Love in the time of child-rearing

Dinner companions

I don’t know why I thought having kids would be fine because I don’t cope very well with tiredness. The biological imperative to procreate has had millennia to find ways to override common sense, I suppose. Dinnertime can be particularly rough. The combination of a bad night’s sleep, a long physical day of looking after the kids and hunger can leave me in a zomboid state. And those aren’t the bad days. And so, since having kids, connecting with my spouse over dinner conversation can be a challenge.

Such things are hard on the old marriage, anyway. Dinnertime, I mean. I recall seeing memes years ago where worried internet-users panicked that “marriage is just eating Wednesday night dinner with the same person every week for fifty years”. Well, when you put it like that…no wonder people wind up just putting the telly on. And yet, this is what I have willingly signed up for.

One such night while we were still in the spoon-feeding days of yonder, we had a Wednesday night dinner. Or maybe a Tuesday. Who can remember? What I do recall is that once I had finally finished shoving food into the offspring and turned to my own meal, Barns smiled at me and asked: ‘Top three favourite movie villains?’

That wasn’t hard. Scar is number one, obviously. Then maybe Darth Vader. But can he really be called a villain when his redemption arc is one of the central plot points of the entire trilogy? And what about villains like Gaston? I just bloody hate Gaston. Are good villains enjoyable to spend time with, like Scar, or are they villains who you actually fear? Even with all the singing about eggs, Gaston is chilling.

So maybe that question was harder than I thought. At any rate, it wasn’t an unusual conversation so I didn’t think much of it, not even the next night when we discussed our favourite movie scores, or the day after, which was chase scenes. It took a few days to see the pattern. To see how excited he was to begin the debate. To notice the care with which he’d chosen questions that ,with our limited overlap in tastes and interests, we could both discuss. To enjoy the improved dinnertime mood. To see how kind he was being. To realise how thoughtfully I was being loved.

This is what true romance looks like. It’s not big gestures, which are easy, but big effort every day, which is hard. And this is, I think, what people mean when they say that marriage takes works. It’s not just that marriage takes patience and understanding, but also that you need to work at enjoying each other. It takes intentional connection. You have to ask yourself, can I improve this thing? Is there a little more I can give? I am incredibly lucky to have found someone who looks for new ways to say, yes.

I don’t know how Barns found the energy, I really don’t. In these days of better (but still patchy) sleep we have kept the game going, even though if we talk to each other too much the children get cross. Sorry bubbies, mummy and daddy love each other and it’s a wonderful way for us to connect. We both adore stories and will happily discuss our favourites for hours. He keeps coming up with new questions. I’ve never asked him about it but I like to picture him sitting on the train on the way home from work, staring out the window and pondering what to ask me that evening. I like to imagine him smiling when he does it.

I’ve joined in now, too, of course. But I’m competitive and I don’t like to make it easy on him. Tonight I’m going to ask him what fictional foods he’d most like to try. He’s not a fantasy guy. That’ll stump him!

Published by Tara

I'm a stay-at-home mum of two year old twins, based in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Life's changed a lot for me in the last two and half years and most of the things I do now are new to me, so I'd hesitate to describe myself as anything else, but I'm also keen on (in a very amateurish way) cooking, writing and gardening. I like to read manga and if I ever get a chance to watch a movie then I gravitate towards animation, which holds my imagination forever. I used to read books but these days I find it buggers up my writing - still searching for my own voice I suppose. I used to like tramping and also travel but currently have to be satisfied with the week away every summer that is all we have the money and energy for. As this small vacation with two toddlers takes almost as much intensive planning (and way more packing-related stress) than the six months we spent in Europe, more would probably kill me anyway. We've also just bought our first home, which we plan to renovate into a two-dwelling property so my nearly retired parents can come and live with us. This experiment in multi-generational living is completely uncharted waters for all of us but we're optimists at heart so we're not...too...worried.

2 thoughts on “Love in the time of child-rearing

  1. Love this.

    (Also, I never bought the “redemption” of Anakin. We see him do one good thing, and that for the selfish reason of protecting his son. That doesn’t make up for genocide, mass child murder, etc.)

    Like

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