Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why Do I Have To Change?! (by Ron)

I sometimes wonder if it was the last of the innocent times. Life seemed a whole lot simpler. Everyone had a place to fill and a job to do. It was the time of Ozzie and Harriet and we actually believed theirs was how life should be. Dad worked and mom stayed home to take care of the house and the family.

My job was to be a kid. For kids it was the innocent time. The time before parents were afraid for us to stray from their sight. The time when kids could still leave the house and play in the neighborhood without fear of being harmed. We would come home twice during the day, for lunch and for supper. It was a time before soccer practice or dance lessons or driving kids to and from after school commitments. Yes, it was an innocent and simpler time. It really did feel that way.

Dad spent forty-two years at the same job. When he came home each day at 4:30 we immediately sat down to supper as a family. Although mother didn’t wear pearls and high heels when she cooked, as did Harriet and other TV moms, she still had meals ready and on the table at the “correct” times. She kept the house immaculate and we never lacked freshly washed, starched and ironed clothes. After all, her job was to be the mom and she was good at it.

Dad’s job at home was to take care of the lawn and make minor repairs and sit in his chair in the evening and sleep. He didn’t wash dishes. He didn’t wash or iron clothes. He didn’t get us ready for bed. His primary job was to provide for his family and that job was completed outside the four walls of our home.

I remember hearing mom and dad argue only a time or two. I have no idea what they were arguing about. As a child I thought the only person who suffered the wrath of mom or dad was me. They were parents and parents did not argue. They knew their jobs, they did them well, and nothing else needed to be discussed.

Those are the skills and habits that I brought into my “adulthood” when I married at eighteen. I knew that my job was to be the husband and father and my wife’s job was to be the wife and sooner than expected, the mother. We were raised in similar atmospheres. I think we had matching beliefs about our roles.

We had four children. I was a little more involved in their growth than was my dad, but sadly not much more. In fact, where he was gone eight hours each day I was often gone for weeks at a time since my jobs required me to travel. Like my dad, though, I was being the husband and father. If I provided a place for them to live, food to eat, and clothes to wear I was successful in those roles. Unfortunately, I still did not understand how this “success” damaged my relationships with them.

Relationship training was not part of my childhood. I really had no idea how to have an intimate relationship when I first married. I was married to my first wife for almost twenty five years before we divorced. And you know what? I still didn’t understand relationships or my part in them. But oh boy was I going to learn. (More to follow.)

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