s no debating that raising kids is expensive. There’s also no doubt that worrying about paying your bills can permeate every moment of your day. At its worst, it boils over and you cry because your kid spilled an entire carton of milk all over the counter when you have $7 dollars left in your account until next week. (I acknowledge that this is in no way the worst for some families. I am only speaking from my own experience.) On the better days, it’s just the way you hold your breath as you wait between punching in your pin and being handed your receipt at the grocery store.

Our needs are few. But knowing they can be met quiets that voice that can yell louder than two kids banging pots and pans while tap dancing.

The Artful Parent

There are at least as many blogs dedicated to kid’s crafts as there are specks of glitter strewn throughout my house. (My daughter is three, so you can imagine the carnage.) There are plenty of fantastic ones, but the one I find myself coming back to again and again is The Artful Parent. Between projects that are geared toward kids of all ages, Janet Van’t Hul interjects useful and practical information on how to inspire creativity in your family and throughout your home. And the most magical part is that it’s in simple ways you’ll actually pull off.

Often, those well intentioned step A, B, and C crafts leave little room for creativity. The Artful Parent, on the other hand, simply celebrates a love of art. For many of her suggestions, you could hunker down and dedicate an entire afternoon. Others you can set up and jump in and out of for just minutes at a time for days on end. She encourages parents to offer real tools, like good quality paper, masking tape and even (mess-freaks, hold on to your hat) sharpies. Because of her, I purchased a hot glue gun and my life hasn’t been the same since.

I’ve been critical of my own artistic shortcomings my entire life. I’m sure that even as a toddler, I considered my smiley faces sub par. I don’t want my kids to fall into that trap. Making art as natural a part of their day as brushing their teeth seems like a good start.

Posted on Categories Raising Kids

Ready to School Mix

 

They’re up. They’re out. They’re almost out of your hands. Take those last moments of the morning to rock out together.

SONGS

Wake Me up Before You Go-Go – Wham!

Shiny Happy People – R.E.M. – Out Of Time

Three Little Birds – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Here Comes the Sun – Nina Simone

Don’t Worry Be Happy -Bobby McFerrin

Rocky Theme (AKA, School Drop Off Complete)

 

Posted on Categories Playlists

Family Rituals: Coffee with my toddler

Since becoming a parent, the first words out of my mouth each morning, 9 times out of 10 are “just let me get my coffee first”. In our small house, we have three different ways to brew a perfect cup; an espresso machine, a chemex, and a neglected but occasionally useful regular coffee pot that has been demoted to the basement. We’re more likely to be out of toilet paper than out of half and half. Suffice it to say, we’re coffee people.

When my daughter was 18 months old, I wrote down a list of the words she could say. Mixed in with the standard “mama”, “dada”, “ball”, and “hi” was “cackie”. “Mama, cackie?”, she’d ask as she banged around her kitchen set, presenting me with a tiny plastic tea cup. I’d accept it as graciously as one can accept something thrust directly into their face.

It wasn’t long before she started to demand the real thing. And since many mornings, we spent home just the two of us, my ritual soon became our ritual.

After the flurry of getting my son awake and to the bus on time, we’d retreat to the kitchen. She’d push a chair up to the counter as I’d pull down the espresso. At first, her chubby hand could only manage to land half the scoop of grounds in their intended location. I coached her on just how much maple syrup to add (we’re Vermonters, after all), and how much half and half achieved the perfect hue. Then we made hers.

From the shelf she painstakingly chose the right color tea cup and together we’d pour the milk and maple syrup. She’d turn the dial on the machine to “steam”, and hold my hand as it sputtered and spit, warming her “cackie” just so. I relished those mornings that we slowly started our day together.

Now our weekdays are much more hectic as I head to work and she gets shuffled off to school. We save Saturday mornings for scooping and pouring and invite the boys to pick a cup and join us. It’s a ritual I look forward to every week. Well, the part that comes after the guaranteed fight between the kids over who gets the blue cup. 10157409_10152054739453404_957329436_n

Posted on Categories Raising Kids

Beyond the Photo Studio: 3 Ways to Make Real Moments 

Anyone who has ever attempted to get from point A to point B with a small person in tow can attest to a child’s attention to detail. The youngest walkers stoop down to inspect every crack in the sidewalk and each ant that marches across their path. The older set may be unable to pass by low hanging branches without a minor tree climbing session. It’s a natural tendency that in many cases, we grow out of as we get older.

Yet, the moment a brand new baby is placed in your arms, the skill of noticing every little thing is reborn. Each tiny fingernail, the perfect swirl of their hairline, the wrinkles that make them look brand new and a hundred years old all at the same time. There are few things we are ever as in tune with as our children.

With that understanding, there’s an art to observing the things that make them who they are. Given the tools we have these days, there’s no question that it’s easy to amass thousands of photos and videos of our kids. But truly capturing them extends beyond clicking and tapping buttons.

Consider these few things to build a rich collection of memories.

Take non-traditional photos

Of course there’s a time and place for posed, picture perfect photos. But the truth is, those captures rarely tell a story. Candid shots of an afternoon in the yard, or little hands caring for a favorite stuffed animal have far more to connect with. Occasionally, focus on the action itself, not the obvious smiling face. Or leave the kid out entirely, and take the photos they’ll want to have.

Document the “boring”

The normal of today won’t be the normal of 5 years from now. What seems mundane and uninteresting in the moment is often super fun to look back on. Make a video of the song they’ve been singing on loop for two weeks straight, or write down three sentences about a particularly disastrous trip to the grocery store (“You insisted the place to ride was under the cart. I finally talked you into riding properly and you knocked at least two things off the shelf in every aisle. I got desperate and opened the goldfish crackers in line.) After all, there are far more of those moments than anything else.

Let them lead the way

Stepping back and allowing a kid to be in charge is a great way to watch them shine. Let your toddler lead you on a walk around the neighborhood, or hand a recipe over to a 9 year old to prepare for the family. A quick photo of them genuinely enjoying that freedom can speak volumes.

(Kid) Love Hurts

At the end of a long day spent with my kids, I often wonder why parents don’t walk around in full body armor. Between the hardness of their heads which register on the moh scale somewhere in the neighborhood of “diamond” and the flailing limbs of which they seem to have 12 each, being near them sometimes equals pain.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re hilarious creatures whose company can be delightful, but my three year old bloodied my lip with a dramatic rendition of “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” and my 9 year old almost impaled me during a game of tag IN THE SAME DAY.

Everyone talks about the sleepless nights, the pain of actual childbirth, how much it hurts to step on stray legos that get camouflaged into the carpet. But I was given no warning that some average days feel full on Braveheart.

Recently, after waking up by being slammed in the face by the back side of my sleeping (yet thrasy) toddler’s head, I polled a few friends. “At what point in parenthood will the natural reaction to being whacked about the head move past ‘blinding rage’?”

The absolute unanimous response was “never. ever.”

So maybe the knee jerk reaction won’t change. But I do know that the reflexes my husband and I have developed as self preservation rival that of cats.

Posted on Categories Back Talk