Wave One: Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby!
Our DNA demands and divisions
We got married when we were about 22 years old. We were fresh out of college and on our way to grad school in far-away California.
Phone calls cost money, snail mail was the only mail, and pictures were developed on paper and shared via mail, if and when we had the money.
Backpacks with heavy books, groceries that I shopped for myself, and banking done only at a bank were a way of life.
Bikes were used more than our car, even while pregnant with our first little one, who came into our arms 2 months after our first anniversary!
How did we do that first year??...Stressed, deer-in-the-headlights overwhelm were common.
* We lived with integrity. We didn’t lie, manipulate or ignore the other…at least not much.
* We worked towards agreement and the goal of making it through the first year of law school (It was/is a team effort!) This took courage, faith and leaning onto the other.
(Also, someone told us that no first year law students who are married, stay married. We dug in our heels to prove him wrong!)
* We joined a church, made school friends and went to the library to find books about pregnancy, childbirth and newborns.
* We shopped at thrift stores for all the things, learned to use spray paints and on-sale-fabric for the baby's room, my pregnancy clothes and home decor.
* We fought/conversed and re-conversed about how clean a car should be, how important it was to balance a checkbook to the penny…you can guess who cared about the penny and it was not me!
* We used those thrifty skills but didn’t skimp on smiles or positive encouragement. We enjoyed the air-popped popcorn and kool-aid for evening snacks and creative (aka - free) dating as the next 9 years went by….
* And we added 2 more daughters and a handsome son!
By the time we were 30 we had 4 kiddos. Chip had his law license and I had my marriage and family therapy license. I was busy thriftily remodeling our 3rd home, figuring out how to help out at school and find part-time daycare without family or internet to assist in the search.
How did we do those following years?
* We kept our Christian faith alive and built an adult community around those friendships. Although, truth be told, we saw those friends at church for about 15 minutes and maybe every 6 weeks for a social event. Most of our time and energy was spent at home - with kids, and building our careers.
* We slept in the same bed, together - even with kids in and out of it or on the floor next to us.
* We ate most suppers together. They were sometimes crazy, sometimes fun, sometimes just surviving 20 minutes or so.
* We sat by each other from about 10-10:30 every night - chatting, watching stupid news, telling snip-its of the day and discussing what to do about the “problem-child” of the day.
We were surviving...probably not really thriving as our D:Desires and our N:Necessary Skills were clouded and overwhelmed by the day to day.
Wave Two: Together but Separate Years
So, these are busy years, in so many different ways. Our oldest went from being about 10 (grade school) to being 20 (a college student!), while our youngest went from toddler world to owning the playground in grade school. And the two girls in the middle were in grade school and middle school.
We moved from California to Michigan…for schools, to be closer to some family, for better work and financial balance.
These were tiring years, in different ways than the baby years. Helping kids manage school and teacher stresses, homework that no one really understood, navigating sports teams, coaches and schedules were all daily evolving events.
We also cared for my mom, with her aging brain disease for these 10 years, and worked on building our careers.
We got too tired. Our Dreams and Desires continued dividing…marriage or parenting?? Which do you choose?
Which did we ignore?
* Sure, we still sat on the couch together, but the older kids were still up.
* We had very little time for social activities or dating each other.
** We used much of our best energy in different directions - me at home (along with p/t career), and Chip at work, trying to help at home when his intense workload allowed.
* Parenting and marriage were splitting us…into a “you do one, I’ll do the other” couple. One of us would be stressed about marriage health and the other was focusing on the kids.
Then we would flip over - but not in an organized fashion. We would flip because we heard the other’s concern about being married alone or parenting alone. But our flip still kept us together, but separate.
* We had some pretty strong D’s going on…Disappointed, dismayed, disconnected, discombobulated…Divorce was a word we had vowed to not include in our vocabulary, but that was leading us to be married business partners.
** Which is different from happily married partners.
What had we done?
* Divided the chores/daily living, just to stay afloat.
* Daily tasks overwhelmed our brains and emotions. We were drained of emotional energy or deep care for each other.
* Our conversations were around the tasks to be assigned and done. Finances, kids’ schedules, school expectations, sports, meal planning, car maintenance and all the other things we listed, consulted, assigned and done.
We were not unfaithful, nor really unkind. We were just unconnected.
* Our conversations about “How are we?” or “How can I care for you?” were shelved.
Sure, we’d haul them out when we were really stressed - at about 11pm.
That usually did not go too well, besides reminding us that something had to be done differently.
What and how were not clear.
What did we do?
* We planned some trips - without kids.
* We separately listed what we wanted to talk about and shared our lists with each other before we left.
* We both wanted thinking time so that we could figure this out in our own minds without being ambushed by the other's concerns or criticisms. (Note: Our lists we part of our “D” - Defining our Desires and Dreams. Our thinking was part of the Necessary skill of Managing our Emotional self, and preparing to be able to speak clearly while listening accurately.
* We worked on those conversations in the morning, when we were more awake, and we knew there would be an "end of conversation for now" time because we were going to find an adventure and play in the afternoon. We added relaxation and romance in the evening.
** This worked for us and our Dream of feeling the deep love and respect we had for each other was beginning to come to the top.
* When we came home, we had made more emotional connections that helped us live into the desire to do life together - not just next to each other - but together.
* Our honor, admiration and trust for each other grew, which gave us more courage to be honest and kind.
It helped us parent those growing kids together - with the shared goals (desires) of our kids being integrous, gracious, hard- working and growing in faith.
*This use of time, energy and finances helped our dreams become more real, our relationship with each other became more interconnected, and our kids stayed kids - growing, pushing boundaries, needing freedom and guidance a bit different everyday!
Wave Three: Our DNA grows into a way of life.
Our kids grew - graduated colleges, moved on their own, with jobs that had insurance coverage, and income enough to be independent.
All 4 of our kids married. The girls got married with 18 months of each other, and our son got married about 2 years later.
And then, they all had babies! We helped them with newborns, and with saying goodbye to littles (4 times) that did not live nearly long enough.
We continued to care for aging parents, navigate how to care for adult kids who lived near and far, and how to be grandparents with wisdom and good boundaries.
We kept thinking that this stage should be easier than parenting the littles, the kiddos and the teens.
But somehow, each stage requires a new twist on old skills, and new skills that we didn’t think we would ever need…
Like how to bury little ones, and how to help our adult kiddos grieve that loss. We also hadn’t practiced how to bury a mom and have a step-mom as dad remarried.
What did we do?
* We still sat on the couch together from 10-10:30pm, enjoying a snack that probably was an upgrade from air-popcorn and kool-aid.
* We prayed.
* We were gracious to each other. Chip had tons of work! I was busy with my private practice, grandma days, and caring for my aging parents - mom died during this time and Dad’s health declined.
* We were kindly honest about what boundaries, conversations and attitudes we thought would be best for the different situations. Our togetherness grew and our D’s went down.
* Our Desire for being married together, in heart, mind and soul was deeply growing.
* Our communication skills continued to be stretched and grown…listening accurately, speaking clearly, touching with compassion and friendship, honoring and supporting each other were crucial in the other years, for sure.
They were crucial then and still are now.
* We were learning to apply those skills in more unique ways as we were now interacting with littles, kiddos, their parents (and our grown kids, with spouses!)
Our marriage DNA was stronger, more natural and more trusted. We work the balance of needs and wants, of other's requests with our own needs for connection with each other.
Mostly - we talk, we care, we cooperate and we have compassion for each other.
As you know, married with kids is not for the faint of heart!
The DNA Way is our pathway to great marriage and family relationship health.
We know that it will work for you too!
Don't Delay - Join The DNA Way to Communicate today!
Which brings us to this next wave…the one we are in now.
It’s crazy - I always thought that the baby years flew by!
But, wow! These years fly by too…
we continue to share our D: Our Desire that our family is united, even when we live all over the country. And we travel, and support their travel to make family time together.
Our Desire is that we encourage other couples to fight for their healthy D’s - of dreams, desires, daring growth and deep love. The DNA Way to Communicate is one of those ways.
Our close view of divorce, or of living separately, under the same roof, was too close for comfort, or good health!
And so, we wanted to share our way of getting our marriage and family DNA into a good space.
Each family is different. Clearly, our adult kids all have marriages that are unique to them….thus, their D’s will be different - as your’s would be too!
The use of the Necessary communication skills only grows.
The other day a granddaughter had been rude to a sibling. She and I talked about it, and she genuinely apologized. But her little brother looked up at me and said, “I don’t know what to say.” I said he could say, “I forgive you.” ..if it was true for him.
He nodded, sincerely and wide eyed, and said those kind words to his sister…who, sweetly enough, had tears in her 7YO eyes.
These skills Apply - for any age and stage of life. I know because I used them with my kids, and I am engaging my grandkids with these skills as well.
Being married forever while you parent your kiddos together is possible!
The DNA Way gives you skills and connections for EVERYONE in your family!
Eager to meet and support you!
~Jan (and Chip, as my devoted background supporter!)