My mom and dad got married more than 45 years ago.
They had a quiet ceremony in front of the Justice of the Peace.
Their mothers were both in attendance.
Some of their siblings were there too.
And then they had dinner in their favorite Chinese restaurant on Mott street, in NYC.
It was a simple declaration of their love for one another.
Of their commitment.
And their promise to take care of one another for the rest of their lives.
It’s because of their love, and the gift that God gave each of them, in each other, that I am here.
Yet another miracle of God.
And here I am.
I am, who I am, because of them.
And I am the type of parent that I am because of how they parented me.
As parents, we know that how we love our children shapes and develops their character by the age of 9. These are called the formative years. Psychologists have shared how child rearing molds thought processes, coping mechanisms, and the moral compasses that we will develop as children, and carry through to adulthood.
For example, if a child learns that making mistakes is ok, if we learn from them, he will learn to pick himself up after he falls. He will learn that there is a lesson in falling, and also a lesson in dusting himself off continuing along in reaching his goals. If he learns that love is not supposed to hurt, and that healthy love can be remarkably fulfilling when sharing yourself with someone, then he will grow up not only learning to love himself, but also learning to love others in a healthy way too.
Conversely, if a child grows up watching his parents fight or berate each other, his idea of love and relationships will be wildly different than a child who grew up in a home that was safe and where the relationships were caring, nurturing, and fulfilling.
Allow me to take it a step further in saying if a child grows up in a home where his father would hit his mother or where his father was not committed to his mother and had girlfriends outside of their marriage, chances are the cycle will be repeated unless he has a different role model to look up to that can influence him otherwise.
“The extent to which the parents openly and genuinely are loving and affectionate with one another shapes both the child’s world and its developing sense of self. It also affects the child’s sense of safety and predictability, and becomes the model and archetype for the child’s future relationships by providing the basic schemata for the child’s internalized images of closeness, intimacy, dispute resolution, expression of emotions, and respect between the sexes.We shape our children into the adults they become.”
But I digress in trying to exemplify just how important a role we play as parents when raising children.
I intended for this post to be a testament of what MY parents have taught ME. I just needed to show through a few articles and quotes that we (as parents) have a wide range of power and responsibility in teaching our children right from wrong, and in modeling what a healthy relationship is.
Our children become what they see us do.
Not what we say.
They learn by watching us.
“Monkey See. Monkey Do.”
And I am grateful for I have had such wonderful teachers in this life…
So what have I learned from my parents?
Love doesn’t keep score.
Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. No marriage is perfect either. We come into this union as strangers from different families and cultures, and if we do it right, I know a husband and wife can become the best of friends.
Communication is the key here.
Acceptance is too.
Actually, it makes me think of this scripture from our wedding:
Which leads me to my next point…
In MARRIAGE you need The Trinity.
Honesty. Love. Respect.
Be honest with yourself and your spouse. When trust is broken because there is no honesty, respect is lost. It takes YEARS to build that respect and trust back. Sadly, some marriages never recover when trust and honesty is broken or taken for granted.
As I am older now and a little wiser, I would even say that Nino and I have learned of another TRINITY we need in our marriage as well.
This trinity is between the two of us, and Jesus.
And that makes all the difference.
In MARRIAGE you need God.
After attending the 2be1 Couples Retreat recently in Baguio, I can say that bringing Jesus into our marriage can only strengthen and fortify the love between two people who want to make a life together.
In fact, we have reinforced the fact that in the hierarchy of importance we have both learned to put GOD first, then each other, next is our children, and of course the work that fulfills us follows the first three.
It takes a VILLAGE.
This same concept that I believe in when it comes to child-rearing is applicable in MARRIAGE.
I had a village growing up as a child, too.
My Nana lived with us up until I was about 14 years old. I would sit with her often. She was kind. She represented all that was love. She was nurturing. Between my Nana and my Auntie Anne, I had two more strong women (besides my mother) whom I could look up to for guidance.
I consider myself lucky that Nino was able to meet both of them.
If you have the support of your family in your marriage then it can only help the two of you grow as a couple. Being able to lean on my parents and siblings in time of need, has been a gift not just for Nino and me, but also for our children.
This village is the same village we have called on when we needed help with babysitting. Help with pulling off a birthday party for one of the kids, and even help when it came to offering sound advice to both of us, when we hit the occasional bump in the road that marriages often endure.
Our families are here to help us in our marriage. Not hurt us.
It’s the wisdom of couples who have been their before that is paramount here. Being able to consult our parents in times of need, disappointment, and confusion that has helped us survive marriage when it was hairy scary.
The trust we put in our elders helping our union thrive, should not be misplaced.
My parents’ marriage has also given me insight into my own marriage with Nino. They have guided us when we were newlyweds and still finding our way. I remember my dad explaining to me how differently men and women think. They have also shown us by example all the many ways in which we can support one another as husband and wife.
These ideals were also reinforced during our recent couples’ retreat again. Thankfully, revisiting some these values was a reminder to Nino and I, that we are on the right path to keeping our marriage safe.
No one told us how difficult marriage would be when we tied the knot.
In fact, the precana classes that we were required to take before getting married only touched on different ways to meet your spouse in the middle. Our Deacon gave us four words that worked for a long time in helping us to communicate with one another, and I would say that communication would be the most important factor in keeping it all together…
Those four words?
“In love and confidence…”
For many years, if something was tugging at our hearts, or someone was hurting in our marriage, all we had to do to stop time and circumstance and put things into perspective, was to start our dialogue with “In love and confidence…”
And that meant everything else should stop.
That both of us should sit down and listen to one another with open hearts and open minds.
And REALLY LISTEN.
Your siblings are on your team.
My dad said long ago, many times over, “Your siblings are the longest relationships you will have in your life.
Longer than your parents, longer than your spouse.
Take care of one another.”
I don’t think I can impress this any more than I already have, in raising our children. We are #TeamGellibean. There are four people on this very special team. They will only have one another when Nino and I are gone.
And my prayer is that we have taught them well.
That we have taught them how to love each other.
That we have taught them how to be kind, and respectful.
That we have shown them that they are worthy and part of something much bigger than themselves.
And that we have modeled what a a loving relationship between two partners can be if they work really hard.
I know, that as a child, I developed an idea of the type of man I wanted to marry, simply by watching how my dad treated my mom. Their relationship defined what I thought was good and right in this world. I was (and I still am) very proud of the people that they are, and the partnership they embody.
They are my barometer…both of what I wanted, and even on the rare occasion of little things that I did not want in any future relationship.
And since we already know that my children have been watching Nino and me very closely, I can only hope that one day, they will look back on how we have lived our lives together, in our partnership, and they will want something similar to the love we have for one another, for themselves.