It started innocently enough. We were two 19-year-old college freshman, and we only had eyes for each other. And, we had it badly. We could talk for hours about nothing and everything. Like staying up all night playing gin rummy or Monopoly or editing each others’ papers. Never tiring of each other. It was all new and all fresh. Add a beautiful ivory and navy wedding three years later…then four babies in nine years. BOOM!
Love and other Indoor Games
Life happened hard and fast. Boots on the ground. And then, there was: babies, diapers, snotty noses, tears, potty training, educational TV, birthday parties, endless story times, bigger house, family dinners, school choices, spelling lists, dance classes, summer vacations, Cub Scout, Boy Scouts, church, youth group, summer camp, sports teams, exhaustion, middle school, high school, learner’s permit, driver’s permit, cars, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, dances, prom, first jobs, college visits, scholarships. It happens that fast, and that furious. Gretchen Rubin, a well-known happiness expert, often quips, “the days are long and the years are short.”
How do you slow down time?
One day you wake up and realize you do not have to wipe anyone’s hiney or nose. Or, you don’t have to drive anyone anywhere. You don’t even keep anyone’s schedule anymore. Slowly, your darling babies have become functioning teens/young adults, who have lives and jobs of their own.
Who are you? This person you started life with? When was the last time you had an intelligent conversation beyond the “kids?” What just happened?
Hello, again. Do I know you? You look familiar.
As your kids grow, learn, and move on, you and your mate will need to learn to reintroduce each other to the “couples” life. It’s not that you are not needed anymore by your kids, you just aren’t needed in a moment-to-moment basis.
Here are some tips to meet each other again in a new way:
1. Take a walk down memory lane, and remember how you met.
What your favorites dates were. Where did you two first kiss? I loved pulling out our old college yearbooks and reacquainting ourselves with college friends we hadn’t thought of in many years. The memories of our early days came flooding back. Cheap dates, hand-me-down furniture, and all-night study sessions. Share your love story with your teens. They may roll their eyes and gag a little, but it’ll definitely remind you and them that you two were a couple before you were parents.
2. Remember you two are different people than you were when you first got married.
Time brings changes; and parenting and adulting bring even more changes. I am not the sassy sorority girl I was 25 years ago. I’m a sassy yoga-teaching, marathon-running mama.
3. Go on a walk together, just the two of you.
There is nothing like a little motion to get the emotions flowing. Working out together (even walks around the block) releases endorphins, and endorphins cause happy feelings. Happy feelings make happy mates. And, happy mates make happy, connected couples. It’s a vicious cycle of joy.
4. Try a new (or old) hobby together.
My husband has an amazing artistic eye for color. I do not, but I like to pretend. When we go out to a local paint night, I love watching how he creates and blends his colors. He even rescues my attempt at a paining. I’m really good at the wine part. Do you want to learn to cook, or start a new career? Exploring new and old hobbies that you haven’t had time for in the past adds spice to the adventure.
5. Make a new child-less goal together.
Do you want to save enough for a trip to Europe or run a marathon? In the classic book, The Little Prince, author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote “love is not just looking at each other, it’s looking in the same direction.” Making a new goal together aligns your post-children path, even if it’s more PDA for the children’s displeasure.
6. Take the 30-day appreciation challenge.
For 30 days, write down one thing each day that you appreciate with your partner. You can do this with your young adults, too. Read them to each other each night. How much easier is it to be loving when you are being appreciated? To work on disagreements? Focusing on the positive of each other, rather than the negative, will lead to better physical and emotional health and less stress.
7. Enjoy this time with your young adults together.
Get to know them as the people they are becoming. Let them see the adult that you have grown into. As a mom, it has been so difficult to realize that my kids have grown and are ready to fly. I prayed for this day to come when I was neck deep in diapers, and now it’s here. Funny thing is, that as we were raising them, they were raising us, too. I learned how to be more selfless and caring. I learned that relationships are really the important things in life. That I don’t have to have all the answers. My hope is that we have so much more family time together after the last 18 years raising them.
I love my kids. And I love my husband.
These last 25 years have been a tremendous voyage together. I can’t imagine the day that I won’t be able to see them everyday. But, ultimately that’s what parenting is–raising the next generation the best we can then turning them over to the world. Now it’s time to look forward with excitement, back with appreciation, and right now with peace. And slip in a few more hugs before the kids head out the door.