It's been 7 years since we graduated. One of us wore that purple and gold robe with a tiny baby underneath growing, soon to change life forever. A few of us went on the various colleges and schools. Most haven't finished yet. Some joined the army or the Navy. Two got kicked out, one still in the Navy until he finds that special lady to settle down with. One almost finished college until she got pregnant and decided to take care of the children and finish... eventually. Another lost a ton of weight and is barely recognizable. The one who graduated pregnant has three now, and her husband is the one that was kicked out of the army because of his own stupidity.
7 years since we graduated, give or take a few years for the ones older or younger. And this year, on July 3rd, I found myself observing all of us as we gathered in a living room and talked about who's where and whatever happened to so and so and who would have guessed that would happen. Eventually we were mostly all there. All of us who were in town at least and we headed out to set off fireworks. A first for me. Honestly, as I observed and listened to all the stories from the distant and more recent past, I felt a twang of regret for not having been there because of a strict mother and a bit of thankfulness that she had been strict because most of the stories weren't anything to envy. The 20 something year old male is an interesting creature for sure. Of the five guys there that night, I was shocked that two of them were fathers. One only expecting his first- and I don't know him well enough really, but the other... goodness, I thought naively that people simply grew up after having kids... and if not, by the third one, they'd be a little more mature. No. Not him. 7 years out of high school and still the same.
I know there are 20 something year old guys out there who have a level head on their shoulders. I've met them. In college and at various places I've worked... They exist. As for this group give em another 5-10 years and they'll probably start to slow down. Still be lots of fun, but not so inclined to nearly set each other on fire with fireworks. It was fun to get out, away from my own children for an evening after tucking them in, but when I arrived back home, to my sleeping husband, I kissed him and was thankful that I'd found him, older than me by a good 11 years... He'd done a lot of the same things my high school friends had and are doing. But my husband is not 20 something. He's 30 something. He likes parties with people he already knows. Hopes his kids will never do the drugs he did. Goes to bed early and gets up early to put in a day at work and take care of the family he loves.
It's been an educating week for me. By the time we sat back and watched the fireworks in my small home town with my two beautiful children and my fantastic husband, I'd finally come to know a few things about myself and my family.
1. I am a good Mom. I didn't believe it until this week. Not perfect. My patience is only so long. It runs out because I care... and because I care I also am working on increasing my patience. This will be a life long endeavor judging by my observance of people older than myself. But I am a good Mom. I change their diapers, bathe them,feed them, comfort them, discipline them as appropriate. You know- all the things Mommies are supposed to do... and even things that aren't absolutely necessary but we do them anyway because all the other Mommies are doing it. You know what I mean- kinder class this, swim lesson that, educational this, exercise that. By the second one, some of us realize that it isn't the end of our child's future if we take a little time away from the toddler art classes. They are really best for mommy socializing anyway... oh and also kiddie socializing, but you can't force that- it's impossible. But yes, I am a good Mom. I enjoy my children. 90% of the time on a good day. The rest of the time, I'm probably sleeping, or stealing a moment for myself so I can remain sane enough to continue on the insane quest to potty train my son. It's a shame it took me nearly 3 years to learn that.
2. I am a good wife. My husband tells me this from time to time, but again, I didn't believe it until I observed one of the couples from this weekend. Call it old fashioned, or biblical, or common sense for being part of a relationship that stands a chance at standing the test of time... but I respect my husband. I even work at respecting him at times. I don't tell him in front of his friends that he's stupid. Most of the time I don't tell him to do something. I ask. The closest I come to telling is when my hands are full of one baby, or making dinner and I say something to the effect of "Baby's diaper probably needs changing." That's not exactly telling him to change it though... more like stating a fact and seeing what he may or may not do with that fact. I have a good man. Usually, he'll change the diaper, put the baby to bed, brush the teeth, or put the son on the toilet after a statement of such a fact. If not, once my hands are less full, if he hasn't done it, I do it myself. Even if he's sitting on the couch doing nothing. I respect his space and he respects mine... Sure I've learned ways of asking that are sure to get help in some form- Say- "Would you like to do the dishes or get the babies ready for bed?" instead of "Could you do the dishes?" Usually, he takes the kids... but I still have help instead of doing it all while he sits on the couch. The important point here is I try my best to love my husband. I try not to nitpick the things he does that I would have done differently because I understand that I'm lucky he does those things to begin with... and honestly, does it really matter how the towels get folded? I realize that we are a team, respect his opinion, and do my best to let him know how wonderful I think he is.
3. I am blessed with a wonderful marriage and family. This one I already knew- this past week has simply reaffirmed this tidbit. My husband respects me. I really lucked out. I've known my husband for 5 years or so... dated 5 months before getting married. When we are really struggling with our relationship, I wonder if we really did marry for the baby- but we'll never know. At the end of our arguments and fights, we still want to be married. Shoot- before the end of the really big arguments, we usually look at each other and say- "how are we going to fix this 'cause I love you and don't want to end this over whatever it is we are fighting about." When I married him it was because I loved him- he felt like family- and not because I was carrying his child. He felt like family before there was a baby in the picture. He is an amazing person. And when I look back at all the ways my life may have turned out. After I've sorted through all the "what ifs", marrying him is the best thing I've done so far. After only 5 months of Dating, no one can honestly know a what sort of person they are with. We've been married 3 and a half years now and I feel like we are beginning to scratch the surface. We knew marriage is no cake walk but it's been harder at times than I expected. He knows now that I am prone to depression- particularly after having a baby. I've discovered that birth control doesn't really help my mood either. I now know that if he is ever in a situation that involves tequila, I should steer him to a different beverage choice. He knows that when I'm stressed I tend to have nightmares that involve midnight screaming. I know that he's grouchy when he gets woken for any reason and not to take offense when he is woken by one of these dreams and gets mad at me and moves to the couch. We know each others nasty dirty habits which are none of your business. My kids are blessed with a wonderful father who is determined to be a wonderful father no matter what. He knows what it's like to grow up as a boy without a dad... and he knows now why little girls are "Daddy's little princess." In him, our children have what neither of us ever had. He's genuine.
A Kiss on his way to work leaves me floaty as I sit in bed with my creamy coffee. Then it hits me. We've learned how to have conflict, how to fight, argue, communicate. There's a reason floaty kisses go away after three years of marriage. We adapt to the pheromone levels that originally drove us to act like rabbits in a world where sex is going out of style.
In a marriage we entered into quickly and a life that threw us into debt in a way that only uncontrollable circumstances can, my pride tells me "If you've made it last this long, you two can make it through anything." But my pride is a liar and I know it. In a world where couples who have been married happily it seems for a quarter of a century quietly dissolve in divorce after some tumultuous bends in the water rapid course of life, I know our seedling of a marriage is vulnerable.
So instead of mentally graduating us up the next imaginary level of marital maturity, I remember it just that- and imaginary level. Even if there were levels, they'd be worthless since adults regress. We may handle a conflict beautifully one day and down the road come to another trial and act with less dignity than our two year old. Adult means as much as you make it. Age means nothing. We will always retain the ability to regress back to juvenile behavior. Hopefully we choose to discipline ourselves toward adult-like behavior more than we lazily let ourselves act like a pitiful pouting preschooler who knows the rules but chooses not to follow them.
I know these things. I know I will forever be growing up. So will my husband but I can only control me. I make note of what worked during this recent conflict. What is working as we face our current problems in life. And I thank God for floaty kisses that must come out of genuine love, respect and relational intimacy once the initial chemical based infatuation fades away. Perhaps masked over by the odor of diapers?