Today is my parent’s 44th anniversary.* I have been blessed to grow up with a model of a marriage worth emulating. I’m not saying that my parents have a perfect marriage. I don’t believe such a thing exists. They have been through difficult times in those 44 years but they are together and they are happy. This is clear because they just spent a good amount of the past four months traveling together around the U.S. in a Prius. That's a pretty good test of a marriage in my mind.
The saying goes that parents are their child's first and most important teacher. From personal experience I know that to be true. Even now, at nearly forty, I can see everyday things that I learned from my parents. Some of that is because I am now a parent and I watch and hear my parents in myself. I hear my father as I tease our stubborn, stubborn five-year-old. I hear my mother as I work through homework with a frustrated nine-year-old.
I hear my parents in my interactions with my husband. This, too, is not surprising. Aside from my own marriage there is no marriage I know as well as I know my parents'. I am lucky to have that marriage be one that I want to look to rather than one to fight against. It's easy to continue a pattern that exists. I'm also lucky, I believe, to have seen some of the rough patches (likely not all of them) and seen my parents come through them. I expect rough patches in my own marriage but I also expect we will come through them together.
My mother has long been someone worth copying. I've watched her organize people at church to help one person going through a rough period or to help entire families and groups. She was, by profession, a nurse and I saw her in emergency rooms and nursing homes, patiently listening, gently caring for both patients and families. She can be hot headed and quick to anger when someone weaker has been wronged or hurt. She will make phone calls and write letters and speak out loudly and clearly. She can be stubborn (maybe we see a trend with the little five-year-old) in all the ways I hope my own daughters can be. Holding one's ground and standing up for what she believes in.
My father has been my model as a reader (although my mother reads nearly as much). For years he took three different newspapers - mostly for the comics - and more magazines than I can count. He has cut back on those things but still has more reading material delivered to his home than some entire communities do. He will read anything you put in front of him and give you his honest opinion about it. He is also a natural teacher (as is my mother). Watching him with my daughters I see in him the reasons that all three of his siblings are teachers. He is not, at least not by profession. When my girls ask questions he responds with questions. When they say things that don't make sense he questions them, gently, carefully, pushing their understanding.
As a teacher I am grateful to have learned questioning rather than telling and reading widely and often from my father, and patience and care and speaking out and standing up from my mother. I am a better teacher for having grown up with them. I am a better wife, a better mother, and a better person as well.
*Yesterday was my 15th anniversary and tomorrow is my grandparents’ 67th anniversary. In case that’s not crazy enough, the other grandparents shared my anniversary.