Here are some FAQ about our boys: Dave and Max. Enjoy.

I have a question: You talk about how you always put Dave first, in what ways do you do this? I know he doesn’t love been talked about on here, but it seems like you really have a special relationship. Do you ever disagree? If you do, how do u resolve it. Do you have weekly dates.. etc etc. What are some of the things that really show that for him? I love how you mention that he comes first to you. Husbands so deserve that!

I have received quite a lot of different versions of this same question so I figure it’s time to put an answer with it. I think these types of questions are sprouted from posts like this and this.

The trouble is, I’m not sure how to answer. I am so far from a marriage guru. And I certainly do not want to sound like I have all the answers because man alive I sure don’t. Every marriage is so very different. Every person is different for that matter. Everyone has a different “love language” and hopes to be shown love in unique ways.

But I do believe that when you put that spouse of yours first you start to “speak the same language,” especially if you are patient and willing to put some work into it. I kind of compare our marriage and putting each other first to learning to speak Romanian so many years ago. (I lived in Romania for eighteen months while serving as a missionary for my church.)

When I arrived in that beautiful country I thought I knew that language. After all, I had studied it intensively for two whole months (:)) and could carry on a basic conversation with my “companion.” But as soon as I emerged from the airport I was completely lost. I was left to wonder if that mumbo jumbo they were spilling out trying to communicate with me was even the same language I had been studying!

But gradually, I learned that language.

I learned it by speaking it all the time. I learned it by waking up early every morning to study the verb conjugations and I packed around my little Romanian/English dictionary wherever I went. It was important to me, so I put it as a first priority.

When I got married I did a similar jump into the unknown. Sure, just like I thought I knew Romanian, I thought I knew exactly how marriage would work. After all, I had seen marriages function all my life. But once I “arrived” in one myself I realized that a man and a woman are different creatures. I had a lot of learning to do. We worked though our differences. It’s important to note that we didn’t try to change each other…I don’t believe that you can ever change another person. But you can change yourself to find that perfect fit you know will come.

Before we got married we sought marriage advice from far and wide. We knew we were taking a big step and we wanted to prepare. We talked to church leaders and friends. But the advice that has stuck with me the most came from my parents. They told us to take out some paper and each write a list of what the other person “needed.” Then compare notes and tell each other if the list they had written was right…or whether it may need to be tweaked a little bit. We did that before we got married and I think on one other anniversary some time in the past. Although I wish we made time for it more often, those two times have made a significant difference for me. They have helped me internalize the fact that Dave has completely different needs than I do. He needs things like daily schedules and a little time to play and/or watch sports. And he knows I need babies. At least five of them. Ok, and a few other things like a bouquet of flowers every now and then. Oh and he knows I’ll be so happy if he poses for pictures for me every so often. He’s a good learner:)

I think sometimes mothers forget that a big part of putting your spouse first means that they come before the kids. I know, that may seem harsh, but I believe it is true. I mean, as much as I adore my children, when it comes down to it it’s Dave and I who will be hanging out together in forty years. Yes, I envision us all shrunken and shriveled up hopefully with our arms around each other and a twinkle in our eye because we learned through the years to put each other first.

I had such good examples of this in my life. I still remember the day I came to the realization that my Dad loved my mom more than he loved me. I don’t remember if it was something he said or something he did, but I remember it hitting me like a ton of bricks: she came first. This was a shock because I had always thought I was his very favorite. (He had a way of doing that.) At first I was devastated, but gradually that devastation led to understanding, and then to the most secure, wonderful, thankful feeling that those two, my parents, would always love each other…and that their love would strengthen our family in ways I can never fully express.

Yes, we go on weekly dates. We make that a big priority. We are not always perfect at it, and it wasn’t so easy when we had little tiny babies and couldn’t afford babysitters but even then we really tried to at least carve out a little time on the weekends to watch a video together (yeah, a video…we are old). I remember one time I even cajoled Dave to watch the whole BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice” with me. We went on walks. We played chess.

Lots and lots of chess.

We even made our own nightstands one time. See that tall, awesome thing behind those scraggly children?Yeah, we made that. We made two of them, in fact.

But, that being said, I guess the thing I do more than anything else to put my husband first is that I put him first in my thoughts. Every time I say a personal prayer he is always the first person/thing I pray about. I try my best to shove the mountains of “things” waiting to be done in the evenings aside so I can hang with him. The fact that he does just the same for me makes it easier…I’m so darn lucky. We try to go to bed together at the same time (that’s when our best talks happen). We’ll steal away by ourselves whenever we can to go get something to eat or take a drive. There’s no one in the world I’d rather talk to.

Do we ever disagree? You bet we do. I even used to punch him in the shoulder when I’d be hoping mad at him. I have pealed out of our driveway before with him running after me. There have been nights when I would lay in my bed with quiet tears streaming down my cheeks forming puddles in my ears wondering if he would ever understand me.

But I think the tough times make it all real. And actually better, because they are the mortar that holds the bricks together. I think the kinks in the road make our relationship stronger. Because as we work through them we learn more about each other and how to be a better fit in the puzzle that makes up the story us… two different people coming together to make one better whole.

I have 3 girls then my only son. He gets left out of everything and hates being the only boy in our whole family, even the rest of family is all girls. So when your kids were little like all under 10 did he feel left out or did you do something special for him??? Any tips would be great.

We give Max a lot of special privileges. It helps that he’s the oldest because that makes it easy for us to let him stay up later than the girls, have friends over longer than the girls, etc. I think that although Max complains about being the only boy a lot (especially lately), he’s actually aware that he’s got it pretty good. I read this question to him and he told me, with a sheepish smile stretched across his face, that the good thing is that he gets to have his own room and his own “things.”

Every once in a while I’ll look over and see Max alone while I’m clamored about by my gaggle of girls needing bows and curling irons and endless attention, and my heart aches for him to have a brother. But honestly I don’t know that he ever feels left out. Since Elle came only 14 months after he did he’s always had a buddy. My heart melted when I read the card he wrote to her for her birthday this year: “You’re like the brother I never had.” All those little sisters adore Max and I love to watch the twinkle in his eye when they do something funny or adorable. He adores them too.

I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all butterflies and rainbows because sure, at times they really, really bug him to the point that he can hardly stand it. And boy howdy he has perfected the art of being a tease. But we make the most of it and I think we’ll all survive 🙂

Having your boy as the youngest is a different situation but you can give him some pretty special privileges too. Even if these so called “privileges” include things you’re doing anyway, you can juice them up when you talk to him (and if you do it in front of the girls it will make him feel about ten feet tall). You can tell him things like how lucky he is that he’s the only boy because he gets to________ or _______ (fill in the blank with things he’s doing anyway: have a skateboard, go to a basketball game with his dad, stand up to go to the bathroom 🙂 anything to make him feel like being different is special.

I think it’s really important to get your girls on board too…have them help you build him up and tell him how cool he is. I hope that helps! If anyone has anything to add please pipe in!

You and Max obviously have a wonderful relationship, which is saying something as he is in those turbulent teen years. I have three boys (4, 3, and 4 months), and I desperately want to build a positive relationship with them, but sometimes I feel like all I do with my older two is nag and scold (I know a lot of that has to do with their ages). What things have you done with Max through the years, particularly his preschool years, to foster and develop the positive relationship you two have?

I think that does have to do with the ages of your boys, but I think it’s so smart to think about this from the time kids are young. And you are very nice to send over that compliment because although our relationship could always use work, I really do work on it. I always remind myself that a great relationship isn’t just going to materialize out of thin air…it has to be nurtured and worked on from the beginning. I went to a conference a while back and took some notes that I think about all the time when pondering how to nurture my relationships with my kids. I wrote about them back here.

The one I love the most that can really be related the most to the preschooler age you asked about is “Do your homework.” Find out what makes them tick even though it will most probably be vastly different from what makes you tick. Take an active interest in what they are interested in. If it’s important to them, make it important to you. I am still working on this and am sorry to report that I still don’t know all the sports teams nor do I have an infatuation with doing back-tucks on the trampoline. It’s a continual process.

I have to say that I have changed my mind about #3 from that list though, at least with Max. Our best talks are those that do not include eye contact, or even undivided attention. I have found that Max opens up more when I’m doing something and he can just talk and talk while I listen and work. Good conversations tend come when we are working on something together or driving in the car. (That’s why I justify making cookies together when he gets home from school every now and then…he opens up like a book and I love it.)

Five-facet reviews really help as well. They help Dave and I know exactly what Max (and everyone else) needs and then we can apply that to how we talk and communicate with them.

How do you convince Dave or Max to let you take just a few photos every now and again?

They just know I won’t let up ’til they do so they figure they better get it over with.

They are good sports. I love these boys.

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  1. Thank you for the answer to the first Q & A. Just, Thank You.

    Also, I love the insights into developing relationships with your son since I am a Mom to two boys with whom I cherish my relationships with now, and hope to make them even stronger as the years go by.

  2. i have a question!!
    your "teens" always look so happy. how do you help them form positive attitudes and prevent complaining? i have a couple nieces and nephews who are teens and seem to think everything in life 'sucks'. i am trying to figure out if this is a glorious teen attribute or something that can be avoided.

  3. I too look forward to Fridays and reading your answers!
    I can't say thank you enough for answering these questions about life with one boy. I have an eight year old boy followed by three girls. I have spent so much mental energy the last week trying to figure out how to make things special for him, help him feel a part of things. With three younger sisters who seem to constantly need attention and looking over, I can feel him getting left out more.
    I'm going to take your advice and work on making things special for just him, such as different privileges, etc. Thank you for helping!

  4. Great post. I love that you put your husband first! I don't have kids yet, but that's an attitude I always want to have — you're going to be with your spouse forever, so that should be your most cherished and nurtured relationship. I'm sure kids come in a close second, though. 😉 Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. I love it! You really peeled out? Oh, you make me feel better. Thanks for being real.
    Question: How do you stay so healthy? You look great! I know you exercise and eat really well at your house, but what about all those cookies you make? Do you ever find yourself eating 4, or 5, or 10? Do you ever hop on the scale and realize that you've gained 10 lbs? Do you eat when you're stressed? It seems like this isn't really an issue for you, and that's fantastic! Any tips?
    Thanks, from a 1st-time commenter who has been so inspired by your perspective on family and loving life!

  6. I love these Q&A posts so much!! The marriage question is something that's been weighing on my mind a lot recently. My husband and I are working hard to figure each other out day by day and your answers really help. Also, it makes me feel better to hear that other women go to bed crying sometimes and wondering if their husbands will ever understand them. That line stood out to me the most and I appreciate you sharing that. I have two boys so far as well (3 and 1) and the Max part helped too. You are so great Shawni to share your experiences with us!!

  7. how awesome is it that you speak romanian! i am romanian and it would be awesome to hear you speak! i love the way you talk about your husband and children and i thank you for your insight!

  8. We've been(happily) married for 13 years but the other morning while I was in the shower(always my spot for inspiration) it hit me like a ton of bricks that I need to work on my marriage. My poor husband has been neglected. We're happy and all but my hubby is definitely not 1st priority right now(and I know he should be) Thanks for getting me motivated to make that change

  9. Love love love your post today! The most important thing is a stong marriage – we are a blended family and know this is so true from so many experiences. Love your posts everyday really:) My step daughter would love just 1 day in your home – we have 4 boys and 1 girl over here:)

  10. Such a great post Shawni! We have three girls & a boy. I bookmarked this post so I can come back & read it from time to time. I sent you an email, hope you got it. Thanks again. My girls are over the moon excited about winning the mermaid tail. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  11. Hi Shawni–I love Fridays too, because I love reading your responses! I remember the time when I realized that my parents loved each other more than me. I was shocked! And then, like you, I realized that I wouldn't want it any other way. I knew that I would always be taken care of, because they always took care of each other. It's sort of a trickle-down effect (or gushing-down effect).

    I'm so excited to hear your mom and you speak in Logan in a few weeks! You two were the selling point for me and my mom to attend our first Time Out for Women. If I'm able, I'll be the one asking for a picture while looking equal parts embarrassed and excited!

    Have a lovely weekend!

  12. Hi. I can't believe it has taken me so long to comment on my most fav blog of all.
    Thanks so much for the great advise and I love Friday's Q@A!!
    I agree with you on No.3 – my best conversations with my eldest son are in the car.
    Thanks again for sharing with all of us, I love reading you blog and your entire family ( Mum and Sisters etc) are amazing!!!!!

  13. you have such down to earth advice and wisdom…thank you! We have been married 15 years and I am realizing that we are letting life get in the way of improving our marriage! We have to do better at making each other #1!

    I have 1 daughter and 4 boys…but somehow it doesn't seem as hard to make her feel special as maybe 1 boy would be.

    here's my question…I just spoke to a group of YW about virtue and purity and I was struck with the pressures they are under with body image, appearance etc. How do you teach your 4 daughters and your YW that what they are is enough and they don't need to look to celebrities/society to see what they need to be? I want to teach my daughter that she is beautiful and fight that attitude out there that looks are what is most important…any advice?

  14. Thank you thank you for answering my question about having one boy and 3 older sisters. It was so wonderful to read this and all the comments from everyone.
    The tip about giving him special things is a good one. The one thing he gets is more play dates with his friends then the girls do. We rarely take him somewhere though just for him and I always take the girls places because they love to come with me and he stays home and has one/one with my husband. Maybe we can switch that around though and us girls will stay home.
    Thanks again for having q/a on Friday, love reading them. This was a great read about husbands too, that's another part I ned to work on. My kids usually are first and second my hubby. I will start working on this too.
    Good luck to everyone on your kids and marriage.

  15. Long-time blog lover, first-time commenter here. I just wanted to thank you for sharing a few details about some of the less pleasant moments of marriage. I am a newlywed, and was so surprised when those same things existed for us. Sometimes when I would respond by doing things like "peeling out" I would beat myself up, thinking I handled things so immaturely and unChristlike. It is so comforting to know that people who I deeply admire (you) who are trying to do their best have also done things like that. While we are getting better and learning about some of the lessons you wrote about, it is just very comforting to know that maybe we are more "normal" than I realized.

  16. Okay! I've got a question I've been dying to ask, but keep forgeting about! How do you make the watermarks on your photos? Are there a couple programs you recommend? Thanks for all the questions you so willingly answer! Keep up the awesome work! 😀 You inspire me!

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