Mommy’s Inside Voice: Date nights fail to replicate the passion of life before kids

Going from just the two of us to now a family of five has been…hard.

Date nights, for example. We try. We totally try, and they always start with good intentions. Greasy takeout and nerdy board games, laughing together, hoping that silliness will distract us both from the stream of yawns threatening bedtime. PayPerVu movies acting as background noise to steamy couch make-out sessions.

Oh yeah, we still got it. Enjoying my handsome husband while also actively trying to ignore the ball of half-chewed broccoli I have just spotted, shoved between the cushions. That little butthead, he swore he ate it!

We weave our fingers together, swearing not to talk about our kids. Trying to connect and intrigue and fulfill, but almost always waking up by our own snores. Slumped over to the credits rolling and a little puddle of drool under chins. Heating pads will be needed this week to reverse the “date night kink” in my neck. Ahhh, the good old days, when kink used to mean something else entirely.

This is normal, right? We are parents! We are busy! We are just tired. This isn’t a rut…it’s just…responsibility? How did we get so old, and why am I always so tired?

It stings, looking at the contrast of how we used to be together. Our dates, they used to be events! Frivolous, dimly lit restaurants with too many confusing little forks. Dishes that we couldn’t pronounce with prices so lofty that they weren’t even listed on the menu. Ducking out into the streets, relieved to be free of stiff etiquette. Drunk on expensive bubbles, peppering each other with playful kisses and cheeky bum grabs, letting the distant hint of obnoxious bass lead us to whatever came next. Flashing lights. Music so loud that it shook our chests like some kind of thunderous heartbeat.

We would throw cheap vodka down our throats, wrap our arms around each other and spend the night moving together. Celebrating everything and nothing. Blurry memories, waking up tangled together in our sheets. So enamoured by each other that even our morning breath (smelling a bit like dog food) couldn’t keep us from twining together. Hunger being the only motivator powerful enough to draw us out of our little cocoon of pillows and body heat. Bolting back as fast as possible with our snacks, diving headfirst and unabashedly into love.

It’s funny. When we’re young, it never really dawns on us that those times in our lives won’t last forever. As is life. Always shifting. Those two lovebirds quickly became five, and our home became so much louder. Messier, stinkier, happier.

Our boys consumed us, flipping our priorities and piggy banks upside down. We could spend hours just staring at their perfect little toes. Folding tiny pairs of sweatpants, scrubbing chubby little handprints made of jam off of the counters and cupboards. Researching preschool and rashes, picking up Legos and accidental oopsie-poops. Sleepless nights of teething, fevers and cuddles, stretching out until the deep purple bags under our eyes became a permanent feature on our faces.

It makes me sad, sometimes. I love our boys, but I look back on old pictures, reminiscing about our first chapters together… and I miss him. I miss our playfulness. I miss the spontaneity and the romance. Sacrificing unappreciated sleep to binge watch Breaking Bad on Netfix. Spontaneous road trips with unknown destinations, our only plan being Cheetos and being together. The attention, affection, time and touch that used to be reserved only for each other is now spent nurturing our family.

We occasionally talk about missing each other, about wanting to “get back to that place” together. We fantasize about the adventures that we will go on once we have an empty nest, picturing ourselves like frosted, crinkled versions of the lovebirds from our memories.

But you see, I think this is how it’s all supposed to be. The progression of life. The growing pains.

We romanticize our past, rationalizing that something must have gone wrong along the way for it not to be the same anymore. In reality, nothing is wrong. Just different. The tides of life shape and mould you, creating this awesomely wise and weathered masterpiece by the end of the line.

If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to grow through it all with someone beside you. Acting as both anchor and lever, keeping you grounded but always pushing you forward.

The side effects of infatuation never really last anyway, at least not in any consistent fashion. Those that are fortunate enough to know, will tell you that it is slowly replaced by comfort. Unspoken knowing. Way less leg shaving, an unquestionable shoulder to lean on. You trade your puppy love for something real. Something trusted, safe and strong.

Missing what time has transformed is a pointless endeavour. Looking backwards, unintentionally comparing your rose coloured recollections to the present is kinda like a dog that’s chasing his tail. Adorable, but a little stupid.

So in realizing this, I choose to be present. I will choose to revel in the confidence we’ve built in each other, grateful for the hard work and trust that has allowed us to get this far. I’m going to enjoy the comfortable silences, and the fact that I no longer have to hide my toots.

Those early days were invigorating, and I will always cherish how our story began. But now I’m going to focus on how much this handsome man’s big, strong hand feels like home in mine…. even if they are clasped behind the backs of three loud, smelly, gorgeous little boys.

Mommy’s Inside Voice is a weekly column by Amie Jay, a local mother of three.

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