A few weeks ago, my wife Michelle and I were at my mom’s having dinner when the conversation took an interesting turn.
The back-and-forth had been fairly safe and ordinary, sharing what we were each up to, indulging in a little gossip, discussing plans for the summer, etc.
Then, the upcoming birth of our second child came up.
At the mention of this joyful topic, excited words of support streamed across the table, commingled with loving inquiries as to how Michelle was feeling. She answered gracefully and then smiled over at me, as if to say “i’m about to poke fun at you”, before gently highlighting some not-so-great behavior I had exhibited as of late.
Specifically, I had been a little distracted with work and not fully present with the amazing addition to our family that was just around the corner.
Feeling safe in the presence of my mom, my accepting stepfather, Tom, and my life partner, I listened to these observations about myself and surrendered to them.
“She’s totally right. I’ve been pretty consumed lately, trying to get everything ready and create a container for this little guy. I guess it’s my way of coping with being scared about bringing another child into the world.”
I noticed I was looking down at my plate while I spoke, and made an effort to bring eye contact back up to meet theirs before continuing.
“My brain is yelling at me to batten down the hatches and get ahead on everything so that I can be fully available when the baby gets here. But as a result, I’ve been absent in some of the most important weeks leading up to his birth. Thanks for helping me see that.”
5 seconds of silence of passed before my mom began to offer some advice on what I was going through. “Well, Nick. It might be really useful for you to—”
“Time out,” I found myself interrupting. “I just got vulnerable in a hurry, right guys?” The three nodded. “And I’m more than happy to dig into the shadow aspect of what I’m working through right now—but not until we all ante up.”
“Ante up?” Michelle looked at me quizzically.
“Yup. We all trust each other, right? Well, let’s do a quick check in around the table and each share a big personal challenge we’re struggling with right now. That’s the ante. This way, we’ll be on an even playing field. Shields down. Gloves off. Hearts open.”
Tom began to interject, but my mom beat him to the punch, “Ok, I’ll go next.”
With that, she began to share a personal trait that she’d become keenly aware was no longer serving her. Her unrestrained openness triggered emotion in her partner across the table, which infused even more vulnerability and momentum into the little share circle that was forming.
Next went Tom, and then Michelle. By the time we had all “anted up,” about an hour had passed and a deep bond had formed between us all. We had let each other into the private worlds of our psyches, and through doing so, reignited the love and compassion we held for each other.
It was getting late, so we decided that it would be best to close the session and wait until next time to return to me and the fear-based patterns I had been displaying around the upcoming birth of our second son. We hugged and said goodnight, agreeing to keep an eye out for each other and honor the work we were doing on ourselves.
In a single Sunday dinner, we had upgraded our relationship to one another and established checkpoints for personal accountability and deeper connection.
There is something contagious about truth, especially in place of arms-length banter. Once our ears hear it, our hearts want more.
Founder, The Sacred Science