On March 28, I said I would post “tomorrow” which I didn’t. In fact, I haven’t posted for almost two weeks now. I have no excuses except that life with 5 kids throws curveballs and “busy” builds up and accumulates like nobody’s business. Homeschooling, tournament logistics and schedules, an important birthday, Easter celebrations and planning for a surprise trip to Jamaica took most of my time.
Dear readers: I apologize for the promise of posting the next day and abandoning the blog for a few weeks. I know how much it sucks to follow a blog and then the author just drops off the face of the earth for a bit. That being said, I am going to try to make an effort to write freely and post as much as I can this spring.
I was ready to start posting last week when my husband surprised me with a trip to Jamaica this week for the two of us to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary a little early. (Our anniversary is in June but our schedules won’t allow for a trip away plus escaping April weather is needed.) Last week I prepped for our trip by writing up a simple homeschool plan for the kids and for my dad who stayed with them at our house for 4 days. I prepped for our eldest daughter’s birthday celebrations which also coincided with Easter weekend. I don’t think I slept much until I collapsed with exhaustion on the plane ride on Monday morning.
We just arrived home last night and while away I was able to catch my breath, plan our next homeschooling block, and spend some quality time with my best friend. Once again, traveling abroad, even for a short period of time, has reminded me of what is essential in my life.
Travelling alone with my husband reminded me how essential it is to make the time to spend together.
As the kids get older, we can do weekends or small trips away. But even when they were little, we always checked in. We always made the commitment to spend time together even if there were mounds of laundry to get to or we’d rather catch up on sleep. An hour long coffee date can save weeks of bickering. Sometimes we have things to say to each other and talk all night and other times we are quiet and respect the need for a comfortable silence.
Admittedly, I had mixed emotions when he told me had booked this trip. I worried about the cost. I worried about the time away from the kids and readjusting my homeschooling plans. I worried about how they would manage without us. I worried about the hassle of prepping for a trip with only a week’s notice.
(I know. You may think I’m crazy. My husband booked a beautiful vacation for the two of us and I hesitated? I know that I should just appreciate the thought and the fact that we can afford it. But the comfort of home and a solid routine with 5 kids is hard to leave.)
I understand how marriage is a precarious condition. It takes work and dedication. It means making the effort even when you are too tired. It is about trusting and having faith in another person even when you can take care of yourself just fine. There are no shortcuts to a happy marriage. Most of the time, it is a gentle and slow upkeep. How will you weather rough waters when you haven’t maintained your vessel in calm ones?
So even though there was nothing urgent that needed attending to or fixed within our relationship, I knew we needed this. This was like our car’s scheduled oil check after a certain number of kilometres. We are coming up on 21 years together, almost 15 of those years married, and 9 months since we last spent a weekend together (which doesn’t really count because he was working for most of that trip).
Compared to other couples, and certainly those with large families, we are blessed to find time to spend together. We have a wonderful 17 year old that babysits on the regular and our children are so used to it that they don’t balk if we announce we are going out for a little while – just the two of us. Sometimes we find ourselves at dinner or we have coffee or just go grocery shopping. Our local grocery store cashiers tease us when they see us there on a Friday night because we stroll down the aisles holding hands – our own idea of a perfect date – shopping in an empty grocery store without children.
There is a different vibe when you go away. You can actually remove the context for the conversation and go deeper. Or not. You can also have fun and be “a couple.” It was fun meeting people who were unaware that we had 5 children or how long we had been together. I think we told a total of 3 people while we were away that we had 5 children and were married for 15 years.
You can eventually get through all the logistic and scheduling talks and all the kid talks, and then talk more in the abstract because you have time. There is no babysitter to relieve. There is no curfew to your night out. There are no breaks in conversation because you have to tend to a child. You don’t have to pick up where you left off. You’re there and you can stay in that moment for a little longer.
Once we bypassed all the necessary chatter about upcoming events and commitments, we talked about our goals, both short-term and long-term. Lofty and attainable alike. Dreams and confessions made it into the mix. Honest observations and topics that never had time to surface before came into the fray in a real and authentic way. Questions can linger without the need for immediate answers. Fears and insecurities can also lay out on the table for awhile while judgement is suspended. Frustrations and irritations translate into valid concerns when you remove the chaos of a messy home and instead insert an ocean sunset as the backdrop.
4 days together brought us back to our roots – why we are together and why we’ve stayed together through all the life events and our personal growth. We travelled back into the past to retrace our steps. It also made us consider how and where we are branching out together and individually. The kids are growing up and will be leaving home within the next decade of so. Where will that leave us? I won’t even be 50 at that moment when the majority of my children go their own way. What do we see on our path ahead? What will together look like and will there be room for solitude?
During this trip, it was in the separateness that I found what our “together” means. The side-by-side writing and working. The eating in silence while lost in thought. The solitude on the beach and on the balcony overlooking the water. Being together for more than half our lives, my life has been shaped by him and vice versa. Our shared experiences have brought me here – a place where I stand a part from him but also fully influenced by our collective growth. I can be me without being in his shadow. I can support him with my own voice. I can distinguish myself outside of us. This was a crucial discovery. Life together is about finding enough faith and trust to also be alone.
This is one of my essentials. Taking the time to care for this delicate yet resilient “us.” An us is only as strong as the two people that contain it and surround it and protect it….and also who let it breathe and grow outwards when it needs to. An us can be home or an escape. It can be a source of solace and support, a safe haven to return. For us, it is all that and it is the centre of our family. It is a life that we commit to and re-commit to on a regular basis. It is found in the silence with a morning cup of coffee on a dock while watching the sunrise.
Happy early anniversary, Ever-Patient. Thanks for twisting my arm to go away with you.