…In plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health…”
With kids. That is the phrase that is missing from these vows…the ones that my husband I took nearly fourteen years ago. I love Randy, and I love my kids. I love them all “in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health.” But sometimes, when the two become entwined (children and husband), things get a little messier.
Our thirteenth wedding anniversary is a prime example…
It was the morning of our “Anniversary Eve.” I was about to head up the stairs to get the kids ready for church, when three-year-old Brennan pattered in to the kitchen.
“Mommy, ” he said, “It hurts right here when I go like this,” he said as he pointed to his neck and swallowed.
Uh oh. Was Brennan coming down with a sore throat? He’d been so healthy all winter. Why today? The day Randy and I were to head out for our “24 Hour Anniversary Getaway.” We don’t get away ~ without the kids ~ all that often. If fact, in the eight years since kids we’ve only had three two kidless overnights (the 23-hour surgery getaway doesn’t really count). I was so looking forward to this night alone in a hotel with my husband ~ dinner out, sleeping in, relaxing.
I gave Brennan some Tylenol. He should be fine. I won’t mention a thing to our friends who are so graciously watching him. Really, it’s probably nothing, I convince myself.
But later that day, as I sit in the living room, holding my warm, damp, cuddly child, I internally struggle over what to do. Clearly, Brennan is not feeling well. Do I still leave him in the care of our friends (who have three young children of their own)? As much as I really really want to go out with Randy for our anniversary, I don’t feel good about leaving Brennan in such a state. Yet, I don’t want to cancel our getaway. I really really don’t want to! What to do!?
Well…my internal struggle was soon to have a clear answer: As I was holding Brennan, I suddenly felt a lurching of his body which can only mean one thing… I stand up and race to the bathroom (holding Brennan out and away from me!). I (we) didn’t make it.
After cleaning up the mess, I’m dejected. I’ve already cancelled our overnight in my mind and braced myself for a disappointing anniversary. Randy, on the other hand, informs me that because he got a “deal” on the hotel, we do not get a refund. We are still going…with Brennan.
What? This is beginning to feel like even more of a nightmare. A sick child in a hotel room on our anniversary.
Fast forward a few hours. Our older two are dropped off, and Randy and I (and Brennan) are on our way to our romantic getaway (ha ha). Brennan seems miraculously healed. He chatters away ~ happily, I might add ~ during the entire one hour drive. He marvels at our hotel room and seems eager to “go out to eat” with us. Why wouldn’t he be happy? He’s got Mom and Dad all to himself in a hotel room and we’re all going out to eat together. Life is good…for three-year-old Brennan.
As we sit at together at our “romantic” dinner, Brennan in-between us, commentating and discussing every detail of the meal, I slowly allow my perspective to change. Instead of being bothered by this change of events, I now find the situation amusing. Thankfully, so does Randy. We catch eyes over Brennan’s head and smile, seeing the humor in having a little “third wheel” joining us. And I think we’re both grateful that our sick little boy is at least not acting very sick. We’ll take this chatty little boy sitting in between us any day over a feverish, nauseous child.
And I still have hope for the evening. We had been upgraded to a suite (for no extra charge). We would be able to have our own room! I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel for Phase Two of our evening: Brennan sleeping, take-out dessert in our bedroom, a movie, and time together!
Phase Two was going smoothly. Brennan was sleeping soundly out on the pull-out couch in the main room. Randy and I had enjoyed a delicious dessert, and we were now cuddling together in our big comfy bed, watching a movie.
And then…I notice the door handle to our bedroom slowly moving. I poke Randy and point toward the door. It slowly opens, and through the crack, we see a tiny person.
“Can I watch the movie with you?” Brennan asks (apparently, the smoothness of Phase Two was too good to be true).
Rather than dealing with a bedtime struggle in a strange hotel room in the middle of our movie, we let him join us. He climbs into the bed, and settles himself in between us (of course). Randy and I muffle our laughter, as once again, our “third wheel” commentates and discusses details of the movie.
Randy and I laughed at this incident then, and we laugh at it now. But in all honestly, it’s taken us years to adjust to “life with kids.” Many of you may relate…kids take a toll on one’s marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. But I love my husband, too. In fact, I love my husband more. That use to be hard for me to say. After my first child was born, I was torn between who I loved most. But I was reminded, and wisely so, that I am supposed to love my husband more. It’s nothing against my kids. In fact, I’m loving my kids by loving my husband. Our love for each other gives them stability and security. I love having the freedom to love my husband more than my kids. It’s as it should be.
So we must work on our marriage. We must make the time to be together. We must plan those “getaways,” even if they are disrupted. I’m glad we went, even if it was with Brennan. It was still a getaway. Had we stayed home, it would have just been another night at home with the family. A night, an anniversary, that would soon be forgotten. Getting out of the house and going away is memory-making. It’s special. It’s a way of saying “we are worth it.” It’s a way of showing our kids that our marriage ~ and our love for each other ~ is special. But I’ll be the first to say it’s hard to make happen.
My mom calls these early years of parenting “the survival years.” That phrase has given me both perspective and hope. Perspective that, yes, these years can be hard…and that’s normal. Hope because it implies that things will get better. Including our marriage. In the mean time, we’ll take what we can get…even if it occasionally includes a “third wheel.”