Over the course of my life, I have watched the people around me and tried to pay attention to what they do and say. I think that’s probably a big reason why the organization of Winning At Home has the focus that it does. I’ve been paying attention to inter-personal dynamics for a long time and I love the idea of sharing some of what I’ve learned over the years. It’s my hope that everybody reading my articles can see some of their own lives reflected in these columns.
I think I first started to tune in to relationships and people’s interactions when I was a kid, as I watched how my dad was hard on his loved ones and, sometimes, abusive. As scary as that was at times, I also watched how my mom and older brother tried to protect each other (and me) from him when he was at his angriest. I think I learned at an early age that there can be some really beautiful parts of family, but there can also be some dark parts, which are often hidden from public view.
As I worked some of my early jobs, I saw the way that decisions were made about what I should do or how I should do it. Sometimes I agreed with those decisions, and sometimes I didn’t. I learned that sometimes my input would be listened to, though not always. As I studied in college, I knew that I wasn’t wired to sit in a library all day to read or study, but that was what was expected of me.
In other words, I was constantly paying attention and figuring out the dynamics of the relationships or situations that were happening around me. Sometimes, I found myself in situations that played to my strengths. Other times, I saw that my natural wiring and tendencies weren’t going to be things that set me up for success in certain areas. That can be a hard thing to admit sometimes, but I find that it actually makes things a little easier if you’re able to do it. That way, instead of feeling like you’re banging your head against the wall trying to force yourself to be outgoing, scholarly, athletic, or any number of things that do not line up with your natural wiring, you can acknowledge that there are some things that you’ll just never be great at. And that’s okay.
This applies to your approach to family life too. Some of us are wired to be the fun, wild parent or grandparent—that’s me! Others of us are wired to be the conscientious, caretaking parent or grandparent—that’s my wife Jane! That doesn’t mean that I am unable to feed and bathe the grandkids, and it doesn’t mean that Jane is unable to play with and entertain the grandkids. The truth is that when each of us contributes along the lines of our natural wiring, we arrive at the end of the day with grandkids who have played hard and are tired out, but who have also been well-fed and had their needs met.
Basically, what I want to remind you of is that each of us has a part to play in family life. Some of the roles will be a better fit for you than others. And that’s okay! In fact, it’s normal. Do your best to bring you to the table, and I believe you’ll be winning more often at home.