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3 Minute Read

By Lisa Quigley

I think I had a sort of midlife crisis. No, not like that. I didn’t go out and get a tattoo or have some kind of regretful affair. I still drive the same Toyota I drove back when my children sat in booster seats. I didn’t even really change my hairstyle. It was much more subtle than that.

Whatever it was, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Last year, on a beautiful evening in June, our daughter graduated from high school. It was a surreal and sweet time. The days leading up to her graduation were filled with anticipation and memorable moments. I watched as she modeled her cap and gown. I took a picture of her leaving for her “last day” of school in precisely the same spot I had taken her picture on the first day of school, some thirteen-grades ago.  

During this time, friends and relatives, from near and far, would send their greetings and wishes. They all seemed to ask the same question. The question that she seemed all too happy to be answering. “So what are your plans from here on out?” I watched as her excitement escalated each time she spoke of all her goals, dreams, and plans that lie before her on a clean slate of the life she was embarking on. We were, and continue to be, so proud of her. 

Strangely, during this time of excitement and nostalgia, waves of anxiousness and grief would wash over me. We would miss our daughter so much, and we would miss the role she has so beautifully played in our family. Our daughter has always been a leader, an encourager, dear friend and wingman to our son, and now she was on the verge of moving on with her own life. 

Graduation proved to be an emotional time, but we’d weathered challenges in our marriage and family before—all which have significantly impacted the course of my life—ultimately giving me strength. So, I knew I had hope.

When our son was only two, he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum—the diagnosis was both shocking and a relief. Our hunches made sense. We knew what we were working with. We took a deep breath, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.  

Life was hectic. Our lives revolved around specialists, horse therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and my personal favorite, dog therapy. Then came school and Special Education classes (SPED), more therapy, Individual Education Plans, and painful, sometimes tense, communications with teachers and principals. During these years, we cycled through an erratic, and always an unpredictable pattern of joy and grief that seems to have no timetable.

My wonderful husband was a rock to our family as we navigated the life we’d been given. He is a CPA and works very long hours. Our life, as a family, revolves around Tax Season. Like many other wives of Accountants, I solo parented about one-third of the year.  

During this time and even during the “off-season”, we did a lot of tag-team parenting. My husband would take the kids to do something on a Saturday afternoon to give me “a break.” I would take the kids and go out of town to visit friends for the weekend as ‘Dad’s going to be at work anyway.’ The kids and I would spend several weeks in the summer at a summer camp run by friends.  

As the kids attended the camp, I helped run the camp. During these years, I even took a job in retail. The flexible schedule of working nights and weekends guaranteed there was consistency in therapy and parenting. The kids were doing well. Our son was blooming. All of our work seemed to be paying off. 

The years passed, things began to fall into a pleasant routine. The kids grew. Life began to run smoother. We reached the point in our parenthood, where we could leave the kids home alone for a short time. It was then that my husband and I started a little activity that would become a life-changing ritual. 

We embarked on a new adventure. That’s right, we began taking a walk in the neighborhood most evenings, after dinner. 

After so many years of talking about kids, parenting, therapies, it seemed that life had settled down, and we had the chance to talk about more important things. We talked about us. We talked about politics and football, sometimes we bared our souls to each other. We joked and laughed. We spoke encouraging words to each other. 

Even though our neighborhood runs along a freeway, our walks had the magic of a long trek in the woods or a stroll along a river in some exotic city. These treasured walks also made me realize how much I missed my husband. 

At the risk of sounding corny, I fell in love with my husband again on those walks. I will admit it, how much our relationship had fallen into doing life with each other, but not necessarily together. I remembered just how much I loved being married to my husband. We both agreed that we needed to do what we had done with our son so many years ago. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work—this time on our marriage.

Those walks turned into hikes. I started going to the college sporting events that my husband so enjoys, the ones for so long I told him to go ahead and take one of the kids to, so I could get some things done around the house. After the games, we would continue talking over a meal at an eccentric restaurant in our town. 

We started binge-watching a NetFlix series together (why did it take so long for us to discover HOMELAND?). During this time, something else happened. Even though we were focusing more on us, our son continued to grow and experience life just as we had watched him do when we were so focused on his care and progress.  

Just like many of our friends that we have known for years in the small town where we live, we are all on the doorstep of our empty-nester years. Like many of those same friends, we are talking of taking more trips, a more peaceful schedule, and learning new skills as a couple. 

Unlike many of the couples we have literally grown up with, the rest of our lives will, at least in some part, include our son. We absolutely remain vigilant in our coaching of him and encourage him to pursue his dreams. We expect him to live a full life of his choosing. In that expectation, we also realize that we will need to be a sort of home base, mentor, and guide. Our parenting will need to carry on, at least in the form of a consultant to our son as he grows older.

We look to our future responsibilities as parents in this type of arrangement, with the same passion we began this whole journey on. Thankfully, we are going to continue on this journey together, and that makes me smile.

So, was it a midlife crisis? I’m not entirely sure, but it was certainly a wake-up call.  A sort of alarm that happened to wake me up in time, before someday when we both realized—sadly, a little too late—that besides having raised two children, we had nothing in common. 

It was like a text alert for my soul, reminding me how thankful I am that I married my husband, and how blessed we are to do life together. In the end, it was definitely a gift.

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Jason and his wife, Ann, walking Shoulder-to-Shoulder at his daughter’s wedding.

3 Minute Read

It’s taken time to understand and recognize, perhaps years if I really think about it, but something amazing happens when you get “shoulder to shoulder” with a loved one.  

In my case, it’s been with either my wife of 25 years or one of our 20-something daughters.  

Conversation and communication unfold with a depth and authenticity that doesn’t happen any other way.  

Living in a house full of lovely women, there’s rarely a lack of conversation. As a mild introvert, I haven’t always been central to the conversation; I was never excluded but neither did I always include myself. Fortunately, that’s changed in a monumental way.

When our daughters became teenagers, my wife and I discovered an openness and honesty our girls conveyed only during our “shoulder to shoulder” runs.  

Something changed as our gaze looked ahead and our breathing became more and more distressed.  

Real stuff started coming out of their mouths, stuff neither of us had heard from them before.  Stuff that mattered: hopes, dreams, fears, concern, you name it, it came out on those runs and they volunteered it!  

I loved, and still do love those runs. I would learn more about my daughter(s) in 30-60 minutes, than in a month’s worth of everyday interactions.  

What was going on, how they felt about it, what should they do: questions they sincerely wanted mom or dad’s advice and opinion on.  It was the opening for real conversation that every teenage parent hopes for. 

Could the same principle hold true when it came to conversations with my wife?  

Without making any direct efforts to apply it, I discovered this to be absolutely true. Evenings spent walking our dog around the neighborhood, have turned into significantly important connection time.  

Over the course of our well-worn route, amazing conversations take place.  All the stuff married couples MUST talk about: kids, jobs, plans, money, and schedules.

We’ve found that we are able to talk and connect at a deep and focused level.  For me, it’s being able to really listen without any household, device or family distraction.  

Just my wife’s words, her tone, her inflection without the eye-to-eye contact.  It enables me to talk, and my wife to listen and respond openly and honestly.

It’s my experience, being “shoulder to shoulder” creates a very safe environment to converse with a loved one.  

In our marriage, intimacy and trust already exist, so gazing forward together has empowered us to be vulnerable, while avoiding the eye contact that might make us feel hesitant to share what’s really on our mind. Eye contact that has, at times, been unintentionally passed and received as judgmental.  

Certainly, I am not saying we don’t or shouldn’t look each other in the eye- that’s critically important.  What I am saying is that walking with your spouse, maybe hand-in-hand, allows a level of authenticity that we might be uncomfortable with when we are face-to-face.

Sometimes the walks are impromptu or one of us will say, “Let’s walk the dog tonight.” Planned or unplanned they have become an amazing way for our family to connect in the deepest and most meaningful way.

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