I don’t remember one specific conversation with my mom about priorities, but I know that she explained to me many times that she loved God most of all, then my dad, then my brother and me. Sometimes that bothered me, knowing I was — at best — number three on her list, but more often it reassured me that her faith and her marriage were of the utmost importance to my mom.
That basic understanding is probably why I believed her so completely when, during a conversation I do remember clearly, my mom assured me that she and my dad would never get divorced. One of my best friend’s parents were splitting up, and not only was I devastated for my friend and by her pending move to another town, but I also was terrified. Because if it could happen to her parents, maybe it could happen to mine.
It’s not lost on me how fortunate and even sheltered I was to consider this reality for the first time in the sixth grade. But when it hit me that divorce was a real thing that could happen in real life, I was shaken. After worrying and wondering, finally I asked my mom how she was sure it would never happen in our family. I’m sure I’ve forgotten much of the words she shared that day, but what I remember was simple and certain.
She said that when they got married, she and my dad promised God they would stay married forever. And so they would.
As an adult I now realize how many more factors are at play in a marriage that lasts a lifetime. It begins with a promise (possibly in front of a stained glass window, like my young mind imagined it during that conversation long ago), but it only perseveres with hard work and effort and choosing to love and live out that promise day after day after year after year. And I know now that a life together is incredibly hard and sometimes those promises aren’t kept, no matter how sincerely they were given.
When I think about my parents (who are still married) and how much their promise — first to each other and God, later to their children — meant to me, it’s not long before I think about how much my promise to my own husband — and how we live that out — means to our daughters.
Not too long ago I wrote a post essentially rolling my eyes at the ever-popular marital advice to have “regular date nights.” Argh! To be honest, it still bugs me. Who decides what’s regular? And where am I supposed to find a babysitter AND the money to pay a babysitter on the regular? And what if we’re tired, so tired, and we just want to stay home?
I still don’t think date nights are the be-all and end-all to the success of a marriage.
But I do think that making my husband a priority — yes, even above my children — is vital to the success of my marriage and possibly my daughters’ marriages as well.
Over the past year or so my eight-year-old has become more aware of the fact that her parents are more than just Mommy and Daddy. She’s begun realizing that we have relationships with each other that are separate than our relationships with her, and more practically, she’s learned the art of wrinkling her nose and asking where we’re going on our [occasional-still-not-regular] date night in a sing-song voice.
Always with a smile on her face. Just like when our two-year-old, who is currently obsessed with names (“I not Baby Girl! I Adrienne!”) says to me at the dinner table: “He’s my Daddy. He your Honey? You love your Honey?”
It reminds me of the way my mom has a couple nicknames for my dad, and I’m grateful for the legacy my parents created as they lived out that wedding promise in the everyday of our family. And it reminds me of how crucial it is that my husband and I keep doing the same thing so we can teach our girls the value of marriage and of living out the promises we’ve made.
From not-so-regular date nights and living room PDA to reminding the kids that, “Mommy and Daddy need time to talk right now. Go watch Doc McStuffins,” it’s important that they see us put each other first. Which is why Adrienne-Not-Baby-Girl knows that every night before he leaves for work, her daddy is going to kiss his Honey goodbye — sometimes even before (or longer! cue the eight-year-old eye rolls!) than he kisses his daughters.
How do you show your kids that your marriage is a priority?