My Husband's State of the Family Address
Well, it wasn't an address really.
But if I piece together what he said last weekend, it serves as a comprehensive testament to where our family's at, thanks to P.E.T.
I was hosting the The Acorn Within’s 2nd Annual Co-Parents Reception. My husband -- of twenty years this summer! -- kept me company as I invited the couples to partake in the best bagels Hong Kong has to offer (yay Schragels!) then gently moved them over to the living room for information sharing and discussion.
I don't want to mislead you -- over two hours, we talked about a lot of things. But may I just highlight my husband's contributions and bask a bit in our family’s transformation? Listening to him, I felt a warm peace start to radiate in me. It was the best anniversary present ever.
When one father asked about the challenge of drawing kids away from their Instagram and laptops, my husband offered his opinion on these types of Values Collisions:
“We had an issue with video games too. This stuff really works because Catherine and I realized that it’s actually just their decision. We modeled, we told them how important we think schoolwork is, that maybe they should have more balance. We just had a talk. The good thing is, P.E.T. forces you to think about why you believe what you believe and make the best argument.
“And the thing is, they want to do well! They do! The boys sometimes would erase games from their laptops on their own. Our eldest, he wants to get into a good college and he’s studying -- a lot! And they're willing to because it’s their decision.
“And our daughter wanted to stop playing piano. Normally, I would have come down hard and tell her not to give it up. But we just problem solved, suggested a few things and it turns out she just really didn't like it to be scheduled a certain day. And now -- oh my God -- it’s so easy! We don’t have to ask her to practice. It just happens because she decided she wanted it.
"But you've got to be ready for the possibility that they might quit," he cautioned. "Like our boys who gave up guitar."
Conversation moved on to how to coach children to meet needs in socially acceptable ways. Clearly, throwing objects or having fits doesn't cut it but neither does three days of silent treatment which was sometimes my own go-to tactic. I was reminded of this point as I was describing my seismic shift in outlook toward my kids from:
My children are out to get me.
Give them an inch, they will take a mile.
to what for me is the P.E.T. golden rule:
Everyone is just acting to meet valid needs.
That's when my husband interjected with, “And me too.”
I elaborated: “Oh yeah. I thought the worst of you too, a lot of labels and judgments. But then I had this change and learned an entirely new way of confronting, of being assertive. It's helped our marriage. And the children have picked it up too! They actually use all the skills with their friends.”
Later, my husband confided to the group that the changes didn't come easily:
“It’s taken years for me to learn P.E.T. I used to think I was doing it, but then I figured out that Catherine was just Active Listening me! It’s because I go from zero to hot really fast. Jake (15) would be upset with me and I would just get mad right back. Then he would swear and I would name-call.”
We all commiserated that that's how it is sometimes with kids: “You love ‘em, but you don’t like ‘em.”
“But there's a really big difference now,” my better half continued. “At least I don’t say anything if I’m triggered; I’ll just walk away. And I get that, when he’s behaving badly, there’s more to it. Like, this is what happened with me recently. A friend of mine was having a hard time with his daughter and when I heard what she did, my first instinct was that I would be furious. But then I realized it was just a cry for help.”
Yes. Times were HARD when we were both locking horns with Jake, both crushing him for any behavior we deemed "totally unacceptable" (how many times I uttered that phrase!). After a lot of effort on both our parts, we're on the same page in understanding that:
- He was/is just unable to emotionally self-regulate
- He was/is just trying to meet a need -- like being seen, control, fairness, respect, self-respect, belonging etc.
And we are both committed to helping him and his siblings learn the self-control, self-awareness and communication skills that help make all relationships closer and more peaceful.
As my husband talked about the strained relationship he had with Jake, I started itching to share something. Asking with my eyes and receiving his permission, I told everyone how we had received a letter from Jake last month in which he called his father his “best friend.”
From the state of affairs just a few years ago to "best friend!!!!!"
I'm on a miraculous path with this man of mine who was a mere 19 years old when we first met and 24 when we starting dating. Who knew that the three letters P, E and T would come to mean so very much to the family we created together?
Happy 20th Anniversary, Sweetie.
Credits: State of the Union address (http://cdn.thedailybeast.com/content/dailybeast/articles/2013/02/12/state-of-the-union-2013-live-chat/jcr:content/image.img.2000.jpg/1360716382431.cached.jpg)