Back at the beginning of the year, I wrote about vertical alignment. It is a list (in order of priority) recommended for and individual to live a balanced and emotionally healthy life.
- Job/Income Source
- Extended Family/Friends
- Mint-Chocolate Girl Guide Cookies*
I received quite a bit of feedback on that post, and can honestly say that the majority of it was very positive. Yes, there were some that didn’t agree, but they have their right, and can leave that particular item out of their life’s shopping cart. Within the positive feedback, I was asked by a reader to go into more detail about the subject, as she was struggling with the order of importance in her life. Since it is now Mint-Chocolate Girl Guide* cookie season, I thought this would be the perfect time to readdress it.
Before I get into the meat of my thoughts today, I’d like to gently address #1 with my favorite analogy. Something to give you a little point to ponder (this goes for both, pro- and anti-God/spirituality views):
A little girl approaches her mom and says, “Mommy, why do you cut the end off the ham before you cook it?”
“I’m not sure, sweetheart. That’s what your grandma always did. You should Skype her and ask.”
The little girl Skypes her grandmother (yes, she’s a hip gramma who knows how to use technology) and poses the same question, to which she is told, “Well, that’s what my mother always did. You should call your great-grandmother and ask her.”
Once again, the little girl continues her quest to find the answer, and calls her great-grandma and asks the same question. After only a split-second pause, great-grandma replies, “It’s because my pan was too small, sweetie.”
Why do you use Tide laundry soap?
Why do you put your socks on before your pants?
Why are you Catholic? (Ooooh… ouch… that was insensitive.)
Why don’t you believe in God? (Snap! Hit ‘em again!)
Many people laugh at that analogy, but the brilliance of the light bulb turning on above their heads makes it clear that they have done many things in life as a lemming would—they blindly follow what has been done ahead of them.
My point is, it’s fine to have your beliefs (and also raise your children in that direction), but it’s not fine to raise them in a way that makes them feel afraid or ashamed to explore different beliefs—a path that feels right for them.
I raised my daughter in a way that ensured she knew that if she wanted to go to church every Sunday, or watch football or gamble every Sunday instead, it was because it was right for her. Blast me if you like, but there is no one on this earth created like me (even if I was a twin), so I cannot, in all good conscience, expect anyone to live a cookie-cutter life to mine.
Now let’s attack vertical alignment from a different angle today. Let’s talk about how you present this priority list to your children.
In my previous blog, I did not state that you should watch your children go down with the Titanic. The real core to vertical alignment (in my eyes), is how you and your partner demonstrate the importance (or hierarchy, if you will) of a strong matrimonial/parental bond.
If you put your children above your spouse (Remember that person? The other half of the equation that created the pint-sized terrors that we’re referring to?), then you send them a message that it’s not acceptable to disrespect the actions or opinions of the other parent. It is also crucial that the “adults” row in the same direction when it comes to raising children.
When my forever-husband and I started living together, we were both very affectionate towards one another. We constantly hugged, kissed, and said I love you. My lightbulb went off one day about six months into our relationship.
One day, I informed my husband, that HE needed to be the initiator in front of his two young boys. The indirect message he could demonstrate to them spoke volumes above me fawning over him to show them how much I loved their father. HE needed to be the example to his boys on what a respectful and loving relationship should be—how THEY should treat their future wives.
We were never inappropriate in our displays of affection, but his boys came from such an imbalanced background surrounding spousal relationships, that they needed to be re-educated on how to treat loved ones. We needed make sure that they didn’t start cutting the ends off their ham. (Keep your mind out of the gutter… you know what I mean.)
When you allow your children to interrupt or sidestep the interaction between you and your partner, you are silently telling them that they are more important, and that they do not need to be respectful. You are allowing them to manipulate and control your family dynamic.
Instead, make a conscious effort to demonstrate the unity and respect that a healthy relationship should have.
Your kids will grow up, move out (you hope), and have families of their own. The “now” (the dirty diapers, sleep deprivation, lack of personal hygiene, and squabbles over finances) is temporary, so the strength of your unity with your partner is crucial for you (the future empty-nesters) to have your happy-and-healthy-ever-after.
* No, I do not have any affiliation with the Girl Guides. I am simply far too passionate about their mint-chocolate cookies. To know me, is to love and accept my quirks and obsessive love for some foods.