In all the guiding and correcting and parenting I do with you, I’ve often thought of what I’d say to a younger version of myself, given the chance. I’ve been gifted and earned and gained and fought and prayed for whatever wisdom I possess. Much of it appearing only with age and life experience. Knowing myself as I do, a younger me likely wouldn’t have listened to an older version of me anyway……so, I guess I shouldn’t be too irritated when you don’t listen to me. Given all this new found thinkin’, my thoughts have shifted to your dad…..and what I’d say to a younger version of him.
Kiddos, your dad and I are sitting at the top of year #11 in our marriage and peering closely at #12. Which starts today around 5 PM. Twelve years. I could wax poetic about the passing of time, say something disgustingly sappy about the magic of our love and soulmate status. But I don’t want to make you guys nauseous. You can barely stomach seeing us hold hands. I’ll simply let you know what I’d say to that young man if I had the chance to revisit him just after our rehearsal dinner. A fresh faced, pale yellow button-down shirt wearing 20-something.
Dear Matt of May 14, 2004,
I’m guessing your feet are feeling a little cool at the moment. No doubt you’re the most loyal human to walk the earth but who wouldn’t contemplate bolting when faced with marriage? I mean….it’s MARRIAGE. A lifetime commitment to one woman. In your case, one woman who talks a lot, can be rather stubborn and will likely con you into more kids than you think you want. However, I think you’re making a solid choice if you choose to throw on that tux tomorrow and meet her at the altar. I don’t have a glass ball but here’s what I can tell you for certain.
-Your bride is excited. About today, about tomorrow, about every day until the end of time with you. She’s enough of a cynic to know it ain’t gonna be all rainbows and butterflies. But she’s all in.
-It’s gonna be a challenge. Not the reinforcement you’re looking for? Sorry. But true. It will be work. Some parts you’ll love and others not as much. Fortunately, at least for the first eleven years it’s a lot more parts to love than not. The first year will be quite an adjustment but you’ll figure out who sleeps on which side of the bed, how to divvy up household chores and who is responsible enough to handle the taxes. (Answer- neither of you.)
-You’ll have ups and downs. (Did you read the part I just wrote about the challenge?) The ups will take your breath away. The downs will take your breath away. You will be unable to avoid either. Both ends of the spectrum will rock your world. You will be changed. She will be changed. It will take time to find your new rhythm in each instance. But you do it. It is at times beautiful and at others very ugly. You will work through it to settle from the emotional highs and navigate the lows to find your new normal. Together. Always together.
–Pray. Continue praying. Pray with me. Pray alone. Pray with our kids. Pray with your small group. Pray with our friends. Pray with our extended family. Pray when you know what’s wrong. Pray when you don’t. Pray for a stronger desire and willpower to keep praying. Just pray. Your success in the first eleven years will point directly back to this act.
-Don’t give up on Emily of 2004-2012. She will eventually learn to replace the garbage bag liner herself before throwing away nasty food in the two minutes it takes for you to get the old garbage outside and the new liner in. Be patient. It only takes about eight years.
-Your wife knows she’s wrong sometimes. Ok, she knows she is wrong a lot but she will eventually start admitting it………it’s bound to happen any day. (Ok, ok, she’d like to apologize for complaining about the expensive work boots you bought in 2004 on a weekend trip to Nashville. The pair you have worn to create, build and repair every item in and around our home over the last decade. Let me now publicly profess they were an even better investment than you told me they would be. You were right. I was wrong. There, I said it.)
–Look around. Take a long look at the faces in this room. Our nearest and dearest. Some will likely be present to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. Others won’t be around for our 5th. Hug them. Thank them for being here. Take a moment and let the photographer get a snapshot. I know you hate taking pictures but you’ll be glad you did when you look through the album in 2016.
-You’ll feel old at a relatively early age. Please trust me when I say that you are not old. You are simply worn out. Tired. Weary. Kids are exhausting. I won’t tell you how many we’re going to have because you might choose to avoid the church tomorrow, after all. They’re little versions of you and me. Some good parts, some parts that still need some fine tuning. Parenting, I think they call it. Again, asking for a little trust here…..you’ll like them. Most of the time. (I’m confident you’ll love them all of the time, though.)
-Speaking of kids, you’re going to be an amazing dad. Like super amazing. Way better than you or I or anyone who knows you could guess. You’re still the most loyal human on earth. This trait has bled into your parenting and you don’t bow out even when your bride wants to….or does. You are patient and funny and caring. You endure and persist and get creative and forge ahead. You know the formula for the best diaper cream on earth and aren’t afraid to make it. You aren’t a stranger to midnight feedings or 3 am cuddles after nightmares. You are a strong protector and a gentle father. I could not have anticipated this (to this extent) in 2004. Trust me when I say you were made for parenting our crew.
–You are prone to not sweat the small stuff. Emily is prone to sweat the microscopic stuff. Be patient with one another as you find your balance. She will eventually take a breath and ease up. Some. You will eventually care more about sweating….well, some stuff. If you both had the same tendencies it would be the most boring marriage on earth. Your marriage can be called a lot of things but ‘boring’ isn’t one of them. The balance is a moving target so keep working to find it.
*Once a year Emily will use a fancy vase you received as a wedding gift. She will get a bouquet of pink peonies, her ABSOLUTE favorite flowers and highlight of her wedding bouquet, from your mother the week before your anniversary. Every year. She will display them in her very favorite, fancy vase. Once a year. On the eve of your 12th anniversary she will chip the edge of this gorgeous vase. As she tears up, you will grab her hand, look her in the eye and tell her, “It’s just sand.” Balance. You’ll be better at finding it than she will be. She will love you for it.
-When the doors open tomorrow and your ‘almost’ father-in-law hands her over, keep in mind that she used to wonder if she would ever love a man enough to take this step. She’s analytical and overthinks everything. EVERYTHING. Look at her. She’s locked in. Analysis over. You’re it. So brace yourself, young Matt, you’re stuck with her/me from this point forward.
Happy trails, young man. See you in 12 years.
P.S. Purchasing some Google stock would also be a good idea.
There you have it, kiddos. I pray a lot for each of you but much of my time is spent praying for your future spouse. Nothing will dictate your future like the one you choose to spend your life with. Girls, I pray you’ll be so blessed as to find a guy that makes you laugh til you cry. Boys, I pray you’ll be as patient and supportive of your wife as your dad has been with me. You’ve got a good example in your old man.
Here it is, kids. June 7, 2003. The night that started it all. He asked and I said yes. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the circus themed music in the background foretelling what awaits us in the next 12 years.
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