As parents, we often take great pride in being "teachers" to our kids. Whether it's instructing them in how to throw a football, count to 25, or make brownies, we take our roles seriously in raising our children. But our kids often "teach" us as well. Here are a few things my oldest son has taught me about being a better spouse.
1. Random kisses.
My son will often just briefly stop what he is doing -- whether it's a puzzle or watching TV -- and simply plant a kiss on my cheek. It's one of the most endearing acts he does, and I almost cried the first time he did it -- it simply touched my heart. These random kisses remind the other person how important you are to them. When is the last time you gave a random kiss to your spouse? If it has been more than a few days, it might be time to put down that smartphone for a second and let your spouse know how much you care.
2. Showing excitement.
Whenever I come home from work, my son always screeches in excitement when he hears my car or sees me come through the door. He runs from wherever he is in the house, and jumps into my arms. I also make a big deal about seeing him, and tell him how much I missed him during the day. I bet most of us haven't done that to our spouse in a long time. And maybe we should start letting them know we are glad to see them, instead of just saying "hi" or asking how their day was. Show excitement and smile to see them. When I got married, a good friend of mine joked about spouses: "they're there when you wake up... they're there when you go to bed...." And that's one of the joys of being married and sharing a life together. Let's let our spouses know how important they are to us.
3. Small gifts.
It seems that gifts during marriage often focus on expensive jewelry or high-end electronics. But some of the gifts I treasure most are those that my son has made at school. Simple drawings or little crafts. And we all remember that during holidays, small children often are more fascinated by boxes and wrapping paper than the gifts themselves. So let's stop giving expensive gifts and instead write a special note to our spouse, or come home with a single rose or his/her favorite coffee drink. It really is the thought that counts.
4. 1:1 time.
As our family has gotten larger, it's hard to devote all the time I would like to my older son. But he often will insist on "daddy time" -- meaning time for an activity that just he and I do. And it could be as simple as spending 30 minutes reading a book together, playing hide and seek, or going on errands. Just the two of us. As we get older, the demand on our time seems to grow exponentially. We need to spend more time at work to advance in our careers; we often have to help be caregivers to elderly parents; and the time demands in raising our children don't get easier. So we often end up taking time away from our spouses. My son has taught me about the need to make time for just spending alone with our spouses. I'm not talking about a romantic getaway, although that would be nice -- but even just finding time for an "adult" dinner a few times a month can go a long way in strengthening the relationship.
5. King of the world.
Remember the line from Titanic when Leonardo DiCaprio's character exclaims, "I'm the king of the world!"? My son thinks I'm the king of the world and can do anything. If something is broken, he will usually tell someone "Daddy will fix it." Out of food? "Daddy will make it." Ask him who his best friend is and he will say "Daddy." I know it will change by the teenage years! But quite frankly, he makes me feel good by telling everyone, "Daddy can do it." Let's start making our spouses feel they are the king -- or queen -- of the world. Celebrate their professional and personal successes, whether it's writing a top-notch report, attaining a fitness goal or winning an award. Everyone wants to be "king" sometimes.