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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Parents on the Same Page

To get on the same page, you need to be reading the same book. The rest is commentary.

Years ago, before we had our own plane, Benedetto and I flew commercial aircraft about 4x/week. No, we were not flying them, we were riding them. (You think we would put our own lives in… our own hands?!)

This was long before laptops were in great vogue and we would do paperwork, read, or snooze onboard. Then one of us was reading some great book, snorting out loud with laughter, and the other couldn’t help but give a nudge like, “Hey, let me take a peek, too!”

I’m trying to think what the first book was even about, but having children leads to mental decay and other distractions, so I’ll just have to leave it at that. I can’t remember.

We started reading books together, seated side-by-side in First Class. Flight attendants would gather in awe.

“We’ve never seen couples read together!” they would gush, as though we were the Cutest Couple on the Face of the Earth. “Preeeeeh-cioussss!!!”

Okay, great, let me get back to reading.

If one of us was a little faster, and believe me, we’re no speed-readers, the other would pause to turn the page. We simply enjoyed sharing something we could later chat about.

Then came kids. We discovered we weren’t on the same page at all. We probably were not even reading the same book.

“Mr. Softee” I would call him, intent on always letting the juvenile offender in question have another 3,475,619,248 chances. I knew we were in trouble when Petya first came home. We had not taken him to the store after a first ill-fated trip to the grocery store where he tried to place the whole of Aisles 1-12 in our shopping cart.

“It’s time,” my husband announces one day.

“What?” I wonder, as usual, the last to know anything, totally clueless because they like to keep me this way.

“Petya has a dollar and he wants to go to the store.”

Naturally, his smiling and nodding head is bobbing up and down behind my husband, giving me no opportunity to protest such a proposterous idea. What could go wrong with the dollar store?

Petya is breathless with excitement as we head into the store, goofy grin spreading from ear to ear. I was so happy for him. He thought he had just won the lottery.

I remember him examining every… single… item… in the store. Several times. Weighing its general merit against all other contenders. I finally tell him to make a decision, we need to go. We’ve spent almost an hour on this consumer culture class. He comes around the corner beaming with Benedetto.

It’s a gun that shoots something… I can’t remember… probably plastic darts the size of elephant tranquilizers. To put it mildly: I was in shock.

“A gun?” I whisper under my breath to Benedetto. “A GUN???”

Now mind you, we are not country folks, we are not used to guns (other than the occasional drug turf urban warfare), I do not want guns in my house. Not for Bambi, not for bunnies, not for… well, maybe if I saw a snake, it might be time for a gun. But here was our first child, a sweet and loving child… brandishing a GUN in the dollar store.

“What’s wrong with a gun?” asks my husband. “He’s a BOY.”

“And I’m a GIRL. Since when did we believe in GUNS-?!”

“We’re not worshiping the gun. We don’t need to believe in the gun. He is going to be playing with the gun. Period.”

Fine. I let Benedetto pay the tax. That day I knew we were not on the same page, much less the same planet.

Through the years, and the addition of children, dogs, and houses, we have learned (a little) about how to be on the same page, and how to present a semi-united front for the kids. Some days it works, and some days we blow it. Some days one of us may feel hurt. It comes with the territory, but so does having a thick skin: “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman”, lol.

Well, many are the days when I’m not roaring, but here’s what we’ve found helpful.

1. Make all decisions together. If one is really “sold” on something, and the other isn’t, give the reluctant one time to catch up. It’s like waiting to flip the page on the book. There will always be one moving at a quicker pace. Give the other one time to “get it” on the proper route to childrearing, what house to buy, who gets to stay home and/or work, etc.

2. Discuss everything ahead of time, in private, particularly when it comes to the children. As carpenters like to say, “Measure twice, cut once”. If you impose the death sentence (otherwise known as “time in” rather than “time out”), your mate may oppose you, right in front of the kids. Lovely. Get it in writing, notarized, and apostilled before you proceed without your spouse’s full support.

3. Schedule time to talk. It will not just “happen”. On our schedule, we have a lot of outside emergencies, that prevent us from meeting together at 6:00 am or 6:00 pm on a daily basis. But be committed to talking, maybe once a day, about the children and household “business”, and then, once a day about everything else—the fun stuff of life—if you can remember what that might be.

4. Take a look at your bottom line, your intended destination, your family goals. Then work backwards from there to figure out the first step.

-Do you want to stay married? Then play nice. Don’t work against your mate to make him/her look bad, and make yourself look wonderful in front of the kids. “Oh, poor Poopsik! Mama won’t buy you ice cream? Come with me and we’ll go get some….” Avoid having one parent be all fun and games, while the other is the dastardly disciplinarian.

-Do you want to grow healthy and well-adjusted children? Then impose some boundaries and make them behave. You’re bigger, you’re older, and you have more money (hopefully-!)—use it to your advantage. Don’t let the children divide and conquer and drive the mate right out the door. Be willing to make hard decisions that are in their best interests for the long-term. Practice saying, “No”.

-Do you want to be each other’s support system and have a marriage “made in heaven”? Then you start first. Each spouse needs to move halfway to help the other one. On second thought, forget halfway, go all the way. If your husband or wife is having a hard time, give them a break, and tell the children (behind the other’s back) how blessed they are to have such a great mom/dad. There is Post-Adoption Depression (PAD) when reality starts to set in and you wonder, “What have we DONE???” The love and encouragement of your mate can give you the breathing room to get back to an even keel.

5. Write each other encouraging notes or cards. There are many times when Benedetto and I don’t see eye-to-eye, but that’s okay: I didn’t want to marry my own carbon copy image-! We’re different and we can use those strengths to help our family, rather than to harm. Start focusing on whatever positives you can find, and build from there. With children, or with adults who act like children, you probably need at least a 5:1 ratio of positive comments –versus- corrective comments for them to “hear” you. Motivate the mate with kindness (and yes, there will be times when they don’t “deserve” kindness—you’ll know when priming the pump has turned into being the doormat).

6. Don’t ever blame or put-down your mate. Ever. It’s a cheap shot and you cheapen yourself more so than putting them in their place, whatever place that may be.

Alright, those are only a few. Different personalities deal with stress in different ways. Just make sure that when you’re blowing off steam, it’s not blowing smoke in the other person’s face, causing them to turn away and gasp for breath in another direction.

As a couple, get back to being on the same page in the same book. Don’t let it turn into a tragedy or a comedy, but make it the most exciting, page-turning, adventure story ever.

(This post was for your question, Shelley—hope it helped! Everyone else feel free to add comments—I am not the sole fountain of all knowledge.)

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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Greg Mink says:

    Oh my, this reminds me of last night! Our adopted 14 year old girl spent an hour in Sephora smelling EVERY perfume looking for just the ideal one for mom’s birthday. It was painful but at the same time sweet knowing that she wanted to make sure that she got just the right one. After about 45 minutes of this, her sister and I had determined that any perfume she liked would become our favorite just so we could leave. It was good fun!

    • avatar admin says:

      That’s the attitude, Greg! We always think that the kids have to change (and they do), but a lot of this is about us changing, too (sigh, that was hard for me to accept…). But I’m a better person today, and will be an even better one tomorrow-!

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