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My wife Christi and I have an embarrassing confession to make. Before we do, allow me to give you a brief background.
Both of our feisty babies were “high needs”—colicky, acid reflux, strong-willed, allergies we couldn’t figure out, and not to mention with cries that could peel the paint off of a wall—which made for some lovely “chats” between us with the little sleep we were getting. My belief is they should place pre-marital couples in the care of high intense screaming, puking, and pooping babies and no sleep all day everyday, without telling them how long they have to endure it. What a great way to expose the true character of the one you’re about to walk down the aisle with. How’s that for pre-marital counseling?
We learned this the hard way. When my parents flew in to spend a week with us for a holiday a few years ago, they offered to watch the kids for a few days and give us a little break to reconnect with one another. Here’s our confession: we almost said no to their offer.
The worry about our kids’ “high needs” nearly came at the neglect of the ever growing “high needs” of our slowly fading marital satisfaction in those tense first few years of parenting. The reality is, our kids were fine. It was our marriage that needed the attention.
That moment was a turning point for our marriage. In making the decision to spend a few nights away together, we asked ourselves a very important question we now ask quite often: What would we want for our kids if they were in this situation? In other words, would we wish our marriage on our kids?
Too many spouses today emotionally turn away from one another and instead revolve their lives around the kids. The more kid-centered the home, the more emotionally unsafe the marriage. I know kids can be all-consuming, but an inability to pay attention to your spouse’s heart will wreak havoc on your children.
Our kids don’t do as we say; they do as we do. Not only are our kids learning how to treat the opposite sex, they’re learning how they should one day be treated by them as well. That’s why the greatest gift we can give our kids is to love their mom—or their dad.
Christi and I now, without hesitation, leave the kids for overnights with our parents whenever they’re in town. We go on weekly date nights together. We prioritize one another over our phones once the kids are in bed. We also make our kids jealous over the affection we show one another in front of them.
On a side note, they’ll probably one day be openly disgusted by this more than jealous, but deep down, it matters to them.
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According to the Bible (Genesis 2:24) and outcome research supports this; the foundation of our family is our marriage, not our kids. Our kids will one day leave us. Hopefully, our spouse won’t.
As my friend Claudia Arp told me, “Your kids will wait while you grab a few moments to build your marriage; but your marriage won’t wait until your kids grow up.”
I want my children to learn that mom is the queen of the house and that she carries the authority of the queen. Our son is a prince. Our daughter is a princess. But what they’re not is king and queen of the Straub family home. Any time our kids try to move from their role to that of king or queen, Christi and I quickly remind them of their position and use it as a way to teach them both that one day they will be king and queen of their own household. Our job as parents is to teach them how to become noble kings and queens.
Pay homage to the king and queen of your house by living out the marriage you’d wish on your kids. Doing so allows your children to experience firsthand an emotionally safe marriage—and there’s no safer relationship for a child to experience than two parents madly in love.
Is your marriage one you would wish on your children?
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Joshua Straub, PhD, is an author, speaker, and family advocate. Dr. Straub has used his experience and knowledge in the area of trauma to help people around the world, including those in Rwanda who seek healing from the 1994 genocide. In the book Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love and Lead Well, Dr. Straub discusses the role emotional safety plays in successful parenting. Learn more at www.joshuastraub.com