June is wedding month, and my family just proved the point – our son was married this past weekend. MARRIED!!! The emotional tsunami that engulfed all of us as we watched this age-old ritual unfold for the first of our kids is beyond description. Memories of our own wedding, of grandparents and great-grandparents who are no longer with us, and of our son as a baby, toddler, little-leaguer, and high school’er overwhelmed us. I was already anticipating the magnitude of this occasion when I wrote “My Son the Groom” for the NYT this past February: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/my-son-the-groom/ describing what it was like to first see our child’s name on a wedding invitation. And that was just seeing his name! Well, that was nothing compared with first seeing our child stand under the wedding canopy and pledge his life and love to our beautiful new daughter-in-law.
It will take a little time for me to gather my thoughts about having a married son – a developmental milestone that is unlike any other for a parent. In the meantime, I’ll share with you some of what we told the bride and groom during the many toasts and roasts of the weekend. The advice below is patterned after “The College Launch List” which appears at the back of the No Regrets Parenting book (www.noregretsparenting.com).
The Marriage Launch list
To our Bride and Groom – Before we sent our kids off to college, we took each of them to a coffee shop to review a long list of all the things we needed to tell them before they left home. We called it the College Launch List. This is our first Marriage Launch List, things we need to tell you both as you embark on your lives together.
The list comes from 25 years of figuring each other out, and we’re still not finished figuring each other out. Maybe couples never completely finish figuring each other out. But we hope this gives you a head start. It’s just the tip of the iceberg of things you need to know, but we have to start somewhere; we trust you’ll figure most of the other stuff out together without our prompting. Like the College Launch List, it’s in alphabetical order, of course:
Call home – Call your parents often. Even though you’re married, you’re still children, too. We’re still on the bleachers and we still like to watch you play.
Call your siblings often – You all need each other’s love and support for the rest of your lives.
Culture – You’ll never have more choices or chances to grow than you do now as newlyweds without the responsibilities of kids. Stretch outside your comfort zone, even if it means you have to go into a museum. Acquire new tastes in dance, opera and theater, too. Get discount tickets. You’re on a budget.
Dates – Have date nights, never take each other’s company for granted. Kiss at the door when you get home, and say “Can I call you sometime?”
Exercise – No matter how busy you are. It keeps you healthy and happy. When you don’t exercise, you feel blah, have mood swings, have a short fuse, and don’t sleep well. Some days, when things get a little edgy at home, we often ask each other, “have you been to the gym yet today?” That’s our subtle way of reminding each other that everything is calmer after you’ve worked out.
Fights – You’ll have a few. Mostly minor ones, an occasional major one. Every couple has fights. Always be the first to apologize even if you don’t think you’re wrong. If he or she apologizes first, quickly apologize second, and then apologize for not apologizing first.
Food – Setting up your own kitchen can be fattening. Eating out can be fattening. Studying long hours can be fattening. Working long hours can be fattening. Eat smart.
Friends – Get together with other couples. Double-date. You’ll go places and see things you might not do if it were just the two of you. Spending time with other couples also makes you appreciate each other even more.
Interests #1 – You each have your own interests, and they don’t always overlap. That keeps you interesting to each other. Keep occupied, stay curious, never be bored so you’ll never be boring to each other.
Interests #2 – It’s ok to pretend to share the other person’s interests. Gradually, after you’ve pretended long enough, you may actually begin to appreciate your partner’s interests more than you thought you would.
Laugh – As you take on adult responsibilities, life can get really serious sometimes. See funny movies, watch funny TV shows, tease each other. Tell jokes. Hearing your spouse laugh will make you happy, too. We used to be much funnier before we had kids.
Lists – There are some things that have to get done to make a household run smoothly. Keep a list and work on checking the items off together. Sometimes it’s fun to write things down that you’ve already finished just for the satisfaction of being able to cross them off. Maybe that’s just us.
Mind-reading –It’s hard to read each other’s minds, although gradually you’ll get better at it. Have a special code for telling each other what’s really important to you. Like, for example, say “this is really important to me.” The worst fights come from not understanding what’s really important to your spouse. It makes him or her think you don’t care, but really you just didn’t know.
Money – Save it, you’ll need it. Paying credit card interest is a bad investment strategy. If you can’t afford to pay with what’s in your checking account now, you can’t afford it. Also, price and brand label don’t necessarily reflect quality.
Religion – The difference between religion and superstition is that religion is meant to make you better people – also kinder, humbler, and more understanding. Say a prayer before bed; be grateful after a good day, and hopeful after a bad day. And almost all days are good days when you think about it. So be very grateful.
Respect – It’s not enough to love each other, you have to respect each other. That means never being mean to each other and never purposely hurting each other’s feelings.
Sleep – 8 hours a night will help you do better in school and work, and it will help you feel better. Set two alarms on important mornings. And every morning is important.
Teamwork – Each player on a team knows his or her part and when you’ve been on a team long enough your part becomes obvious. You don’t have to equally share each responsibility or chore, but you need to have equally important responsibilities and chores.
Finally, know that your parents are always here for you, and we’ve been through it already. Let us help you whenever you need a little advice.
We love you both very much.