My wife and I just celebrated out 10th anniversary, which is mind-blowing. Not so much the decade of marriage part, but the three kids we have left in our wake as evidence of the passage of time. When I look at my wife, I still see the college student I met at a house-party. When I look in the mirror, behind the haggard and wrinkled face, bags under my eyes, and “salt-and-pepper” hair, I still see the long-haired, varsity-squash-playing, mountain-biking, philosophy student. But then I look at our three kids and realize how much has happened in those 10 years. It’s not marriage per se that is transformative – it’s parenthood.
Parenthood is like taking the red-eye to Venice for the first time, but only for the weekend. Overnight, you are whisked to another universe you have only heard about through others. When you get there, you are utterly exhausted. You are overwhelmed by the beauty, the wonder, the awesomeness of it all. But you are almost too tired to appreciate it. And then, by the time you defeat the jetlag and are able to fully appreciate the beauty and wonder, the journey is over. You’re on a plane back home, with only memories and photographs to remind you of that whirlwind of a ride.
I’m not yet at the end of my proverbial weekend in Venice. But I am seriously battling jetlag to make sure I appreciate the experience while I’m here. It’s tough at times (although Red Bull seriously helps! Lol). I sometimes wish I could be more patient. I sometimes wish I could stop being disciplinarian. I sometimes wish they could just stop making noise, or just sit quietly for a few hours so that I can get some stuff done. But they are kids. And we are exhausted parents.
Another thing I am realizing, and I have mentioned it in a previous blog, is that no one – and I mean NO ONE – knows what they are doing at parenting. Imagine someone telling you they knew how to play chess because they played three games in their lives. You’d rightly think they were either fools or prodigies, with a strong inclination towards fools given the rarity of prodigies in this world. It’s no different with parenting. Saving some obvious ‘dos’ and ‘don’t dos’, parenting is a game of purely discretionary rules, and you are the referee.
Parenting plays tricks on the mind. You can always judge yourself harshly – for being too hard on your kids. For not being hard enough. For being too overbearing. For not being involved enough. For being too impatient. For being too tolerant. For being too protective. For not doing enough to protect them from the ills and dangers of this world. There is always a way to spin something in a negative light.
But getting back to my anniversary reflections: It’s the parenting part that has illustrated how marriage truly is a partnership. It’s about love, admiration, and all that other romantic mumbo jumbo. But there is literally a business side to the relationship. This may be the lawyer in me talking, but shareholders and directors fight for the same reasons people get divorced, mutatis mutandis. One director wants a higher salary than another… One shareholder thinks they are putting in more work than the other and wants to draw a higher dividend… One officer wants to show that s/he is smarter than the other in order to command more respect from the other members of the team… Mind-games like that break up businesses the same way they break up marriages.
And so I’ve come up with an acronym which, funnily enough, is the title for a married or widowed German woman: Frau – Forgiveness, respect, appreciation and understanding. The key to success in business and marriage.
Time for my Red Bull.