So there was this song.....KIDDING.

Scintilla Day 3: What's the story of the most difficult challenge you've faced in a
relationship? Did you overcome it? What was the outcome?

Things I thought about and discarded:

1. My husband going bald

2. My husband liking the Three Stooges

3. That time my boyfriend said he didn't like that I smelled of woodsmoke.

4. The Lost finale. No wait, that was my friend Collette's relationship. Jury's still out on if their marriage will survive.

Okay. In all seriousness. We've been lucky. Very, very lucky. We haven't had to deal with terminal or serious illness, serious financial difficulties or horrible in-laws (on either side. My husband adores my parents and I love his mother. His father is a bit of a space cadet, but well-meaning). So I'd have to say that the major challenge to our marriage has been...


Before I had kids I totally bought into that whole "it's more selfish to have kids than not to have them" poppycock. I said those very words to validate people who said they didn't want to have children.  

I don't say them any more.

I think not wanting to have children is perfectly fine. I think it's admirable to know yourself that well and not to have kids just because people expect it of you. I think there are lifestyles and careers that it would be very difficult to incorporate parenting into, and good on you if you realize that. I'm sure it's very challenging and time-consuming to run a Fortune 500 company, or train for the Olympics, or split atoms or whatever.

But none of them are more challenging or time-consuming than trying to convince a sixteen-month-old that he should quit sticking his head into the space between the CD cabinet and the wall because it ALWAYS GETS STUCK. Or trying to get a spoonful of barley cereal into a nine-month-old's mouth when she's decided that said mouth will not be accepting barley cereal today, thank-you very much. Or...well you get the point, and this post is not about that.

We lived together before we got married. Marriage was not a huge transition for us. Before we had children, we were a case study in couples who communicated well, respected each other's feelings and generally made other people nauseous with the little hearts that floated up from our joined hands.

Children, on the other hand? Children were like a nuclear bomb. My husband always knew he would have children. My husband is fantastic with children. He had a brother born ten years after him so, when we had Angus, he taught ME how to change a diaper. I always thought I would probably had children, but I knew, with absolute certainty, that I would suck at it (positive thinking is not one of my strengths). 

If anyone disagrees that having small children is hard on a marriage, I look at them with extreme suspicion. Before we had kids, when my husband traveled for business it meant I got to use the car, watch scary movies and have popcorn for dinner. After we have kids, when my husband traveled for work it meant I cried a lot, slept even less than usual and flipped through the yellow pages looking for divorce lawyers. Before we had kids, I didn't care that my husband loved hockey. After we had kids, this meant that my kid was going to play hockey. Before we had kids, our conversations contained phrases like "would you mind if" and "is it okay with you that" and "could you please". After we had kids, our conversations contained phrases like "keep your fucking voice down if you don't want to" and "would it destroy your soul to move the goddamned" and "If you think that then you're a moronic excuse for a". 

I wasn't that great at parenting small children. I always felt like I was probably doing it wrong. On the other hand, I knew for sure that my husband was doing it wrong. I absolutely did that delightful thing that many, many mothers do - demanding that he help out more and then getting mad when he didn't do everything my way. Add to that the fact that I thought every sniffle and rash meant they had cancer, and that if he didn't react the same way he obviously loved them less, and .... yeah. Good times.

We got through it. The kids got older, and their needs became, if not less intense, less immediate and all-consuming. I learned to relax a little (shut up, I did so). My husband is a really great father. I am more hands-on in the day-to-day, but every once in a while he does something spontaneous and fabulous with them that they remember forever. He coaches them both in baseball, which I love to watch but can't understand, and he is fantastic at it. He helps with the math homework and I help with the reading and spelling. Everyone in the house is agreed that no matter what, Daddy never, never gets to pick anyone's clothes.

We're not back to being that sweet, harmonious, untested couple. We're something a little more battered and smudgy, and much, much stronger.

We are parents. 


clara said…
Oh wow..
"We're not back to being that sweet, harmonious, untested couple. We're something a little more battered and smudgy, and much, much stronger."

Love this so much.
1. Glad to see someone who is on the other side of the clusterfuck that is parenting small children with another person.
2. Eloquent! So maybe you're not an optimistic-positive (like that? I just made it up), but you can sure as hell recognize something positive when you see it so I would call you realistic-positive.

So excited that you're posting every day.
Patti said…
AMEN. About a month after I brought Baby #1 home from the hospital and gave up sleep for four years, I looked at Oli and said, "And to think some people think having a baby will bring them closer."

We laughed so hard. I wet my pants. He didn't. Bastard.
Nicole said…
Um, yes. Totally. I remember being strongly resentful that my husband got to go and take the train to his office and then work with no one crying and go for coffee and lunch. Meanwhile, I had to put the baby in the Bjorn if I wanted to use the toilet, and also I had a one year old who would be clinging to my leg at the same time.
Stereo said…
I effing love this because it is so real and honest and terrifies and endears me to the future children I will have. What a pleasure to come here again.
Lynn said…
Oh, how I love love love this post. So perfect in every way. Also, as usual Patti is bang on with her comment that it's hilarious that people think a child might pull them together. HA. HA. HA.

Now must go because my children had ice cream sundaes this afternoon. I assume I have to SAY NO MORE.
StephLove said…
Having a baby changes everything, as the Johnson & Johnson ad used to say. But I think it changes different things for different people. In our case, I think the first baby actually made us communicate better-- to argue in a more constructive way because days-long silent treatments just don't work when you have to function as a team. But then the second baby made us communicate worse. We were were so overwhelmed we often didn't talk when we should and made opposite assumptions about things and then didn't understand where the other one was coming from. The youngest is almost six and it's still hard to find the time to really talk things through the way we used to, but we've gotten better at it.
Amanda said…
Um, I think you're my soul sister. I was nodding my head through this whole thing. EXCELLENT.
Julie said…

pull us back together. ha! i'm still trying to remember what good sex is.
Noel said…
I love this! I think every set of expecting parents should read this. There's this myth that it should be easy and simple and breezy to keep it all together ... the picture you paint is so much more real. thank you. :)
Brandeewine said…

We're something a little more battered and smudgy...

That probably the best way to explain parenthood that I've ever heard. I keep telling myself that we're almost through the hard part...ours are 18 & almost 14; but, then some other crap happens and I call my mother, whining, saying, "It's supposed to get easier, RIGHT???"

She just laaaaughs...

Glad to know that we aren't the only ones who are the "Used-to-bes" and the "Maybe-we'll-be-nice-to-each-other-agains."
Oak Creek Ranch said…
You speak the truth -- the whole way through. Bravo.
Finola said…
I could have written all of this myself. My friend and I were talking on Friday about how children ruin a marriage....that is ruin the marriage that you had before kids. Yes, it evolves bla bla bla, but it is nothing like the marriage before you had kids.

And my DH totally had to show me how to change a diaper too when our first was born. Is this getting creepy or what? #twins
Marie said…
Thanks for telling it how it is! Recognized so much and I appreciate your honesty <3
"But none of them are more challenging or time-consuming than trying to convince a sixteen-month-old that he should quit sticking his head into the space between the CD cabinet and the wall because it ALWAYS GETS STUCK."

Well that just made my day. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? ;) Love this post.
Anonymous said…
He didn't like you because you smelled of woodsmoke?? I love the smell of woodsmoke. It is a big turn on for me...seriously. Um, perhaps I've overshared.

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