Interview with Paige: “a 45-year healthy relationship”

Here’s one grown adult who rates both parents at ten!  Awareness of their own shortcomings and a devotion to heart-to-heart intimacy with their daughter were vital parts of the equation.  She writes, “I kept thinking about my answers and not trying to imagine my parents reading them because I wanted to be totally honest. And yet, at the end of writing it, I think they’d be happy to read my true thoughts on my relationship with them.”

I want this for my kids.   –Zipporah

What’s your age?  

36

Are both of your parents living?

Yes

What’s their marital status?

They’ve been sweethearts since high school happily married after 40 years.

How many siblings do you have?

Three

How often do you see your parents?

Weekly

What are some of the ways you spend time together?

Dad – Talking, eating, laughing, discussing serious topics, talking about books we’ve read.

Mom – Talking, cooking, doing crafty projects, gardening, discussing homeschooling (since we both homeschooled our kids), talking about our children with special needs since we both have one, laughing until we wet our pants.

On a scale of one to ten, how much to you enjoy their company?

Dad – 10

Mom – 10

Does spending time with them as a unit affect the dynamic of the visit?

Only slightly. They’re both very much themselves whether together or separate. The only thing that crops up is that I sometimes see my mom get a little snarky with my dad. That kind of bugs me.

What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?

Dad – He’s always interested in the things that interest me. He’s a servant at heart, so he’s always ready to do anything for me.  He makes me feel superbly important, but without giving me a bloated sense of self-worth in the process. He’s hard working, smart, committed, gentle, humble, and funny. He has a solid and indisputable relationship with Jesus and he’s honest to a fault.

Mom – She is very creative in many areas. She finds ways to do things that I wouldn’t think of myself, and I learn a lot from her. She gives much of herself and her time to help others even when there’s no benefit to herself.  She has her priorities established and they seem to be very much in line with standards set in the Bible. She practices what she preaches.

Together, I get to see a relationship that’s functional and healthy and that’s lasted for about 45 years. They’ve been together since they were young teenagers and they still enjoy each other’s company. They’ve set a wonderful example for all of us kids.

What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with them?

Since I’ve been an adult, I can’t say there are any negatives. When I was a kid, of course I thought they were too strict and expected too much from me. Now those rules and expectations make perfect sense.

What are some of the aspects that contributed to a healthy relationship as adults?

When I was a kid, I thought they were too much in my business. They controlled so many areas of my life that I was sometimes resentful. When I was in my late teens and very early 20’s, I made a full turn away from everything they’d taught me, and they cut me out of their lives for a while. It was a terrible period in our history, but I think they came to a place where they realized that they’d rather have a relationship with me on some terms than no relationship at all. After a  year, we were back on speaking terms, and it wasn’t long before things were comfortable between us again. They no longer tried to make decisions for me. They didn’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t do, even when I knew they had an opinion and thought I was making bad choices. If I asked for advice, they would give it, but I don’t feel that they disapproved of me even if they disapproved of my choices.  My mom once told me that she didn’t want her mom telling her how she should treat her husband or raise her kids, so she was going to give me the same respect and not try to tell me what I should do either. I know they pray for me all the time and support me in any way that they’re able, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

It would have been easy for the friction that we faced when I was a young adult to ruin our relationship long term. But one of the things I most admire about them is their ability to see that sometimes the choices they thought were right, weren’t. They’re not afraid to admit that they were wrong and make adjustments. Rather than making me see them as weak, I think this makes me admire them more because we all have to change our paths sometimes. Despite our best intentions, we’re all wrong at times and our pride shouldn’t stop us from turning around.

What do you appreciate most about their parenting?

They stuck to their guns, always. If they said I was grounded for a month, I wasn’t getting out of it even a day early.  They taught me to think for myself, but to look to God for answers to the hard questions.

What do you wish they had done differently?

I wish they’d let me mess up more often when I was a kid. Maybe then I wouldn’t have had to mess up so hugely once I was old enough to make my own choices.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

My brother is one year older than me. he lives in another part of the country and we don’t speak very often, but when we see each other, we get along. My next sister is 11 years younger than me and we are very close. I love her and love getting to hang out with her often, especially now that she’s an adult too. We are able to really talk about the family dynamic and relate to each other in a very healthy and enjoyable way. My last sister is 22 and has mental disabilities. I see and spend time with her often, but we’re not as close. I love all my siblings and look forward to the times that we all get to spend together.

Do you think they share your same reflections on your parents?

For the most part, I think we all share the same basic perspective on our parents.  I think my parents did a better job with my sisters than they did with my brother and me. They had us when they were young and made their mistakes on us, so they were ready to do an even better job on the second set of kids.  Interestingly enough, I remember more about how my parents parented the girls than I do about how they started out with me, so I get to see that as my example when I look back and figure out how I can be the best mom possible.

Can you share a defining moment with your parents?

I remember late one night after a huge fight when I was 17, my mom told me something deeply personal and unflattering about herself. I was shocked. It changed my perception of her and eventually, it made me like her more.  It’s easy to see your parents as perfect examples and it’s good to see the flawed human aspect sometimes.

With my dad, I can’t say there was a specific moment. At some point, since i’ve been an adult, I was trying to figure out what made my dad so likable. I finally figured out that he doesn’t expect me to meet him where he is. He comes to me and shares in whatever matters to me. He does that with everyone he loves, physically and emotionally. He’s willing to sit by your side and talk or listen or laugh or cry or sit silently. Whatever you need right then. And you never have to wonder if you’re a burden because you always feel like he’s happy to be there for you. He thanks you for letting him help when really, you should be the one doing the thanking. But he means it.

One day last summer, I was on a road trip with my parents. We were in the car together for 13 hrs and they got in a little snit with each other about something. There was nowhere to go. They could have both ignored it or fought more. Or waited for some privacy before addressing it, but instead, they sat there and talked through how each of them was feeling. They listened calmly while the other explained their viewpoint and reasoning. They both expressed frustration and a desire to prevent the same thing from happening again. They loved each other with their words through the whole thing. It’s beautiful to see the insider’s scoop on what makes a 40 year old marriage work and thrive.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?

Becoming a mom has certainly made me appreciate them more than ever. Watching them raise my disabled sister and knowing that they’ll probably have to take care of her forever shows me how dedicated they are to their family.  I’ve always loved and appreciated them, but I do even more than ever now. I’m so grateful to have such wonderful parents and to be able to spend a lot of time with them on a regular basis now that I’ve moved close to them again.

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