When we first married, we were so doe-eyed and twitterpated. He was my best friend, the one I laughed with, loved with, played with...we talked, confided - we did most everything together. We gave each other space to be different, but we enjoyed being together. We were a family of two and it was good - it was very good.
Enter the baby. Our family is now three. This so rocked my world. I never dreamed that anyone could have such a pull on my heart - such an ability to change everything that I thought I knew - to be SO tiny and helpless, yet make me feel so completely inadequate for the task before us.
I finally figure out how to care for this little one without fear of being discovered a complete fraud as a competent parent --
And then we are four...
I vividly remember FINALLY getting the baby to take a nap, so I could get some desperately needed sleep, and as I walk out of the nursery, I turn and see -- a two year old. Bright-eyed and ready to have alone time with mom. It was overwhelming to be so desperately needed and feel like you are never enough.
But we rock along, we figure it out, we find a schedule that allows me to sleep on occasion and not become too much of a raving lunatic.
And then we are five.
I remember, at the time, thinking that I would never rest again. I would never have time to be alone, to not feel pulled in way too many directions, that there are WAY more questions than there are answers.
And that best friend I had just a few years back? It's really difficult to maintain that during those years. I thought, "Brian can take care of himself," - he was a grown man, easy to put on the back burner while I focused on those helpless ones in our care.
Have you seen Marley & Me? Maybe the saddest movie of all time, but what I remember most from that movie is all the tension in the years that they were constantly caring for tinies. It was so real! Do you remember that season? Are you still living there?
Those tinies have SO many needs and we are so stretched and we see things so differently from our spouse at times. It is a beautiful, chaotic, messy, blessed life. We are tired, and cranky, and they can be so insensitive! From mom's perspective, dad can be so incredibly incompetent about the simplest things in caring for these little creatures (I know now that this isn't fair, but it's what our hormonal minds see - sorry.)
Thankfully - I am eternally, forever, thankful - there were people that were further along in this journey than we were that spoke into our lives. Women that told me to remember that when these kids were grown and gone, my husband would still be there. The priority HAD to be to maintain that relationship, that friendship.
(As a side note, because it really deserves much more attention than I can give it here - I recognize that some of you, for one of perhaps hundreds of possible reasons, are living in this stage alone. Remember that while there may be no more important job, you are more than a mother or a father. You are a brother/sister, son/daughter, friend, professional. Nurture those relationships. Remember who you are - because they will grow up and you need to know that - your kids need to know that.)
I could not imagine a time when there would not be kids in our home. I could not imagine a time when we would have hours and hours to spend just talking, make our own schedules, cook what we wanted, sleep when we wanted. But I chose, in spite of great doubt at times, to trust these women.
I learned to swallow the desire to choke him when he didn't change a diaper the way I thought he should, when he let them eat things for dinner that I wouldn't, when he left them alone before I thought they were ready (he was only gone for 20 minutes, our daughter WAS old enough, and I was an over-protective lunatic, but I couldn't see that at the time.) And you know what? None of those things mattered. Our kids were not ruined by a Mom and a Dad that did things in a little different way. And some of the things he did that I wanted to choke him for? They were the right things, and I was the one that learned. Imagine that.
We worked on our friendship. We carved out time when there was none, to talk, to go on dates (sometimes short, sometimes just in the living room with a bowl of popcorn after we finally rendered the tinies unconscious, but a date none-the-less). When it would have been easier to grow further apart, allowing our only commonality to become the children we are loving and raising, we forgave and we loved and we communicated.
I am so glad we did. Because then those tinies become teenagers - and we learned what hard really meant. We learned that there really were more questions than there are answers. But we continued to work on US. We went in our bedroom, closed the door, and laughed - sometimes cried, prayed, searched for answers - together.
We haven't always agreed. I know there were times that he had to swallow the desire to choke me as well. But we continued to remember what those ahead of us told us - this season would pass - they would not always be here. We needed to throw ourselves fully into, and enjoy, the blessing of the five of us right now, but we needed to still know each other when all this changed.
Then it began. There were four in this house.
Then there were three.
And then there were two...
This is where we are. The season has arrived.
I have no idea what this is going to look like.
I know there will still be difficulties. I know there will still be times that we have to swallow the desire to choke each other. We will face new challenges, new adventures. We will figure out who we are as parents of adult children. I know we will still worry about our kids, they will still need our help, they may even be back in our home for a season and we will still feel completely inadequate to the tasks at hand.
We've come full circle - a family of two, but we are still one. We are friends. We love, we laugh, we cry - we do those things together. I am so glad we never stopped trying.
If you are still in the midst of the overwhelming chaos - if you can't imagine a time different than this one... Do not lose sight of the end of the journey. It will come - in the blink of an eye. Work at it. Take time to love each other. Take time to laugh. Do. Not. Choke. Him. It will be worth it.