My wife was pregnant with our first child after three months of marriage. Early on we both made a decision that we would be okay with whatever happened in the area of pregnancy, trusting our family size to the powers that be, most notably because all available forms of birth control, both of us did not enjoy. The result was that we were young, a new city, a new career, a new life together as a married couple, and now my new bride was newly pregnant – our first.
I remember this pregnancy, primarily because of the gamut of emotion that I was experiencing. Excitement, fear, jubilation, sadness, anxiety, and that was just when she first told me she was pregnant!
For some reason, before we had gotten pregnant, and as more children were added to our family, both my wife and I would reiterate our philosophy when it came to children, and the role they would play in our lives. That philosophy was that the moment my wife and I said, “I do” to each other, that constituted family. We no longer needed anything else to have us become any more a family. There were the both of us and that was all the family needed to be a family. Consequently, whenever a child arrived, we invited that child to become a part of our family.
This language of differentiation may sound strange to some but it laid a foundation where my wife and I made it a focus to put each other first – as the highest priority – before the children, and in all things – for all of these years. The practicality of it all meant that when I came home from work, the children were tended to as minimally as necessary in order to free up enough time for the both of us – my wife and myself – to connect, to share with each other how our day went, and such. Once we were content in our connecting with one another, our attention would then go back toward the children, often together and unified.
This wasn’t just left to when I would come home from work but even when my wife would be out or participating in something or in some form away from the family – when she would come back into the home, the initial time was set aside for the both of us to connect, with our interaction with the children minimized once again. Practically speaking, this meant that we put ourselves first before the children and that idea wasn’t popular twenty five years ago and it most certainly isn’t popular now.
However, here we are, twenty-five years later and what do we have? Well, for starters my wife and I still have an incredible marriage to one another, more in love with one another today then we were all that time ago. Next, we have six children, our oldest just having gotten married to the love of her life and is now navigating the whole world of in-laws and various family members wanting to invade every area of their life with helpful suggestions and the such. Their response? To tell everyone to bugger off and to focus just on each other – an example she got from watching us over her lifetime. Now, she gets it. And both her and her husband would, and do, refer to each other as their best friend, and a solid foundation for their marriage is being formed.
Next, we have the fact that my wife’s and my dreams, hopes, and pursuits are similar. We haven’t spent the last twenty-five years each doing our own thing and now as the house is emptying out, figuring out how to spend time with one another as we deal with the inevitable empty nest syndrome. We may miss our children being around as often, but we are genuinely looking forward to having them all gone from our home, so we can make love in the living room once again, without worrying that one of our children would wander out from their rooms and catch us!
We have dreams to travel and to explore this amazing world of ours. We also have plans to be as involved in our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives (when they start to come) as much as they would like us to be. We have the time and the energy for all that because we have made each other the priority and not the children.
I think the third and final point on this is the value that this example has been for our children. They may have been frustrated at times when they didn’t get all the access to either of us, when and how they wanted – and they have made that known over the years – but they have benefited from the example we have been to them, on how a loving couple cares for each other, pursues each other, and loves and plays with each other. Our children have an example in their parent’s, of two people who are deeply in love with one another, and therefore that becomes the standard they are using in their own pursuits for a meaningful relationship.
Through all my other screw-ups as a parent and as a father, I am glad that I got that part right. Who would have thought that being so ‘selfish’ could end up being such an incredible benefit to our children.