Hindsight Parenting: The Great Balancing Act of Relationships
Positive reinforcement means longer living relationships
Some believe that the relationships you have with your children are the only “required” relationships, in that one must keep working on them for the rest of their lives. They are the only ones we’re not allowed to give up on. Some believe that parenting is a constant try and re-try. Some believe that a good parent is constantly evolving so that the connections we have with our sons and daughters remain strong.
I disagree. Not with the sentiment that as a parent we must work and work each day at the relationships that we have with our children. Not even with the idea that we shouldn’t give up on or break up (so to speak) with our children. Hindsight has taught me that our connections with them must remain the most important things that we hold on to as parents. As a parent, I do believe these things to be true.
What I don’t believe is the statement that your children are the ONLY relationships that one isn’t allowed to let go. I believe that marriage, one’s relationship with your child’s parent, also needs to be a priority and should be a relationship that we not only nurture, but hold on to, cherish, and work on, work on, work on. Now of course that isn’t to say that there aren’t toxic relationships; abusive, detrimental or one-sided that must be let go of immediately. But the OTHER kind of marriage; the-leave-the-toilet-seat-up-beer-cans-in-the-living-room-sticky-jelly-on-the-cutting-board-stop-yelling-at-me-did-you-just-flirt-with-that-waitress?-can-we-do-something-besides-watch-tv kind of marriage must not be given up on. I believe that like the relationship you have with your children, a marriage should be a perseverance for the long haul.
I believe that married couples are reflections of each other. A wife who respects her husband will receive respect back. A husband who puts his wife’s needs before his will have a wife do the same. A wife who shows interest in her husband’s interests will have a husband willing to show interests in hers. A husband who treats his wife as an equal partner in all things will have a wife that considers her husband equally as equal. Hindsight has also taught me that the way that a husband and wife reflect one another will also be reflected back in the way their children treat others. Watching their mommy and daddy be kind and courteous, empathetic and thoughtful will show up in the relationships their children will develop. Watching mommy and daddy argue and fight, throw sarcasm and snide remarks out into the universe will be reflected in the way that our children treat others as well. I believe that we are reflections of one another, and for this reason alone, we must strive to keep our marriages alive and well if at all possible if only for our children’s sake. (Please don’t mistake this as a “we stay together for the children” essay. No, this essay is about the standards we hold for ourselves and how hard we are willing to work at keeping close to us the important humans in our lives.)
But what if this belief– that what we give is what we get–isn’t true or happening in your marriage? What if you respect but your spouse doesn’t? What if you are kind, but your spouse isn’t? What if you put his or her needs first, but your spouse doesn’t? What then? Do we just throw the relationship away? Do we just let it go? Do we give up?
I believe that we must act as we do with our children, that we use measure after measure, that we wake up each day with a positive outlook, that we try over and over to make lasting connections, just as we do as parents.
I believe that marriage and parenting are alike in many ways:
As parents, we sacrifice for our children. We put aside wants in order to advance our children’s needs. Can we make the same kind of sacrifices in our marriage? Can we every now and then, let go of what we want so that what our partner needs gets taken care of?
As parents, we encourage our children to follow their dreams. We help them achieve their goals. We are their greatest cheerleaders. So too, a married couple should not only recognize but provide support and encouragement for each and every dream that their partner holds.
As parents, we provide a safe place for our children’s thoughts and fears, worries and heartache. That safe harbor should extend to our spouses. Don’t you think?
When our children make mistakes, we don’t chastise or remind them of each one over and over. We help them make it right. We teach them empathy and remorse. We show them the power of forgiveness and that lessons can be learned and growth can be achieved with each life error. How wonderful it would be if we responded to our wife’s or husband’s mistakes in the same way; with kindness, understanding, forgiveness and the ability to allow them to learn the lessons needed and give them room to grow from the consequences.
When our children are troubled, parents move mountains to get the help that they need. We seek out advice from books, articles, friends and experts. We take them to specialists, give them extra support, provide them with mentors. And even if the help is rejected, we don’t give up. We continue to pray fervent prayers to God, to the Universe, to whatever higher power we believe in and ask for intervention, for wisdom, for help. We don’t give up, and neither should we when a marriage is in trouble. Like parents, we should be dogged in the effort that we put forth into fixing what ails our relationship.
There are many other ways parenting is like marriage. I mean, we sometimes don’t like our children. We get mad at them. We feel frustrated with them. We may even lose our tempers with them. But when push comes to shove, we would be lost, devastated, ruined if we lost them. Perhaps, we should remember that sentiment when we are mad, frustrated, and altogether sick of our spouses. Yes they drive us crazy, but how would we feel if we lost them? If the answers are similar to the ones we have about our children, then the marriage is worth fighting for, and perhaps those daily frustrations and agitations would seem just a bit less important.
So while some believe that our offspring are the only relationship that we are REQUIRED to keep working on, I would argue that some, like our life-partnerships are WORTH the same amount of effort that we put in as parents because the fruits of that labor whether child or spouse will be very sweet indeed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.