*This is something I wrote for my parents in honor of their 40th wedding anniversary on 3/12/2012. Thought I’d share it here too because who and how they are have shaped my life, too.
We come from a long line of family people. Big families, close relationships – the type where every holiday is spent celebrating with each other. I never knew anything different. I didn’t realize that every other family wasn’t like us until I was much older. I thought everybody celebrated Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and every birthday with all their cousins. But it turns out, we were the ones who were different. I couldn’t be happier that our family wasn’t the run of the mill type of clan.
Now that I’m older and married, I realize just how much work it is to stay close to your family. It gives me newfound respect for my parents because they were always the one packing all us kids into the car to get us to the family functions. We were the only ones who lived farther away, and if I had a dime for every time I complained about having to travel those back roads to Tompkinsville, Kentucky – I would be rich. But that was part of our life and it meant that we got to grow up with our entire family. I am the person I am today because of the sacrifice of time and energy my parents made to allow us to all be together as often as possible. I realize now that they knew what they were doing all along, even if I didn’t get it then.
A lot of things are like that now. Someone once told me that when you are young you don’t think your parents know anything and then when you grow up you realize they got a lot smarter somehow. J Obviously the joke is on us kids now, because we realize that we are the ones who finally wizened up. All the silly arguments over curfew, how much money we could spend on clothes or shoes, what type of shows we could watch – I can now imagine my own reaction and how similar it might be to how my parents handled us. Time gives us perspective, and the power to look back and learn from mistakes, good decisions, and life’s lessons.
As I’m just starting out with this whole marriage thing, I am so proud to have parents who still love, honor and respect each other after 40 years. I have memories of them being happy, I have memories of them being frustrated with each other – but ultimately, I have memories of them loving each other and honoring those holy vows they took so long ago. It is a wonderful example to me in my own relationship and I can only hope to experience a 40th wedding anniversary. Although I realize that would mean I’m going to live to be pretty old in order to get there since I got a later start.
A few things I’ve learned from my parents and hope to apply in my marriage, family and life:
- Sometimes the right decision isn’t the most popular decision.
- Be your kid’s mom or dad – not their best friend. There will come a time when the relationship becomes more of a friendship – but wait for it to happen naturally. It will happen.
- Pick your battles – this goes for the whole family.
- Lead by example, people are always watching.
- Love one another.
There are probably a billion other lessons I’ve learned along the way – but I think they might all connect to one of these five things. All of us kids are basically grown up now, out of the house – pretty much self-reliant, and I think I am the strong, independent woman I am today because my parents raised me in a way that allowed me to become this person.
One thing that I’ve come to admire in my parents as an adult is they know they did their very best and they let us make our own decisions without judgment. This is important because I see so many struggle to have relationships with their families because they might not always agree on something. This type of open relationship is definitely something that’s happened in my adult life with my parents, growing up they definitely did their best to instill their values into me. My parents have been great examples of what unconditional love looks like, and I can only hope to live up to their example.
Forty years is longer than I’ve lived so far, so I can’t give perspective on what it must be like to be with another person for that long since I haven’t even been with myself that long. I think about all the ups and downs in my 30 years of life so far and how much I’ve grown and changed and it makes me even more in awe of a relationship that has lasted the test of time. I can only imagine that you continue to grow, change, and figure more things out as you get older and doing that with the same person by your side the whole time seems even more challenging. My parents embrace flexibility in their relationship – they don’t have to spend every moment together and they enjoy separate things in life. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy the time they spend together. I have no idea if it’s always been that way, or if that is something they figured out along the way. But it makes sense for them, and I think that figuring out what works is what keeps a marriage strong over the years.
I’m proud to be the daughter of my mom and dad. I am so proud that they will be celebrating 40 years of marriage, when so many don’t make it past the first few years. I am proud that my parents raised us in such a way that I can pass along the same type of love and leadership when I’m ready to start my own family because I know how important it is and I know what it feels like to be loved. I am proud to have an extended family I know I can rely on, even though they are a few states away – I owe that to my parents who built that strong foundation for us over the years.
When everything else has passed, we still have our family and no one can take that away. And while you may not be able to pick your brother, your sister, or even your mom and dad – I’m so glad that my parents picked each other because all the rest fell into place.