by Chris Jones

I’ve always loved fall for the reason I love Sundays—its beauty, stillness, and tranquility. During the fall, I love hearing the breeze whip through the treetops when I’m on a walk through the neighborhood. I enjoy watching the leaves change color as they sprinkle landscape with red, gold, and orange. And I’m energized by the smell of fall spices in the foods we eat and yes, the drinks we enjoy (Southern Tier has a great fall brew called Warlock!). Most of all, I love fall because it means early shut downs, good books, and normal schedules.

I pour a lot of time and energy into my children during the summer and I try to maximize it. I know once school begins, the focus shifts to school work, sports, and weekends as the center of family fun. This leaves more time in the evenings for me to invest in my marriage. While I get good time in with my wife throughout the summer, we’re playing parent tag (Pool time, you’re it! Library day, you’re it!) more than we are enjoying one another. This makes fall a welcome change of pace for us both.

Marriage is hard work. Mix in children and it becomes something you have to be intentional about maintaining—like cutting grass in summer (Wondering where I’m going with this one, huh?).

In July, our HOA hit us with a notice about our grass. It was growing so fast and we were so busy, we couldn’t keep up. We had to get purposeful to stay on top of it. Marriage is like that. When your marital lawn is unkempt, it’s obvious. You may not have an HOA calling you out, but you and your spouse notice the overgrowth. That’s when it’s time to cut the grass—date nights and a down time.

I used to overthink date nights, which are the equivalent of having a professional landscaper come in and cut the grass, weed the garden, mulch the beds, and trim the hedges. I wanted to plan the perfect evening out eating, drinking, talking, and if time permitted, seeing a movie. Yes, we all love those nights, but I’ve come to learn that any time alone is welcome. It can be grabbing a coffee and chatting, picking up takeout and looking at old photos, or dinner and a walk through downtown or in a park. As couples, we excel at the one-time event, but what of we took the time to plan these regularly? We spend time and energy planning our children’s sports and activities with great pride, perhaps we should put same effort into our relationship. We need to plan dynamite date nights. We owe it to our kids to model wonderful, love-filled relationships for them. The marriage is the most important relationship in the home. I love my kids as much as the next person, but I love my wife more and my kids know that and appreciate it. I can tell because every time I hug my wife in their presence, my kids flock around us and it becomes a family hug. We’re constantly filling our children’s love tanks. It’s vital to fill our spouse’s as well.

As I bid you farewell, take my challenge of deliberately planning more dates. It’s one step in doing our best to be our best for each other. Our kids are watching.