Before actor Ed O’Neil was married to a younger Columbian woman named Gloria on the hit show Modern Family as Jay Pritchett, he was first Ed Bundy, a…very different type of husband to Peg and father to Kelly and Bud on Fox’s first primetime program called “Married…with Children”. While crude in content (we didn’t have Fox for a long time in Quebec and when we finally DID, i spent my time catching up on Martin), it spent 10 years on air, to the joys and popularity of many.
While I’m not a TV character (though some would say I am a character...cue up the rim shot and applause, people.), I too am married with children. Becca and I have a precocious and ‘chip off the old block-ish’ three-year old named Eliana and a seven and soon to be eight month old linebacker son named Liam. They’re our “Ellie and Meatball” combo. Becca and I love them very much. They are the two funnest, funniest, faith-firming part of our lives. That being said, life with kids doesn’t always shine and glisten.
Sometimes it’s hard.
Sometimes it even sucks.
And here’s why…
Life was simpler without kids. Not better, but simpler. Some examples:
1. Eating was simpler
Chris: Hey babe, what do you wanna eat?
Becca: I don’t know…you?
C: I don’t know…maybe cake?!
B: Awesome! Let’s do it!
(Please note: the conversation in question never actually happened and instead is a composite of conversations in an exaggerated tone.)
What I mean is that before kids, we could eat at 7. 8. 9. And whatever we wanted. And wherever we wanted. Which brings up point number 2.
2. Going out was simpler
Before kids, Becca and I could hit up movies, malls, friends homes (on invite only), events, concerts and more with reckless abandon. One such evening, we arrived late for a movie, missing both the previews (which was a big deal before YouTube made everything quickly accessible) and the first 15-20 mins. So once the movie ended, we decided to stay back and watch what we missed…only to be re-enthralled by the tale of love, family, pre-hipster like qualities and its soundtrack…for the entire movie.
Then we went out for coffee.
Life now consists of babysitters who sometimes cancel, bad planning on our part, mix up of dates and times and of course, bath and bedtime for the kiddies.
3. Sex was simpler
Notice: I didn’t say more or less frequent cause frequency always varies on the season of life, mood and Marvin Gaye-ness-ness.
Before kids, sex was initiated by simple moment of eye contact in the kitchen, hand brush while eating cake for dinner, certain mode of laugh or simply saying “Hey, we should TOTALLY do it right now!”
Which was then followed by doing it right then. And maybe even there. Awesome.
Now, all those things happen between the spouses (the eye contact, the hand brush, the laugh, the statements of need) but they are followed by the following:
“Okay…put on Dora and meet me upstairs in 5 minutes!”
“Okay i will. Wait. Wait. What if Liam starts to (Liam instinctively begins to cry)…”
Moment over. Or.
“Keep that energy! After the kids have been bathed, prayed with, put to bed and put back to bed 5 times, the kitchen has been cleaned up, the lunches have been prepared for tomorrow and such…at 11:15 PM I am going to rock your world!”
11:15 PM comes
“So…how about tomorrow?”
4. God was Simpler
No kids meant no distractions for prayer, Bible reading, fasting, etc. The house could be a sanctuary of silence where thoughts could be shared, Voice could be heard and journals filled. The Spirit-filled life was for two…and it was nice.
5. Sleep was simpler.
I only had to get out of bed if I had to pee. Or if I had a craving for food. Now the prayer is “Lord, let pee stay in diapers and potty-trained bodies. We rebuke all monster nightmares and over-excitement for tomorrow’s activities. We also pray for them both to sleep well past their normal times so that we may sleep in just a little bit. It’s gonna be Saturday, Lord…you get that, right? Rest? Sabbath? Thanks! Amen!”
Now I say all that not in a complaining way but as real as I can because every couple with kids feels this, but rarely do we say anything aloud to our partners or even to each other. And that’s not cool. I also write this because while kids haven’t made life simpler, they have made it more enjoyable in each of these areas. I’ll explain with more facts and less exaggerated tales.
First, Eating is a family filled challenge.
Ellie is picky like her father which forces meal time to be time-sensitive and meal helpful. But now we sit at the table to eat instead of in front of the TV like Becca and I did when we were just us. We talk about our day. We teach Ellie to pray for her meal, friends, teachers and the like. And Becca and I also learn patience through spilled juice, dropped rice, hatred of pepperoni and abrupt leavings of the table. While I miss the couch, I love the table. It’s home there.
Second, Going out is an adventure and privilege
Sometimes it means a double stroller, diaper bag, snack bag, toy bag and extra clothes bag. Sometimes it includes a bike or scooter, trip to the mall (which is much shorter now), park or the expensive zoo. Sometimes it’s a drive from what seems to be hell with tears, whining, poopy diapers, yelling, discipline and parental arguing.
But it always means fun pictures and videos. It always means new memories. It always means seeing the kids in grown up settings. It always means fun in the end.
And as for Becca and I, when we get a date in, it’s always a treat. Without kids, you really don’t notice when the motions of marriage become so routine that you can actually miss someone or drift from them even while living in the same home. And it’s in the drift that the destruction within a marriage can easily come in (Another blog. Another blog.). Date nights remind you that you need time together to reconnect, regroup and spend 2 hours over eats talking about the kids that you left for 2 hours to have alone time.
Side note: A cool book by a guy named Timothy Keller writes that the notion of soul mates is dumb because of how much people change after marriage. The girl I married is still there in scope but life has changed her so she is the same but different too, as am I. Marriage is loving each other through these changes…I think:)
Third, God makes more sense
To have children and to deal with them everyday in their carnal states gives a better understanding of the love, discipline, grace, justice and care of God the Father, the willingness to sacrifice like God the Son and the desire to mold them into something great like God the Holy Spirit. God time is different (with the kids asking questions, interrupting thought and Dora music) but setting a teaching model…hopefully.
Fourth, Sleep is a luxury
This one goes without explanation. When you get it, give thanks.
…and Sex still happens.
It may mean having coffee beforehand to stay awake. It may mean finding nursery rhyme books in your bed or accidentally kicking a toy that plays the ABCs and wakes up your newborn. And it may be a lot…quicker than you both like at times for fear of that moment where you scar your 3 year old forever (Hasn’t happened yet!). But, thankfully it still happens. Except now, the purpose is to keep the fam at 4 among other things:). Also, sometimes it creppily involves using Ellie to relay messages as this one was this past week:
“Daddy…mommy says she wants to be on you. Ummm, what does that mean, daddy?”