Marriages, unfortunately, do not come with manuals. Neither does parenting. Both these experiences have no one word or phrase to describe them. They are constant, routine, ever-changing, continuously setting new deadlines and testing your limits....they also create some of the most beautiful bonds ever... the bond of a father and daughter, the bonds of siblings, the affection that spills over to your sibling's children, and their children and so forth...See that old man and woman sitting on the bench? They've been married for over 50 years. They have squabbled every day, they are old and slow and yet there they are together each evening in the park ... Love, you say? Yes, they possibly love each other but you know what, love is a rather strong word. I would like to believe that they also share that magical bond everyone seeks: friendship.
Actually if you and your spouse can be a friend to each other, that's half the battle won. As a lawyer who occasionally strays into the rather sticky area of divorce, I get a whole lot of clients who really shouldn't have to divorce... if only they could just try and accept the other person for who she/he is. But no, many couples make that mistake of marrying with the erroneous notion that they will change the other person. Very often these marriages are doomed from the start. Changes do happen. Changes are bound to happen when two people (or more) start to live together. But you cannot force these or decide on the direction they will take.
My husband and I, for example, met at work and became friends long before marriage was contemplated. Only after marriage I realised that in reality, we were as alike as chalk and cheese. I was the punctual, military precision type, he was forever running late. I was a light sleeper, he was the kind that set the alarm but never woke up till someone physically dragged him out of bed. I couldn't sleep with the lights on and he couldn't sleep in the dark. He was essentially conservative and religious, I did not have one reverent bone in my body. He was out-going and friendly and I was the introvert who hated meeting new people. His closets were always neat and organised, mine I swear had a ghost who kept jumbling stuff around. He liked to eat food that he was familiar with, I ate anything that moved! The list was endless and touched every sphere of our lives, our marriage could have been a total disaster. Without a healthy dose of laughter. And friendship. Of course we learnt to adjust to the other's strange oddities, we learnt to accept the other's eccentricities, gave a little and took a little, and although there must have been innumerable times that we each wanted to run away from the other, we endured. We became friends. Yes, I say became. Because the friendship that existed at the time of our marriage has been constantly challenged and changed, even replaced, over the years, by a much more enduring one. I'm lucky to be able to stand here and say this. I still bicker and argue and sometimes think he is horrible and mean and wish I could hammer some sense into him... but you know what? I bet there are times he thinks the same of me!
Coming back to friendship. Yes, I am convinced that the key to any enduring and true relationship among humans is friendship. And it does provide a delightful breeding ground for those more complicated emotions like "love" and "respect", even "trust". So befriend your child. Befriend your family. Keep talking to them and remain open to their opinions, howsoever different they may be from yours. Keep an open mind, sometimes you may even learn a thing or two!
The world is much more complicated now than it ever was. I grew up in a generation that by and large did not befriend their children. Children were told what to do and they obeyed. If they did not, they were punished (if they were caught, that is). Few families actually interacted with the children, most of my friend's mothers had no clue what their children were up to. Hell, neither did mine.
Today, in a way, technology has made it easier for us to NOT know what our child is doing, who their friends are, who they meet when they go out for tuition. We all are busy running our lives, our generation is busier than most of our mothers ever were. We have cell phones. And we live in a false security of knowing where they are and being able to call them at any time.
Is that enough?
I know I say it again and again. I hope I say it often enough. Befriend your child. Chat with her. Put away that laptop, silence your cell-phone, switch off that TV and talk to your child. Find out what kind of music she likes. Listen to it together. Yes, watch that stupid Barbie Doll movie together! Have him help you in the kitchen the next time you are making his favourite mac and cheese. Listen to him chattering about his friends. If he doesn't talk, chatter about your day, no matter how tired you are feeling, or how much you hate to chatter! Give your child the most precious thing that you can: your time. Spending time with you and chattering with you must be such a free and easy thing that it will continue well into and beyond the teen-age years.
And don't take your child for granted... remember, to have friends, you have to be one. Friendships are earned and have to be nurtured... As your children grow and change, your friendship with them too will change, and you will have to figure out when to move in and when to let go...when to be the wicked witch and when to be the fairy godmother!
My teenage daughters have friends who do terrible things like "cut themselves". Don't look at me horrified. Apparently it is quite common. A nick or cut (physical pain) on the arm or leg often with a compass or a blade (horrors!) apparently hurts less that the emotional turmoil (mental pain) she is going through! "Why doesn't she just talk to her mother?" I asked , "Ma, you don't understand. Her mother isn't interested in her life, she cannot tell her mother!" Another child comes from a broken home. Another has super busy parents who are earning super huge pots of money and have no time. Ah. This is just a tiny example of how wrong things can go. So start early, know your child. She or he is not what you imagine her or him to be. Go on, find out for yourself... what is going on in that tiny head?
And while you are at it, make memories together.
Make lots of memories. Believe me, that expensive cellphone you have gifted her will become out-dated, the Barbie Doll will be forgotten, that dinky car will roll under the sofa and lie undisturbed, that expensive lehenga will lie forgotten in the back of the cupboard, the child who runs and grabs you when you return home today will barely look up when you go to her room.. time has an uncanny knack of changing everything.
But those memories you make together? Those stay. In the end, they are all that stay. So make sure you make good ones so that one day when you are gone, your children will be able to smile at some remembered story, take comfort in your friendship, take pride in the way you touched their lives..and become a friend to their children too!
Excellent advice... often people forget the simplest of things and get caught on ego trips which leads to more problems in the family. Looking forward to your AtoZ posts. :)ReplyDelete