We all need time to develop ourselves

W hen we received the Torah stood under the chuppah gave birth to a child or commenced on any other life-altering project we were brimming with joyous anticipation. Full of enthusiasm and optimism we felt that these turning points would lift us high and perch us there forever.

But alas it was not to be. Our highs have always been followed by lows and plenty of struggle. We learn our lessons the hard way experience and reflection become our teachers. We are a slow grow.

Slow-Moving Decades

We see this in our children too. Day by day (and moment by moment if we watch closely) our baby experiments receives feedback adjusts moves forward. Eventually she is sitting walking talking talking back. She changes physically emotionally mentally and spiritually and takes a couple of long decades to morph into an adult. Then she’ll take more decades to complete the remainder of her growth process.

There’s a reason for the allotment of tens of years for the average lifespan rather than tens of minutes; we are a slow grow.

When we see our children at any given point in time we are obviously not looking at the finished products. They are — and always will be — works in progress. The son who is a bad fit for school may turn out to be a great fit for business. The daughter who is spiritually disconnected today may become an inspired and inspiring adult tomorrow. Whatever is going on right now is simply part of the long slow learning process fodder for growth. Perspective patience and optimism allow parents to keep their eye on the future no matter what the moment brings.

“When my children were young each had different challenges. I was always worried and stressed both because of what we had to deal with then and also because of my constant worry for the future. I see now that school and adolescent behaviors don’t automatically condemn children to lives of struggle and failure. I wish I’d known that back then.”

Snapshots in Time

Adults in their 20s 30s 40s 50s 60s and beyond are still facing the experiences that shape their development. The 33-year-old impulsive angry father isn’t forever that man. Depending on the events of his life and how he processes them what he learns and does by 63 years of age he may be a mellow grandparent. Or perhaps a “crash course” instituted by his spouse already helped him do better by age 34.

Character traits aren’t so much “traits” as they are snapshots. They represent our current behavioral habits; they change the moment we change our behaviors.

The Long Haul

“We had a few peaceful years before the trouble started but the last four years were very hard. The drama with my husband’s family business the health issue I was going through and the move to the new house on top of it all — we were both very stressed. I didn’t feel that Levi was there for me and I started turning to my mother and sister more. But I’m sure we would have recovered if Levi had given us a chance.

“Somehow the people he turned to helped him feel that there was something wrong with his marriage and he needed to end it while he could still get out. Of course there was something wrong with his marriage! But since when is the cure for that to get out?

“My parents have been married 49 years and I know it wasn’t always easy for them. They could have gotten divorced at many points in their journey but they held on and plowed through till things became better again. I see how they look after each other now and I know I may never have that in my own life.”

Marriage is the slow-grow of a relationship between two slow-growing people. With rare exceptions it’s meant to be this way — a long process of struggle-learn-change-for-the-better. Wisdom understanding tolerance and maturity are the hard-won victories of the marital battlefield ushering in a truce of unity and peace.

Yes it often takes a very long time to get there and sometimes the truce never does arrive. Either way marriage provides a day-by-day opportunity to explore the possibilities and challenges of loving and being loved. As one of the deepest experiences of the human journey the lessons simply can’t be rushed. We’re a slow grow — and that’s how it’s meant to be. (Originally featured in Family First Issue 544)