Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Family Dynamics

5. Describe the dynamics in your immediate family...how do you and your husband and kids all work together, what are the personalities, do your kids relate or remind you more of either you or your husband, and so forth?

My Hero and I are a team. That's our goal anyway. We forget and start pulling in opposite directions sometimes, or start competing against each other instead of together. But our goal, our mindset, is that we're in this life together, and we're going to win, together.

It's common knowledge that having kids brings new challenges to a marriage, but Green Bean's arrival was such an adventure... even though it was a difficult year as My Hero worked terribly long hours at two jobs for a while, the excitement and challenges of having a child and watching him grow and change was mutually enthralling.

We agreed on the timing of child #2 and soon Peanut Butter was growing inside me. His arrival was welcome, but the first nine months were far more difficult than we ever expected. He was such a tiny little peanut, smaller at birth than Green Bean was, but so LOUD. He was opinionated, terribly opinionated for someone so entirely dependent on others for his every whim. And one of his strongest opinions, beginning when he was just one month old, was that no one was worthy of holding him besides his mama. No one. Not Daddy. Not Grammie.

That made his first year of life exhausting for us. I'd leave the two boys with My Hero some evenings when I had other obligations, but I'd come home to a husband on the edge of breakdown and a howling baby who would instantly quiet and snuggle into my shoulder when I took him. I couldn't leave him in the church nursery, though I tried week after week. He wouldn't settle down after a while like most children will when their parents are no longer in sight; he'd keep the nursery a room of LOUDness and misery until I came to relieve the poor nursery workers. I felt guilty leaving him with anyone...not because I was worried about Peanut Butter, but because I knew how miserable and desperate his caregivers would be with a screaming child who couldn't be appeased. It was a long year.

Peanut Butter has gradually changed, allowing more and more people into his sphere of interaction. My Hero, my 13 year old brother, my mom, certain nursery workers...as he learned to crawl and then walk his world opened up and he was more independent and the boundaries grew. Now he's fine in the nursery every week, I leave him with my mom regularly without hitches, and he'll reach out to be held by certain other people he knows and loves. He still dislikes strangers holding or touching him, and I suspect it's a permanent part of his personality, but he's no longer tied to me, and My Hero and I can breath again.

We feel like we made it through a time of difficulty and testing, and it certainly plays into why we're hesitant about when to consider adding a third child. My eternal optimism says that number three will be a happy, laid back child who demands little and adds supreme amounts of joy, because birth order books say that the third tends to have a more relaxed personality. My realistic husband knows there are no guarantees.

Green Bean and Peanut Butter, ages 3 and 1, are starting to play together more and more. Green Bean seems to love his little brother, though Peanut Butter disorders his orderly play. Green Bean needs to be with people, at least in the same room, and Peanut Butter counts as people now. He'll holler for Peanut Butter to come into the bedroom with him to play so he won't be alone.

Peanut Butter marches to his own beat. I read an article about people being either emotional transmitters or emotional receivers, how some people set the mood, and others are affected by the moods of people around them. Green Bean is a receiver, Peanut Butter is a transmitter. Green Bean will be howling in anger on his bed, and Peanut Butter will walk in and smile happily at him, making cheerful yips and gurgles, oblivious to his brothers' pain. But when Peanut Butter is upset, the whole house cringes and begins to share his anguish.

My Hero is a transmitter, and I am a receiver. When I finally understood this, I realised why I could never seem to set the mood in our home. I've heard several times that the wife has the power to set the tone of life at home, and that it's important to keep a good attitude. But I could never figure out how. I know I really do set the tone for the day when it's just the kids and me...if I have a plan and keep us all going doing fun and productive things we're likely to have a good day. Likewise when My Hero is home and I do all I can to keep the day running smoothly, it definitely helps. But when My Hero is in a bad mood, there's not much I can do, aside from sliding into a worse mood, to bring him out of it. Trying used to frustrate me to no end. Now I just accept it. He's not a receiver. To be fair, I think My Hero struggles with pulling me out of a bad mood, too. When I know that's what he's trying to do I feel obstinate.

My Hero is the spender, I'm the saver. But he's so balanced. We have goals for our money, and he's willing to curb his lifestyle to get there. When I met him he was driving a Mustang. It wasn't his dream car...he LOVES cars, thinks about them, admires them, and always has a dream car in mind. In college it was the Audi TT, not a super expensive car, but beyond his reach at the time. I tell him that by the time we can afford another car, the 2001 Audi TT should be in our price range. But I don't think we could fit car seats in the back. After we married he sold his Mustang for something that wouldn't have such high insurance rates, and we currently own two Escorts over 5 years old. Talk about sacrifice.

My Hero has the big picture perspective, and I'm the details person.

My Hero is good at driving and knowing where he's going and trying out new ways to get there. I'm good at reading a map.

I think Green Bean has a lot of my traits...he inherited my (lack of) coordination, my appreciation for orderliness, my sensitive conscience. He's like My Hero in his need to have people around.

Peanut Butter is stronger, more independent, more like My Hero. He's unconcerned about following the rules, he has inherent common sense, he has a good sense of balance and is sturdy on his legs, and he is determined to try anything he sees Green Bean do.

The original question is one that's hard to exhaust, but it's a subject I love to think about and analyse.

Thank you, Julie, for the interview questions, and I hope I haven't bored you to tears with my post-length answers to each of them.

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