Thursday, May 30, 2013

Teach Your Children Well

“Teach your children well” is part of a line from a song that I love. Given, it isn’t exactly in the current Top 40, but then neither am I. I could get maudlin here and say that this phrase inspired me to become a teacher but that isn’t even close to being true. Actually, this phrase was running around in my head this morning when I woke up. You know those days when you have a song you just can’t get out of your head and you don’t know where it came from? Well, it’s one of those days. For some inexplicable reason I woke up around 4 a.m. with that song ringing in my ears. Why today? Probably because of something I was thinking about last night as I was lying in bed waiting for sleep to find me.

Today is our anniversary. Twenty-six years ago today I made one of the biggest decisions of my life and stepped out on faith. This wasn’t a decision I think I consciously made, though. It was one that I just somehow knew was right. John and I had dated a little before deciding we really didn’t have anything in common. Even after talking it over and deciding maybe we didn’t need to see each other anymore, we still seemed to be drawn to each other. I don’t know how he felt about it at the time, but I intentionally chose to learn to like the music he does, the food he does, the movies he does. Um, yeah. Didn’t happen. We have, over the years, met in the middle on those issues. We found music we can agree on, movies that we both love, and foods we gravitate to when we are celebrating. It was a start.

Our life together has been freakishly smooth. I’m not saying there haven’t been times he and I could have justified to any court having strangled the other. I’m sure there have been times when he has looked at me and wondered how in the world he ended up where he is. I ask occasionally and he assures me he is happy with the choices we have made for the direction our lives have taken. I guess he is – he’s still here.

Neither John’s nor my parents are still married. Mine divorced when I was young; John’s not until he was an adult. I don’t remember much about the time when my parents were married, but I do remember their divorce was a good thing for both of them. I don’t think John saw it coming with his parents. I’m pretty sure he didn’t. I guess you could say that together we have seen two different kinds of marriages. As a result, we have consciously built our relationship with an eye toward avoiding those mistakes. Have we always been successful? I think so, but who can really say? I think our biggest secret to having been married this long is that we like each other. He makes me laugh and doesn’t laugh at me when I cry at movies. He doesn’t judge. While I know there is no way he can truly understand what my job involves and how it has changed over the years, he is, by turns, supportive and defensive in the sense that he does what he can to protect me from the stresses my job brings with it. We both really want the other to be happy.

Erin and T.J. have been married now for close to two months. As far as I know, things are going well. As any two young people who join their lives, they each bring different experiences to the marriage. People learn by observing others. What we perceive as “normal” depends entirely on what form of normal we have been raised with. I hope that she has paid attention. I’ve heard for most of my life that girls marry their daddies; that the way they see their fathers behaving toward their mothers is what they consider normal. I’m not so sure that is true in every case, but I hope it is in hers. My husband is a good man. He works hard, treats me with respect, is careful of my happiness, and devotes himself to raising our daughter in a secure, loving home. He is a wonderful parent and balances my occasional trips to crazy. He is a gentle presence in our home yet, when he felt he had to, his voice could carry a hint of steel when Erin needed to understand he meant business.

That song, which is still rolling around in my head by the way, encourages us to “teach our children well.” I hope that we have. I hope that we have taught Erin how to make a happy marriage where the couple support, defend, comfort, encourage, and respect each other. I think the biggest thing I want her to have learned by watching us, is to be sure that she and T.J. build a life that includes no one else but the two of them. I’m sure there are children in their future. They have talked about the pertinent issues: how many, when, etc. I hope that she doesn’t feel that we were not positively involved in her life as a child. But, I also want her to be able to think back over that time and see that her father and I were in the process of building a life together that would be there for us when she was gone. Parents don’t have children with an eye to when those children will leave home. However, I believe the most important thing parents can do is to teach their children to be successful, independent adults. Once those children are launched onto the world, there has to be something left for the parents when the dust settles and the house is once again quiet. That’s where we are on this twenty-sixth anniversary and it’s a very good place to be.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So, Here We Are...

I know that it has been a while since I’ve blogged and I feel that I should apologize to those faithful few who do actually check my page occasionally. Those few are those who have an interest in what’s happening with my family and are tolerant of the frequent emotional posts. Sorry, guys, but I just haven’t been able to put my thoughts into any recognizable, coherent order lately.

For those of you who do know my family and have been keeping up with us this past year, you know what a wild ride it has been! Now that the excitement is over and real life has settled in yet again, I’ve found that I can actually talk about it without becoming too overly emotional. On April 6th Erin and T.J. were married. I hope that she remembers more of that weekend than I do. It was such a whirlwind of activity that as I’ve been looking back at the pictures I realize just how much I missed. You know, there are things that every mother just knows she will do with her daughter on the day her daughter is married. I’m sure you know the things I’m talking about: helping her put on her dress and veil, quiet moments with just the two of you to absorb the moment, seeing her father see her in her dress for the first time. I missed that. All of it. The lady who fixed her hair (three times…until Erin was happy with it) attached her veil. Probably just as well since she would have had to redo it when I was done anyway just to make sure it would stay. Even though we had all day and Erin and I did spend more time together than I thought we were going to be able to, there really wasn’t a time for us to just sit and take it all in. Her bridesmaids helped her into her dress and she was already dressed by the time I made it down to the room where they were meeting for pictures. What was I doing? Trying to get myself into my dress and her dad’s button covers on his tux done. I missed it. But, I was with her when she found her dress and for all subsequent fittings so it isn’t as if I don’t have special memories attached to it anyway. I’ve seen pictures of the moments just before John walked her in for the ceremony that show how very proud he was of her that night…and still is, by the way. So, even though I missed it, I still know the moment was special for the both of them.

The ceremony was beautiful. I hope it was everything Erin and T.J. had imagined it would be. I did really well. Better than I thought I would, actually. I was okay while the groomsmen walked in. I even laughed a little at the look on T.J.’s face. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile so big. I think it speaks for T.J. that his groomsmen were willing to travel so far to share the day with him. Then, I thought I was going to fall apart when the bridesmaids began walking in: beautiful young women who are special in Erin’s life. Of the six bridesmaids, I only knew two of them before that weekend. Bethany and Sallie are friends of Erin’s that she took with her to Tuscaloosa and then, later, along with her in her heart when she moved to Wisconsin. Two of the bridesmaids, Catie and Hannah, are friends she made during her time at UA. Having met them now, I understand just what drew them together in the first place. Both are so funny and seeing them with Erin at the bridesmaids’ luncheon was a trip! The last two are T.J.’s sisters. I guess they’re Erin’s sisters now, too. The elder, Tara, is a wonderful young woman with an exciting future in the arts ahead of her. She just graduated from high school this past weekend, so she and Erin are pretty close in age. Even were she not T.J.’s sister, she is the kind of girl Erin would be drawn to. I think she is someone with whom Erin can be close. The younger, Trinity, is quite a few years younger and is such a sweet little girl. I think there’s a little case of hero worship for T.J. happening there. That’s okay, though, because he is crazy about her, too!

The most emotional moment for me was watching Erin and John come up the aisle. It’s kind of a surreal moment. I’m just glad it’s the dad’s job to “give the bride away.” I don’t know if I could have turned around and left her standing there. But I was really glad when John finished his part and came to sit with me. Once he was with me, I could just breathe and enjoy the ceremony. Anyway, during the ceremony Erin and T.J. couldn’t stop smiling. They both kept stealing glances at each other and I think it was obvious to everyone in the room how very much in love with each other they are. As emotional as the whole thing was for me, I got so caught up in the two of them that I basically forgot to be weepy. Stewart, the minister, took special care to make their ceremony personal to the two of them. While there were emotional moments, there were also those where everyone laughed along with Erin and T.J. Once they were pronounced husband and wife, they turned to leave the room and the look on their faces was priceless. They were both so obviously excited! The reception afterwards was a chance to catch our collective breath and just have fun. The food was wonderful and everyone seemed to have a good time.

So, now that it’s over and I’ve had some time to adjust to being a mother-in-law, I find that it’s kind of a cool thing. Every time I talk to Erin she is very happy and truly enjoying settling in to married life. I’m sure that there are adjustments that have to be made, but since they lived together before I think the adjustments have really not been that bad. Probably the biggest adjustment has been in the realization that now it is “real.” Up until the wedding, although I’m sure it was never really something she considered an option, she could always just come home – no harm, no foul. But now that they’re actually married, she knows that this is the biggest commitment she has ever made. This isn’t a decision she went in to hastily. Even though I know she followed her heart, I truly believe that marrying T.J. was something she thought about. John and I have been married almost 27 years, so I know that we have presented her with an example of what marriage can be if you want it to be. She knows that every day isn’t going to be perfect. There will be days when the two of them will irritate the other over the stupidest things. There will be in-laws issues on BOTH sides of the family. Over the next year, the two of them will work out between them what the pattern of their lives will be.

I have promised myself that I will be a good mother-in-law. To that end, these are the vows that I will be trying to stick to:
1. I will not offer unsolicited advice.
2. I will not invite myself for extended visits.
3. I will not “drop in” uninvited.
4. I will not demand “equal time.”
5. I will not make my child feel guilty if she isn’t home for every holiday – or even every other holiday.
6. I will remember that she has other people to consider when making plans.
7. In times of stress, I will not take her part over his or his part over hers. As hard as it may be, I will remain neutral and STAY OUT OF IT! (That does not mean that I will not discuss whatever issue is at hand at length with her daddy  ).
8. I will treat him as my own and love him if for no other reason than he loves her.
9. I will work to maintain a positive relationship with his family because now they are Erin’s family, too.

So, that’s where we are. They’ve been married a little over a month now and so far so good! I have to admit that as much as I hate the fact that they live so far away, it does leave me free to not be involved in their everyday lives. What I mean by that is I will not be close enough to witness their stressful days with each other. I am free to live vicariously through them and simply enjoy what they choose to share. I also get to show the two of them off with lots and lots of pictures!!

A new stage in our lives as parents has now begun. The nice part? For the past 21 years John and I have been careful not to lose sight of us. We made sure to make time for the two of us so that when this day came we wouldn’t be sitting around here wondering what to do now. We don’t eat dinner if we don’t want to. We take impromptu trips to the movies on Sunday afternoons. We spend quiet evenings reading or surfing the net, just enjoying the quiet. We’re at a good place in our lives and I’m enjoying just being a couple again. I’m willing to admit that the fact that our son-in-law is everything we ever wanted for her makes this whole process much easier. Stay tuned…who knows what the future will bring?!