Last Thursday my parents celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary. It was so lovely to spend the night laughing around the dinner table with my family and both of my nonnas. Every year without fail we do something together to celebrate the love they share.
From when I can remember my parents have always been the best of friends. I can tell that they genuinely enjoy spending together and with us. Of course over the years they have had their arguments but in those times we have seen their relationship continue to strengthen and grow.
I thought it was normal to have parents who were really affectionate and got excited to see each other. As I grew up and spoke more to others I learned that this was not the case for everyone. I realised then just how blessed I was.
What I don’t think my parents notice is just how much they have taught my brother, sister and I by just being with each other. I never had ideas that the “woman has to do everything” because I always saw my dad participating in the house work. They help each other clean the house, cook and rearrange the furniture (a bit too often). This kind of dynamic makes them a team and whenever I thought of my future relationship I knew that is what I wanted also.
Mum and dad always taught us that there are consequences for the choices we make. These kind of lessons were communicated to us as we got older and began to learn the appropriate kinds of behaviours were acceptable and those that were not. Before we could really understand this concept they were “modelling” what we should be doing. I’d be lying if I didn’t test the boundaries sometimes, but I think that ultimately I could always tell when I was doing the wrong thing. By my parents practicing what they were teaching us we were able to recognise “right” from “wrong” before the day they actually verbally taught us.
My parents, most of the time, practice what they preach. We didn’t feel the need to overly rebel because it wasn’t like they were restricting us without good reason. They wouldn’t tell us one thing and then go ahead and do something else. The same went in their marital relationship. Things are fair, no one person is held in higher regard than the other.
"By demonstrating appropriate, tender ways to be affectionate, we teach our children at a young age what is okay and what isn't -- which is especially important when we aren't around," explains Beverly Hills psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, M.D., best-selling author and host of the radio show Dr. Carole's Couch.
Dad has always been the primary breadwinner but he never let this take away from the work mum was doing at home. I can’t imagine being at home with three children under the age of five was easy for mum. There is no way that the two of them would have made it through that period when we were all young without the love and support of each other. It was always clear that they worked together. Even when dad would come home from work, he would still make the time to put us to bed.
Weekends growing up were really memorable. I remember so many trips to the beach, to the zoo, to the Sydney Harbour and just at the local park flying a kite. They showed the value and importance of spending time with family. Even now that we are all grown up we still love going for walks together and getting coffee together. As the family has grown now and that we are all older with our own schedule it is rare that we have everyone around the table with dinner. This makes that time even more special now.
As wonderful as it is when mum and dad are all loved up I feel that we have learnt a lot from their disagreements also. Both my parents have very strong thoughts and opinions (I wonder where me and my siblings get it from). They both present very strong cases when they argue, however I have to say that 9/10 times they will compromise. One person won’t always win. We learnt the importance of listening to each other’s point of view and working out a solution together. Even when we would fight among ourselves they always encouraged us to work it out and talk to each other to communicate the issue. I now see how this lesson is important in everyday life. I don’t like pushing things under the rug, confrontation doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Things need to be discussed even if they’re difficult because that is how you reach an amicable resolution.
The last thing I want to talk about is “love.” My parents are by no means perfect. They both have characteristics that the other finds annoying. At the end of the day the little things don’t matter, it is the love that they have for each other that does. I think the most important lesson that they have taught us is that we don’t have to be “perfect” to be loved. Just because someone makes you upset or is a bit grumpy doesn’t mean that they are unworthy of love. In fact I have found that it is the one that is most grumpy that needs the most love. As much as mum and dad get frustrated with each other if one of them is in a bad mood, most of the time they respect it because there is obviously something else going on. They don’t take things too personally because they know if there was an issue they would talk about it together. The honesty and openness that they share with each other is what I think is the foundation of their strong relationship. They don’t hide things from each other, if they are not happy about something they communicate it and if they are not in the mood to do something that say something. They don’t blame the other for everything bad that happens, rather they support each other.
I love both my parents so much and genuinely enjoy the time we get to spend together. I love when they bounce ideas off each other and are working on a creative project with each other. To see how much love can remain in their relationship after 26 years is truly beautiful and I can only hope that one day I will be just as happy and in love as they are. Happy Anniversary mum and dad you two are definitely something special!