The Greatest Gift My Parents Gave Me

As Father’s Day approaches, I am reminded of the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.

I grew up my “mama’s girl. I look like her, act like her and talk like her. My only sibling, my sister Cathy, was “daddy’s girl.” Of this there was never any doubt. We were both nurtured in a home of faith, love and security. Our parents raised us to believe we could do anything we set our minds to, and that the sky was not the limit… there simply was no limit. While they pushed us both to be and do our best at everything we tackled, whatever we accomplished was always enough for them. I never, ever once felt that I was in any way a disappointment to them.

Because of my Dads job he worked long hours and traveled a lot. When he’d come home, we were always excited to see him and both Cathy and I vied for his attention. But no matter the fuss we made; he’d briefly acknowledge us, but then headed straight to my mom to give her his 100% undivided attention.  Without exception, the first half hour after he got home, Mama would shoo us both away. This time was always reserved for just the two of them. They’d sit out on our back lanai in a big wicker swing with something cool to drink and just talk. We were not allowed to interrupt. Oh, we’d try from time to time but we were always put in our place.  I can remember thinking at the time, when my childish needs would flare up, that it was unfair that we couldn’t join them. Now, in hindsight, I realize this was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.

My parents were putting each other first. Their love was built on a solid foundation and they intended to keep it there…for their sake as well as ours. They were deeply devoted to one another and nothing could divide them. That strength and foundation gave my sister and I a security that no attention or physical gifts could ever replace.

After I married my husband, who was widowed with four children, and took on all the responsibilities of what that encompassed, it was easy for me to be so overwhelmed with kids that there was never any time left for myself much less my husband. The kids quickly learned how to manipulate one parent against the other in an attempt to vie for attention. They were good at it and it was working. The monkeys were running the circus!  At one low point, practically in tears, we stepped back and tried to look at the chaos and make sense of it. Both of us decided that it was far more important for our relationship to be nurtured than to fret over all the little things that were slipping through the cracks. We needed to prioritize our lives and put each other first. We hoped that if we did, everything else would fall in to place. At first, it was hard for me to fathom as kids were crying, whining and throwing tantrums. They were young and I felt needed me 100% of the time.   Then, as if I was watching a B-  sci fi movie with low budget special effects, I could see my minds eye zooming in on the visions of my own childhood where my parents were sitting on the swing, being fully present, together. United and inseparable. In that moment it all became crystal clear. We decided to mimic their example and devote one on one time to each other each day and vowed to put each other first, no matter what.

The results were amazing. Our wounded, broken little family took on a new attitude. The children saw that once again there was stability and security in their world. Sure, they fussed a bit but we were committed. Slowly, life moved on and the family settled into the new routine. What now seems like a moment in time fast forwarded to the kids all grown up now with children of their own.  As I see them all struggle a bit, as young families always do, I see them trying to mimic that same example my own parents started so very long ago.

So now, it’s time for me to sign off on my blog for this week. You see, today, like every day, I have a date with my sweetheart. I need to get home to my “Big Al” who today will be waiting for me to go for a walk on the beach with him. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just that precious one on one time, with no phones, no kids and no stresses, being fully present, and together, united and inseparable… the wonderful daily task of maintaining that strong foundation with the love of my life, we built so very long ago.

Thanks Mom and Dad for this gift.