Today is the first day of spring break for my kiddos. They were promised a treat of their choice if they get through their last week of class without "moving their apple," which is first grade code language at their school for "ummmmm, you're in big troooouble!"
I sweetened the deal a bit, (for Teresa and I, of course) by extending the requirements of their extra-good behavior through this afternoon. Hey, we gotta do what we gotta do, that first day of break is high energy stuff (think children on crack, enough said?).
Oh you should see these angels. At dinner last night Mitch wrote a little note that said, "I love you," and gave it to me saying, "after you read this, you give it to mama and, mama, you give it to Cameron." I thought to myself, "Where did he learn about chain letters?"
Give it to Cameron? The brother he won't even allow to have eye contact with him? Did I hear that correctly? The "don't-you-look-at-me" boy, telling his brother he loves him? Wow.
Then Cameron followed suit with his own little love note for all of us, adding the personal touch by walking the note around to each of us individually, and reading it directly to us.
Did I mention that the toy stores they want to visit are different? Lo and behold, now they are competing to see who can be nicest so that they can go to their store first tomorrow.
Competing to see who can be nicest.
When is the last time you were in competition with your partner to see who could be the nicest? When did you last think to yourself, I'm going to allow her her opinions without having to insert mine, or talk as though I'm right and she's wrong? Or when did you last censor yourself to ensure that only loving kind words crossed your lips? Or when did you last go out of your way to do something that made her feel loved, or special, or a priority, or important, or valuable to you? Try the love-note bit, it's pretty effective! (Maybe not the chain-letter variety, though.)
As adults, when we want something, and everyone in a relationship does, we aren't always effective in getting what we want. In relationships, what we all want most is acceptance, attention, approval, affection, appreciation, freedom and security.
Unfortunately, we often go about getting these things all the wrong way.
- We complain when we don't get appreciation. "You didn't even notice that I painted the entire exterior of our house, rebuilt the engine in our car, cooked a 12-course meal, and mowed the lawn while you were at work today."
- We distance when we don't get attention. "Honey, I'll be late tonight - don't wait up."
- We fight when we don't get affection. "You never touch me anymore."
- We accuse when we don't feel security. "Why are you late?"
- We withhold when we don't get approval. "Nothing. I'm fine."
- We deceive when we don't feel a sense of freedom. "I wasn't out with my friends, I was working late."
If this describes you, I have one question for you:
"How's that working for you?"
Behind every complaint is a desire.
Try this handy little trick. Every time you find yourself about to say something hurtful, do something cold or unfeeling, throw out some "fightin' words," or anything else not covered by the umbrella of kindness, challenge yourself to identify the good thing that you do want.
- Instead of complaining, say, "I'd love to show you some things I did today because it's important to me that you know how much pride I take in our life and our things..."
- Instead of distancing, call home and say, "Any chance we can spend some quality time together tonight if I can cut out of here on time tonight, because I want to feel connected to you again."
- Instead of accusing or fighting, say, "I've missed you, and I'm glad you are here now.
- Instead of withholding or deceiving, be honest. Tell her what you are feeling, tell her what your desire is. Let her in. You didn't partner with her to shut her out.
If you set your sights on being the kindest, most thoughtful, affectionate, appreciative, accepting and approving partner, I guarantee that your relationship will be a happier place, even if your partner doesn't change one bit.
These are the kinds of partners who end up in winning relationships, the ones who compete to be their best at loving the other, not the one who needs to be right, or the one who wins her way, or the one who gets in the last word.
If you are extra good, maybe you'll even get yourself a trip to the toy store!
Keep it simple, kindness works like magic.