There is something uniquely alarming about waking up to a person throwing up. Since I have four kids, this happens more often than I would like; usually, in the middle of the night when the acidic smell and darkness combine to leave you in a state of nauseous desperation. However, though the next day I wake up tired, I also wake up feeling triumphant and bonded to my husband because we conquered the puke-filled night. We heard the call of heaving and sprung into action. One of us cleaned the room, the other cleaned the kid.
Together we love, we care, we pray, and we clean.
If my husband has to work in the morning, I tell him that I will take care of it. He rarely, if ever, takes me up on that. We both know that when we have to take care of a mess that stinks and threatens to infect others, we must act, and if we move together, we might have a chance to stay ahead of the violent chain reaction.
We are a family of six, and we take viruses seriously. They must be eliminated. Still, sometimes, there is an outbreak, and it is horrible. It's one thing if the kids get it, but when the parents get it, everything becomes undone. The specifics would be TMI, but if you have partnered with a spouse long enough, birthed their babies, and shared a bathroom, you know the secrets....and, well....
Sometimes, that loving feeling just isn’t there.
When we got married, we invited pretty much everyone we knew. We didn't have the food budget, but we made sure we had the space. His fraternity brothers (some of which had been drinking in the church parking lot) had made it a tradition to sing the Righteous Brothers classic "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" at their formal events. Apparently, our wedding qualified.
As a swarm of Pi Kappa Alpha men circled around me and sang, I couldn't help but think guys, this is an odd choice of serenade at a wedding. Yet, the song carried with it images of Top Gun, the beauty of tribute, and the comfort of tradition, so I smiled and laughed at the faces that had approached me when I first started dating their fraternal brother, the faces that told me how much they respected him, and assured me that he was a good guy. And let's not forget the one who topped it all off harrowing the story of "he saved my life."
Ten years later, I know this better than they did. I see this. I get to live and parent with a faithful man, a wise man, a man who knows how to throw down his cool dad skills.
I have also been privy to the faults that prove we all fall short of perfection. I have rallied and spewed full courtroom worthy defenses. Elle Woods has nothing on my defenses against the way he tries to load the dishwasher, drive the car, and parent my—I mean—our children.
Sometimes it's just plain hard raising children with someone who doesn't think the way you do, wasn't raised the way you were, and obviously hasn't read as many wisdom-filled blogs as you have. Sometimes in my weaker moments in those tension-filled junctures, I forget that this man is my teammate, partner, and my friend.
On paper, our differences make us a pretty qualified parenting team. I studied the arts and he studied the sciences, so we've got homework covered. He thinks linearly; I think.... let's just call it creatively, and our children are pretty much split down the middle on this one. He can see what will happen ten moves down the road; I am willing to jump without knowing. Together we have learned how to risk wisely. Though we are not perfect and don't have it all covered, I believe we bring a beautiful balance to kids who each have their own personality, with pieces of us woven through it. I have learned to love "us" in a new arena. I love "us" as a parenting tag team.
Sometimes, in the flurry and fun of it all, I forget that though we will always be parents, someday the intensity of our parenting will lessen and the two of us will be here. I forget that someday the necessity of looking over my shoulder for my man so I can tap out will not be there. It will just be us. This feels strange, but not scary. After nine years of diapers, I am looking forward to the big kids, family adventures, and the newness of their next stages. I dream of watching our kids graduate and find their paths in life. I dream of grandkids.
Then I think of the time my husband and I will have, Lord willing. Time that right now is only captured after bedtime. I dream of Venice and gondolas, the Eiffel Tower and pastries, and sitting on a bench along the Thames in the shadow of the Tower of London, watching the boats pass under Tower Bridge. I dream of adventure, rest, and a life full of loving those put in our path.
Truth is, we have had grand ventures together already. I have walked the edges of volcanoes, mountains, and waterfalls with this man. We have swam with sharks and trekked across the country. We have seen lots of life and tried to pour life into others. I love those memories, but so much more I love the man with me on this quest of raising four humans. My ginger-haired highlander, who is willing to voyage with his lady, right down to the floor to clean the puke.
Guest post written by Chara Donahue. Chara lives in Oregon with her husband and four kids ages 3 to 9. She is enjoying the emergence from diaper days and currently stays at home with the littles. She may return to teaching Language Arts when they are all in school, but for now, she is keeping them alive, teaching them grace and love, and leading all things women at Outward Church. She stays up way too late reading in the quiet that comes after all fall asleep, but loves waking to her children's faces and her coffee maker. Chara blogs at Anchored Voices and you can follow her on Twitter here.
Photo by N'tima Preusser.