The stress of moving, driving kids here, there and everywhere, needing furniture, living out of boxes, bottoming out our bank accounts, switching banks, traveling for business, while trying to produce three healthy meals a day and find educational and social opportunities for our children that don’t involve other kids throwing rocks at them (yes, this happened) has started affecting my patience and the way I speak to our children.
I love long sentences. : )
In order to continue being good parents, Jessica and I need to regularly be able to work, and go out on dates together. It didn’t take us long after having our first baby to realize that we are better parents when we spend regular time away from our children. Please don’t misunderstand me. We don’t regret having children, or wish that we didn’t have them. We love them, and believe that spending time with our children is the most important thing that we do. We delight in spending time with our kids.
What I am saying is that we are not defined by being parents. Or rather, that being parents isn’t the only way to define us. We are individuals first, with abilities, talents, passions and dreams, and then also children ourselves, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, wife and husband, friends, and though I shy away from defining myself from what I do, we are also artists, writers, bloggers, musicians, business owners, networkers, who love nature, eating, reading, theatre, the arts, knitting, and so much more. What I’m getting at is that if we restrict our lives to being parents only, devoted entirely to our children’s fulfillment in life, and neglect the other aspects of who we are as individuals, those other parts of us scream out until they become hoarse and then slowly wither, the longer we ignore them. And then our children pay for it. We interact with them from a dull place, an empty parental shell, with a compressed and suppressed person inside that erupts in angry and explosive ways. Fortunately, Jessica and I keep each other in check, and when one of us gets that vacant look in our eyes, and we start getting that steely edge in our voice, we are quick to find ways to regain balance.
In terms of us as a couple, it’s safe to say that Jessica and I work less time on our relationship than on finding balance. As a matter of fact, when our balance is off, our relationship starts suffering. All of our relationships suffer. Finding balance is a daily activity for us. As life keeps moving, our children keep growing, and we all are continually changing, we are also constantly readjusting this and that to find balance.
A couple of days ago, we had planned on finally going on our first date since moving from Houston to Portland a month ago. That morning, Smunchie (3) developed a fever.
And then the vomiting started.
Needless to say, we postponed our plans. Our balance gets completely thrown off at times, and that’s okay. Like when one of our kids gets sick and the one thing they desperately crave is to be held. In that moment, the most important thing we can do is to be there for her; sitting with her cuddled up on our lap is the most fulfilling thing in the world. Everything else fades into the background, time suspends, and there is nothing but love and nurturing wrapped around each other.
Until she falls asleep and we untangle arms and hair and blankets, and we are free to stand and stretch. That’s when everything else comes back into focus and we feel the weight of all our neglected work and plans in a guilt-pang to our gut, and anxiety creeps up our spine in tingling waves. Our balance is off. For a while, we can breathe through being off-balance, as long as we know it is only for a time. Like when work deadlines are imminent. Or when ballet performances are approaching.
For a time.
But it can’t last. And so, for our own health, we must find ways to regain balance. Sometimes finding balance is like being in a sea-tossed boat, where we do everything we can just so we don’t capsize, throwing all non-essentials overboard (our children don’t qualify as non-essentials). Other times, it’s smooth sailing, with a minor adjustment here and there. Either way, it is a daily endeavor.
The day after Smunchie got really sick, we were finally able to go out on our date. At first, guilt wanted to tag along as a third wheel, but we were able to ditch it on the way, and Jessica and I enjoyed reconnecting with each other, our hopes and dreams, and return to our children refreshed. We untangle ourselves from our children, so we can better embrace them.