A Memory of Sundresses and Heels

As previously published on:  http://www.scarymommy.com/ever-evolving-marriage/

All of our mornings begin the same. We wake up as if in mid-panic, frantically racing against the clock to brush our teeth, take a quick shower (or sometimes not—thank you, top knot, for being on trend at this season in my life), throw on some clothes and get the kids ready for school. Sometimes we tag team, sometimes one of us has been up way too late with work and one of us takes the morning duties, sometimes we both have been up way too late and we both take the morning duties, or one of us takes one for the team and let’s the other sleep a little longer.

This particular morning, I can’t remember who was up late or if we were both up late, but we both got up in a frenzy, bleary-eyed, hurriedly getting ready for the day ahead. At one point, I remember being half-ready, opening a dresser drawer to grab a shirt as my husband passed by hurriedly pulling his undershirt over his head. I thought about how we have evolved.   Six years ago, there would probably have been a pause, a flirty comment about his half-dressed wife, or a playful kiss or hug. This morning, like every morning, there was a sense of immediacy. There were demands that needed to be met before it was too late, and we were already waking up, mid-rush. Our three kids’ teeth needed to be brushed, they needed help getting this arm in this sleeve or that button buttoned, and our littlest needed her nighttime diaper changed as its bulging bottom taunted us with what would happen if we waited. There was breakfast that needed to be prepped, and hair that needed to be combed and put in braids. There was my husband that needed to be ready to go to work, and my need to at least have my teeth brushed and no remnants of yesterday’s mascara under my eyes when I dropped them off in the morning. It was our morning routine of the race against time.

Yes, today, our day-to-day routine and the way we interact in these routines have changed.

I have a vivid memory of walking with my husband through the middle of campus when we were in college. It was a gorgeous mid-morning spring day. I remember the green ivy that added so much richness and life to the brick walls of those old buildings. He was walking me to chemistry class.  I remember realizing that I had forgotten a sweater to pull over my strappy dress because though it was sunny and warm outside, chemistry class was always freezing cold. I remember the gentle, lazy click of my heels on the uneven paver stones. The thing about this memory, is that I was wearing a strappy, floral dress to chemistry class. In heels. And that was who I was when my husband met me. I was this girl that dedicated an hour every morning to blow-drying and curling her hair, to getting ready and wearing little strappy numbers. And heels. Always heels. I could do anything in heels. I could do a four-hour experiment in Physics lab in heels. I could run the entirety of campus in heels. I realize this is not everyone’s college years, but these were mine. And this is the girl my husband got to know 14 years ago.

And today, that person that my husband met is so far from the person I am today. I truly can’t remember the last time I took an hour to get ready. Maybe my best friend’s wedding over the summer? And wasn’t that because we had to figure out how to iron, pin, and drape our saris? I can’t remember the last time I wore heels for more than a short evening out. Which reminds me, I really should get new work sneakers . . . And dresses? Who can live in dresses? Are you insane? The way I am constantly bending down to pick up one kid or the other or squatting to pick up the trail of Cheerios that follows my toddler through life? How would I do this in dresses? My wardrobe of athletic wear and lounge wear run the gamut of colors and seasons and serve me very well on a daily basis . . . and sometimes a two-day-at-a-time basis . . . I think back to that person I was, and can’t imagine how horrified she would be to see me now. Putting on jeans for me on a day off is a good day. Blow-drying my hair? Wow. I MUST have a special event I am going to. It’s not that I don’t take pride in how I present myself, I do try to be healthy, dress appropriately for occasions, and try to stay fit, but today, there are too many stacked priorities to have time for those things that seemed to fill my college days. While getting ready was most certainly once a priority that floated easily in my top five essentials, it has quickly been bumped down by school drop-off, grocery and meal preparation, work meetings and obligations, juggling our schedules, picking up toys and mystery bits of dried food from the floor, days dedicated to my family, laundry, laundry, and laundry.  And laundry.

I think about how relationships and marriages grow. They are ever evolving as our lives change; it fascinates me to think how so many variables can change and one couple still find unity and consistency in one another.  I wonder, does my husband ever think about what happened to that girl he met?  Does he ever wonder if we will ever be those two people who met a decade and a half ago?

Oh. But I already know the answer. There is so much more to what we have now. Right now, we have a family. We have three children with the most beautiful souls. They are kind. They are empathetic. They are considerate. They are full of smiles and happiness and joy. They are well-fed, well-dressed, and well-loved. They love each other and their family. They are these truly wonderful little people because of us.  We have taken the two of us, and have nurtured and entwined ourselves in rich, green ivy, and made it so much better.

I may no longer be that girl in a sundress and heels, but I am so much more. I am the reason we have groceries in our fridge. I am the reason we have healthy prepared meals at dinner time. I am the reason our home is furnished and there is a place for every toy. I am the person that knows where my son left his Batman watch last week. I am the reason that fruit I bought and the leftovers from yesterday will get used in tonight’s meal. I am the reason my daughter will make it to dance class on Thursday on time with her jazz and tap shoes and water bottle. I am the reason my son will start soccer in April. I am the reason our kids have a five-year check-up with their pediatrician tomorrow and the reason their school knows I will be picking them up early to get to that appointment. I am the reason our kids have clothes that fit them and bows that match. I am the reason my kids think women are strong.  I do it far from perfectly, but I am the core of our family. I am the strength, the love, the force.

Do I wonder if he ever truly wonders what happened to that girl he met 14 years ago? No. Not deep down. Because I am still that girl, but I am so much more.  We are so much more.  So, if he passes me again tomorrow morning, and there is no coy, flirty comment made, I know that it is not because anything has changed. It is just that life has evolved. Today, we show our affection in different ways. Did I tell you that last week he let me sleep in and took the kids to school and came back with my usual Starbucks drink order before heading to work? The sheer joy and melt-my-heart ode to our love that hot, steamy caffeinated beverage brought me in my five-hours-of-sleep haze just proved that nothing had truly changed. It just looked different.

My husband and I, we are far from being those college kids we were when we met. We have become an unrelenting team under a mound of responsibilities. This is the season of our lives. And we are the right people for the job. Because underneath it all, we are still two people who love each other deeply and are unwavering in our commitment to our family. We can do this, one day at a time, with a couple short cuts here and there and a couple frantic moments . . .  or daily frantic moments . . . But we will get by, and we will do it with as much respect and love for one another as ever.

 

Valentine’s Day

To my husband,

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I have something to tell you. I came home yesterday, and I didn’t tell you about the worst part of my day. I didn’t tell you, because it was so hard to say even once to that daughter yesterday that her father had colon cancer. It was hard to tell her that the reason he had been bleeding for months was because that cancer has been growing inside of him, undetected. When she brought in her father, the first thing she told me was, “I want a full work-up. We need answers. We cannot leave until you have done a full work-up and we have answers. Do everything. We need answers.” I wish what I found wasn’t the answer. I see her face, looking at me, slightly bewildered, in disbelief, as I told her the news that made her world cave in. Her tears followed, and so did mine.

I felt guilty to be able to damper my own emotions by leaving work. By not talking about them. I can make that choice, but she cannot. She will talk about it and talk about it, and continue to break down as she calls and tells her sisters, her mother that is at home, the rest of her family. I told her the news, and her world changed forever. Her dad was my last patient of the day. I saw him at the very end of my shift, and I stayed late to make sure he was taken care of. But that is all I did. Because then I left, and I came home to you. I came home to our beautiful, laughing, loud children, racing in our beautiful home. I came home to their squeals of “Mama!” and their hugs that nearly knock me over. I came home to our healthy, fortunate family.

I told her daughter first. I wanted to prepare her before I told her dad. When I went in to tell her dad, she started to cry. He said, “So, I’m going to surgery. Well. When I go to surgery, then you can go ahead and go home. Now, what are you crying about. There is nothing to cry about.” And this made her cry harder. Because there he was. Her dad at 89. Still her dad. Still taking care of her. He will always be her dad, and whether he is 35 or 89, he will love her with all his might. Sometimes he gets confused, and sometimes he can’t answer my questions because he doesn’t remember when he last ate or if he has been sick, but his love for his daughter—this he will not forget. He has loved her from the moment he met her. This is imprinted in who he is. This is their life together. This is their family.

My mind was wrapped around this family all evening. I came home and breathed in the smells of our 21 month old. I snuggled a little bit longer with our five year olds. I felt the comfort of your love and the way you busy yourself with taking care of me when you sense that I am limping along that last stretch of the day. I am eternally blessed with so much. And left at work, is a family sitting on the edge of those waiting room chairs. Waiting for answers. Hoping for the best, fearing for the worst. I feel thankful. I feel guilt. I feel happiness. I feel sadness.

I know Valentine’s Day is a contrived holiday, but I’ll happily take any reminders in whatever shape and whatever form they come. Today, I remind myself that there are so many people I love so deeply. I am thankful for their health and their presence in my life. Today, I remind myself, that above all else, I have you. You are my forever partner. You are the amazing father to my children.  You are my rock. Many decades from now, we may forget what we ate for lunch, we may forget if that cough was from last week or last month, but we will remember that we love each other. We will never stop taking care of one another. We will never stop putting each other first.

To be honest, I didn’t get you anything for Valentine’s Day, and I truly don’t want anything from you. All I want is time with you. All I want is to spend a day, just you and me. Because that is how all this wonderfully exhausting chaos all started, and at the end of every day, that is all that truly matters to me. Time spent with you. Time spent with our amazing kids. Because sometimes, tomorrow is the day that you hear the news that makes your walls crash. I hope that day is far away, but today, I will cherish what we have, I will love it all, thank my lucky stars, and count down the minutes until I get to see you after my work day.

I didn’t tell you about the worst part of my day yesterday.  I didn’t need that heaviness in my chest to grow heavier.  I just needed to be with my family. I watched you play with our squealing, joyful baby girl as she rolled around the floor with you, and called out, “Mama, look!” as she stood gleefully on your chest, bouncing up and down at your expense, listening to your overemphasized grunts to her jumps put her into fits of giggles.  I couldn’t help but imagine my patient with his daughter and feel comfort that they had had moments just like this one.

There are big things that happen. Big amazing things. Big devastating things. There are little petty things that bring our days down. But my favorite things are the every day mundane things that give us joy. That build our family. Today, I am reminded of this healthy, full life we have. This is our life together. This is our family.

Happy Valentine’s Day. I am thankful that today, we have nothing to cry about. I love you with all my might.

This is the Time of Our Lives

Previously published: http://www.scarymommy.com/family-life-time-of-our-lives/

My baseline default mode for the last five years has been “frantic.” I gave birth to my amazing twins, and if I thought I was “busy” before, I was sorely mistaken. The kind of acrobatics I came to accept as normal with juggling life and these “darling” newborns of mine was nothing short of chain-my-right-arm-to-a-40-pound-weight-and-ask-me-to-balance-a-stack-of-fine-china-on-my-forehead kind of acrobatics.

I remember a conversation I had with a colleague who confessed that he was not yet ready to have kids. “I’m not ready to give up my freedom,” he said. I didn’t think twice about what he said, really. Not ready? My ovaries have been rioting with their readiness for years! This conversation faded over my pre-baby months, and resurfaced with a vengeful vigor post-babies as I began to understand exactly what “give up my freedom” truly meant.

Giving up my freedom meant holding onto my full-three-hours-ago bladder just 10 more minutes (or 15 or 60 more minutes) while I finished changing my daughter’s dirty diaper, got their snack ready, and wiped up that weird stain on the carpet, and—is that another dirty diaper I smell? Dear lord, children! This is not a race to fill up the diaper pail!

Giving up my freedom meant forgoing brushing my teeth today because I had just finished breastfeeding the twins, and my daughter was already asleep, but my son was bright-eyed and ready to goo-goo and da-da-da, until of course, my daughter started to stir and wake up again.

Giving up my freedom meant staving off the surfacing panic as I came to the realization we were out of diapers in 3, 2, 1…and I needed to go to the store with both my infant babies.

Giving up my freedom meant date nights with my husband—wait, I can’t stop rolling with laughter. What are date nights with my husband?

I never knew what “I’m not ready to give up my freedom” meant. I could have smacked my colleague. Why hadn’t he shaken me ferociously and waved his hands frantically in my face while shouting and knocking some insight into my head so I truly knew what he meant? And by the way, was he some kind of secret sensei for figuring this out without ever having experienced it himself? Or was I just blinded by my ovaries?

“I’m not ready to give up my freedom” is an ever-changing phrase these days. As my infants grew into little toddling an-injury-is-a-step-away cuties, it was a game of chase and keep track and forgo finishing that sandwich you have been craving for the last six hours. As they became so smart and so verbal, it was a game of respond to their every demand for blueberries, milk, their favorite stuffed dinosaur and clap vigorously at their potty-training-in-training achievements. Today, it is a game of “why?” and congratulatory compliments over their new family portrait with house and tree and sun.

I think back to before I had kids and how much that is all I longed for—to have a family. These idealistic daydreams I had of family life, of Janie and Jack-clad children playing sweetly with their not chipped or half missing set of wooden Pottery Barn Kids blocks. I think about the things that kept me busy before kids, that I still try to accomplish with a fraction of the attention and energy I paid it in the past. I think about my constant struggle between enjoying my kids and maintaining this person in this life I lead before them. And then, it all came together. I came to realize that maintaining this pre-children life was no life to be maintaining, because it wasn’t my life.

This is my life. This is our life.

This is the time of our lives—this life that my husband and I have nourished and that is the center of our world. These three kids of ours, that are constantly in tow, like our very own pack of three little ducks clipping at our feet. And it is a full life and an amazing life. And this is what I yearned for and am so, so lucky to have in all its imperfections and all its fullness.

When life changes, let your expectations change. This is the time of our lives. This is the time of our lives when the dishes can wait in the sink after dinner, because it is the holidays and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is on TV, and you are so excited to share this part of your childhood with your children.

This is the time of our lives, when my hair might (will) still be wet when I pull it back, because there are kids filled with joy who want to be a part of my day right now. There is my daughter who wants to show me her latest dance-twirl-robot move in her pink tutu with stars and flower-print leggings and princess slippers. There is my son who has 20—make that 40—questions during a football game as he discovers his love of the sport, and I discover the unexpected love I have for witnessing his flourishing passion for something.

There are their questions and commentary and the way they process and regurgitate information and memories when we engage in undistracted conversations that make me marvel at how their brilliant minds are growing.

There is the time when I step on another Cheerio and resist the urge to run for the vacuum and Swiffer WetJet, because my 18-month-old squeals in delight when she sees me break for the vacuum, thinking instead that I am coming to chase her, and she takes off in the cutest diaper-butt shaking baby sprint, clapping her sticky hands with pure glee. Why would I want to do anything but chase her? There are still the occasional 3 a.m. wake-ups when I pick up this sweet, sweet baby of mine and indulge in her warm tired body, snuggling on my chest as she falls back to sleep, burying her head deeper into my shoulder.

“I’m not ready to give up my freedom” these days means that I will never go back to those pre-kid days and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is the time of our lives. The time I always daydreamed about, and now it is life and it is reality. This life is bursting at the seams. It is love. It is full. It is joy. It is tiring, exhausting, unrelenting. But it has never been better.