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Challenge: Romance After Kids

Date Night? Who has time for that?

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After 17 years of marriage, our date nights do not involve planned dinner reservations followed by a movie, but simple spontaneous bouts of time together when we are working as a team to strengthen our relationship, family and future. It is unrealistic to believe that married life is something out of a Hallmark Television movie, but at one time I did think marriage was full of rainbows and unicorns and not storm clouds and mucky water. Boy was I wrong! Couples spend years trying to figure out how to make their marriage work and mine was no exception. It is true that after all the wedding bliss, the honeymoon, the first house, the first baby, the second baby, the second house and the third baby, the excitement of the newness starts to wear off very quickly. Those marriage vows remain present and strong and we do the whole in sickness and in health scene, but it did not mean we were always or appeared to be the “Facebook Perfect” family. I think that most new couples believe if they are not in a state of euphoria everyday, then something is wrong.

While spending every hour of every day trying to be the perfect spouse, the perfect mom, the perfect dad, we lacked the time to just enjoy the ride. It took years to admit that nothing’s perfect and the grass is definitely not greener on the other side - it actually is the same shade of green with spots of crabgrass and guess what - it still needs mowed every couple of days. We have learned to find humor in our errors and faults, where we once built walls ...brick walls of negativity. He finally accepts that I am always going to show up to an appointment 24 hours early because I wrote the date wrong on my calendar. We are okay knowing our kids will on occasion, if not always, have mismatched socks on as they are heading off to school. We have come home from the county fair so tired that we put the kids to bed without their baths. My husband's obsession with not closing dresser drawers gets on my nerves as my obsession with not leaving the house with the bed unmade gets on his nerves. One of us is always playing the bad cop, while the other is the hero. We are not always happy when our counterpart pulls into the driveway after a long day’s work. Why? Because the house is a wreck and what is he/she going to say? Dinner..what dinner? Laundry is not always folded, but it is at least clean! Whose turn was it to stop and get milk or bread? I faked having a bug in my eye to hide from him that he made me cry. He threatened to trade me in for a newer model - at first I cared, but now I dare him. He can be a pain in the ass, but I can be very difficult. It is my way or the highway, so he makes sure I have a full tank of gas. He slips on the icy sidewalk and I try to contain my laughter while making sure he is okay and then I bust out laughing. That is love, right? I coddle the kids; he tells them to toughen up. We argued. We competed. We spent days not talking to each other and we made decisions without thinking how the other would feel - some were good, while others were not.

But now we figured it out and as I am writing this, my husband is sitting on the back porch, thinking about my 40th birthday coming up and is attempting to book a trip for us to travel to Waco, Texas. Why? Because Joanna Gaines is my idol. I love fixing up old to make it new again, plus I have only dropped 100 hints that it would be the only gift that would make turning 40 tolerable. The young me would have criticized him for not making reservations earlier because of how popular this destination has become, but now I smile at the gesture and appreciate the thought. Even though I am secretly optimistic that he will not give up on this near perfect birthday celebration destination. After all these years, some tears, and lots of fears, we became each other’s constant. The first five years of marriage was learning, appreciating and accepting each other. Once you walk down that aisle and have a humdinger of a party, you begin the journey of experiencing a whole new set of “have to dos.” This was our period of creating us. Managing money, making sure we plan for the future, deciding when to start a family and trying to find time for “date night.” I mean, is there such a thing as “date night” when you are married? The second five years was what I call the enlightenment period because what used to be easy now became mundane. The “your so perfect” comments turned into “Can you be any more annoying?” We were both tired and finding fault was way easier than appreciating each other. We looked at the glass have empty instead of half full. The familiar excitement was hidden under running the kids to practice, changing careers, trying to get home at a decent hour, trying to get ahead, bills, holidays, Carson needing stitches for a second time, Emma having a meltdown, shoveling sidewalks, dance recitals, homework, Kaleb telling us he would have been fine as an only child, etc. Everyday felt like Groundhog Day, but we now realize and do not take for granted all of those ups and downs because that period identified our “perfect.”

We have found our date night as the time we work together on a project, sitting in the stands as we watch our kids play ball, taking pictures with our daughter as she goes to a school dance, sitting on the back porch, supporting each other as we chase our dreams and celebrating as we hit our goal. We are a team, who believes in each other, comforting each other when we are down, giving each other space when needed, encouraging each other with our hobbies, and telling each other when we need to chill. We go to dinner and we watch movies. He plans impromptu trips to Key West and we vacation as a family. We laugh when our kids tell us we just don’t understand. He supports me buying land so I can have horses close to home; I knocked on hundreds of doors when he was running for election seeking support. We argue whose turn it is to feed the dog. He tells me I am ridiculous for spending money on house decor, in return, I tell him he does not need an upgraded side-by-side. He goes to the grocery store and cooks while I am great at ordering take-out. He negotiates deals and I impulse buy. He knows how to fix everything and I know how to say “great job”. He likes to play cards, I like to read. He likes sitting by an open fire outside and I am content next to a fire in our fireplace. We can now laugh about him bringing a cheeseburger into my hospital room while I was in labor, when really I wanted to rip his head off. He can find it humorous when I back straight into the tree adjacent to our driveway not once, but twice. He is flawless at stair dives, but when I try to join the fun, we go together to the emergency room to tend to my broken collarbone. He’s a night owl staying up all night and I have to be in bed at 9:30...come to think of it - does he ever sleep? I like my showers burning hot and he likes lukewarm. Everyday is date night for us - we create our own happiness!

We will not always agree on everything, but we know when to agree to disagree. He will still think scrapbooking our kid’s major life accomplishments is unnecessary and I will constantly remind him that my way is the right way. I will still tell him that I only spent $100 on something when really it was $199 … I mean, doesn’t everyone round down! He will continue to remind me to tell people “No” and that I can not save the world but he will run up to the mall to buy warm clothing and boots for a kid I say is in need. I continuously bite off more than I can chew but he always jumps in to help. I will always hand him a towel when he gets out of the shower and he will always paint my toenails when I ask. I am “Jessie” to his “Woody.” T.M.I...maybe? He is my Noah and I am his Allie, reminding me daily of our life together as it is written in the Notebook. I am “do, re, mi” to his “fa, sol, la, ti ,” even though neither of us can carry a tune in a bucket. He is my Chip and I am his Joanna, minus the awesome bed and breakfast, tree swings, shiplap, Magnolia Table, silos, etc. Our glass is half full, always ...of something!

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