But that’s not how MY family does it!

There is no one specific way to have a healthy, happy family and yet, somehow, the mashing of two adults into a coherent family unit often leads to one or both parties stomping their feet like the proverbial two year old and exclaiming, “No! MY way!”

We run into this same sort of thing just going forth into the world. I still remember when I was a sophomore at college and battling severe stress headaches almost daily. The doctors hadn’t been able to find a medication that helped yet, and one of my concerned professors asked, “Have you tried any natural health remedies or seeing a naturopathic doctor?”

I was stymied; it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I finally stammered “Uh… my family isn’t really into that kind of thing,” as if she had suggested the equivalent of seeing a witch doctor. She replied with a raised eyebrow, “I see. But how to you feel about it?”

Shock. You mean I had to decide for myself what I believed? You mean, my family’s way isn’t the only good way? Who knew!

Although I didn’t follow her advice for that particular problem, it did open my mind to the possibility. I have since explored and adopted several “alternative medicine” techniques, including the birthing method I use. I wish I could go back and thank her for opening my mind to the possibilities, the most potent of which is that although my family is wonderful and raised me well, I still get to decide what it means to be me. Even if one or two (or six or seven) members of my family did think it was a little nutty to go with something named “hypno-birthing” when I had my second child. (And, you know, they all listened very patiently when I explained the whys and wherefores. If everyone had such supportive families, God would have a lot more reasons to smile.)

All of this acceptance that my way is not the only way does not, of course, preclude me from occasionally telling DB that his way is just plain wrong. Towel folding, for example. I hate the way he folds towels and if he doesn’t fold them the way I showed him, I will actually refold them before putting them away. Silly, I know, but I guess at least I don’t make him do it. Then of course there are questions over the “right” way to decorate for holidays, celebrate Christmas, have bedtime, clean the toilet, vacation, and on and on.

Fortunately for us, we have a very emotionally even-keel kind of relationship (read: DB refuses to react when I try to push buttons) and we usually work things out just fine.

One conversation we’ve had a few times revolves around breakfast. Very rarely while I was growing up did my folks make breakfast and we all eat together. Such things were reserved for Mother’s Day or other special occasions. Since I had church scripture study at 6 a.m. all through high school and had to be out of the house by 5:45, this was eminently reasonable. Frankly, I enjoyed the peace of having the house to myself while I made my morning mug of hot cocoa.

Moreover, my mother made it very clear that making dinner for everyone was enough for her and we were plenty old enough to get our own breakfast, thank you very much. I completely agreed.

DB, on the other hand, grew up having hot breakfast with his family every morning all throughout his early school career. I realized this early in our marriage because when we go to visit his parents, they make breakfast many of the mornings we are there. I love the pampering, but I also quickly made it clear to DB that I didn’t do that kind of thing, myself. It was too much work.

Please note that I had never actually tried it.

After a completely unrelated decision has shaken up our morning routine, however, I have found myself preparing breakfast for the family the last two days in a row.  This is the first time in… well, probably since the kids were born that DB and I have gotten up at the same time. We had pancakes both days. I don’t tend to eat much with everyone at the table because part of me still likes that mug of cocoa and the now pseudo-solitude of sitting at my desk checking my email, but I have found (much to my surprise) that I really enjoy making breakfast for everyone. Beyond the fact that breakfast is easy and hot breakfast food is something the kids will always eat (something that cannot be said for dinner), this extra effort on my part has made the mornings much smoother. Instead of DB struggling to get the kids ready on his own, or me desperately trying to convince the kids to eat quietly and neatly so I can sneak off for a few minutes of quiet, we work together almost seamlessly and everyone is ready in no time.

Better still, I actually get to see my husband in the morning for more than a sleepy “Love you, bye.”

The feeling in the house has been much less frantic. We even remembered to have family prayer before DB took off today, something I don’t think we’ve ever done.

We’ve been married 4-1/2 years, and DB has never questioned my statement that I “don’t do breakfast.” Maybe I’ll still end up deciding I feel that way in the end, seeing as it’s only been two days. It’s hard getting up early when I’ve become used to dozing for an hour after waking. But so far, the benefits outweigh my slightly extra sleepiness.

So, here’s to trying things from the “other,” whether the other be a person, culture, or (gasp) your spouse’s family. I guess giving an inch won’t lead to us turning into a carbon copy of anyone just yet. Picking one thing here and one thing there–that’s how we become individual.

No need to reinvent the wheel. Simply a need to decide how it best rolls for our family.

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About Carolynn the Dyer

If I've learned one thing by having three children in four years, it's that babies are not, in fact, the best birth control. ... Okay, just kidding. I've really learned that laughter is the only way to survive the wilds of parenthood, and life in general. Also, that it is indeed possible to do dishes, parent, and carry on a conversation at the same time. If that sounds like fun, or just impossible, then come join me on my blog--and join me in the jungle.
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