Marriage After Kids

Through the rain I could see the fireworks that were exploding across the interstate. All five of us huddled in the back of the van- the smallest member much happier that the hatch was closed and it was quieter- crowding the windows.
“Don’t knock over your drink.”
“Stop putting your blanket on my head.”
“That’s my face!”
“No, we are not going to read the book right now. We’re watching fireworks.”
I never said any of those things while watching fireworks before I had kids. That’s when fireworks are romantic. You sit on lawn chairs and hold hands or stay in the car and make out while you wait. Then you lay your head on your beloved’s shoulder while the lights flash in the sky. Explosions in the air. Butterflies in the stomach.

That carries over into all of life. Slow weekend mornings with naps and talk of breakfast. Quiet lunches discussing work and school and life. Dinner alone- at home or at a restaurant with no disruptions.
After three kids I realize that time is wasted. It’s wasted because it’s normal and without boundaries and you don’t know what you have. You don’t know what quiet dinners with conversation are until your table is crowded with small people who knock over drinks and cry because they don’t like broccoli. You don’t appreciate a lazy morning until you are bounced on before seven on Saturdays. You don’t know that fireworks are beautiful because life is calm.
 marriage after kids
Once the calm is gone you have to fight for what you have and it’s better. It’s better because you put time and effort into it. It’s better because you value it. It’s better because you made it a priority. The things in life that seem like the disturbance are the fuel.
You have to decide. Do I let this die or do I find the energy for it? Is my marriage worth having the interrupted dinner conversations? Is it worth coming back to a conversation after the kids are in bed? Is it worth holding hands during the fireworks while the baby cries on my lap?
It is worth it. Our marriage is better now than it was before we had kids. Not because life is less complicated or quieter. Not because we have more time or money. Not because any part of life is easier. It’s better because we put more into it.
I put in smiles when I’m stressed out. I put in quiet words when I’ve been forcing loud ones down all day. I put in listening when I’d rather scroll through my phone. I die a little more to myself and it helps my kids and my husband. It changes me.
I looked at my husband framed in the light coming in the back of the window. Our oldest sat on his lap and the middle stood behind him, laying his cheek on his head. They love him. He loves them. The baby sat in my lap snuggling his blanket and alternating between looking at the fireworks and turning my face toward him. He wanted to protest being up so late but he loved the time on my lap. This is now. It’s family. It’s work. And it’s worth every minute of it.
Justin commented on the way home that he was glad we did hard things with the boys. Doing anything extra or special or out of the ordinary with small children is often hard. Let’s face it, ordinary is often hard with small children. But these are their memories. We are training them for life by going to the grocery store and sitting at the table.  And one day when they’re grown and we have quiet dinners and lazy mornings again I’m told we’ll miss this.
Sometimes I almost believe it.