10 years of stories that inspire, inform and entertain, and what I’ve learned along the way.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of “The View from My Section.” As I look back and reflect on the experience and what I’ve learned throughout this time, I can hear Nicholas Sparks’ quote in my head, “What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but in exchange, it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love.” Of course, they also say marriage is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. I’m inclined to somewhat agree there as well.
I think the lesson here is that any relationship that’s this personal and close in nature will inevitably have its perils along the path. Things you have to understand, adapt to, accept or help change and make better. And, this goes for both sides of the equation.
I’m going to lay many real truths on you here, starting with “relationships are hard” in general. The truly close ones are even more so because they mean the most to you.
Theodore Roosevelt once famously said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
If you’re looking for advice from someone who’s “been there, done that,” you’re in the right place. I haven’t always done things right (as Teddy prefers), but I have made it a practice to learn from what I’ve done wrong. Mistakes, by anyone, are not a problem (for the most part). Often, that’s how we learn, even becoming experts in certain areas. We learn what to do better next time by knowing what not to do. The problem comes from those who repeat the same mistakes over and over and expect different results, what Rita Mae Brown (author of “Sudden Death”, 1983) famously describes as the definition of insanity.
Understanding that relationships, as a whole, are hard and require extra effort on our part helps us realize that parenting is not performed in a vacuum. The challenges of marriage impact the effect on being a parent. The challenges of parenting impact the effect on the marriage. One is not independent of the other, both are happening simultaneously, and as such, you can’t separate the importance of continuously working on both.
And, the truth is, you never stop working on them; that’s because, as human beings, we are constantly evolving and changing over time. The person you married is not the person you’re with 10, 20 or 30+ years later. The baby you raised into a toddler, adolescent, teenager and adult has transformed over that time, requiring you to change and adapt as well.
One thing newlyweds and new parents have in common, is their belief that they have the magic potion to make their marriage or their children the absolute best. They believe they understand better, know more and will do everything correctly or even perfectly in some instances. When the truth lies somewhere in between. No matter how many books we read or experts we follow on social media, or how hard we try to abide by this “expert advice,” we will eventually trip up. How hard we fall varies from person to person and situation to situation. The overused cliché’ “it’s not about falling down, it’s about how you get back up” is overused for a reason because it’s true. Some fall more than others; that’s not necessarily because they made mistakes though. They may have, but also, the human dynamic is so unpredictable that no matter how much effort you put in, you aren’t guaranteed the results you expect.
Realizing our actual effect as parents is limited in scope in relation to all the other factors in their lives can make us feel a bit disillusioned. That being said, it’s still true, though. Regardless of our wanting to be the best, we’re human and, as such, we’re not perfect. Children expect us to be. It’s not until they become parents themselves, and even years later, that they understand what’s really taking place in this relationship. And that is, we’re all navigating this world and our relationships in the best way we know how, based on what we know, what we’ve learned in our experiences and our personal values developed along the way. The results are not guaranteed, true, but that doesn’t mean we stop doing our best with what we have. Put our deeds, accomplishments and achievements aside, the true lasting impact we have on others is our ultimate legacy.
If I can do that well, I can live with that.
Thanks to all my loyal readers for your support and encouragement. May we continue to bring out the best in each other.
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