When people first find out I am a marriage and family therapist, they tend to assume two things: 1.) I am analyzing everything they do as a couple and parent, and 2.) I have a perfect marriage/family. I feel now might be a good time to publicly address these rumors.
First, to quiet your fears, yes, I do analyze your relationship (you as a person, really). Please remember, this is not a judgment. I simply recognize the vast store of knowledge I possess and feel obligated to help, solicited or not. Just think of me like your medical doctor friends who can’t help but provide physicals during a dinner party. My silent analysis is no more awkward than that.
Keep in mind, I speak from a place of not only education (lots and lots of rigorous training, studying, excelling), I speak from experience. My marriage IS perfect; the perfect blend of intimacy, respect, mutual compassion, and testosterone:
|“Babe, I just don’t think it’s legitimate unless I’m wearing the kilt.”|
Each morning, I wake refreshed, breath smelling appropriately minty, and let my wife know of her stunning beauty and her inner worth and majesty. We both arise early to greet our children with a heartfelt “Good morning! You are important. You matter. How can I serve you this fine day?” Never a harsh voice raised, nor biting word spoken.
I recently had an exemplary moment with my two eldest children. Both approached me at the same time asking me to assist them (some might call it whining, but I’m above such labeling). My son wanted strawberry milk and my daughter wanted the candy my son was eating, rightly protesting the fairness of him having candy and her not.
Please keep in mind, I had already navigated the day gracefully by first pouring sugary drinks for breakfast (as named by my son to mean any drink that is not his normal whey protein and acai berry shake–no responsible parent would give their children anything less). Throughout the day, I had listened intently to each of the 347 requests my children posed, quickly responding and gently correcting when necessary, as any perfect parent would. With each response or correction, my children and I would hug and reassure each other of the deep love we have for one another.
So, when my two children approached in what lesser parents might call whining, I quickly recognized a teaching moment. I lovingly told my children that I could not hear them when they were speaking at the same time. I gently informed them that I would not respond until they could state their concern one at a time in a calm voice. As each persisted in their previous course, I promptly and appropriately stood up, left the room, locked myself in the bathroom, turned on the bathroom fan, and plugged my ears as my children banged on the door, crying for more damn sugary drink.
Despite this all too-common moment of immaculate parenting, I too have moments of weakness with my children. I have, on occasion, treated my wife with less than the respect she deserves. I have had moments when I thought it might be a good idea to lock my children in the garage and yell, “Sweet fancy Moses, just go away for a few minutes.”
If I were truly honest, as I have been up to this point, I admit I sometimes feel horribly awkward parenting my kids in front of people. I think people are watching to see how I handle things. I do things I am sure people think are a terrible idea, and may well be. But none of us is a perfect parent. No one has a perfect marriage. We all fight. We all have moments we wish we could take back. Marriage and relationships (adult and parent-child) are a lot of trial and error; a lot of figuring things out as we go.
We’re all doing the best we can. There is not one right way of doing things. The world doesn’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some. I guess what I am really trying to say is that it takes different strokes. That’s important. Let me repeat that. It takes different strokes. Ultimately, it takes different strokes to move the world.
Now for some sugary drink and bathroom fan.
Rob Porter, Ph.D., LMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist, Austin Texas