That's how long I think it takes after my husband walks through the door to know what kind of evening we're about to have. And it has almost nothing to do with him.
How I choose to react in those first four seconds almost always dictates the tone for the rest of the night. It's almost like a wife-super-power, frightening and amazing all at once, but I really think it's true.
My husband doesn't have an easy job. He works hard all day, and regardless of whether his day has been frustrating, successful, busy or boring, he is always always always glad to be home. I love that about him. He would always choose to hang out with us (no matter how manic) than have to stay late and put extra hours in at work, though sometimes that is necessary. But, when he walks through that door, no matter how his previous 8 hours have been...it really seems to be me that holds the power to sway the tone of the house...and I would go out on a limb here and say that's probably true for many, many wives out there.
I call the hours from 3-5pm before daddy gets home the "witching hour". There might as well be a full moon out at that time, because my two little daughters turn into werewolves, complete with fangs, red eyes, and sometimes even foaming at the mouth. Okay, maybe they don't have claws the size of Texas (most nights) but they certainly go all Jekyll-and-Hyde on me and suddenly lose the ability to control their emotions and actions.
No matter how sweet or pleasant our day has been, those last couple hours just seem to totally unravel. I lose the ability to form complete sentences, my toddler can't help but tackle and lay on her sister, and my baby becomes inconsolable. They try climbing the shelves, the walls, the fireplace mantel. They won't watch a show or color in their books. They might chase the cat, until they pin him down into a desperate headlock, but he eventually takes haven under the bed. No matter what, we all just seem to lose our minds.
This is not a pretty picture to come home to. If I was my husband, I would probably request to work late most nights of the week. Haha. Or, I would highly start to question the sanity of my care taking ability and maybe suggest we hire extra help...or put the girls on Ritalin or something. Crazyville.
All that to say, when he comes home and finds me shaking in frustration or downing another cup of coffee while my eye is twitching from the chaos, it's a lot to take in. But, in those first four seconds, everything can change.
Somedays, I'll admit, I hand him the baby and grab the mail key and say "see you 5 min!" and walk out the door to get the mail, and in reality I truly just need some fresh air and a quiet second to control my brain. Whew. Or, maybe I'll snap at him the second he walks in. (Sounding familiar to anyone else?) You know - the whole Do you even KNOW what kind of day I have had with these crazy critters!? while he is left wondering if he did something wrong or whether he should even answer me and, oh yeah - three hours later I finally get around to asking him how his day was? Whoops.
But, it doesn't have to be that way. I have a choice in the matter here. And I truly think that a good four seconds is pretty much all it takes. Four seconds to stand up, smile, shout "Yay! Daddy's home!" and actually stop what I'm doing to kiss him on the mouth and say "How was your day?" and sincerely mean it and listen to what he says.
We have all evening. I have the rest of the night to dictate to him all of the chaos that the previous hours may have held. He knows how insane/naughty/debilitatingly-loud our girls can be, so he truly does understand that my day has been hard. EVERY DAY is hard for mothers (in one way or another).
Not only can those first four seconds help usher us into an evening of peacefulness, but literally the actual tone I use to speak to him in those first moments seem to determine the mood of our children as well. This one goes both ways, really. Meaning, how we converse with each other (even about outside subjects) makes a difference. It's something we learned early on in parenthood when we would get home from work and vent about our days. If we spoke with harsh, loud, moody ups and downs, our girls would stare at us and scowl, as if to say "Why are you mad at each other?" when we actually weren't!
|Trust me, there's some serious crazy |
behind those beautiful, blue eyes
Now, we save those vent-sessions for after they're in bed, or else we will pleasantly fake our tone in a creepy sing-songy polite way while actually telling each other how manically frustrating something might have been. It matters! It might sound ridiculously silly, but it's better than having our little ones thinking we are mad at each other when really we are just getting fired up about an issue outside of our little world.
Tone matters. We've heard it a million times - "It's not what she said, it's the way she said it" and so on. And the same thing goes for your kids. What they hear, how you talk to your spouse, the way you say things...it all comes across loud and clear to them one way or another.
It's not easy for me to always stop what I'm doing when Josh walks in the door from work. I don't necessarily feel like taking a deep breath or listening to stories about the outside world or even smiling - even though I am always super glad he is home and very thankful for someone to help care for our crazy girls!
But, I can tell you that I've never regretted rising above my own needs in those first moments when he comes home. I've never thought "You know, I really should have laid into him for being gone working hard all day and told him how it got all crazy around here and I'm doing a terrific job just keeping everyone alive!" No. Sometimes I do need to vent, sometimes I do need a hug, sometimes I do need to tell him exactly what I need so that he can specifically help me more effectively...but, not in those first four seconds.
You've probably heard or read the following two Proverbs at sometime in your life:
Proverbs 21:19 Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
Yikes. I don't want my husband to want to live on the corner of a roof or a desert! I want him to want to still come home at the end of a long hard day of work! And let's be honest, it's almost never even "about him" when we greet him at the door with a snappy tone or a furrowed brow.
I've had to have a "heart check" here with the Holy Spirit and make sure that when my hero walks in at the end of the day I am greeting him with the thankful and peaceful heart I know he desires to encounter. I'm so grateful that he works hard so that I get to stay home, so that we can eat, so that we can live and I don't want him ever feeling taken for granted. I also really want my girls to see just how much I enjoy being with their daddy and for them to appreciate those first seconds when he arrives home.
God is amazing how He provides for us (the work, food, clothing, shelter) just enough, every day. Doesn't He also provide us enough grace and patience to extend a loving hello to our spouse?
Greet your spouse with a kiss and a hug at the door tonight. Maybe you won't have dinner on the table, maybe you will still have laundry or vacuuming, maybe your kids will be screaming and wrestling at that very moment...but, trust me, everything will be okay and I guarantee it will usher in a whole new happiness for the rest of the night. It must be better to live inside the house with a happy and encouraging wife, than on a corner of a roof or in the desert all alone! How about that?