306 days without yelling, 59 days of loving more to go!
Dear Green Turtle,
People are going to wonder what this post has to do with not yelling. Here’s the thing: when I feel disconnected to you, when I feel like we are two ships passing in the night because of the stress of raising young kids, I get more snippy and much more likely to yell. When you and I are in a good place, it is easier to not yell. Today, super easy to not yell because I remembered that you count too!
The Orange Rhino
It was the Summer of 2010. My oldest was almost four and our third son was almost one. My husband and I were debating whether or not we would or should go for a fourth. We did a lot of soul searching that summer, both together and separate. My husband did his soul searching, pondering if he could handle four kids, while playing video games. I did mine, I know I want four kids but can our marriage handle four kids, everywhere and anywhere.I spent countless hours thinking: when I woke up, in the shower, driving here and there, when the kids were bathing, before I went to sleep and any second there was quiet in the house.
Why so much thinking? Truthfully? Because we were in what I thought was maybe? more than a marriage rut and I was worried. I was worried about where we were headed and that naturally made questioning a fourth child, well, kind of silly, no? But through my soul searching and talking with different people I realized that my concerns about my marriage weren’t abnormal and that they were in fact what a lot of couples experienced when children came along.
Disconnected. Tired. Out of sync. Unenthusiastic. Why? Because so much of their free time was spent not necessarily with each other as a couple, but either as a family or focusing on just the kids. And let me tell you, with three kids in 3 years, and my husband’s work schedule, this was most definitely our situation. We hadn’t fallen out of love as I often worried, we had just fallen off each other’s radar because every spare moment was about “survival.” It was about keeping diapers changed, mouths fed, hearts comforted, tears dried, fights avoided. We let our couple-dom get lost, we let it become de-prioritized. It wasn’t intentional. It truly wasn’t. It just happened. We stopped focusing on us and only focused on the kids. Are they happy? What do they need? We stopped asked are we happy? What do we need (besides sleep and peace and quiet)? I stopped making him a priority. All my free time was for the kids, then myself, and then sleep. (This is perhaps over the top, but you get the idea). Oh Orange Rhino, not good!
As I slowly started to realize this I had a huge epiphany. I love birthdays, always have, always will. My mom made my birthday’s incredibly special and as such I have dreamed to do the same for my boys. So for each birthday I spend HOURS and I mean hours planning. I find hours that I don’t even know exist. I go out of my way to find time creating the perfect birthday invitations, by scratch. 10 hours, easy. Finding the perfect plates, napkins, decorations, 2 hours. Searching for the perfect favors and party games, 2 hours. Baking and decorate the perfect cake, 10 hours. That is 24 hours. 24 hours per child.
And then comes my Husband’s Birthday. Before kids I would spend a couple hours thinking about what to do, where to go, what to buy him and then spend 2 to 3 hours making one creative thing to keep as a memory over the years. Maybe 4 to 5 hours total.
And now? The big aha? I spent max 45 minutes. For my kids I jumped through hoops to show them my love on their special day. For my husband? Not so much anymore. Awful. Just awful. The summer of 2010 I realized that I was marginalizing my husband. He deserved more than 45 minutes of preparation for his birthday. He deserved to know that I would go out of my way to make time and effort to make his day special, just as I would my sons. He deserved to know that they weren’t more important than him; but that all my boys are important to me. And always will be.
From that summer on, I have started making sure my husband’s birthday gets as much love, energy, and creativity as I would give to my sons. No, I don’t spend hours on invitations, but now instead of buying a cake at the grocery store last minute, I make him a cake just as I would my sons. And this year, my sons joined in the creativity and helped planned all the details of the day. It. Was. Awesome. The theme? Green Turtle, green everything. Daddy got balloons just like them, a green tablecloth, kazoos for party favors, polka dotted birthday plates, and got to enter a kitchen this morning “decorated” with green streamers. Everywhere.
It was a fantastic day, despite the headaches from the kazoo chorus. It was fantastic to feel so connected to my boys and my husband. It was fantastic to see him light up at the sight of his personalized cake. It was fantastic to see the boys take joy in celebrating their daddy.
It was fantastic to have realized three summers ago that I had started prioritizing my kids over my husband and that I could change that at any minute and that that change could bring much greater joy to my life.