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** This idea was inspired by the amazing Samantha Ettus (www.samanthaettus.com) during her TED Talk, delivered at the Dad 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in February 2015 — one of her coolest ideas was that our kids are watching the movie of our relationship every day…

 

“50 Shades of You…”

 

There are no handcuffs or blindfolds in this movie…
No retakes, no clever editing, no body doubles; it’s you, raw and uncut….

This is the movie of your life… the movie your kids watch everyday.

You and your partner are the stars of the movie, but also the director, producer and even the key grip (whatever that is…The dynamics of your relationship are played out daily to a very captive audience.  They are watching and studying EVERYTHING: how you interact, how you show affection, how you problem solve, how you fight or disagree, and possibly how you make up.

The movie starts in the morning at the breakfast table; often a joyful place but sometimes an icy chill can linger and casts a cold shadow over the cereal bowls and juice. What movie do your kids see? It is a horror movie or a romantic comedy? With front row seats to the greatest show on earth, your children are constantly forming their ideas of what a relationship looks like – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As a father and partner, here are some of the things I try (and often fail) to keep in mind as our movie plays out…

• My tone of voice and body language say more than my words ever could.
Eye contact is essential in showing respect and attention (not on my phone).
Mom’s voice and opinion are just as important as mine (my children need that message, especially my daughter; her female voice and ideas are just as important as the boys).
• We are equal in making household decisions.
Stop interrupting!  We constantly remind our kids not to interrupt yet we model awesome interrupting every day.
• I need to listen, actively listen and stop cutting Mom off.  Sometimes I am just waiting for her to finish whatever she is saying, so I can drop in my awesome zinger comeback (and win).

Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your audience either!  While they might not understand all the acerbic sarcasm and adult talk, they will easily detect tones, body language, and a funky/different vibe in the room. What is said and what is unsaid never goes undetected, so lose the clenched teeth and arms akimbo.

As a divorced dad, I am proud and lucky to be a blended family; a glorious second chance at happiness. Just like Godfather 2, Terminator 2, and the Empire Strikes Back, the sequel can be much better than the original.  I have taken the lessons and epic fails from the first movie to improve in the sequel. This sequel (and final installment – no trilogy here) is a much better director’s cut production and positive role model for my children to see.  Still far from perfect, I am more aware now.

My partner and I often joke about wishing we had video cameras installed so we could tell who said what and who was right (not that it ever really matters), but I am glad sometimes that we have no record of the low points in our relationship. Every day, we get a chance to rewrite another chapter in our love story.

So let’s talk about your movie. If we were searching for your movie on NetFlix or a long lost retro video store, in what category would we find your movie? Drama? Romantic Comedy? Action adventure? Suspense Thriller?

And if your movie was nominated to win an Oscar, in what category could you win? Best Original Screenplay? Best Director? Best Costume Design? Or the coveted Best Actor/Actress in a Leading Role?

With a heightened awareness of the “50 Shades” your kids see, try to make the best movie possible. Your children are listening, experiencing, and watching you every day with no makeup or rehearsals. The true power lies in realizing that you are not only the actors, but also the director. Award winning directors guide and inspire their stars to give the best performances of their careers.

Sadly, as Samantha Ettus laments, you can’t pick the stories your kids will remember. They will pick and choose from all your movies. Your children may not remember much from the $10 000 family trip to Disneyland, but the time you comforted your partner during a tough time may loom large in their memory. These are the ordinary stories that will shape their expectations for future relationships. Your movie is going to set the stage for the movie they will show their children.

It’s the best reality show of all time and you are the star.

Lights, Camera, ACTION!

Now let’s get creative!  Please share what movie title best describes your love story right now…

“Dirty Dancing?”, “Some Kind of Wonderful?”, “Pretty Woman?”, “Die Hard?”

Until next time….

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