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Setting a Romantic Example for Your Children

Apr29

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I’ve always liked the notion of teaching by example. Your words are less important than your actions, talking the talk is trumped by walking the walk, etc.

I try to set a good example for my kids in as many areas as possible. I still have giggle-inducing memories of that time period when my youngest refused to eat any food that wasn’t white or beige, and how I would sit at the dinner table and soliloquize on the deliciousness of my broccoli, and tomato sauce, and all manner of non-white foodstuffs. I would never suggest that he eat them, I just made a big fuss about how much I loved them. (It took a while, it’s true. But now, as a teenager, he eats almost everything and is always up for trying new foods.) “Do it this way” is simply never going to be as effective as just modeling the way you think it should be done.

When I got married the first time, I was 22. That’s a magical age (at least it was for me) where I thought I knew everything but there was so much I didn’t know that I had no idea exactly how dumb I was. I am also the child of parents who divorced, though it was a divorce that didn’t happen until I was an adult. To say our household was an unhappy one when I was growing up would be an understatement. And like any young adult who is self-assured of her own ability to Learn And Do Better, I thought I had a handle on How To Marry Successfully And Raise Kids Right because I’d paid close attention to the model before me and decided it was all wrong and I could do it better. (I would never write a book about my first marriage, but if I did, it would be titled, “Hubris and Inevitable Failure.”)

[Here I feel the need to pause and note that my folks and even my ex-husband did the best that they could. I wish we'd all been happier, but I think everyone is happier now, and this is not about blame. We're all works in progress.]

Anyway, my first marriage didn’t work out as planned. There’s lots of reasons, obviously, and it’s complicated (isn’t it always?), and I feel like both of us—sometimes in tandem, sometimes not—fought for that relationship to be successful and ultimately it just wasn’t possible. I had gone into it believing that marriage is forever if you do it right. Eventually I concluded that I didn’t want my kids growing up in a household where their parents were unhappy; I’d been to that rodeo and can’t recommend it. So we divorced, and it was awful, and I’m sure it was hard on the kids (despite our best efforts to shield them), but I believe we’re all in a better place now. I believe it was the right choice.

My (second, current, and hopefully last) husband and I have been married for nearly seven years, now. That means my children have lived with the two of us for longer than they lived with me and their dad, and longer than they lived with just me alone. When they’re adults—which will be happening sooner than I like to admit—and they look back on their childhood, this house, this parental configuration is the one they will remember. This is the example they will carry with them, for better or for worse, into their own adult attempts at romantic partnership.

I know that the best gift I can give my children, here, is happiness in my relationship with their stepdad. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s the best gift I can give my husband and even myself, too. Happiness is like that—it tends to benefit everyone. (Go figure!)

It’s not something I think about consciously, all that often, but it does sometimes occur to me while I send up a silent prayer that what my kids see helps steer them towards similar happiness. Because the bottom line is that we are happy, and my husband is my favorite adult on the planet. We like spending time together, but we also spend time apart, happily, on our jobs, and friends, and different interests. We value one another’s opinions, but are also okay teasing each other or poking fun about some things. We laugh a lot. We hug and kiss in front of the kids. Sometimes we fight, but not very often… and when we do, we fight fair (none of this “and now I shall bring up that thing you did two years ago that I’m still mad about!” nonsense), and calmly, and at appropriate times, and with respect for one another despite our differing points of view. We do our best to consult one another when it comes to decisions which affect the kids, and woe betide the child who tries playing one of us against the other.

Our life right now is a lot about raising the kids, by necessity, but also about our relationship as a couple. Balance is often elusive, but my hope is that by making each other a priority, my children learn that 1) they’re not the center of the universe and 2) making a partnered relationship healthy and successful is work but it’s also worth it.

So why am I thinking about this, today? This morning was a typical school morning, by which I mean that the kids were flitting around getting ready, I was packing lunches, and my husband was trying to make coffee because he knows I am incoherent until I have my coffee, but at the same time, the kitchen counter was strewn with lunch fixings and his job wasn’t easy. Because I hadn’t had my coffee yet (I feel the need to clarify this), at one point I went to the sink to rinse my hands at the same time that my husband was about to fill the coffeemaker with water. We have one of those kitchen faucets where you can pull down the the nozzle (it has a hose) and aim it elsewhere, so the usual way we fill the coffeemaker is to pull out the faucet and hold it over the reservoir rather than filling the pot and dumping it in. Well. Um. I went to the sink and turned it on, as one does, somehow completely missing the fact that my husband was holding the hose in his hands, about to fill the coffeemaker. Water went everywhere, all over the counter, the lunches, the floor, and my husband, in the unbelievably long two or three seconds it took me to realize what I’d done and turn it off.

Oops.

My husband could’ve gotten mad—he was all wet, now, plus I’d made a mess—but as I crumpled to the floor because I was laughing so hard at my own stupidity, he just shook his head and reached for a towel, first suggesting that I “try a little situational awareness” and then adding that if I felt he needed a second shower, I “could’ve just said so.”

We finished cleaning up and I kissed him, grateful for his good humor. My son saw the whole thing (he came to check on me on the floor while I was laughing, to remind me to breathe, too). The example, I hope, is one of good humor and lots of love. I’d be more than okay with that being our legacy.

About the author

Mir Kamin

http://wouldashoulda.com/
Mir Kamin began writing about her life online nearly a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she's become one of those people who talks to her dog in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she's continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she's bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.


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7 Responses to “Setting a Romantic Example for Your Children”

  1. Samantha Apr 29 at 11:31 pm Reply Reply

    Beautiful.

  2. Brigitte May 01 at 10:58 am Reply Reply

    One of the most valuable traits in a relationship, I think, is the ability to laugh at yourself. :-)

  3. Lucinda May 01 at 12:44 pm Reply Reply

    Nice! My husband and I are both children of multiple divorces.  (His mom is on her 3rd marriage, My dad is on his 4th). We went into marriage with great purpose and thought.  We didn’t want to repeat what our parents had done.  18 years later, we are still best friends with lots of humor.  We have both noticed however, that many of our friends, whose parents remain happily married, are not so happily married themselves.  It feels as if they grew up taking their parents’ marriages for granted.  Because of this, I have purposefully spent time talking to my children about the things they don’t see in our marriage.  The work we put into it to always make sure the other is getting what they need.  A great example I give the kids is that they go to their rooms earlier than perhaps they would like in the evening so that their dad and I have time alone together.  I tell them it’s part of marriage maintenance.  They get it and rarely argue bedtime with me. I hope it makes a difference and they go on to have happy marriages.  Only time will tell.

  4. js May 01 at 2:16 pm Reply Reply

    I’m feeling blessed to have my own Otto today ;-)

  5. Jean May 01 at 5:45 pm Reply Reply

    Color me envious. Great example for the kids to see! I see that happening in my relationship in my mind’s eye, but sadly, not so often in reality.

  6. Missi May 06 at 3:11 pm Reply Reply

    This is so great!  Thank you for sharing this.  I think of romance and happiness often as my husband and I are doing the mundane things of making life with a new baby work.  I hope that we can continue to shower each other with love as we share love with her, too.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Second time’s the charm? | Woulda Coulda Shoulda - May 01

    […] I’m over at Alpha Mom, considering how my various baggage and divorce and now very-happily-married self shows my kids about love and re…. Probably I should’ve let Otto write his side of that. He might tell a different story, but I […]

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