Parenting is a pain in the arse sometimes. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a steep learning curve for you and your other half. In the fog of night feeds, early mornings and fretting about what’s best for your little one it’s really easy for both parents to just stop talking to each other. Enter Barefoot Coaching and their wonderful Coaching Cards for New Parents.
We’re not new parents, but Short Rib is only one, so we’re still getting used to this being in charge of a tiny human thing. The cards are designed to help new parents have an open and frank discussion about the new adventure. The good and the bad. To find the answers for them and not what their mother in law, best mate or former midwife neighbour think is best (because we’ve all had stupid parenting advice before, right?).
You can get them over at Barefoot Coaching when they launch tomorrow, September 1st 2016 where they retail for £15.00 per pack. They make a wonderful gift to expecting parents, or as a tool for you and your partner to boss this parenting malarkey together. We were really kindly sent a pack to look at before they went on sale for the purpose of this blog post.
The cards themselves are really beautiful things and the questions are so good. I can’t really overstate how awesome the quality of the questions on the cards are, to the point where it took Wes and I days to finally whittle it down to one. I’m not sure that we won’t be answering more of them in separate posts, because they are really interesting. However, narrow it down we did and in the end, we chose one focused on us as well as Short Rib. So here’s the question and the response from me and (a far wordier one!) from Wes.
How important is your relationship with your partner to your baby’s experience of the world?
Amy: The first thing that hit me with this one is how I’ve never really considered this kind of thing before. I suppose that’s the whole point of the cards. Before now, I’ve never considered the impact that the relationship between parents has on their baby as they grow up, or at least not in any great detail and most certainly not scrutinising our own in this context.
For the record (mushiness incoming) Wes and I have an incredible relationship. We’ve been together for just short of five years and we’ve been living together for four of them. Our relationship started off as a long distance one for a bit, until I upped sticks and moved to Chester. It wasn’t great, but it was a storm we weathered together. One of many, as it turned out, but it was all for the best. We are best friends. I know everyone says that about their spouse, but we are. We’re not afraid to speak our minds to each other, even if it means a potential row or a bit of a sulk. We can be open and honest with each other, feel entirely comfortable in each other’s company even when we aren’t doing anything. We make each other happy, and most of all, we work together to make sure Short Rib is happy.
That said it is not all happiness and rainbows. We argue, we annoy the hell out of each other, we get grumpy, say things we don’t mean and generally upset each other from time to time, we are not perfect human beings and more to the point, we are not the same human beings. In fact, Wes and I disagree on a lot of things and we’re both very passionate, so when normal people have a ‘debate’, we argue. Plain and simple. The end result is about half an hour of us not talking, before we say sorry, hug it out and forget about it.
Our relationship, both the good bits and the cruddy bits, are Short Rib’s blueprint for how he should conduct himself with others. It is a frame through which he views the world and every person in it. Now, more than ever, Wes and I are trying to show him what a relationship should be like and all the amazing things you can achieve together as a unit, all the fun you can have and how happy it makes everyone.
This is what I want for our little boy. For the relationship that he sees day in day out to be one that I would be happy for him to mirror with the people he cares about. The relationship Wes and I have moulds not only Short Rib’s experience of the world around him, but who he is as a person. Imagine if he turned out to be a proper wally because you and your fella couldn’t get your act together.
Makes me shudder.
We’re always trying to improve though; saving the showdowns for after bedtime, or just taking things on the chin instead of taking it further. I am not good at this, but I’m working on it. We are Short Rib’s world, or at least a massive part of it, so how we are with each other makes a massive difference in how he feels and how he acts with everyone else. We have to do everything we can to make that as idyllic as we can. If that means biting my tongue when Wes says something I want to argue with, I’ll do it. Begrudgingly, because I’m a stubborn little sod, but I’ll do it.
Our relationship more than any other is vastly important for Short Rib’s experience of the world and we’re working hard, together, to make sure that it’s a health, happy and loving experience. One that will ultimately help him become a contented, confident little boy who knows the importance of treating others as you would like to be treated.
Wes: I’ve been musing about this question for a few days, ever since I flicked through the cards and picked this one as one of my favourites. I started coming up with basic flows for my answer – “Extremely important” I thought, then played with the idea of “The most important aspect of his young life” before deciding I shouldn’t deal in absolutes. They’re all in roughly the same ballpark, and I’ll get onto that shortly, but I’ve come to realise that they’re not answers to the actual question.
I’ve rolled with it. I’ve answered my own illusion of what the question was. I’ve done so though, not because I’m thick and spent time on this illusion and now don’t want that time wasted, but because it’s what I think the question really means. I don’t know if Amy will agree, or if my part of the post will be scrapped because it’s not in line with what was requested of us but, actually, I feel like this emphasises the whole point of this product, these cards. It’s got me thinking, laterally and literally, about Short Rib and Amy, my world, and how I best can fit into it and shape it. Here’s the question I’m answering (although my answer will likely not be much longer than this prelude, I’m afraid):
How important is your relationship with your partner to you, and how will that influence or improve your baby’s experience of the world?
I know, it’s so very close to the original that my little explanation is almost pointless but let me explain a little why I think the differentiation is necessary. Consider these points below, where I’ve broken the question down into sub questions to help me get across what I’m trying to say.
Is it important that you don’t argue with your partner of an evening?
I don’t like it when we argue. I mean, we sometimes have disagreements and sometimes I need to be told when something needs doing/changing etc. (as does Amy, occasionally) but it really affects me when it’s something that lingers, or that truly upsets one of us. The argument may only be a few minutes to a few hours, but the after-effects can and do last much longer. I can be sulky, subdued, insecure, quiet or irritated for a day or so longer. And that’s the bit that Short Rib picks up on. Kids are way more astute at detecting mental states than we give them credit for, and more so than some adults I know. Their emotional intelligence isn’t yet skewed by a long upbringing, or shoddy jobs, or life changing events like ours is. It’s more raw, more innocent and I’d hate if either of us played a hand in ruining that innocence. I like an optimist. I like someone who doesn’t judge, who sees the best in people, who starts relationships of their own with love and trust – not with baggage and paranoia. I think our happiness, which in part is made up of lack of arguments and their fallout, will shape his happiness in years to come. He’ll likely be jaded at some point, by his own experiences, but in the interests of giving him the best start on the path of cheerfulness we keep our arguing to a minimum. I mean, I love her to bits so we likely wouldn’t be that bad in this regard anyway, but I make an active effort to make sure he’s never subjected to brunt or the nasty chemtrails left behind by us in our spiteful moments.
Does it make a difference if one of you isn’t pulling their weight with chores – washing up, cleaning the house, maintaining the garden etc.?
Here’s the thing with this scenario; the end result isn’t the only factor to consider. Yes, chores will get done one way or another but he’ll notice the how, and the who. He’ll notice if it’s always Mummy who washes the dishes and that then creates a correlation in his mind. One that says that HE won’t have to do dishes because that’s a Mummy’s/woman’s/someone else’s job. He’ll notice if the house is only cleaned when it becomes so bad you can’t see the floor and think that it’s just normal. That it’s how he’ll live when he moves out/in with someone else (feel bad for them!). We need to show him now, in his learning and formative years that jobs are shared equally, aren’t exclusive to sexes or individuals or physical attributes (Mummies can power wash the patio too!). But again, there’s a nuance to it that we assume they’d miss, or that we don’t even consider they’d pick up on – the bitterness, the resentment (or, as kids these days would call it, saltiness) that one of us will feel if the other person’s weight isn’t being pulled. This is why I’m answering how our relationship is important to ME, because it’s me that will experiences the feelings that will ultimately be a metaphorical third parent to Short Rib. In a similar fashion to the first question, these emotions will be subconsciously processed by his brain and his perception of the world, and of Mummy and Daddy, will be skewed by them.
If you were to split, or if you already are, how will the shared guardianship affect your little one?
My intentions to never split from Amy (I’ll fight it, even if she tries!) aren’t in any way motivated by my thought process here, but I am glad that the two gel. Mason’s whole idea of relationships will be influenced by how his parents’ is. I do my best every day to be available for both of them, Short Rib and Amy, because they’re equally important members of our family. He’ll grow up knowing that, no question. And one day, I hope we’ve made enough of an impact, even if he doesn’t realise it, that he’ll want to build his relationship on the foundations that we’ve laid for him. He’ll hopefully remember the happy days we had together, all 3 of us (or more, come what may) together, and not the happy days with Mummy and the happy days with Daddy. Now I want to be clear that I don’t think this is the only way. I know some single parents, and I grew up myself with parents who divorced when I was young. I’m not saying it doesn’t or can’t work, and I know in some cases it can’t be avoided. I’m saying that, if we’re lucky enough to be able to achieve it, I’d like to give him that picture perfect experience of family. The American Dream would be nice, despite the fact I’ve not got an American gene in me. I guess I’m more answering why this is important to me, but it’s based on my own experience. An experience I’d like to amend for my little man, and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure it happens.
In what ways do the physical aspects of your relationship matter?
Yeah, he’ll get his own physical relationship with each of us. But what does that mean? A kiss on his cheek, without some context to him, is just Daddy being an annoyance and not letting him run off to play with the washing machine buttons. Coupled with each of my other points, the physical side of the relationship is an expression, an outward display, of the love involved in relationships. When he sees us happy, smiling, laughing, caring, helping each other, comforting or just relaxing and then sees that accompanied by held hands, kisses, cuddles, even just touches, it adds a layer of explanation to what those physical acts mean. He’ll start to associate love with the physical relationship and vice versa. Once he understands that happy Mummy and Daddy show their ‘love’ in these ways then it’ll make sense to him why he gets cuddles, kisses and held hands. He’ll feel loved himself. Again, let’s not deal in absolutes, obviously there are other expressions of love that he’ll be showered with, but at this early stage where he’s not yet coherently verbalising his feelings, and can’t yet understand all of our words, it’s a fantastic alternative. A sign language of a loving relationship. To tie this back to my point about the question being about me, because I keep feeling I’ve lost my way in this dump of words, I’d like to point out that it’s the realness of these acts that is the key. If we just recognised that these physical expressions were important between me and Amy and did them as a falsified show of affection, he’d pick up on that. It’s important to me that it’s genuine, that we never stop being so close and expressing it physically because that is what he’ll read. Not the physical movements, but the conviction and the motivation behind those movements.
I made up the above questions, that I’ve answered in the hopes that I more thoroughly cover the original question. I’m also aware that I’ve managed to make this post ‘about me’. Maybe Short Rib will pick up on how much I love myself and it’ll help him love me more?
What are your thoughts on this? Different to ours? Good! That’s what the cards are all about! Let me know in the comments what you all think of this and whether you and your other half have changed anything about your relationship for your little one.
Coaching Cards for New Parents by Kim Morgan will be available to buy from 1st September at http://bit.ly/CoachingCardsforNewParents.
Don’t miss the next stop on the #YouGotThis blog tour! Read Louise’s post over at Squished Blueberries on Friday 02 August.
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