Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, and that means restaurant specials and sappy McDonald’s commercials and aisles of pink and red things assaulting your eyes in the grocery store. For those of us with small children, it means
coercing lovingly supervising valentine writing.
“Just write one more name, honey, just one more, and we’ll call it a day! Only 20 more to go!”
dreading anticipating the tidal wave of sugared food coloring that will come home from school.
It means desperately trying to get to the babysitter before anyone else to make plans for the evening, or giving up all together and including the kids in your plans. That latter choice is how ours goes every year. Every year. How about that quality romantic atmosphere with a beautiful plate and a glass of wine and two whining children, am I right?
I was thinking about this whole love in the time of children thing, though, and the thing is that in my own marriage, the children have also changed my relationship with my husband in positive and meaningful ways. In fact, I wrote an essay about that very thing. It was inspired by a contest run by the Combsberry Inn in Maryland. Here it is for you to enjoy*.
*If you are boycotting sappy Valentine’s love stories, you can just stop here. I won’t judge because Valentine’s Day is just so … so much.
Standing in the kitchen nestled in to my husband’s shoulder while we listen to the children play in the other room, I have a common, fleeting wish that we could spend more time together, just the two of us, instead of these stolen moments when the children aren’t right in the middle of everything. In a minute someone will call out for one of us, or there will be a sibling argument to settle, or small hands suddenly wrapped around our legs.
We were friends in high school, both members of the band (clarinet and trombone). But it was some time after I left for university that we reconnected at our high school homecoming football game and started a tentative long-distance relationship that would find us driving to see each other on weekends for nearly two years before we managed to live in the same town.
Sometimes I reminisce about the few years we spent together before we had children. But then I think of how he got down on one knee to tenderly inspect and kiss a child’s ouchie earlier. How he conjures up a chorus of giggles with his jokes and antics. How he would sing to our babies, rock them to sleep. How he gets up with them in the morning to let me sleep a little longer. And I know that I love him more for all of these pieces of our life. I loved him then, for 5 and a half years before our first child was born, when we could go out whenever we felt like it, or spend lazy Saturday mornings watching old X-Files episodes. Now, after two kids, 8 years of parenting, we have far less time to spend with each other, more demands on our lives and time, more interruptions. But the trials of the last few years that might have wedged us apart have instead served to grow and reinforce our relationship, visible in the way we hold hands at a child’s activity, or smile at each other while our children chatter on and on (and on) at the dinner table. Visible in the small ways we each take care of each other, in knowing the kind of book the other would like from the library, the right way to prepare a favorite drink.
I love him more now than I did when we could spend every evening together, every weekend doing whatever we wanted to do. (What did we do with our time back then?) We have intention behind our little moments now, and we make the effort to appreciate them, even if the time seems a bit shorter than we would like. We celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary this summer. I don’t know what small moments we might conjure up for such an occasion, but this is the flow of our lives for now. Somehow its beauty and romance still shimmer within and through the weight of practicality, in spite of it and also because of it. Ten years is only the beginning.