John has been out of town this week, his absence both a bit of alone-time luxury and the pang of an essential puzzle piece gone missing. I texted him last night, about how I’d caught sight of my earrings — the diamond studs he gave me many years ago — and remembered how cherished I felt by that gift, how I still feel special when I see those sparkling stones. You made an investment in me, I wrote. We invested in each other, he wrote back.

Marriage most definitely is an investment, one that can sometimes feel like a bad gamble on penny stocks. There are times when it feels like there is not one single thing more to give, and yet you must, you can’t just bank on what’s already been put in.

It’s a long game. God, there are so many things to weather over the years. The chart of a marriage can look like an electrocardiogram, staggering up and down all those hills and valleys of two intertwined lifetimes.

In our instant-gratification culture I think it’s become harder for us all to really grasp what it means to do a thing for decades. Raising children can be so consuming it’s hard to imagine what life looks like when they’re off to college; how there is, if we’re lucky, so much more time to be spent in yet another season of marriage, one where it’s just the two of you. Like it was at the beginning, but with a completely different set of perspectives. The landscape is nothing like it was. The person you were back then isn’t the person you are now, and the same is true for your partner. What a miracle it is, really, if you can still be walking side by side.

There have been times when I did not believe John and I would make it and I guess I have to say I’m grateful for the experience, as bleak and awful as it was. It forged something in me, a resolve to keep doing the work. Being married is sometimes as easy as breathing but I never forget that it is an investment. It takes both of us to keep it going, it takes effort.

John and I don’t align politically and that’s been very difficult in the last few years, and I imagine this coming election is going to be hard on both of us. I don’t love that we’ve become so different in that regard but I love him. I love us. I love that we’ve come this far and we’re still in it, we’re still going, we never gave up.

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I miss being able to write more freely about parenting. There’s more to say than there ever has been, although it’s certainly harder to put into words — diaper blowouts and tantrums are pretty universal and thus easy enough to describe, but tween/teen issues can be so complicated, and of course totally subjective to my point of view. Still, it would be wonderful to share more about my kids and what parenting is like these days. It would be nice to hear more from you all on what I’m facing, because I know so many of you have faced or are facing similar joys and challenges.

The problem, of course, is that my children are now old enough to care very much about how I present them online. I no longer include them very often in things like Instagram Stories, by their request. They allow some photos, but they must be vetted and approved. No one has ever specifically told me not to write about them, but I am cognizant of how self-conscious this age is, and how awful it would be if I posted some cute-in-MY-mind story that somehow got shared with a classmate, which is specifically why I tend to do more mild complaining than anything else. It’s probably cooler if your peers find out you occasionally drive your mom right up a wall than if they find out about the adorable thing you still do that she hopes you’ll never age out of ever.

The boys are 11 (almost 12) and 14 now. We are fully entrenched in the middle school years, which has been, in some ways, a lot like what I imagined it would be, and in other ways totally different. Middle school is about the age I feel like I can really remember (I picture those core memories from Inside Out, and how many of mine seemed to have formed when I was a young teen), but so little of what I experienced applies to my own kids. Socializing is different, friendships are different, the way everything in school works is totally different. Technology in particular has changed our culture so much I often feel pretty lost trying to understand what my kids are into, which I suppose has always been true of one generation attempting to relate to the other, but did previous generations have iPhones, they did NOT.

There’s a lot I’d like to talk about, but it mostly all comes down to the same thing I’ve been saying since I started this blog: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. The good news is I know plenty of other parents feel this way too, we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got, and what we’ve got is an ever-changing mix of chaos and mistakes and wins and frustrations and pride and love. It’s so different than it used to be, but in that sense, it’s pretty much exactly the same.

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