Wifey Wednesday: What My Two Year Old Taught Me About Marriage

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today, while I’m touring Arizona with my Girl Talk, speaking to several MOPS groups and in several churches, I thought I’d run this awesome post by Elizabeth Laing Thompson about what her two-year-old taught her about marriage–and priorities.

What My Two Year Old Taught Me About MarriageMy kids blew past me toward the door, an early-morning tornado of jackets, back packs, and lunch boxes.

“Come on,” called Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, jiggling his keys. “We’re going to be late!”

“Wait! I want kisses!” I said. “That means you! And you! And you!” My three older kids clattered back into the kitchen, planted kisses on my cheeks, and then rushed to follow my husband out to the van.

When the door slammed shut behind them, my two-year-old looked at me in horror. “Mama kiss Dada!” she said.

I blinked at her for a moment, not understanding. I heard the sound of the van pulling out of the driveway.

“Mama kiss Dada!” she insisted, her voice becoming frantic. She tried to pull me toward the door.

Then I realized: She was right. I hadn’t kissed my husband.

I chuckled, trying to justify myself. “You’re right, but Daddy is coming right back, so that’s why I didn’t kiss him.” Even to my own ears, the words fell limp, a lame excuse.

Little Miss stared me down, authoritative even in her bare feet and plaid nightie. I was not off the hook. “Mama kiss Dada.

I felt a blush creeping across my cheeks. “You’re right,” I said. “I should have kissed Daddy. I’m sorry.”

Little Miss seemed to accept this. We went back to our oatmeal.

Ten minutes later, the door banged open again. My husband was home.

Before he’d even rounded the corner, Little Miss rounded on me. “Mama kiss Dada! Mama kiss Dada!”

Laughing, I stood up. “Okay, okay, you’re right! I’ll kiss him!” I walked over to my husband and planted one, two, three firm kisses on his lips. He kissed me back with a baffled half-smile.

I turned back to my daughter, who stood watching us. Weighing me. “There. Are you happy now? Mama loves Dada, see?” When she still seemed unconvinced, I wrapped my arms around him and snuggled into his chest.

She smiled her approval and toddled off to find her toys.

That day, she reminded me of several truths I had forgotten, lessons I’ll carry with me always.

The secret most kids won’t tell you

Our children have a secret, and it’s this: Kids love it when their parents are in love. Older kids and teens may pretend to be embarrassed by our kisses, but secretly, they love it. It makes them feel safe. Happy. Like they are a part of something special.

When my brother was young, he invited a neighborhood friend over. My parents walked in the room and gave each other a little kiss, and the neighbor boy said, “Ew! Your parents kissed! My parents never kiss!” My brother grinned and bragged, “Well, my parents kiss all the time!” My parents’ affection was a source of confidence and security for him—and for all the kids in our family. I want to give my own children that same gift, that same confidence, through my marriage.

Keeping the home fires burning

But let’s be honest: It’s all too easy, once kids come along, to neglect our spouse. To forget about even the simple things that keep us connected and close. We don’t do it on purpose, of course, but once a baby enters our world, our first and best cuddles and snuggles and kisses start going to the baby. When we walk into a room, our eyes slide right past our husband, hungry for another drooly “Mommy-Is-My-Whole-World” smile from our chubby-cheeked cherub.

And at first, our husband doesn’t mind. For a season, he’ll gladly serve as our Baby Gear Sherpa, the carrier of car seats and diaper bags and Pack-n-Plays. For a time, he’s happy to take a back seat while we figure out the whole new-baby thing . . . but before long—sooner than we think—he needs the front seat again. He needs and deserves our deliberate attention, our devoted affection—not just the leftovers. Not just the afterthoughts. Song of Songs 8:6 describes a passionate romance so beautifully: “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Every fire needs fuel to keep burning. If it runs out of fuel, even the strongest of blazes will die down to ember and ash. We have to keep stoking the fire of our marriage—nurturing it, coaxing it back to life when it ebbs, feeding it fresh fuel.

I get it: This is easy to write about, and not so easy to do. (Believe me, I know! As a survivor of four new-baby-adjustment periods, I totally get it!) So please don’t read this and feel guilty . . . just stay open to trying some new strategies.

Song of Songs 86 Quote-PinFour simple ways to stoke the marital flame, even with little ones in the house

Here are four simple tricks to help you connect with your spouse, even on busy days with babies and young children underfoot:

Remember simple acts of daily physical affection.

Don’t underestimate the power of hugs and kisses keep you connected and close.

Use timers to set aside “Mommy-and-Daddy” time.

Tell the kids you need a few minutes to talk uninterrupted, and set a timer. The kids can’t come back into the room with you until the timer goes off.

Build sacred Mommy-Daddy time into your schedule at a set time each day, so your children get used to it.

They know, “This fifteen minutes always belongs to Mommy and Daddy, not to me.” You could try early-morning coffee together, before work and school. If mornings are too hectic, try setting aside a time slot right after work, or after dinner. (When your kids get older, let them clean the dinner dishes while Mom and Dad catch up on the day!)

Buy yourself an extra half-hour in the evenings.

How? Put kids to bed early with a book and a flashlight. They’ll think it’s a treat to read in bed—it’s kind of like they’re getting away with something—and you can start some early couch-cuddling before you turn into a pumpkin.

Strategies like this are especially helpful for the time of life when you have small kids in the house. But this isn’t just a new-baby issue. The older my children get, the more I realize that this is an ongoing struggle. Older kids mean a busy life and crazy schedule packed with homework, sports, friends, and activities. We all have to re-learn how to put our marriage first in the preschool years, the elementary years, the preteen years, the teenage years, the empty-nester years. At every stage, it takes a conscious effort to give our marriage the attention it deserves—to give our husbands the attention they deserve.

Last week, my wise two-year-old saw what I didn’t see. My husband comes first, not last. No matter how late we are or how busy life is, everybody deserves a good-morning kiss . . . and every kiss counts.

Click here to sign up to receive Elizabeth Laing Thompson’s monthly LizzyLife newsletter! Each newsletter includes practical and humorous parenting tips on living life and building family God’s way. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a FREE download of seven two-minute “breakfast-table” devotions to do with children.

E ThompsonElizabeth Laing Thompson writes wholesome novels for teens, and books for women about building family God’s way. She is the author of several books, including a Bible-based parenting book for young mothers, The Tender Years: Parenting Preschoolers. Elizabeth blogs about the perils and joys of laundry slaying, tantrum taming, and giggle collecting on her author site, http://lizzylife.com. Wife to Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome, and mother to four crazy kids, Elizabeth is always tired, but it’s mostly the good kind.

 

WWbutton175Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up below by putting the URL of a MARRIAGE post into the linky. And be sure to link back here so other people can read all these great marriage articles! It’s a great way to build traffic for your blog, and I often highlight some posts on Facebook and Twitter, so link up below!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.



Open Letter to My Toddler: Why You Need Time Alone

Toddlers Playing By ThemselvesIf you’re a mom of a toddler, do you ever just dream of 10 minutes all to yourself?

Today Katharine Grubb shares with us a letter to her toddler explaining why she needs to learn to play by herself–so mom can be by herself, too! And that means that we moms need to TRAIN our kids to play by themselves.

If you’re a mom feeling guilty for not being with your child every minute of the day, read this this morning. Breathe it in. And let the guilt go.

Here’s Katharine:

You are absolutely the cutest thing in the whole world. But it’s time you learned something big.

It’s time you learned how to entertain yourself for a few minutes each day.

I’ve got all your needs covered — you’re fed, you’re clean, you’re dry, you could probably stand a nap (who doesn’t?) But it’s time now to sit in a spot on the floor, pick up the things you love and entertain yourself, without my help, for ten full minutes.

I’ll coach you. I’ll bring you special toys that aren’t out often. I’ll let you pick out the alarm sound on my phone. I’ll reward you if you can sit, for ten minutes, and entertain yourself. (I suppose you could just have my phone, but I will not fish it out of the toilet again.)

Are ten minutes too much? That’s okay, let’s start with one. You sit and play and dont watch me and dont talk to me and when the timer goes off we’ll celebrate. You made it to one. Then we’ll try two. Then four. We’ll take the time to practice this over and over until you get to ten full minutes. This is far more than just a game. I’m giving you a gift and someday, you’ll understand why it’s so important.

I want you to see that there is joy in being creative.

Trust me, it feels great to see in your hand a completed work (don’t remind me of that cross stitch I started for Grammy and Grampy for their 40th wedding anniversary.) It feels good when you stretch yourself to be more than you are, (maybe it will be ready for their 50th next year?) I want to see what you’ve done in our time apart. I want to share this joy with you. I’ll say nothing about the mess you made, (but dear, we cut paper, not hair with the scissors.)

When you pick up a crayon for the first time and you rub it across the paper, you’ll see magic. When you pick up blocks for the first time and pile them up, you’ll see potential. When you push a button on that V-Tech toy (that Daddy “accidentally” caulked all the speaker holes up to make the music less annoying) and you saw lights, you were mesmerized by the laws of cause and effect. As your mind grows your discoveries and creations will grow too. For every scribble, for every drawing, for every time you had to get Rainbow Dash’s mane just right, you’ll rehearsing for sitting at a future desk with a future task that will be less forgiving and less fun. But those tasks will need a creative mind and an eye for detail and persevering spirit. You only get those by practicing and playing and sitting alone, for a little bit each day and working on something you love.

We’re doing this because I want you to try new things.

I want you to gain confidence in your decision-making and risk-taking. I want you to trust your own judgement, learning logic and cause and effect, learn how shapes and colors and art and physics all work together. Someday, you’ll see that self-discipline is the only way to get tasks done. Someday you’ll be glad that I didn’t allow you to indulge yourself in your whims 24/7. Someday, you’ll spend hours alone studying for a big exam, or writing a paper or creating some project that a grade or a job will depend on. Someday you’re going to earn a paycheck, darling baby, and you’ll take me to lunch. (I’ve already picked the restaurant. And I’m not wearing yoga pants and a stained t-shirt so you may not recognize me.)

Helping children learn to play by themselves--and be creative

I fully expect you to fail.

The crayon will break, the KNEX won’t go together the right way, the tower will come falling down. But that’s why we play: to practice life because life is messy. (What is that smell? What did you eat?) I want to give you the gift of being able to deal with mistakes, failures and messes gracefully. But if you’ve sat at my feet, working on your projects, and failed near me, I can remind you that you are not your failures. I can remind you that you are loved anyway. I can remind you that you may have a solution to your problem nearby if you take the initiative. Playing alone will do that.

I suppose I could argue about brain development, independence, creativity and self-discipline all day long, but the truth I need a minute! And I need you to be within sight and within earshot, but fully entertained, just long enough for me to do something for me. I can check my email, catch up on Facebook, read a chapter in that book I started last year, crochet ten stitches, sketch a drawing or try to write that short story. I like making things too and surprise! The things I make are just as important to me as that glitter disaster on the dining room table. (Who gives a toddler glitter? The nice neighbor? That’s it! I’m giving her kid a drum set and a kitten!)

Making art is fun. Creating beautiful things is an act of worship. You are an amazing creation and whenever you make something, you are reminding me of who made you. In the same way that I put your drawings on the refrigerator door and we all look at them proudly is the same way that God looks at you — his creation. He is proud of you. When you create, you are doing what he did first. This is more than just play, this is worship. Let’s learn to work independently for ten minutes, so we can both glorify God in our creations.

You are absolutely the cutest thing in the whole world. Let’s spend a little time apart today and be all the better for it.

I love you!

Mommy

headshotWrite a novel in 10 minutes a dayKatharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five children and lives in Massachusetts. Her book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day, has been recently published by Teach Yourself Books. She blogs at 10 Minute Novelists–a blog I’m reading as I’m starting to work on my first novel! Find Katharine on Facebook, too.

Katharine uses her time away from her children to write–in extremely short bursts. If you’ve longed to make better use of your short bursts, check out Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day! That’s what I’m doing right now.

Now let me know: did you ever have to train your children to play by themselves? Was it hard? Have any tips for us? Share them in the comments!

Funny Apologies from Kids: A Note, Flowers, and a Laugh

Most of us as parents have had funny apologies from kids.

I have a friend named Bruce who is hilarious himself. He’s always posting on Facebook. I featured him in a column a while ago on dating your spouse. My daughter used to baby-sit for him.

And everyone in our small town knows him because his Facebook posts are often hilarious. So when I saw this last week, I couldn’t stop laughing.

His 6-year-old daughter apparently figured out how to purchase things from iTunes on his account, and she purchased something called “the doll house”. This was AFTER she’d already been reprimanded for purchasing credits for Pet Store. So she presented her mother with this:

Funny Kid Apologies

“I cant controle my Body.”

There’s wisdom in that 6-year-old!

I love it. Kids have so little impulse control, and as parents one of the things we need to teach them is to own up when they do something wrong. My friends made her make restitution and write this apology note, and she obviously “got” it.

While kids have little impulse control, though, they can have very sensitive consciences.

I remember when Katie, my youngest, was 6, and we walked into a craft store looking for something. In a basket on the floor of the store were tons of tiny paper flowers that are used to glue onto wreaths. Katie took one look at them and thought, “wedding bouquets for Barbies!”

So she reached down and grabbed them all and stuffed them in her boots.

I had no idea.

That night, about 45 minutes after we put the girls to bed, she came clutching her blankie and crying into my room and climbed up onto my lap. “I stole something,” she told me. And she presented me with 6 little flower bouquets.

The next day, first thing, we drove to the store and returned them and Katie handed over the little cash she had in her piggy bank.

That night, she came into my room again, crying harder this time. “I didn’t give you all of them!” she said. “I still have more!”

And she showed me about 30 other bouquets. I seriously don’t know how she got them all in her boots.

We took those ones back, too, and as far as I know, she’s never stolen anything again.

We had good talks, we prayed together, and she apologized.

And she’s totally walking with God now! (Seriously: watch her videos!)

We should let children experience guilt

Seriously. If a small child is feeling guilty for sin, don’t try to diminish it by saying, “oh, that’s okay.” The total value of all of those paper flowers was maybe $5. It would have been easy to say, “thank you for telling me, it’s okay.” But don’t. The Holy Spirit is teaching your child to listen to His voice. Don’t short circuit the lesson!

Teach them to apologize. Teach them to make restitution. And then teach them that there is total forgiveness when they confess and they’re honest.

Those are actually precious memories to me, and I still laugh. And I’m sure Bruce and his wife will keep that photo so that they can use it at their daughter’s wedding.

Kids are funny when they apologize. But learning to listen to your conscience is a lesson that is no laughing matter at all.

Now let me know: how do you handle it when your child needs to apologize? Has your child ever stolen anything? Tell us in the comments!

Waiting on God: Letting Him Work, Not You

Waiting on God: Learning to let go and start trusting God even when it's hard

Waiting on God is not natural for me.

I’m a Type A personality. When I see a problem, I analyze it. I tackle it. And I jump in! In fact, problems exhilirate me. I love the thrill of figuring out how to fix something and get it to go the way I want it to go.

I found this article in the archives of the blog that I wrote four years ago, and I thought it was worth running again, because it speaks to an issue I think we all struggle with: How do we let go? Here’s what I said back then, and I think it’s still relevant:

Trying to fix things didn’t work tremendously well growing up, and God had to hit me over the head a few times to make me trust Him. I was constantly interfering in friendships, in relationships, trying to force them to go my way because I figured I knew best. And I couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie. I couldn’t do NOTHING.

If something was wrong with a friend, or a boyfriend, I had to fix it RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE.

That’s why I had such a hard time trusting God with the fact that I would marry. I wanted to marry so desperately, and in my late teens I was always on the lookout for possible candidates. When I did start dating my now husband, I sort of barrelled my way all over him. I saw that we would work together, and I made sure he realized that, too. I didn’t exactly wait for him to come to that conclusion; I made sure that he saw it my way.

Unfortunately, that scared him off, and he ended up breaking up our first engagement. I was just moving too fast. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken, and had to wrestle my life out with God again. I had to acknowledge to God that He was my source of strength, not Keith.

I had to acknowledge to God that no matter what happened, I would trust Him, not look for fulfillment in other people. Waiting on God became my goal.

It was a very rough summer, but in retrospect one that I really needed. And Keith came back to his senses and we married anyway.

A few years later I had to wrestle with God again, over a problem that I couldn’t solve. My baby boy had a serious heart defect, one that was likely to kill him. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. Here I was, someone who would stay awake at night mulling over problems and strategizing my next steps to get rid of those problems, and there was absolutely no strategizing that would help. It was all about trusting God. And so I did. Even though my son didn’t make it, I learned that God was always there, and that He is enough.

And yet lately I have been reminded that God perhaps isn’t finished with these lessons for me.

Trust in the Lord

I have found in my marriage that “trust” is often the last thing I’m able to do.

Oh, I can trust Keith fine. I just can’t always trust God to solve my problems.

So if Keith and I had disagreements, I would stew and plan and strategize all day, and often call him in the middle of the day, to work it out. I used my brilliant insights. I gave him my air tight arguments of what we should do now and where we should go. And usually I ended up winning. Yet is it really winning if Keith hadn’t had a chance to think it over, to go to God with it Himself? If Keith hadn’t been able to explain what he wants?

Waiting on God would have been a lot more productive–and a lot more in line with what God wants for us to do.

I’m getting slowly better at stepping back and letting Keith process. I’m getting slowly better at going on with life when something is wrong in my marriage, trusting that we’ll be able to work it out later on tonight, or in a few days when we have time to sit together.

I’m getting slowly better at waiting on God, and not just bowling ahead and trying to solve everything.

But it is not working in my kids’ lives. I feel as if with them God is asking me to step back, too, and let my kids make their own mistakes. I feel as if He is saying that I have to trust God with my kids’ futures. It was hard enough to trust Him first time around with mine; now I have to trust Him with theirs! I never realized that this, in many ways, is harder.

Some problems can’t be fixed, and sometimes the efforts that we make at fixing them actually prohibit God from working.

What if God is trying to let your children go through a period of waiting, or trusting, and you try to fix it for them?

What if God is trying to wrestle with your husband about something, and you try to get your husband to talk everything out before God has really had time to soften him or convict him? What if God is planning a better solution, and you rush in because you can’t handle that uncomfortable feeling where everything is not in equilibrium?

There are times I need to step back. I am not God. I need to listen to what God says about my kids, and I need to trust Him with them. I don’t like doing that. Maybe God is telling you the same thing about your husband. Maybe you and your husband have an issue between you, and you want it solved RIGHT NOW. Ask yourself: why do I want it solved now? Is it because it needs to be solved, or is it simply because I don’t like this uncomfortable feeling? And if it’s the second, then your problem is not your husband. Your problem is your lack of trust in God to work this out.

Wait for the Lord: Psalm 27:13-14

I’m learning that I have to wait on God, put my problems in His hands, and ask Him to show me when I should do something about them–and when I should do nothing.

And I’m learning that He wants me to act far less frequently than I would like.

What about you? Has God been teaching you to wait on Him? How do you handle it?

UPDATE: I wish I could have had a looking glass back when I wrote this and struggling with some of my girls’ heartache and disappointment. Right now my oldest daughter is engaged and we’re planning the wedding, and she has found someone who loves Jesus. She’s honestly going to be okay. I was right to trust God–He does look after our kids.

Learning to Ask My Husband for Help

How asking for help from my husband made our marriage so much better!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment, or, better still, link up your own post in the Linky below. Today we’re going to talk about asking for help from our hubbies.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do in marriage is to ask for help. We think either that he should already know what we need, or that if we have to ask, that means there’s something wrong with our relationship.

Today Kate Tunstall from Refined Prose joins us to tell the story of how a baby changed everything in her marriage–including her perspective on asking her husband for help. We’ve been talking about this theme a lot on this blog recently–how sometimes we can avoid problems just by voicing our needs. I thought sharing a real life story could drive this home. So here’s Kate:

When my husband and I decided to start a family, we were one of those sickeningly ‘perfect’ couples who had been together a long time and done everything in the right order.

Not only were we very established, I was also in the enviable position of having a husband who was attentive, thoughtful and selfless. I was totally confident that difficult though a baby may be, my incredible husband would make the tough times endurable and the special times magical. We were relatively young, fit and healthy.

And thus came the life-changing decision that would alter the dynamic of our relationship forever.

Preparing for a Baby

My poor husband was slightly behind me in terms of readiness, though he could see the logic in the timing and was fully supportive. However, he underestimated what can happen when two health-conscious people actively begin to try for a family: within six weeks I was pregnant and his catching up became a sprint, not a marathon.

I still had no concerns: after all, I married the best man I know and was convinced that a baby would only strengthen our bond.

When I delivered our beautiful daughter following early induction due to complications, we were both in awe. One moment the wait for her arrival seemed interminable, the next everything was being medically forced with some urgency. After a difficult labour, she was born mewling and perfect and was placed immediately on my chest, at which point she looked up into my eyes as though to reassure me that she was okay. She was sixteen days early and at 5lb 4oz, she was tiny and delicate and fragile. We were besotted.

Finally, after nearly a week of scans, monitoring and procedures, we were back home with our baby daughter and our new reality set in.

Everybody has heard about The Tiredness, but until it has been experienced, the torment is incomprehensible. Lest we forget, sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture…

Being the good wife that I am, and given that I am breastfeeding our daughter, I said from the very beginning that I did not expect my husband to get up in the night. I have always maintained that since he is working while I am at home during the day, his need for sleep during the night is greater than mine. (That said, I question the practicality of ‘sleeping when the baby does’. It has never happened for me – my baby needs clean clothes even if I don’t.)

The First Weeks with Baby Were a Blur–and Exahaustion Took Over

I was totally consumed by love and tiredness and worry and exhaustion and delight and tiredness. It was overwhelming and I wondered constantly if my life would ever be normal again, whether I was caring for our daughter well enough, when I would ever get some proper sleep–and how I was going to cope the following day.

Despite the absolute fatigue, I consoled myself that at least I was the consummate wife: I still didn’t ask my husband to get up in the night. Not only that, I actively encouraged him to continue to work out regularly after work (and I still do). Even though I also used to frequent the gym myself, and am half-crazy with pent up energy which I am unable to expel. Even though I could use some adult company and a little help in the evenings. The way I saw it, why should we both miss out, right? He works hard; he needs to have an outlet.

I knew of other dads who were expected to help with night feeds and who would have their babies thrust upon them the moment they walked through the door in the evening. And I thought to myself how harsh their wives were, how inconsiderate! Not for us, that needy thoughtlessness – oh no. I allowed my husband to get in, have a leisurely shower, make himself a brew and spend half an hour relaxing, only then relinquishing his daughter to him for playtime and cuddles.

An hour later, I would take over again to deal with the bath and bedtime routine. But it was fine, because during this time my husband would potter downstairs and hang the washing, empty the dishwasher and make the dinner. As I may have mentioned once or twice, he was pretty close to perfect.

Resentment Started to Creep In

However, it slowly dawned on me infinitesimally that actually, my husband could be doing things differently to help me more, things that would enable me to have a small break. Things that would forge a bond between him and his baby girl. Speaking to friends brought to my attention that there were issues I had been ignoring which displayed my good wifely intentions in a different perspective.

When my husband told me early on that he was not able to bathe our daughter because it hurt his knees, I accepted it without hesitation. When he (regularly) said it was easier for him to make dinner while I saw to our daughter, I didn’t consider his motives. I trust my husband, I believe in our marriage – why should I question him?

One evening after work my husband expressed a desire to spend a Saturday with a colleague at a comic convention. I was disappointed (he had never before shown any interest in such an activity), but said that if he would prefer to do that than spend time with his family then I didn’t mind. A few days later, after a particularly taxing day, he told me of his intention to learn a new language which would, of course, take away more of his time from us. And this was the moment that the creeping resentment thwacked me over the head and I started to view our solid marriage in a different light.

Realisation That There was a Problem in our Marriage

Listening very carefully to some close friends discussing their relationships is what ultimately helped me to fix things with my husband. While I had been secretly putting our relationship on a pedestal, they had been at the other end of the spectrum, asking for the support they required and having their needs met. I felt a little bit ashamed of my superior attitude (luckily it was a private view that had not been shared). I was humbled as it began to register that I had been so fixated on my husband’s wishes and the desire to maintain the image of a perfect marriage that I had actually been neglecting my own needs. Surely there had to be a happy medium?

Epiphany: My Husband was Insecure as a Dad!

That night I went home and had a frank discussion with my husband. What I discovered broke my heart a little bit: my very competent, capable husband lacked confidence with his tiny, fragile daughter. She was like a delicate little bird and he was terrified of breaking her. While I had had no choice but to learn how to safely handle her, my baby’s daddy was frightened of injuring her little body with his big, clumsy bear hands. This changed everything. A brutal shake-up was required in our house.

One of the most important factors in a successful marriage is communication with your spouse. It is all too easy to make assumptions based on historical truths about your partner and your relationship. However, when you are thrown into completely new territory, you can’t know how a person will react, and sometimes they may need support to adjust. My husband’s failing in this scenario was his inability to discuss his lack of confidence, and mine was to blindly believe in the perfection of our marriage–and then to do him the disservice of presuming he was disinterested or lazy or both.

How exhausting for my husband that I am such a perfectionist that I projected my impossibly high expectations onto him too, and was unable to see him as anything other than infallible! I was so determined to attain The Perfect Marriage that I inadvertently undermined and sabotaged the relationship we do have.

Ultimately my husband’s ego prevented him from owning up to his fears, and mine prevented me from seeing that our habits were getting unhealthy. But my marriage does not belong to me, it belongs to us. And it is not something I can singlehandedly protect or perfect. That responsibility is equally my husband’s.

Change Comes by Asking for Help

So now I have simply learned to ask for help–and once he admitted that he was insecure, and put his own feelings out there, my husband was glad to see where he could be of service. He now gets home earlier after work, helps out with bathtime with the aid of a cushion, and settles our daughter back to sleep if she stirs during the evening. Life has improved exponentially as our daughter has now surpassed a healthy newborn weight. My husband now relishes every moment he has with the baby he dotes on, and in return she adores her daddy. Having those hard conversations was totally worth it.

I learned a valuable lesson here. While I am still proud of our marriage and I still look up to my husband, I also believe that in the future I will be better equipped to handle any similar issues; because I now express my needs to him–without feeling that this is a failing in me or in our marriage.

Gottman quotation on the transition to parenthood: Don't leave your husband behind!

With thanks to Hot, Holy and Humorous for reminding me of this quotation! Now, can you all see what would have happened to Katie’s marriage if she had said nothing–and kept trying to do it all? What would that relationship have been like five years down the road? Don’t forget–sometimes we need to ask for help!

KatieTunstallKate Tunstall is the founder of Refined Prose, the home of her wedding and lifestyle blog. You can also find details about the blogging and writing services Kate offers, and how to hire her here.

 

WifeyWednesday175Now let me know: have you ever seethed with resentment, when simply asking for help would have fixed many of your issues? Leave a comment! And if you have your own blog, feel free to link up a marriage post by putting the URL in the linky below. Thanks for joining me for Wifey Wednesday!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.



Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the Empty Nest

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Empty NestToday Gay Christmus, from Calm, Healthy, Sexy, joins us to talk about preparing for the empty nest! Considering my youngest is leaving this summer, I’m eager to hear what she has to say.

Is your daily schedule packed with homework, soccer games, dance recitals, and Scout meetings, not to mention work, church, and community commitments?  Do you feel like a juggler most days, just trying to keep all of your balls in the air?  If so, planning for the “empty nest,” the time when your children will be out on their own, is probably the farthest thing from your mind.  And no wonder – it’s hard to think about the future when you’re just trying to get through each day.

I want to encourage you, though, that now is the time to think about and prepare for empty nest.  Because time flies, and that day “down the road” is going to arrive sooner than you think.  I know a bit about this, because my husband and I have been moving toward the empty nest for a couple of years.  Our older son has graduated from college and is living with a friend, and our younger son is living at home while attending college.  They’re both doing their own thing – even though one still sleeps (and sometimes eats!) at our house – and my husband and I are essentially doing our own thing too.

We’ve been anticipating this for a number of years.  I can’t say we’re fully prepared, but we’ve been aware of it and wanted to know that we could enjoy life together when soccer and basketball and school activities came to an end.  So I want to share with you 10 things we’ve attempted to do (some well, some not so well) to get ready for this new phase of our lives.  If your children are in elementary school or older, I encourage you begin incorporating these things into your marriage and family life too.  On the day when your youngest child heads off to college or moves into an apartment, you’ll be glad you did!

1.  Pray together.

Establish your faith as the foundation of your marriage and family by praying together regularly.  This doesn’t have to be complicated or burdensome; just spend a few minutes together each day thanking God for your blessings and asking for His help with your concerns and problems.

2.  Orient your family around your marriage.

Your children are important, and their needs and activities require time and attention.  But those needs and activities shouldn’t become the “sun” around which your family revolves.  Placing your marriage at the center of your family’s life helps keep things in perspective when your children are young and eases the transition into the time when it’s just the two of you.  It also reminds your children from an early age that the universe doesn’t revolve around them!

3.  Talk about the future.

The elementary school years are not too early to begin talking about life and marriage after the child-intensive years.  Because by the time your children get to high school, they’ll begin focusing more on their friends and outside interests and less on the family.  So enjoy the elementary and middle school years and all the activities they entail, but spend time talking with your husband about the future too.  It’s never too soon to dream about the life you’ll enjoy together when it’s just the two of you.

4.  Take care of your health.

When you reach the empty nest years, you want to be able to enjoy them.  Which means that you want to be strong, healthy and fit, and don’t want to be slowed down by health problems.  Most of the health problems that begin to affect people in their 40s and 50s – diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems – are preventable.  And it’s never too early to begin working to prevent them.  So start now by eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and generally taking care of yourself.  And encourage your husband to do the same.  Those simple activities can help ensure that your empty nest years are healthy and active.

5.  Begin developing interests you can enjoy together.

You don’t want to deliver your youngest child to college, only to discover that you and your husband no longer have any interests in common.  So even though it’s difficult to find time for adult activities during the child-raising years, make the time to develop at least one activity that isn’t focused on your children.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; Sheila has mentioned that she and her husband enjoy bird watching, and my husband and I have taken up bike riding.

6.  Develop friendships and a social life beyond your children’s sports and activities.

When our younger son finished his final season of high school basketball, I (somewhat) jokingly asked my husband, “What are we going to do for a social life in the winter?” Because for many years, our social life from November through February revolved around basketball.  It’s natural for that to happen, because basketball (or soccer or dance or Scouts) takes up a lot of time.  But if you aren’t intentional about developing friendships or a social life beyond those activities, you may experience quite a “social shock” when they end.  So spend some time and energy developing friendships in your church, neighborhood, or other social circles too.

7.  Prioritize sex and intimacy in your marriage.

During the child-intensive years, it’s tempting to let sex and intimacy fall by the wayside.  It’s so easy to think, “I’m tired, I’m busy, the kids are sucking up all of my energy, I just don’t feel in the mood.”  Some or all of those things are probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you or your marriage.  Sex holds the two of you together in the hard times and creates joy in the good times.  So don’t let it slide.  Instead, nurture it and pursue it.  Deep intimacy and an enjoyable sex life will pay you back in spades, both now and in the empty nest years.

8.  Find ways to serve together.

It’s easy to be so focused on our family’s schedule, activities, and commitments that we forget about real needs that exist right in our own communities and around the world.  But it’s important to recognize those needs, both to keep our own problems in perspective and to find ways to serve others.  After all, crazy soccer and ballet schedules don’t seem so overwhelming when we remember that people are hungry or lonely or homeless.  So look for ways to serve others, as a couple or a family.  It will help keep things in perspective now and create an interest you and your husband can continue to develop as your children get older.

9.  Manage your finances.

The earlier in your marriage you begin to control your finances, the better.  Debt, lack of savings, and living beyond your means take a toll at every stage of life, but the older you get the harder it is to recover from financial mismanagement.  Plus, when you finally have extended time to have fun with your husband, you want to have a little bit of money on hand to do it!  So start now to eliminate debt, control spending, and/or bring in some additional income.  My husband and I didn’t start working on this early enough in our marriage, so we’re having to work harder on it now.

10.  Develop the fun side of your marriage.

Sometimes marriage becomes just a little bit tedious, doesn’t it?  It’s all work and no play, and suddenly no one is having very much fun!  So don’t let your long list of “have to” items suck all the fun out of your marriage.  Set a goal of doing something fun together at least once a week.  More often is better, but once a week is a good place to start.  It doesn’t have to be a “date,” just something both of you consider fun and relaxing – a walk after dinner, a bike ride, an outing to get a cup of coffee, or time to watch a funny movie.  You don’t want to arrive at the empty nest years and find that you don’t know how to have fun together anymore.

Whatever the age of your children or stage of your marriage, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the empty nest years.  And it’s never too late either.  If your children are in high school and you haven’t given it much thought, start now!  Talk with your husband, begin making plans, develop a couple of shared interests, and work on enjoying life together!

 

Gaye Groover ChristmusGaye Groover Christmus is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons.  In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field.  Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages.  She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives.  Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy.  She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

Wifey Wednesday: Putting Your Husband First

Today, welcome guest author Kate from Making Space, a mom, wife and reader from the UK, who like many of us asks an important question, what comes first, children or marriage? Here’s what she says about putting your husband first.

Children or Marriage: Putting Your Husband First

This is what a normal day in our household looks like.

Jonas wakes up, if I’m organised enough I will have woken up before him to shower and get myself ready. I put him on the potty (and continue to do so regularly for the rest of the day), get him dressed, we go downstairs, I make him breakfast. I wash up all the dummies and beakers he used last night. I empty the dishwasher, and then load it, whilst talking to Jonas as he has breakfast. I get him down from the table, he plays whilst I have breakfast. I quickly load the washing machine and prepare his changing bag. A neighbour might knock on the door and come in for a quick chat. We quickly rush out the door trying to get to a toddler group on time, but often running 30 minutes late. We stay there until lunch and then walk home super quickly to get back in time for Jonas to have a quick lunch and then nap. He wakes about 2 or 3pm, leaving me a couple of hours to spend some 1-1 time with him, do cleaning, hang the washing, prepare dinner and do any other chores around the house for which there always seem to be many.

Engagement

Before Children

Around 5 or 6pm I am so happy to see Alan’s car pull up in the driveway. Honestly, not because I am excited to chat to my husband or give him a kiss for all his hard work in the office enabling me to be a stay at home mum, but because seeing him walk through the door means he can assist me in looking after Jonas, or sorting bits in the kitchen, or putting Jonas on the potty for the 20th time that day, or just lending a helping hand. Just doing anything which enables me a couple of minutes to breathe and have some time off from being a ‘mummy on duty’. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mummy, but I think most mummies will understand, some days it is relentless and there is such freedom in being ‘off duty’ for even 5 minutes.

As I started writing this post, I was going to write about juggling things in motherhood, something I’m sure I will write about soon, but as I started typing I realised something. Sometimes, and probably often, my focus in my day is so much on my son, and my long list of chores or jobs to achieve, that I forget something equally as important. I forget something that was here before any of these ‘to do’s’ or ‘priorities’, I forget my marriage. I forget to give myself to my husband.

I spend so much of my day giving my best to my son, that when Alan walks in the door and we go through the strict paces of the dinner/bedtime routine for Jonas, there is very little of my best left to give.

By the time 7pm on a good day, or 8pm on a not so good day comes, and Jonas is asleep in his cot, this mummy is knackered. Desperate for some me time, just to do something other than give of myself, longing to chill or zone out. I don’t really want to hear about his day, because surely it can’t compare to the importance of him needing to hear about the events of our day, the laughs, the new developments, the tears or tantrums, the accidents or successes of potty training, surely my husband’s tale of the day can’t compare to this, right?

As I type this I am reminded of something one of my close friends once said:

Our husbands were there before we had kids and they will still be there after.

I guess the state of our marriage will be dependant upon the attention we give it during these years when it’s hard to give again when we have done so all day.

I think this will probably be a challenge for a lot of mums, especially in those early years when our little ones are so dependant on us. We can feel like we have literally given so much that we have emptied ourself of all energy, that there is none left to find.

If this resonates with you, I challenge you, like I challenge myself, to remember the one that was there first. To remember our husbands who have given us these precious children. And on those days when we literally feel like we have given above and beyond for our babies, to somehow muster up something else, to give to our husbands. To remember that when they walk in the door, although you may feel desperate for them to help, to take time to give them a kiss. Or when you feel like you have to tell them the events of the day because you haven’t had any other adult conversation within the last 4 hours, to remember, maybe they want to share their days events with you first. And when you hand them a list of ‘to do’s’, perhaps stop to think what this type of welcome might feel like to them as they step in the front door. Perhaps think that they may have had their own challenges or stress that day, and they may need a breather too.

And then remember this: we give to our children firstly because we love them, but also because we are investing in their lives. Don’t allow yourself to lose your love for your husband, but on the days that maybe you don’t feel it because you are so exhausted, remember you are investing in them too. Investing in your marriage, and when your babies have grown up, and flown the nest, your husband will still be there. And the success of our relationship will depend on what we put in now and how much we give to them now.

If this seems impossible, because you can’t possibly think of anyone else other than your little bundle of joy that is also a bundle of a lot of hard work, ask God for help. Ask Him for strength. Ask Him to show you little ways you can bless your husband, or help you to organise things so you have more time. Because the same is true of our children and our husbands; what we put in in the early years, most definitely affects what we get out in the later years.

Decide that what you get out of your marriage in years to come will be good!

Me-and-My-Boy-150x150My name’s Kate. Two and a half years ago I became a mummy. My life massively changed! I left my career, fell madly in love and started the biggest learning curve of my life. I have learnt many things since then but the biggest by far is that by the grace of God all things are possible. God has given me wisdom when I’ve needed answers, given me strength when I’ve been overwhelmed and given me capacity beyond my natural ability. I write a blog because honestly some days we all need something to read where we can find hope, encouragement or just a space to hear, it’s normal! You can find it here: Making Space.

Wall Decal $150 Giveaway with Evgie!

Under the Sea Wall Decal

Under the Sea Wall Decal

Want to make your house–and especially your kids’ rooms–super special?

Then today I’m got a special treat for you! I know many of you have little children at home, and I’ve got a chance for you to win $150 towards redoing your son’s or daughter’s room with these lovely wall decals! (And they’ve got living room wall decals, too!)

Evgie and Ev from Evgie.com are real women who are experts in digital illustration, interior design, and wall decal design. And they’ve created a whole collection of intricate wall decals that you can apply to your walls–and then remove easily–without messing up the paint. It’s easier–and even more beautiful–than wall art. And it’s easily removable, so your decoration can grow as your child does.

Today they are giving away a $150 coupon to one of YOU! Here’s what you need to do:

1) Go to Evgie.com and find your favorite products, or visit their etsy store.

2) Share ones you like on facebook or pinterest.

3) THEN, come back and leave a comment, saying which product you liked and shared!

4) You can do it all in the Rafflecopter below!

That’s all!

Panda Bear Wall Decals

Panda Bears!

20% Off all wall decals right now with the coupon 20OFF. Free shipping if your order is over $150. Every wall decal package has freebies!

Space Monkey Nursery Wall Decals

Space Monkey Wall Decals!

A few words About Evgie & Ev:

Evgie and Ev say:

Each of us liked drawing very much since childhood, so much so that it became our profession. With vinyl wall decals being the latest trend in home decor it was the perfect field to dive into. The warm response to our illustrations and design work eventually allowed us to set up a wall decal studio. Our constant personal engagement with the home and interior décor field led us to this venture.

Decals are easy to apply, easy to remove, easy to tailor to a specific wall or surface – we offer handmade large and small vinyl wall stickers with our designs and ideas for kids’ and grown-up’s rooms.

Teddy Bear Wall Decals

Teddy Bears

We start with an idea, a pencil and blank paper and then render our designs digitally for vinyl cutting. We view walls as backgrounds for living. We have started this decal studio in 2010 and pretty soon it became our full time job and engagement. It is a pleasure to get your feedback and one of the most enjoyable things is to see our decals on your wall or that of your toddler, in your nursery or living room. We also know that it is really fun to put our wall decals design on the wall, even if it take some time and a very little skill, this itself makes this product so attractive. If you decide to go with the whole wall decals theme you won’t regret it. It changes your walls, your space and places your little one in a world surrounded by a jungle or safari, forest or just friendly animals.”

And they don’t just have children’s wall decals or baby wall decals. They have lots more–including wall decals for grown ups, like this family tree wall decal for the living room. And I think this one is stunning!

Family Tree Living Room Wall Decal

Family Tree Wall Decal!

So click through to their website, tweet or pin one that you like, and then come back here and tell us about it! And one person will win $150 towards their order. I’ll do the draw Monday, February 23 at 11:59 p.m. (or thereabouts :) ).

And $150 can get you several ones, depending on what you buy. This one, for instance, is super cute, but it’s only $25:

Kiss Me Goodnight Wall Decal

Kiss Me Goodnight Decal–Only $25!

Remember, it’s 20% off with the code 20OFF. So go look, pin or Facebook one you love, and come back here and leave a comment telling me what you liked and where you shared it. Happy hunting!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Dad’s Response to Fifty Shades of Grey

How a Dad Taught His Daughters about Life, Love, and even 50 Shades of Grey!

Today I want to share with you a beautiful story of how a dad makes a difference in his daughters’ lives by deliberately teaching them how they should be treated!

I’m just back from a speaking tour in Texas (you can see some photos here on Facebook!), and I’m tired. So when my friend Rajdeep Paulus sent me this article I jumped at it. It’s awesome. And I hope these are messages we can all instill in our children. Here’s Raj:

Several years ago, about two weeks before February 14th, my husband graciously declares, “From now on, I’m in charge of Valentine’s Day.”

With four princesses and his wife to think about, this is no easy task to take on, in my opinion. To tell you the truth, hubby’s not into feeding the whole commercial industry on big holidays. But he’s a Daddy of four daughters, and he wants them to grow up knowing what it means to be treated with love and respect by a man, long before they ever start dating. Our oldest is now fourteen and the youngest is seven.

So the last several years have been filled with teddy bears, chocolate, hearts and homemade breakfast. And I haven’t had to lift a finger. This year was no different. And yet, it was very different. The packages started arriving earlier this week, and hubby filed them into our bedroom with a hands off till Saturday look in his eyes. No peeking allowed.

And when February 14th morning arrived, not a girl was stirring, but one Dad was.

The sound of rustling came from the living room. Later the bang of pots and pans graced the kitchen. It was nine o’clock, and all I really wanted was a cup of coffee. So I asked if I could help and permission granted. While hubby plugged away at something on the big screen in the living room (our computer was hooked up to the TV,) I ventured off to the grocery store for coffee beans and whipped cream—my version of chocolate and flowers.

Upon returning, the table was set in the living room with a red cloth and china. The couches were covered with blankets (no time for wrapping paper this year,) and music began to roll. After thanking God for his four princesses and his ‘queen,’ we all sat down to eat French toast and watch a slide show of family pictures on the screen. This was all sweet. But this was only the beginning.

After the pics stopped, and our tummies were filled, hubby switched the screen to a power point presentation that read, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and then began to share his heart.

He flipped the screen, and a quote from Proverbs about the importance of sleep splashed across the screen. “Sleep,” he said, “is a very important part of our lives.”

And he went on to tell our girls how it’s important to sleep enough and not too much.

And if anyone is having trouble sleeping, to figure out why and address the problem. He also encouraged them to one day, when they’re grown up and on their own, to set their alarms and know when their mornings would start. Not to just let the days happen to them.

Next he flipped to a slide that talked about beds. And then he went on to talk to the girls about boys and dating and the importance of respecting themselves, their bodies and the sacred place that their beds play in their lives. “Your bed is where you sleep and no one sleeps with you until you’re married. [He prefaced that he’s not counting slumber parties they have with their friends.]

But your bed is a sacred place.”

He even went on to say, “When you’re in college, if you live in the dorms, don’t let people get comfortable on your bed during the day. Because when it gets late at night, they might not want to leave, and now you’ve already made it easy for them to stay. Make your college bed a no-sit zone. Be bold. Point your friends to a chair. The floor. They can sit anywhere but on your bed. Is that clear?”

And the girls all nodded. I thought this might be a bit extreme, but this mama, who has a bad habit of wanting to give her two cents, kept quiet. This was a Daddy moment. He didn’t need my help.

Then he talked about a movie that was just released. “You might have heard about this movie that everyone’s talking about right now. The one based on a book?”

Only our fourteen-year old responded, “Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey. What’s it about anyway?”

But the others shook their heads. And our seven-year old fidgeted in her chair. Not because the topic made her uncomfortable. She’s seven. She was ready to open the presents.

“Well,” and hubby was honest, “I haven’t read the book, and I have no plans to see the movie, but I’ve read enough posts on line that describe the content, and it’s the exact opposite message I’m trying to give you. And the main thing I want you to leave today with is the importance of respecting yourself and demanding respect from others, especially a boyfriend or a future spouse, because if you don’t respect yourself, you can’t expect other people to respect you.”

I couldn’t resist any longer. My two cents spilled. And I shared very briefly about how I took a self-defense class in college and the number one hardest thing we had to learn was to say, “No,” and to say it loudly. “When you tell a guy no, he has to really push past his internal moral voice to keep doing what he’s doing.

And if he doesn’t respect you enough to stop, he:

1. Doesn’t love you enough to respect you
2. Isn’t healthy enough himself to know the importance of respect in a relationship, or
3. You might need some time apart from each other to work on yourselves.”

And then we made the girls practice saying, “No.” Screaming, “No!” And they each did.

Then hubby told us all to stand in front of the couches, designating a spot for each girl in his life. It was time to open the gifts. On three, we pulled off the blankets to reveal his Valentine’s presents to us this year:

New pillows and new sheets. The girls loved them. As did I.

And after we dropped our daughters off with famliy to go out for our dinner date in New York City, we pulled out of the Midtown Tunnel and turned down a street to face the red lit Empire State Building, pulsing like a beating heart. All the while, I couldn’t help but thank God for this man of mine.

We know the girls will grow up. We can’t stop time. We know they’ll make their own choices. We have no plans or desire to control them. But I’m just wowed by this man, a husband and a father, who thinks about how best to equip them for the years ahead.

For the one area he has the loudest voice in, because until they do start dating. Until they get married. He is the man in their lives.

I hope the girls never forget this Valentine’s Day. I know I never will.

swimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus, Award-Winning author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her blog In Search of Waterfalls, or connect with her via Facebook  TwitterPinterest, or Instagram . Here’s an article about her books on the home page of Amazon!

51njxNzwd3L._SL160_Check out Raj’s other blog posts on To Love, Honor and Vacuum (she’s great!):

Top 10 Things Teens Ask About Sex
Top 10 Reasons for Morning Sex
Honeymoon Blues to “O”ver the Rainbow (about reaching the big “O”!)
Ten Hardest Things to Share After Saying “I Do”

 

Top 10 Questions Teens Ask About Sex

Questions Teens Ask About Sex. Are you prepared?

Teens will invariably ask questions about sex. Are you prepared?

Today on Top 10 Tuesday guest poster Rajdeep Paulus joins us to share the questions she’s had from her teens about sex! Personally, the worst question I had was from my daughter Katie, who wanted to know, “How long does he have to leave it in for?” Let’s just say conversations are often awkward–but it’s so important to leave the lines of communication open! Here’s Raj:

I’m a big advocate of communication when it comes to parenting, and when you come from a culture that didn’t talk about certain things, and you look back and wonder if things had been different if you had talked about the tougher topics with your parents, there’s one thing you can do about it. Change things when it comes to talking to your own children. And I think most parents would agree that they’d rather have their teens ask them then go to their peers or some on line website that might not tell the whole story or tell our kids how to put the delicate information in context of God’s plan for their sexuality. It’s a much more complicated topic than just abstinence vs. experimenting, and our teens need to hear the truth from us, well before they enter serious dating relationships and move forward to wedding days. I’m blessed to have a great relationship with my girls at this point, and they seem comfortable enough to talk to me about things. I tease them every once in awhile about who they have a crush on, and they all know that mom chased down a boy in fourth grade and kissed him, so they know mom’s not someone who doesn’t “get it,” sort-a-speak.

Here are the questions that have come up in the last few years with my firstborn who is now fourteen. Usually after we’ve had some heart to heart about something else. Often when we’re driving somewhere. And always when it’s just the two of us.

The First Ten Questions Your Teen Might Ask About Sex

1. What does it mean “to try?”

When my teen was a tween, she overheard hubby and I chatting with newlywed friends of ours that were trying to start a family. When the kids streamed into the living room, we began to talk in code and assumed the kids weren’t paying attention. Until later when my then eleven-year old asked me, “What did Uncle J. and Aunty M. mean when they said, ‘They were trying to have a baby?’”

I took a deep breath, knowing that my response could end the conversation or open up the door to many more questions. “What are you really asking? What do you want to know?”

And then she said, “Well, what does it mean to try?”

And then we had our first conversation that involved a lot of pauses and, “Does that make sense?” and “What else do you want to know?”

2. Do you have to take off all your clothes?

I thought this was a cute question. I still recall this walk hubby and I took on Devon Street in Chicago a week before our wedding. We were buying garlands and found some nice ones that looked like they were made of real flowers, and Sun turned to me while holding the garland in the air and said, “Can’t wait for our wedding night when this is all you’ll be wearing,” and I nearly fainted with shock. He was thinking about it. Me. Without clothes on. And I went home and cried, because I didn’t love my body, and it just hit me that he would see it. So as a mom who understands that self-image and self-love are important, I try my best to encourage my girls and help them to love their bodies the way God created them so when it’s their time, they won’t be ashamed or afraid like I was.

3. His what goes where? Is there any other way? I mean, it seems so weird. Complicated. Did I mention weird?

I think it’s good to acknowledge that the puzzle piece aspect is both weird and wonderful. And it’s normal to think the whole thing is cu-razy weird when you first hear about it. I recounted my own personal reaction when I first learned about sex in Health class. We had some laughs. And then I reminded her that acceptance and celebration comes with age and maturity and security in a strong marriage.

4. Why do they call it “safe” sex?

I think that’s a good question too. There’s nothing safe about an act that will forever change your mental, emotional, and physical world. I think it’s the furthest thing from safe, and that’s why it’s so special and not to be dealt with or decided lightly. I think that’s all the more affirmation that God created this act for married people. That’s the safest place to learn and enjoy intimacy.

5. Should I close my eyes?

Funny how we often close our eyes when we kiss. But it’s up to each person to know how they want to experience things. And I encouraged her to try things both ways, with her eyes closed and open. With the lights on and lights off. With music and without. There’s something to variety that spices things up and when it’s her turn, I want her to know there’s room for creativity. God made us creative for a reason.

6. Will it hurt?

That’s something I think more teens and young newlyweds need to understand. That it could very well hurt, but there are also ways to keep it from hurting or hurt less. And it’s okay if your kids want to talk about things with a physician. And the knowledge of real truth can also keep teens from rushing into things knowing that it’s not all easy under the sheets like Hollywood often portrays it. Conversations are important to have, closer to the wedding date, in my opinion.

7. Why do all the kids at school giggle when someone says the number 69?

Yep. This came up. And we talked about it. Position and all that fun stuff. But we also touched on how sex-obsessed our culture is and how the exploration and experiencing of things out of place of God’s timing leads to a lot more than heartache. I know of couples who were actually “bored” on their honeymoon. And I always refer back to the picture my best friend gave me close to my own wedding day: sex is like a beautiful garden surrounded by the fence of marriage. You can steal touches and moments by reaching past the fence, but shameless pleasure and wonder comes after you say your vows, unlock the fence and roam the garden freely.

8. What if I just want to stick to just kissing? Is that an option?

That’s the beauty of marriage and communicating and as days and weeks, months and years go by, you learn that not every night is a night to “sleep” together. Some nights are a time to just snuggle and fall asleep in each other’s arms. ☺

9. What if I don’t like sex?

I was very honest with her when she asked this. I said, “At first you might not, but some day, when you figure out how your body works, I promise you, you will!” Hopefully. But there are no guarantees. But if things go as they should, it could go amazingly, but it’s like every great relationship, you learn together, grow together, and grow in your love for each other as God gives you time and patience with each other.

10. Does this mean you and Dad…?

Don’t answer that.

What did I miss? And you and your kids? What kind of questions have come up?

UPDATE: After Raj wrote this, she and her husband learned that he’s been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition. She’s just asking people to pray for her husband, and for peace for her and her family. Thank you! I know she’d appreciate some kind words in the comments, too, to say that you did pray for her.

swimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and spent over a decade as an English Teacher and SAT Tutor, during which she married her best friend from Chicago whom she then followed to the island of Dominica where he began medical school. Fourteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley, New York later, she now blogs weekly and writes masala-marinated, Y.A. fiction.When Raj is not tapping on her Mac, you can find her dancing with her princesses, kayaking with her hubs, coaching basketball or eating dark chocolate while sipping a frothy, sugar-free latte. She blogs at www.insearchofwaterfalls.com and secretly hopes someday she’ll own a laptop that f51njxNzwd3L._SL160_unctions under water.

And check out her first YA Novel: Swimming Through Clouds! Sheila reviewed it here.  The sequel is and Seeing Through Stones.