It's winter now, and that means I'll soon be leaving my home and husband in the Netherlands, headed for the US. I'm American, and Ron's Dutch. So for the past two decades, I've been straddling the ocean, spending time with friends and family in both countries - meaning that Ron and I spend a lot of time apart.
People sometimes ask us how we keep our relationship healthy and secure. There's always been the possibility of slipping into autopilot and letting our connection fade away from lack of energy. But we purposefully choose to go in the other direction.
We've always accepted that our relationship is nontraditional, and we've viewed that as a plus rather than a problem. After 25 years together, we still keep our relationship as our first priority, even when we're apart. And we don't take each other for granted. When we're together, there's excitement and appreciation. And when we're apart, there's anticipation.
From the beginning, we both knew that love doesn't have limits.
When I'm in America, I live with my sons and their families. And I stay for several months at a time. I don't mean that I stay in the basement in a mother-in-law apartment. I mean that I'm in their faces, sharing the bathroom, eating meals together at the table, helping with homework and carpools, sleeping in the beds with my grandchildren.
I think it's normal, but Ron says it's not - that the average young family doesn't want one of the moms moving in. Fortunately for me, my sons welcome me into their homes. And so do their partners, which is a gift beyond measure - and says a lot about the type of partners my sons drew to themselves.
People sometimes ask me how I pull it off, how do I get them to let me stay so long in their houses, how did I build and maintain such good relationships with them. Here is what I believe is the secret.
When I was pregnant with my first son, I read about a technique called "bedtime affirmations." I fell in love with the concept and began doing them immediately, even before my son was born.
That was forty years ago, and I've been doing them ever since. I began when my sons were babies, and I still do it now that they're adults. And I've added my grandchildren now. And I even do it from a distance, because proximity isn't important - since love has no limits.
I talk to them in my mind, during their first and last half-hours of sleep, using affirming, empowering statements. The premise is that a child is more receptive during light sleep. And that, just after going to sleep or before waking up, it's easier to reach beyond the conscious mind that's operating during waking hours, to communicate with the greater part of the child - we can call it the soul.
This is when children are listening with their hearts rather than their ears. And the heart listens, not to our words, but to our attitude and intent.
So my first step is always to set aside my personal desires and to let go of concerns about whatever happened during the day. Then I let my huge love for the guys well up until it energizes my thoughts and attitude - and my love becomes the filter that my words pass through.
What's communicated is closeness and caring. And nothing works better to build security in children.
I don't talk to them about their problems. Instead, I talk to them about how capable and wonderful they are, that they'll have the energy and resources to do whatever they want, that they'll always be able to find the answers they seek, and that they are loved, loveable and loving.
The teen years can be tough. And there were times in raising my sons that I did the affirmations, needing help with specific issues. And still, I didn't mention the problems. I didn't say, "You will do this," or "You won't do that." I didn't try to alter their will or even influence their choices.
I only encouraged them to feel loved.
Now that they're adults, I do it from a distance. I close my eyes and see myself holding them and loving them. And I tell them that they're wonderful, and that they're doing a super job, and that they're responding well to life and creating valuable lives.
I couldn't be prouder of how my sons have turned out - and they like hanging out with me! That's all the proof I need that this technique creates a positive difference and is worth the effort.
This post is featured on the author's blog at gracederond.com.