Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brains, Brains, Brains

Nothing highlights the specific strengths and weaknesses of your brain's unique makeup like having two toddlers.

We always knew that our brains worked differently; Jake's brain is fast-moving, multi-tasking and spaghetti-like, while mine is task-oriented, super-focused and needs to transition sequentially. Honestly, Jake has the type of brain many women have, while I tend to think more like a guy. We realized this early on in our marriage and it often takes a lot of really concentrated effort to communicate effectively when both our brains are whizzing at different speeds and capabilities.

But that was nothing compared to now! The combined force of two tornados—ahem, I mean toddlers—full of energy, emotions and developing rationality has undeniably presented both our brains with unique challenges. Toddlers just don't cut you any slack!

As anyone who has ever driven with me (Melissa) knows, I literally can't drive and talk at the same time, unless driving a route I know by heart. My brain just can't multitask. So when Jake walks in the door right before dinner and both kids are talking (a.k.a. screaming), I'm trying to get the food cooked and on the table and he wants to know how my day has been...it's not that I'm trying to be short and curt in my answers, my brain is literally on overload and can't pay attention to one more thing.

Instead of having constant mini-spats about this, like we were doing, I decided to communicate to Jake exactly why I act the way I do. And he totally understood! But it's hard for his fast-paced brain to remember in the moment. Our temporary solution? I ignore his questions if I'm on overload. It sounds odd, but I'm actually trying my darndest not to be rude to my husband. It's much more healthy to stay silent and continue in my task of getting-dinner-on-the-table-slash-toddler-watching, than to snap at Jake every night. This silence has also been helping Jake to clue into the fact that my brain can't handle any more tasks and he needs to wait until things settle a bit to talk to me.

Weird solution, but it's working—for now.

Jake, on the other hand, can multitask very well and keeps up with the constant movement and flux of our little ones much more easily. However, because his brain jumps around so fast, it can be hard for him to process his own emotions or tune into the emotions of our toddlers. Whereas I can read a situation with a tantrum-ing little one better because I'm focused more intently on them.

This was causing tension in our marriage because Jake thought I was interjecting too much, that I thought he couldn't handle our emotional kids. But the fact of the matter is that his brain is super great at handling whirlwind situations and longer amounts of time with the kids and mine is better at reading their emotions and knowing intuitively how to calm them down. So he's been trying harder to allow me to interject once in a while, to help him learn some toddler-wrangling techniques.

It takes a heck of a lot of effort to think through all of this!

Brains? Who knew that they would play so much of a role in our marriage and parenting lives?

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