One of the many benefits of being a journalist is the opportunity to learn from others’ experiences.
When I was writing for “The Chetek Alert,” I interviewed many couples who’d celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries. Back then, I was still googly eyed about love, having not yet met my husband or plunged into the realities of married life, and I shared their journey back through the years – the challenges of raising kids, losing jobs and loved ones, finding peace in times of trial and accord despite differences of opinion.
I learned a lot about real love – much deeper and richer, of course, than the fairy tale version – and I truly appreciated their wisdom and willingness to share with the community. Their stories offer a strong foothold in the climb toward achieving true marital unity, a summit that will, no doubt, take decades to reach.
Writing the family features for our “Love is the heart of marriage and family” series has been similarly edifying, particularly as my husband and I prepare to embark on the lifelong adventure of parenting. Our first, a boy, is due in February.
At this juncture, it seems fantastic and surreal that the tiny being kicking me at regular intervals will soon be externalized, forever altering the uncomplicated pattern of our lives. It is, like falling in love and getting married, the most incredible – and, simultaneously, the most ordinary – of occurrences.
We’ve discussed names, with no resolution, as well as the supplies we’ll need and our scheduling plans. What we haven’t thought about is our overarching philosophy on parenthood. My husband was raised in a far more permissive environment than I was, and we’ll doubtless have disagreements about how to proceed when our son gets older.
I’m not worried about it. From what I’ve learned while interviewing families in our diocese, a joy-filled family life is not the result of some well-executed plan.
Mostly, it seems to be an hour-by-hour, day-to-day effort to instill faith and character in one’s children, while correcting missteps and guiding them toward happiness and fulfillment.
I anticipate raising a child will also be a humbling journey of self-discovery on a path gilded with victories and littered with defeats. Spouses aside, no one knows us better than our children – they are uniquely positioned to witness our successes, flaws and failures. If we fail to be good spouses, we will teach them how to destroy, rather than build up, one another. If we aren’t personally fulfilled, they will absorb and suffer our discontent. If we haven’t forgiven our own parents for their shortcomings, we must expect the same hardheartedness from our offspring someday.
It is my prayer, then, as we set off on this adventure, that my husband and I will remember – even in the most trying circumstances – to be fair to ourselves and good to one another. Hopefully, we will – more often than not – govern wisely, kindly and serenely any young lives with whom we are entrusted.