Lessons From a Kid-Free Week

So it turns out that I really do like my husband.

This was actually a bit of a revelation. It came to me while the kids were both away at summer camp for a week and the hubby and I had the house entirely to ourselves for several consecutive days. We could come home from work and have the house exactly as clean as it was when we left. We didn’t have to referee any arguments, negotiate any deals, or listen to any whining. The tension and stress melted away and we were both in a better mood. Without the pressures of parenting, we could relax and rediscover what it was that made us decide to join our lives together for better or for worse.

We’ve been kid-free for long stretches before, but we were always the ones that left. (We’re fortunate to have family that are willing to babysit for extended periods while we get away by ourselves…so blessed!) A vacation by ourselves is precious and wonderful and rejuvenating, but it’s a fantasy life that you know can’t be sustained. It’s a temporary escape, and it always comes to an end.

But it was different when the kids went away. For the first time in forever, we could truly relax in our own home. I caught a glimpse of what life was like before we had so many obligations and responsibilities–and what it could be like again once the boys are grown and out on their own. I spend so much time wishing for everyone to just get out of the house and leave me alone that for a long time I honestly couldn’t imagine how we’d survive the retirement years. Wouldn’t the constant togetherness drive us nutty?

But it turns out that although we tend to get caught up in the craziness of family life, the love that started it all is still alive and well.

We just need to work harder at remembering that.

Expect Less, Be Happier

I saw this inspirational quote in a CBC story related to Valentine’s Day:

“When it comes to concrete, specific things that your partner does for you, the fewer things you expect on a day-to-day basis, the happier you are,” says Samantha Joel. She’s a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto whose psychology research delves deeply into romantic relationships.

In other words: set the bar low.

I get it. Expectations can be tricky.

For our first Christmas, by which point we’d been living together for three months, my husband bought me a beautiful hand-crafted jewellery box with my name engraved on a gold plate on top. He followed it up the next year with a gorgeous set of diamond earrings. These are traditional, expensive gifts. Exactly what the media says all women want.

Except I don’t wear jewellery. Ever. I used to force myself to wear earrings for formal occasions, but eventually I stopped that too. I wear my wedding ring and my MedicAlert bracelet, and that’s about it. You’d think he might have noticed.

Sadly, he’s not the only one to get suckered into media-induced stereotypes. One year I bought him a snazzy pull cart for his golf clubs. It was lightweight and compact and could easily fold into the trunk of his car. Perfect.

Except he never goes golfing. He took lessons with me shortly after we were married, and he played a few rounds, but then he just stopped. Somehow I never noticed. After all, I like to golf.

So we’ve given up on grand gestures. Especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day. In that sense, I think Samantha Joel is right. If you’re expecting to be wowed, you’re just going to be disappointed.

This year, I hid a Hershey’s kiss in his car with a note wishing him a happy Valentine’s Day. He loves chocolate and I never let him have any. He loved it.

It really is the little things that count.

The Labour of Love

I was having a drink with one of my single friends the other day, listening to her complain about the trials and tribulations of online dating: sorting through the lies in the profiles, sending messages to prospective dates, wondering what it means when no one responds. “It’s just so much work,” she sighed.

I have long been the only still-married-never-divorced one in my social circle, and I’ve heard all the horror stories about the online dating experience. But this one made me pause. Dating is so much work?

You know what else is lots of work? Marriage. Marriage is a ton of work. Endless, difficult, unpaid work. It’s an ongoing series of compromises and accommodations that frequently has one or both of us thinking evil thoughts about the other.

But it’s not all bad. He might leave toothpaste in the sink and socks on the floor…but he also leaves me the last piece of bread because he knows I like toast for breakfast. He might keep me awake with his snoring…but he’s the first one up if one of the kids has a problem. He might do a half-assed job of wiping the kitchen table…but he does the dishes every night.

And it works both ways. Who else would put up with my leaving the bedside light on to read into the wee hours? How many other people would tolerate my planning every vacation to focus on the stuff I want to do? Who else would accept my anal-retentive need to control everything?

So this Valentine’s Day, I raise my glass to the love of my life, who makes me madder than anyone, and who is with me for the long haul.

And then we’ll get back to work.

The Truth About Love

It’s that time of year again, when everything is hearts and roses and the radio offers a never-ending parade of sappy love songs with titles like You Are Perfect and Stay With Me Always.

Oh, please.

Let’s face it: life is not a romantic ballad. It’s much more like a bad country song. Titles like You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly or If I Had Shot You When I Wanted to, I’d Be Out By Now may not be uplifting and inspirational, but they’re much more reflective of real life. (Or my personal favorite: If I Can’t Be Number One in Your Life, Then Number Two On You).

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been happily married for over 10 years. It’s just that being in love is so much different than falling in love. I remember the exciting rush of a new relationship, when everything is sweetness and light, and the guy is still afraid to fart in front of you. Those days are long gone.

Hey, we’re human. We yell. We cry. We say hurtful things.

But he still makes me laugh. He sometimes lets me hold the TV remote. And we both know we’d be lost without each other.

Think about it: your spouse is the only person in the world who knows everything about you and chooses to live with you anyway. Even your mother, who has known you since birth and loves you beyond measure, does not actually want you in her house. For someone to see the whole you, warts and all, and still say “I choose you”, is pretty astounding.

So this Valentine’s Day, hug that special non-perfect person in your life and show them how they make your heart sing.

Let’s just hope it’s not a country song.

A Daddy’s Day Tribute

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I thought this would be a good time to share my top 10 reasons why Chris is such a great dad:

1. No matter how busy he is at work, he manages to make time for the kids’ soccer practices, gymnastics classes, school field trips and countless other activities.
2. He always gives the boys a special treat whenever Mom is out for the evening.
3. He knows that the best way to play with little boys is to wrestle and make lots of noise.
4. He’s the first one up at night if one of the kids has a problem.
5. He never hesitates to fly solo when Mom needs to get out of the house to save her sanity.
6. He shares part of his banana with the boys every single morning at breakfast when they ask, even though they each have their own (apparently Daddy’s tastes better).
7. He crawls and climbs all over the indoor playground because he can’t resist pleas of “Daddy, chase me!”
8. He has almost endless patience for the 900,000 questions the kids ask every day.
9. He knows baths are only fun if there’s lots of splashing.
10. He never says no to a cuddle request.

Have a great Father’s Day, Chris! You deserve it!