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Juggling Act

Time to talk about the meaning of commitment

The mistress of ceremonies at the recent 50th wedding anniversary celebration for my aunt and uncle waved a gift in the air, offering it to the couple who had been married the longest. She was clearly expecting to honor only one husband-wife pair. Two couples spoke up, both of them married for 60 years.

Then, she asked all couples who had been married 50 years or more to stand. There were six, including my aunt and uncle, another aunt and uncle and family friends. The banquet room erupted into applause.

What an awe-inspiring testimony from these 12 people: they had made a commitment to marriage and kept it. Of course, they were married during an era when it was widely assumed that men and women walk down the aisle once. We all know that notion is aging along with the couples in that room, all in their 70s and 80s.

The reasons are plenty, including more unmarried couples living together and the increased job prospects for women. Still, the sight of those older people standing proudly to show off their accomplishment reminded me that I have not yet talked to my 15-year-old daughter about commitment.

I imagine that many parents don’t do that these days. We get stuck warning our kids about drugs, sex, the perils of the internet and staying away from bad people so we often say too little about our core values. What it means to commit to friendship, to marriage, to anything. What it means to be honorable. What it means to treat others with respect and dignity.

My daughter and I have talked some about such matters, but not enough. There are so many distractions–cell phones, texting, IPods, Face book, YouTube. Our lives are saturated with information and we often talk too much about the stuff that doesn’t really matter.

I’m planning to invite my daughter to tea. When she was about eight years old, I asked her one day, “What would you do for a perfect day?” She responded,” I would eat cakes, drink tea and read.” So I’ll create “a perfect afternoon”– tea, homemade sweets and conversation.

Then, I’ll do what parents do all the time. Give her money, for books.

(P.S. We will be having afternoon tea regularly.)

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