Sometimes you just need reminding.
Occasionally you simply need to see it to believe it.
This weekend I saw it, this weekend I remembered.
After thirteen years of marriage and nine years of parenthood, it can be easy to lose your way a little, to forget why you set off on the journey in the first place. I can only write this from my own male perspective, but I don’t doubt the feelings are the same from both sides of the gender fence.
When you set sail on the cruise ship of marriage, the seas are calm and bathed in glorious sun, Whitney Houston wows the crowds in the theatre, and the food is a smorgasbord from heaven.
When kids come along the seas can turn unpredictably choppy. Whitney becomes boring and repetitive, and dinner becomes beige.
You still love your partners and your kids, but it can become a little harder to remember why. Everything has changed, your life, your outlook and your priorities have all changed – as have those of the person you fell in love with.
It is all too easy to find yourself drifting along with the tide, not really knowing where you are going or why you are going there.
I think almost everyone reading this will know of at least one local case study, where a couple have been so strong and so together while their kids were growing up, only to suddenly part once their dependants stopped depending on them so much. They had suddenly discovered that their children were all that they had in common anymore. As soon as they were left alone, they had nothing.
This has been my worry for a while. Parenthood was eroding my personality and my individuality. This may sound a little over the top and maybe it is, but sometimes you can find yourself worrying that you are doing things for the wrong reasons, and if you are still on the right ship.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I was unhappy at all, I wasn’t. I’m not saying we were having problems, we weren’t. Sometimes though, you do start to wonder who you really are; all you feel like is a dad or a husband, you can’t remember who the person inside was, and if that person was someone you like.
This weekend we went shopping.
It didn’t exactly start off excitingly did it?
The trip has been planned for a while, two nights in Birmingham to shop for a new set of clothes for my successful ‘weight watcher’ wife, because she could no longer hold any of her trousers up without scaffolding.
The boys were with their Grandparents, all we had to do was relax and shop.
I usually hate shopping so I hadn’t really thought too much about the trip as being anything special. We had booked into a cheap hotel and I was mentally primed for a hard day’s shopping. I was ready to put up with the mundane and do my bit as a husband once more, to continue drifting along with the tide.
What happened was a revelation.
What happened was that I remembered.
I remembered just how much I really do love my wife.
I love being with her. Jo is great company, and I hope and think that without the pressures and strains that fatherhood can sometimes bring, I’m not too bad for her either.
We get on.
We laugh at each other.
What happened was that I saw.
I saw again just how beautiful my wife is when she smiles.
Jo’s eyes shine so brightly when she is happy it blinds me, when she laughs it melts my heart.
With both of us working full time and looking after two brilliant but frisky boys (aren’t they all?), it is scarily easy to miss these things and forget that they are there. Even shuffling around the Bull Ring for hours on end couldn’t prevent me from enjoying myself. I was in good company – very good company.
Late on Saturday night we sat finishing our meal when it struck me that without either of us doing it on purpose, with no prearranged agreement, neither of us had really mentioned our kids all day. Maybe in passing a couple of times, when we had thought to buy them some sweets, but on the whole they just weren’t being talked about. I couldn’t really tell you what we did talk about, but we certainly talked – a lot!
Just for a couple of days we were no longer parents, and we were no longer husband and wife.
We were friends.
We were lovers.
We were the people we fell in love with.
I don’t think this would have happened quite so well if we had tried to create it; if the purpose of the weekend had been pre-assigned as a ‘romantic’ break. If we had set out to try and forcibly recapture our youth, or attempted to ban talking about the boys in order to direct conversation. I think if we had put pressure on ourselves to get on – we probably wouldn’t.
The weekend worked the way that it did because it was real.
It’s who I really am.
It’s who Jo is.
It’s who we are.
I love who Jo is.
I love who we are.
And perhaps once again, I can love who I am.
Maybe Whitney was right after all.