How do all you parents out there carve out time for yourselves? Not the you, yourself, personally (I can manage this here and there, and the bathroom is sometimes a good place to retreat to, unless your kids follow you there, which mine often do)—but the big YOU as in the two of you. Among the many things we need to work on as a parenting couple is trying to carve out some more time for the two of us to reconnect—especially during times of high stress. I just got off the phone with my husband, who seems a bit beaten down by the week, and the trials and tribulations of parenting lately. Life can be challenging at the best of times with young children, but it can be especially so when you deal with a child with special needs--however small or great. We've developed, over the years, an airtight system of closing ranks when times get tough. If life remains predictable and even-keeled, with safe schedules and expectations, then it's all fairly manageable. But as soon as something comes along to rock the boat--a major holiday, or trip, a bad cold for L., or something exceptionally traumatic and difficult like our cat's death earlier this month, then life spirals out of control for both kids, and for us, of course, by default. When this happens, we pull in together, Scott and I, weathering the daily storms, and waiting for it all to blow over.
Life has been difficult this month. We don't talk much about these difficulties with family or friends, because we've learned over the years that very few understand really how difficult things can be, and we end up feeling like we're whining or complaining needlessly. Just get a grip on yourselves, we imagine people thinking; stop that complaining! So we turn to each other instead, holding our breath, and waiting for the rough times to pass. But in the meantime, even as we focus so much energy on the kids and our family, I know we need to focus on each other, as well. While we have become very adept in many areas of parenting--it IS a sink-or-swim kind of thing, isn't it?--we haven't quite managed to walk that fine line between being there for your kids, especially in times of need, and making sure we have enough couple time together, too. We constantly hear about friends and family who head off to regular date nights, or weekends and even weeks (!) away, and we smile at each other and shrug. For us, an evening away is early bedtimes for the kids, a DVD, and maybe some wine and chocolate--if it's a Friday. Many times this is all we need really, to reconnect; but often I wonder if it's enough, if we should be doing more--just the two of us, especially when times are more difficult? Are we really supposed to go OUT together? Is somehow the act of leaving the house important, or is it enough that we spend time together in the evenings, talking and watching TV and often grading companionably, side-by-side? Are we settling into complacency?
The reality is that we're happy, Scott and I. I do look back fondly at the things we did as a couple, before L. was born, but the truth of the matter is that we love nothing more than family time. Yet even as I write that, I also know that we do sometimes crave the occasional evening out--to a play, or a movie, or a quiet dinner at a very un-kid-friendly restaurant. (We have a favorite Indian place we took the kids to once, but somehow rice ended up all over the floor, and T. and L. used the booth as a trampoline, and the management was definitely NOT happy.) We don't need this to be some type of mechanically regular thing--even writing in "date night" on the calendar every two weeks, as one set of couple-friends of ours does, seems to be caving in to the overscheduling of life that seems to happen to so many people lately. But I have been feeling the creeping need lately for some couple-time. I'd like a long night on a Mediterranean veranda somewhere, with my husband and the stars for company. Or, at the very least, a plate of good curry and a glass of white wine.