These are my parents. They have given me many gifts over the years (piano lessons, rides to seminary at 6 o'clock in the morning, help after the delivery of a baby, bedside lamps, the ability to work hard, fire-building know-how, siblings, electricity, time at the top of a mountain), but the best, most valuable gift they have given is their marriage. I do not have to worry if one of them is lonely; I worry if one is sick, but I know they are being nursed to health by the other; there is no uncomfortable-divorced-parents-issues at family gatherings and so on.
April 1st was their Thirty-seventh anniversary. Thirty-seven years of life, a life which has included bliss and trial.
This is the first of a series I will be writing about the lessons I have learned from watching my parents' marriage. Maybe there will be some new things for us to help grow our own marriages, maybe there will be reminders of things we've forgotten or could do better.
Lesson Number One: Have frequent alone time.
Every day when my dad came home from work, he and Mom would sit together in the living room. He worked long hours driving truck and earned his university degrees through correspondence. Mom had a house full of small children and, in addition, always had disabled respite and foster children. They were both working as hard as they could, filling every moment of their days. As they sat there visiting, we were continually butting in. Our urgent remarks like, "I can't find my toothbrush" or "(I know you have seen me do this 152 times, but) Watch me stand on my head" or "How many glasses of water are in the ocean?" were met by, "Can't I just have five minutes alone with my wife??" Ohhh, that used to make me mad. Well, she's my mom! Can't I just have five minutes with my mom?? I'd think, in my self-righteous and sassy nine year old brain. But he was right. They needed that few precious minutes together to decompress, discuss, share stresses or highlights of the day.
Also, Dad and Mom had their own cover band for many years. They played at granges, weddings, even a Scout Jamboree. Dad played guitar, Mom played bass, and they both sang. They spent many nights together, without the children. On breaks and on the drive to and from gigs, they held hands, talked about things the children shouldn't hear, and learned about one another. When they dissolved the band, they still made it a point to go on regular dates and we knew it was important to them.
What was the result of this concerted effort to be alone together? After the children were gone (my Down Syndrome brothers still live with them), they didn't skip a beat. They still knew each other, they were interested in one another, they had things to talk about because the conversation never took a hiatus.
TODAY: Make an appointment to get away from your children for at least an hour. (If you can wing it, make plans for a weekend!) Try not to talk about the children or money or your To Do list. Talk about your current interests, global issues, thoughts you've had, sparked by a book or article you've read. Tell your mate who you are today, which is likely somewhat different from who you were when you married him eleven years and five children ago. Hold hands, sit a little too close, remember what it feels like to be with your sweetheart without a child squishing their body between you.
A friend used to say that a babysitter is much cheaper than divorce.
The best gift you can give to your children is to love your spouse. Period.
Thank you, Dad and Mom. Happy Anniversary.