There is a moment — sometimes many, many moments — after you have been married a few decades that you think this: the love and passion you once had will never happen again. And you look at your kids and feel you’ve failed them in some way. But then these kids — the amazing people you made with the one you love — are actually this bright light of hope and no matter what age they are, they teach you things. And if you listen, and pay attention, they hold the secrets to everything you need to know about love — even love after decades.
My son is 15 going on 16. My daughter will be 19 and is out of the house in college. When I asked them what love means when they were younger. “Hugs,” my daughter said. “And kisses!” my son chimed in. Simple, but so very true. Love is affection. But much of what my kids taught me goes beyond their words.
I have a good friend and some relatives recently divorced. Here’s what my kids have taught me about love:
How to love. Because sometimes we forget. But look at your kids, their hearts so open and ready to show affection and love and know it’s worth it to try to love again.
To see people for who they truly are. Kids know things. Otherworldly things. My friend says kids are like dogs — they can sniff out the people who aren’t right for you. So those instincts you feel, trust them.
To have fun. Kids play. Kids laugh at jokes that don’t make sense. Kids are fun! Adults should do more of this. And when you fall in love, that fun you have — the laughing so hard your cheeks hurt kind of laughs — bottle that. Relive that. Have it as often as you can.
To cherish the little things. It’s not the big stuff. It’s the little stuff. A homemade card. A trinket. A favorite toy shared. The holding hands. The opening the car door.
To communicate. I tell my kids to “use your words” when they get upset. We should use our words too — and not to hurt but to heal, to show love, to express emotions.
Say you’re sorry. Also thank you. All those special things that we stop doing once settled into a relationship should really never be stopped.
It’s okay to be vulnerable. You don’t always have to be the strong one. A good relationship allows you to lean on each other when you need it.
That there may be a time when someone is supremely cranky at you and instead of meeting that with your own brand of crankiness, be calm and figure out how to diffuse the situation instead of escalating it. Kids have temper tantrum, and adults sometimes do too, just adult size. It happens. We’ve learned enough skills as a parent to work through those times with kids, we can apply that to our adult relationships as well.