Little things in life make the biggest difference

It’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference.

‘What did you miss?’ I asked my husband Chris when I returned from several trips interstate to visit family–for the first time without him.

‘The silliest things,’ he said as he tilted his head, like he does when he’s thinking deeply. ‘It seemed so strange that I’d put things away in the morning before I went to work, and they’d still be there when I came back home at night.’

I grinned at him and he grinned back. Each of us knew better than to ask whether that was a good or a bad thing.

Little Things

He’s taught me more about the little things over the past 30 years than I thought possible; that a kind word diffuses anger; how doing the mundane small jobs that need to be done, but never complaining, grows fondness in the observer’s heart; that finding the good in everyone you meet helps laughter to ring out in your house every day; how pain is less burdensome if someone listens and cares; that children delight in laughter and lightheartedness…and terrible, repeated dad-jokes that never get funnier; how picking up things left all over the house by those of us who are easily distracted, can be done without getting annoyed; that brewing a coffee in the morning when it’s seven degrees in the kitchen shows love of the deepest kind; how love never gives up.

 

Attitude is almost everything

Chris has shown me that it’s not simply what he does, but his attitude towards the little things in life that helps him to love more deeply, more practically, more effectively. He believes that everything is better with a good attitude towards whatever happens and that’s how he lives his life.

In every little thing, he has the attitude that it is good. If the weather is cold, that means it is good for running on the beach. When the weather is sunny, then it’s a great day to swim at the beach. If the beach is nowhere in sight, then whatever the weather, it’s a great day to be dreaming about running and swimming at the beach.

When a person is annoying, he digs until he can find the positive. If something hurts, he compares it with a time when he felt much worse, and another story ensues. When money is tight, he finds a small thing in the garden and brings it to my notice. On the very rare occasions that he loses his patience, he goes for a run and dreams he is kicking the footy through goal posts. And his demeanour returns to normal; easy going, not hassled about too much, unflappable, cool, calm, collected.

Is he perfect? Not quite

His attitude is catchy. It’s taken 30 years, but he’s taught me to be more settled. Calmer.

Side note here:  Telling me to ‘calm down’ never worked, but his example did.

He brought up the kids calmly. His energy level seems to almost never run out. But when it does, he has strategies such as lying down on the ground and letting kids climb all over him. He’s never been a great reader, so instead of reading to the kids at night, he used to tell them stories about when he was a little boy. He often fell asleep next to them – and they thought that was wonderful.

I understand that he has a similar effect on his co-workers. His positive attitude helps him (usually) to rise above politics and personality issues, and to keep looking for the good in all. And he becomes confidante because he quietly listens and accepts, and then just gets on with his job.

Is he perfect? Not quite. But his attitude and action in the small things help make this marriage great.

Small things, often.

The Gottman Institute have studied hundreds of couples over the past 35 years. They’ve studied the difference between what they call ‘Masters and Disasters’ of Relationships. One of the most important secrets they’ve identified is doing small things often.

Small things often: Do small things, say kind things often, and make frequent choices to have a good attitude to the little things in life. And while you’re not looking, your life becomes truly blessed.

P.S. I’ve written this while he’s away. Perhaps it says, more than anything else, I miss him.

 

 

Question: How to manage conflicts in different parenting styles

How do you resolve conflicts in different parenting styles between yourself and your partner? e.g. where one parent is stricter than the other

According to The Gottman Institute, in every successful relationship most (69%) of the conflicts are unresolvable*.

Some of those conflicts might be about inconsequential things, such as our favourite flavour of ice-cream. But many of the unresolvable issues are more important than our taste buds. Knowing they’re unresolvable helps us to manage them, rather than waste our time and energy arguing about them.

What about our attitude and parenting style in bringing up the kids?

I’m an ex-nurse and used to bandage the wounds of other people’s adventurous kids who ended up in the Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. So my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach when I see a child anywhere near where they might possibly fall. I am a scaredy-cat.  I would happily ban trampolines and all kinds of other adventures – but there wouldn’t be much fun left.

DH (dear husband) grew up climbing trees, rambling over rocks and yabbying in dams and creeks. He has several scars which show that many wounds heal by themselves, eventually.
He encourages climbing – with the theory that if you let them climb, as long as they know how to climb down, they’re safer if you leave them to it than if you make a fuss.
Our way around that was for me to stay well away from the adventurous parts of playgrounds – so the children couldn’t sense my fear. Chris would be in charge of the kids in playgrounds. And I left him to it. It meant that my kids learnt to climb, and jump, and do normal kid things without my unfounded fear.And the kids knew that if he ever said ‘That’s enough!’ their lives were in mortal danger.

That’s pretty much how we still handle situations on which we disagree .

We go on the side of the person with the most factual knowledge or experience about a situation:
Anything requiring medical or nursing care, he leaves to me.
Anything microbial i.e. what’s safe to eat that we find in the back of the fridge, we leave to him.
Anything we’re not sure about, we still err on the side of caution – unless it looks like fun and we feel that it can’t do too much damage.

Interestingly, the issues we used to find most difficult, we can’t even remember now.

Perhaps our ways aren’t what every couple would choose. But that’s the beauty of families. We’re all different.

When it came to our natural parenting styles, we’re opposite. But we discovered the Parent-Coach style, through ‘Toolbox Parenting Groups’ from The Parenting Place. Both of us could work together on that, with the same goal in mind.

Doing whichever courses came our way, about relationships and parenting, we learnt new tactics and decided together which ones we didn’t think would work for us, and happily tried ones that sounded hopeful.

We made time with each other a priority. When the children were small, we hired a student once a week to mind the kids while we went on a date. Later, when the kids were at school, we had a regular Wednesday morning ‘date’ at a coffee shop next to the bus stop.

Making time for each other helped us to understand how we were travelling, and what made us react and respond to our kids and each other in different circumstances. We could talk things over when not in crisis mode, and often made decisions about the kids in semi-relaxed circumstances. It really helped us with our communication during crisis moments that inevitably have happened.

And our parenting decisions are guided by our family values. More about that in the article about family values – but, in summary, when we have worked out together what are the most important values to our family, all sorts of decisions are much easier to make.

*(John Gottman & Julie Schwartz Gottman, 2014 Bridging the Couple Chasm: Gottman Couples Therapy: A Research-Based Approach)