Snatched Moments

I was talking with a neighbor who’s daughter babysits. I joked that we needed more date nights and he said, Take it from the divorced guy. You NEED date nights. Even if it’s just one glass of wine.

Things have been busy around here and, of course, Frank and I start to pick at each other during these times when we need to be most united. Work hasn’t slowed down much; the end of the year was jam-packed for Bea; it still feels like we’re transitioning to 2 kids, 10 months later.

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Our 5th Anniversary

We were talking and realized it’s been nearly 2 years – since our 5th anniversary – that we’ve had a night away together. It’s been since February that we’ve had an “official” date night. Life is busy.

It’s so easy to say we need to take time for ourselves, that our relationship is the most important in our family, but it’s much harder to implement an action plan.

Part of it’s the phase we’re in. Bea is fairly easy to leave. Elle… Not so much. We left her with friends whom she sees at least once per week for a few hours while we were at Bea’s dance recital. These friends came for dinner yesterday and it took Elle a solid 5 minutes to settle down and realize we weren’t leaving her. (Even then, she was suspicious…) We drop her at the church nursery every week and every week we get a text partway through the sermon telling us she’s inconsolable.

We try doing the whole “home date” thing after the girls are asleep. But honestly? Even if it happens to be an easy bedtime, I’m tired. We’re at home. It’s hard to break habits and routines.

All that to say, we’re finding ways. Maybe one day (hopefully sooner than later!) we’ll be able to do a regular official date night. Maybe we’ll be able to plan getaways more easily. For now, we take advantage when we can.

After a doctor’s appointment that we both went to, Elle fell asleep in the car so we went to a bathroom redesign store. She slept in the corner in her carseat and we were able to browse and dream at leisure. A friend watched Bea the other day and Elle (again) slept in the car while we drove through Starbucks and just talked.

These moments certainly aren’t perfect or beautifully romantic, but they remind me of real life. We’re in the midst of an intense period of parenting and if we don’t take advantage of these small windows, we’ll miss something. We’ll miss out on those conversations and jokes and observations.

If I knew this is how date night would look when we talked about having kids, I would have laughed and thought, Of course we’ll take time for ourselves! It’s what makes a solid marriage! Yes… But, like all of parenting, I’m learning that what I thought pre-kids and what I think in the midst of our reality aren’t different in philosophy so much as they’re different in practice.

This weekend, we laid low. We planted our garden and celebrated victories and had the most epic of meltdowns in public places. We ate meals with friends and went swimming and rode bikes. Frank and I didn’t have a whole lot of time, just the two of us, but we built into our family. We established norms and routines (again) and because of that, our communication as a couple was so much better. I think it’s because of those snatched moments this past week. Because we were able to intentionally connect, we were able to have a solid family weekend without longing for alone time.

I know that even later this summer will look different. Next year, it will be easier to leave the girls. And as they grow older and date nights are part of our routine, I hope we don’t take them for granted. I hope we learn from these chaotic days and remember how to connect at the drive-thru or in a bathroom fixture store. I hope that the lessons we are learning now will build a foundation for when life looks different and connecting as a couple isn’t as squeezed.

Do you plan regular date nights? Any advice for leaving a very attached child?

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Spending Quantity Time

Tax season ended a month ago. I always think that April 15 (or 18) will roll around and the next day we’ll be back to normal. A friend and I were talking about the transition back to a family of four and she called this period a time of reentry. It’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Or even in a month.

Part of our reentry process is taking time away. Our trip to Moab helped us reestablish routines as a family that would be tough to do in our own home where patterns are established and easily followed. But a beautiful vacation isn’t enough.

It’s a reminder that, no matter how intentionally quality time is planned for kids, it just doesn’t replace quantity time. Good, bad, mundane – the girls respond more to Frank being around consistently than all the special activities we try to plan while he’s busy.

IMG_2327Last weekend was a rare one without any plans. I don’t think we’ve had something so quiet since before tax season. Bea had been talking about going to the zoo as a family for a while, so we decided to head over on Saturday. The weather was cooler – perfect for seeing more activity. Bea is a great walker and usually runs around the zoo without complaint.

Once inside the gates, however, the whining started. As we walked by the giraffes and zebras toward the pachyderms, Bea would stop every few feet and demand that Frank carry her. Even her beloved hippo didn’t stop the constant, My knee huuuuurts! Caaaaaarry meeeeee!!!

We totally became those parents – the ones that I never thought we’d be. We threatened no treats, an early nap time, and even canceling our zoo membership. (Clearly we were thinking rationally…)

After a carousel ride to try and reset, we ended up heading back toward the car. At a potty stop before leaving, I was helping Bea adjust her pants when I saw the cause for all the moaning: She had put a small ponytail tie around her leg, under her knee. It had left a deep imprint as her circulation was cutting off. No wonder she was complaining!

I flashed back to that morning, when I saw her ootching the band up her leg. I told her to take it off, but clearly my advice was filed under Things Mom Doesn’t Know. That night, as we got ready for bed, there was still a mark under her knee. Though it had faded completely by morning, it was a reminder that our bodies take time to heal.

I thought about reentry and how immediately I want things to change. I thought about how, when things are tough and uncomfortable, often the fix is simply removing the offending tourniquet. Even though it seems obvious in hindsight, it’s easier to be carried. I’d rather whine and complain than stop and fix.

I was also reminded of how resilient we are. Even though the process can be painful, once we start the process, healing does happen. We do return to normal.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe the real lesson is to listen to my mom.

Have you ever found a solution to a painful situation that seemed so obvious in hindsight? 

Leave

Frank and I were talking about a friendship that has been unraveling for quite a while now. We’ve tried reconciliation with this person, but things continue at status quo. The thing is, we can’t just leave this person and move on. Because of the circumstances, part of our lives are tied to this relationship.

As we were talking, we realized that, though we can’t physically leave the situation, we can begin to detach mentally and emotionally. How can we keep our family safe and build healthy boundaries around conversations related to this situation? When we stopped to think about it, we realized how much time and energy had been devoted to being angry, hurt, and betrayed. Now, we’re committed to only talking about this person when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, we will try to leave this person, this friendship, this circumstance as contained as possible.

Because it's Halloween, I thought I'd break up this heavy post with a cute pic of our purple lion.
Because it’s Halloween, I thought I’d break up this heavy post with a cute pic of our purple lion.

This experience has caused me to reflect on so many uncomfortable and unhealthy situations that I just wanted to leave right away. The reality is that it is rare when I can just pack up and truly leave. Often, I have to work with someone who has a continuing negativity or encounter people I’d rather not. How can I still show love, be light, but leave my emotional investment in check?

Hopefully our goal of leaving this toxic relationship behind will help us love this person better than if we were completely involved.

Please note: I am talking about a toxic friendship. Nothing abusive or mentally damaging. I fully realize some need to leave a relationship quickly and without looking back.

How do you separate negativity in your life? How do you show love to others without draining your own resources?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.