A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Monday, 28 July 2014

"the deepest secret nobody knows"

How do you talk to your significant other when nobody is there to listen? Do you use a different tone of voice when you talk to your children when you are in private?

Taylor (2) with Nana in the Gatineau Park.
When my kids were little my mom moved to our city and we would go on adventures with her. Or she would walk to our house using her walker. But most often I would take them to visit her at her retirement home. We would go to her room where there were toys and crafts to do, but frequently we would go into the main lounge where there were tables, chairs and couches. And we would use the games the seniors played like plastic-bowling-pin bowling, or the bean bag toss. My mother was surprisingly accurate at bean bag toss, especially for a 70-something-year-old who was blind! Even though it was a public lounge, the seniors never seemed to mind hearing the kids and were always happy to watch my little twins in motion - they were pretty much perpetual-motion machines.

The other attraction this lounge possessed was a piano. The kids liked to "play" the piano (and I use that term loosely) and of course sing along. One day they were being silly and adding "potty talk" to their songs. I wasn't sure how much the seniors could hear so I called my son over and whispered to him that the seniors might be offended by the words they were using; the idea being it was OK to use those anatomical terms at home, but not here in public. He then yelled across the room to his sister, yelling loud enough so she could hear over her banging on the piano, "No more penis-talk Taylor!" (his term, not mine). When children are little we teach them to have an "indoor voice" and an "outdoor voice." But sometimes there is also a "public voice" and a "private voice."

And I will admit my "deepest secret nobody knows": I have a "public voice" and a "private voice." In private I talk to my husband and my kids in a way that I wouldn't want others to hear! Not always, but on occasion, maybe even often; it depends. My husband and I have been friends since our first week of university in 1982, started living together in 1990, and have been married for almost 20 years. And yet, we can still hurt each other... with things we say... or the things we do. I've been thinking lately that we ought to take better care of the other person's heart... their heart that they have entrusted us with... that we have such power to harm... and such opportunity to cherish, heal, and protect.
Before we were married we attended marriage-prep counselling - a group program over several weeks. One week we were discussing "family of origin" issues. Mike doesn't often speak up in large groups, but that evening he raised his hand. What he shared was quite brilliant, I thought. He said, "My parents never argued so I learned no conflict-resolution skills. Sheila's family had lots of conflict, but there was never any resolution. So both of us have come to this relationship - this marriage - with no conflict-resolution skills." It's true! We had a lot to learn.

The kids (20 months) at the Foster Farm in NB
And then sometimes the universe wants to see if you have really mastered that skill and so we had twins - and needed to teach them conflict-resolution skills. And it started early. They had their first argument when they were a year-and-a-half. Although they had some words by then they used sign language to communicate with us and sometimes each other. That summer we took a trip to New Brunswick where our brother-in-law's family have a farm. As we were leaving a gas station and getting onto the highway we heard a loud roar. One of the kids (we can never remember who), used sign to indicate that it was an airplane. The other twin said, "No" and used sign to say it was a truck. They kept going back and forth, "No" sign, "No" sign, for quite some time. My husband said, "Aw, their first argument! The first of many I'm sure."

They say that fighting with siblings is the place you practice these skills. But, at the same time, the research also shows that twins fight more than singleton children, especially same-sex twins. So we try to teach the kids that they need to treat their sibling as they would a friend, with the same respect and kindness. I realize it's a tall order!

I'll never forget one day when the kids were a little over two, they were fighting over a toy and I listened in. They each had ideas about how they would take turns, would say to the other they didn't agree, and propose another option, and after some arguing back and forth came to an agreement! They hi-fived each other and said, "We did it!" I was so proud. But, honestly, it's been all downhill since then.

Recently we were discussing "relationships" (insert eye-roll) with our twelve-year-old son Mitchell at the dinner table, when there was just the three of us. Mike explained to Mitchell that because he had never seen his parents argue, every time he was in a relationship with a girlfriend and they had an argument, he thought the relationship was over and they would break up. Mitchell was incredulous, and said, "That's crazy!" Why is that crazy? Because he knows that you can disagree with someone and then come to an agreement. That you can argue and then make up. That you can be angry at someone, but still love them. (These kinds of "mixed emotions" or "being of two minds" is something that comes at a certain developmental stage for children.) He has learned the social skills to be able to "own up to" making a mistake, or hurting someone, and then apologize to the person, and heal the relationship them. We use Barbara Coloroso's, "If you make a mistake, or cause mischief or mayhem, you need to own it, fix it, health with the person, and move on."

Peggy O'Mara is credited with the quote, "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice." That in itself is a good reason to chose our words wisely - and our tone of voice. But I think the way we talk to our children - and to our spouses - also becomes the way they talk to each other, and to other people in their world. So we're going to work on this, Mike and I caring for each others' hearts, and our children's, and reminding them to do the same.

This heart dangle was a present from my husband for Easter 2013. I like the simplicity of this dangle, and the heart within a heart. I wear it on my "Always and Forever" bracelet, and it represents our promise, "I carry your heart, in my heart," which, as the poem says, is really "the deepest secret nobody knows."

by e. e. cummings (with his original punctuation).

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                     i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

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