I’m constantly assessing my parenting skills and worth (I suspect most parents do…at least most conscientious ones), because the experience I had as a kid with my parents wasn’t happy very often. It wasn’t UNhappy, really. But, like I believe most parents want for their children, I want to do better for my son. And because I never really saw my parents in a loving way (toward me or each other), and I honestly wouldn’t ever choose to be with my parents. If I was given a choice as a kid: home with my mom and dad or school, church, outside, family member’s or friend’s house…I’d have always chosen the other option. Always. Even when I was sick. Even when I was afraid or hurting or sad. Home and my parents weren’t places of comfort and security for me. I don’t want my son to ever feel that way. I want him to feel like J and I are his FIRST option when he’s having a tough time. And I want to at least be on the list when he’s having fun and success too.
I openly questioned the value of forming any human connections, much less thought about getting married when I was young, based on what I saw of my parents’ relationship with each other and with other people, so I’ve often wondered what our son perceives about J’s and my relationship, or marriage in general based on what he observes.
Two years ago, for our anniversary, J and I took a trip alone for a long weekend getaway, and that trip provided a little insight into The Boy’s perceptions.
First, I just want to share a little tidbit from the private vacation weekend that shows what kind of husband, what kind of father, and what kind of MAN J is…
We went to a state park known for its scenic mountainous views. We took a ski lift up to the top of the highest overlook as we waited for our lodging ‘check-in’ time, and on the trip back down, we spotted things other folks unfortunately dropped on their trips up or down. Water bottles…flip flops (yikes…would be no fun to irretrievably lose a shoe in a patch of wilderness deemed unsafe to travel on foot, hence the ski lift)…unopened and partially eaten granola bars…pocket change… Just before the ride was over, near the drop off and exit point, we saw a Curious George plush toy.
J: I’d have to go back for that. There’s no way I could just leave that there if The Boy dropped it. I’d have to talk those guys on the platform into letting me hike back for it.
Like I needed to fall harder for him, right?
Anyway, we left our son with my parents for the weekend. Obviously, we trust my parents enough with him to leave him there, but their home and relationship dynamics are nothing like ours. Relentless bickering and festering resentment between them. A lot of raised voices. A lot of fairly obvious unhappiness masked by phony smiles. Arguing in every conceivable place an argument could be crammed. Constant criticism of one another, even when what was asked for is done exactly as it was specified. None of this would do real damage to our son with long weekend exposure, but I’m sure their behavior informed a lot of who *I* am today. Anyway, when we got home for Easter lunch, The Boy ran to each of us, offering big smiles and big hugs.
Boy <loudly>: I really missed you!!! 😀
Me: Suuuuuuuure. 😉
J: You didn’t want to talk to us when we called to check in over the weekend… 😉
Boy: Well, I was doing things. <playing board games, video games, card games, eating pizza…Gramma and Grampa’s house things>
…later after lunch…
Boy <privately to me>: I really did miss you an’ Dad a lot, Mom. Know why?
Boy: Bicker, bicker, bicker. <he was referring to how my parents relate to each other>
Me: Yeah. Daddy and I don’t bicker.
Boy: No. You and Daddy really love each other.
I’m not implying couples who frequently argue don’t love each other. My parents love each other, or at least tolerate enough of each other to still be married after 44 years (which is at least a FORM of love). I told The Boy that, to clarify. But when he sees his parents’ marriage, he sees mutual kindness and respect and cooperation. He sees two people who genuinely like spending time together, and like spending time with HIM. He definitely sees two people who love each other and who love him.
I’m pretty proud of that.
I hope J is too.