My parents recently celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. Lest you think they’re ancient, I’ll mention that they got married right out of high school! I’m the only member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in my family, but I learned some solid life lessons and eternal principles from my non-member parents. Here they are:
1) Love takes work
For me, 45 years is much longer than I’ve been alive, and so that kind of longevity in marriage is hard to comprehend. And if 45 years is difficult to fathom, eternity is almost impossible. There are endless General Conference talks, relationship books, and even scientific studies on how to make a marriage work. Regardless of the methodology or even the religious beliefs a couple chooses to embrace, love is hard. I know this undeniable truth from watching my parents painstakingly work through issues, make sacrifices for and try to understand each other – and sometimes fail at all of these things. Ultimately, because they each choose daily to weather the failures, they succeeded.
2) Nothing is free
My parents taught me strong fiscal principles, for which I am eternally thankful. When I was six years old, Mom and Dad taught me about how to budget. They took me to the bank to help me open my first savings account. When I was old enough, they taught me about taxes, credit, and interest. These verbal economic lessons were coupled with their priceless example. They were always frugal, even when we had plenty. When I begged for a cheap toy, the answer was a solid “no.” It was not worthy of our money! Money is to be saved for things that are worthy.
When I was 9, I wanted an expensive Lego set more than anything. My dad (an attorney) challenged me to present a good argument for why I deserved it.
My closing statement: he had much more money than me, so he should purchase it for me because expending $99 would hurt my bank account way more than it would hurt his.
I quickly received the verdict that I was not entitled to my parents’ money. Property rights and frugality, I realized, go hand in hand. No one is a better steward of your money than you. And that means that if you want something, you had better figure out a way to pay for it, because you are not entitled to what others have. Nothing is free. But things you work and pay for are so much sweeter. That Lego set was my absolute favorite, because I earned it and still had money in the bank afterward.
3) Charity is a way of life
We regularly went to Goodwill to donate items. I watched my dad volunteer with the Boy Scouts, the United Way, and various other organizations. I watched my mom volunteer at my elementary school, and spend hours on the phone with relatives, making them feel special. Charity of your goods, funds, or time is a way of life, because you don’t have to think about it or expect a reward—it’s just what you do. You do it because you love others.
4) Motherhood is a privilege and an honor
My parents did everything they could to ensure my mom could stay home with us. She worked, attended college at night, and saved her money. Because she lived by the principles of frugality early on, she was able to stay at home with us kids. My mother read to me every day. We took trips to the science museum, the children’s museum, the library, and the YMCA. Mind, body, and spirit were nurtured by her careful instruction. She raised us to be intelligent critical thinkers. My mother taught us through her example what a strong, capable woman looks like. From her I learned that motherhood is an honor, a privilege, and a powerful force for good.
5) Fatherhood is about sacrifice, leadership, and love
We know the family is a divine design to help us become more like our Heavenly Father and our Savior. Fatherhood gives us the opportunity to provide, preside, and protect. My dad, like my mom, worked his tail off every day to provide for our family. He tried his best to be home for family dinner, but sometimes he was late, or couldn’t attend at all. I ALWAYS knew I was loved. He tucked me into bed at night, read me stories, and said prayers with me. Most importantly, he made sure I knew I was important in his life. He had to make hard choices, like moving our family to new places because of employment. I admire him immensely for his courage and leadership, for the sacrifices he made, and for the love he showed us.
6) Marriage is an equal partnership and the family is a unit
My parents complemented each other with their talents. Dad was the visionary—the one who set the big picture goals. Mom was always the detail person—the one who made sure all the boxes were checked so we could accomplish those goals. They tried to teach my brother and I to think of the family as a functional unit instead of just four people who happened to live in the same house. We had chores and we were included in family discussions. We applied our respective talents and abilities to problems and worked together to find solutions.
7) Keep things light
My parents worked hard every day at their respective duties. It is very important to let a little fun into your life. “I’m sorry—I just hit your dad in the face with my pillow, and he’s totally offended.” This is a typical interruption when I call my parents to say hi. We pepper our family conversations with tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted sarcasm. We share funny articles from Car & Driver magazine, have sock fights (roll up a newly laundered sock and throw it at people!), and retell old stories (like that time that Dad forgot the bikes were on the car roof and sent them airborne after colliding with the carport ceiling). As my mom always said, “You have to laugh!”
8) Family time is important
Family dinner was regularly scheduled family time in our home. We made a real effort to make it happen every single night. Dinner included discussion about family logistics—upcoming appointments, chores, etc. It also included a fun, interesting topic from current events. We were expected to be on our best behavior and observe table manners. Dinner taught us how to act maturely, present our ideas thoughtfully, and to collaborate as a family.
9) Above all, love each other
When my brother and I fought, my dad would remind me “He’s the only brother you’ve got; you two need to learn how to get along and love each other.” Love is hard, as already mentioned, but my parents made it clear to us that it was the most important thing we could do as a family. The 45 years of financial, marital, and family success proves to me that my parents placed love above all.
As members of the church, my future wife and I will do things a little differently in our family. However, my non-member parents’ example stands as a beacon to us. They are righteous spirits who received divine guidance to raise a family and sustain their marriage for 45 years. I thank Heavenly Father daily for their inspiration. I can not wait for the opportunity to raise my own family after the example of my parents, with prudence, fun, charity, respect, and love.