“Well,” my husband answered, “we haven’t decided yet whether to go to Barney’s Food Basics or Stan’s Grocery.”
Becoming a parent has a way of making romance a little more difficult and complicated…but not impossible. After a few years of marriage and more than a few children, I’ve found that love has a way of showing its head at common but unexpected times.
I used to love my husband for the way he looked in his basketball uniform. Now I love him the for the way he looks in his sweats after being up with a sick baby all night.
I used to love my husband’s strong muscles from lifting weights in the gym. But now I love his muscles best when they’re used for carrying laundry to the washing machine, Jordan to the roof for his sixty-seventh lost softball, and Jacob when he’s too tired to walk anymore at Disneyland.
I used to love my husband for taking me out to expensive restaurants. Now I love him for making us Postum and cinnamon toast to eat while we watch the ten o’clock news.
I used to admire the way my husband washed and polished his new car. Now I admire the way he washes our children at bath time and the way he always carefully polishes each apple with the kitchen towel for the Christmas stockings.
I used to admire my husband’s latest intellectual recital from his vast store of knowledge. But now I admire him most when he’s crawling on all fours and acting like a goon to get our baby to laugh, attentively listening to our preschoolers tell knock-knock jokes without punch lines, helping our teenagers with algebra, or reading bedtime stories on the loveseat.
I used to admire my husband’s courage to travel to exotic foreign lands. Now I admire his courage to stay home, get up every morning, and face the work world, only to come home to sticky kitchen chairs, a teenager with a learner’s permit, last-minute peanut-butter-and-jam dinners and after-dinner children who explode with “Daddy-do-this” energy.
My husband spends his free time fixing flat bicycle tires, holes in the plasterboard directly opposite the doorknobs, leaking faucets, washing machines, hair driers, curling irons, squeaky doors, remote control cars, beheaded dolls, and runny noses. He takes time to build dollhouses, model airplanes, clubhouses, and our children’s memories.
I used to think the greatest show of romantic love was a passionate Hollywood kiss and embrace followed by an expression like, “Oh my darling, I cannot live another moment without you.” Now I feel the greatest expressions of love sound more like “Snuggle up and I’ll get your feet warm.” Or, “Don’t worry about the car, honey. We have insurance.” Or, “I’ll take care of the kids. Why don’t you get out and do whatever you want for the day.” Or, “Why, this casserole hardly tastes burned at all.”
Almost three decades ago, my husband and I knelt across a lace-covered altar and gazed into each other’s eyes, believing our love was complete. Now we gaze across a crumpled bed with bloodshot eyes at six in the morning while one child crawls across my stomach, another is perched on my husband’s nose, and one is ready for a jet landing on our shins. The others are spilling cereal and throwing oranges in the kitchen.
A famous unmarried author was once interviewed about her illustrious career. She was wealthy and had been internationally published, seemingly receiving every prestigious award. “I’d give it all up in a moment,” she said to the reporter, “to be able to sit next to the fire in the evenings with someone I love and someone who loves me.”
And that, in spite of the constant chaos we call family life, is why marital romance just keeps getting better and better.