So, I was thinking about writing on the subject of marriage, and I was trying to come up with a good, exciting topic, but my brain is kind of, like, frozen (not the movie- just the state of being). I've been so focused on how unintentionally busy I am, and how I can't believe I have a man-child graduating from high-school, and lacrosse playoffs, and swim season, and the list goes on, and the time flies by, and I just become kind of frozen. But, I think, marriage is part of parenting, and it's so important, and it certainly deserves time and space and priority.
My husband and I had to deal with a lot of time apart last month, and I think that is part of the reason the month sped by! He was traveling (like, out-of-the-country- travel) and the kids and I were just busy (ugh, that word again!) with the rhythm and routine of the every day. Let me just add that this kind of travel involved no phone contact (not exaggerating), seismic activity (yes, like earthquakes), and ten time zones. Apart. So, we, the children and I, were really on our own.
It's easy to fall into some interesting habits without the accountability of your spouse being present, such as, kids hanging out in the bedroom, in the bed, in the bathroom (privacy?)... It's actually amazing to me how easy it is to fall into these patterns. Three weeks can be a long time, I guess. God bless those families that have to be apart longer for deployments, extended travel, or single/unaccompanied tours of duty, and situations like that! Three weeks may seem like nothing, but it was long for us. Plus, the whole no contact thing just added to the situational stress of being apart. So, I had kids arguing over the front seat of the car, whose turn it was in the bed, and things like who was last downstairs, so who had to go turn off the light... I'm also pretty sure we ate out almost every day (nutrition? what?) and I skewed the budget for the next month because of that.
Needless to say, we were very, very happy to have Daddy back home after three weeks! While it was hard to be apart, and out of touch, and all that, it was actually kind of hard to get back together and back into being married, and parenting on the same page, too. Long, long ago, when I had just two kids, and one on the way, my husband deployed to Kuwait. It was right after 9/11, and he was a reservist who got activated to serve overseas. The children were so young, then, and I don't remember it being so hard to adjust to him being home again. Of course, it could because I went into labor, and we had a new human in the house right after he returned. We were all adjusting to something new. This time, though, with older kids, and everyone having an opinion (and expressing that opinion) getting back into a routine was not quite smooth. We had to have a few discussions about bedrooms and boundaries and what we had been doing for three weeks. We needed to talk about the expectations now that Dad was back in the house.
Part of the transitional bumps (this time) relate to the kids, our boundaries (or the lack thereof- I am so working on this!), and parenting, of course, but the bigger picture relates to marriage, I think.
Our marriage relationship is a barometer for our home. We need to connect and respect that our relationship speaks volumes to our kids. The way my husband and I relate to one another teaches our kids how to relate to one another. Our children are watching us, and they are learning so much about behavior and choices and consequences. When we are angry or frustrated, it almost always means the younger ones are going to be angry and frustrated. Interestingly, though, now that I have teenagers, just because we are happy doesn't necessarily mean they are happy (are all teens moody?).
When my husband and I take the time to make our relationship a priority, it translates to less anxiety in the home. It also teaches our children respect- respect for our marriage, our space, and our time. It is a symbiotic (the big homeschool word for the week) relationship. This means that we are mutually beneficial to each other. The children are learning from us, and certainly we are learning from them (patience, self control, joy… things like that). The kiddos are learning boundaries. When things are being communicated and conveyed appropriately, the kids aren’t so stressed about what to expect. Consistency (my personal struggle) is the key to happiness - for kids and adults.
Another touchpoint is the sharing of control. When your spouse returns from travel or deployment, or whatever has called you apart, it is important to let them back in to the front seat! The returning spouse needs to be afforded the respect to continue to parent and make decisions. In our marriage, we (my husband and I) share the control-freak gene. We are both oldest children and we both like to be in charge. Sharing of control is hard business, but it’s important to our marriage, and our family. It has taken some time, and, yes, some arguments, and some more time, and we are still learning to share the control. It is nice to not have everyone fighting, and control is usually the center of any argument in our home. My oldest likes to have the illusion of control, the middle is usually in control, and the youngest desperately wants control. For them to see either Mark or me give up the control of (insert here) type of issue, they are learning that it is ok to not always be in charge.
So… enjoy your marriage! As always, let me repeat that I am not an expert- I took “Marriage and the Family” at age nineteen in college, and I should have paid better attention. I do have some experience, though, and a lot of great role models in my life, and God, of course. To His glory for the success of my marriage, for sure! It is an awesome thing when we can all be together, and all be on the same page, same sheet of music, etc. and have some fun on this business of family and parenting.