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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

The Power of Observation

Because Stacey and I share a job, we are both also part-time parents, so to speak—we each spend part of our week in the world of work and part of our week in the world of the home. Stacey was out of town on business for four days, so I had some practice being a single-parent for a short time.

It was a good experience for me to be immersed in the world of home for a week. I found myself tuning into the rhythm of life with the kids. The immersion also gave me the chance to make some connections about our daily rhythm.

I noticed that Lucy rarely gets through the morning without tears. Conflict usually involves clothes, perhaps a harbinger of things to come. We wake the kids up, get them dressed and cleaned up, then head downstairs for breakfast. We were consistently losing 5-10 minutes wrestling with Lucy over clothes.

So, I decided to adjust our routine. Now, I wake her up and take her downstairs right away for breakfast first, then get her dressed. Turns out she was grumpy because she was hungry. She had much less resistance to any given outfit when she wasn’t hungry, so things have been sailing fairly smoothly with that change.

Another observation: I found myself raising my voice entirely too much. Usually, this took place at some point in the process of preparing or cleaning up meals. I’d be stuck in the middle of something in the kitchen and the kids would end up at each other’s throats and screaming at each other. I found myself wallowing in the despairing irony of screaming at my kids to stop screaming.

So, I made a pact with the kids to work on not raising our voices with each other. If one of us noticed someone else with a raised voice, we would simply raise our hand. I especially asked the kids to help me with this and invited them to let me know if I raise my voice.

After a few instances of me raising my hand and making note that one of them was using a raised voice, I started to see a change in the meal time family atmosphere. Not least of all, I saw a change in my patterns. I’ve drastically changed my tone in these moments, and accordingly, I’ve also drastically increased my mobility. When I hear trouble brewing from the kitchen, I walk to ground zero and remove one of the perps, and they are volunteered for kitchen duty. I sit them down on the counter, where they cannot escape, and we have a pleasant conversation about our days.

These observations and modifications have more common sense to them than magic, but I have a high priority on the feeling of harmony in the family, so the results seem miraculous to me.