“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.