I’ve felt like this dog looks.
Children demand a lot of time and energy. (Duh.) I know this is true for all parents, but if you don’t have children of your own, and never planned to have children of your own, and suddenly, unplanned, you find yourself raising someone else’s children full time, that time and energy feels like it’s been snatched from you without your consent. On top of that, countless books and well-meaning people tell you that you have to accept this graciously. The children’s needs come first (so I’ve been told innumerable times).
What people didn’t tell me was how challenging it would be when – *Poof!* – one-on-one time with my husband disappeared.
We were newlyweds when my stepchildren came to live with us a few years ago. When I met my husband, the kids were living with their mother in another state. She had fought hard to keep them after the divorce and my husband had finally acquiesced. Since you know that the youngest two children live with us now, you can figure out that things didn’t go well with their mother. (I think I said that rather respectfully, don’t you?). Several anxiety-inducing child custody battles in family court (truly a black hole if ever I found one), and plenty of “you’re not my mother”- type comments and behavior at home drained us as dry as raisins.
All this sturm und drang meant finding some alone time with Dearest Beloved to remember why we got married in the first place was critical. But trying to fit that time in without interruption by the kids was like trying, and failing, to pull the winning lottery ticket for one of those Powerball lotteries.
Now, just so that we’re clear on this: yes, I recognized that the kids needed time with their father. They were desperate for his attention in first couple of years of their transition to our household. I accepted that, somewhat begrudgingly at first I’ll admit since it meant I had to sacrifice my time with him, and I made room in my heart for it.
It isn’t like I didn’t expect that the situation would be difficult. Going through it, living it daily, though, can wear on you. Constant dropping water wears away a stone.
We set up a date night once a week. When you’re used to adult time all the time, anywhere, it is an adjustment to schedule dinner out together just to capture adult time for a couple of hours. We stuck to our schedule even if we felt too tired to go out; as we all know, you’ve got to have your own time together, out of the house and away from the kids. It wasn’t as much time as I wanted, but it was better than nothing, I figured.
I learned to make do with less time together for now.
For now. Two magic words with a big payoff. I say this because I also learned that life is in the present moments. All that ruminating about the past, or dreaming about the future keeps us out of the present, and when you are out of the present, you don’t see what you are missing. As John Lennon sung, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Sure enough, the present is changing, and the changes are remarkable. Less drama, more routine. My stepson will be joining my stepdaughter in high school this year. They often seek Facebook and Tumblr and their friends rather than us, or specifically, Dearest Beloved. We find ourselves alone more, even in the house. Once they start driving, my husband says the kids won’t stay home much, and I believe him. Lately they’ve become glued to their laptops – their portal for socializing – for hours. Dinner at home is still, and will remain, a family affair, but once dinner is done, the kids are antsy to leave the table, especially when we begin discussing “boring” topics like politics or the economy. In fact, mentioning Obama or Romney is just about guaranteed to send them skedaddling to their rooms. Talk about the consumer price index leaves skid marks on the floor.
The dog’s face in the picture above can be interpreted many ways, as can my familial experiences these past few years. For the time being, I’ll keep an eye on the here and now.
(And, yes, DB has a new epitaph).