I am excited to continue the bake sale stories, but feel in my heart there is another direction God wants to go in today. At this time of year, when everything is spinning out of control for so many – finances of holiday shopping, workloads to prepare for time off, housework for impending guests, final exams for kids, tempers and attitudes on edge, and the ever-high expectations, either internal or external, to make this the best holiday season yet – is there any hope of catching our breath?
Hardly! With tragic events pounding people everywhere like waves of a relentless tsunami, both personal and national, it seems that there is nothing calm and bright about Christmas.
But wait! There is something we can do that will make a huge and lasting difference in our families.
Spouses need a date night. Everyone talks about husbands and wives needing a break from the precious little ones and their needs. Yes, that is true. But as the parent of two teens and a tween, just because they don’t need help with nearly as much as they used to doesn’t mean there is a ton of flexible time for my husband and me.
In fact, those late nights of bottle-feeding and rocking in the early years are replaced with the hum of our computer and ticking keyboards working hard past midnight as research papers, studying for tests and daily homework consumes sleeping hours.
Trying to get little ones to try new foods has turned into trying to make sure everyone has had some protein and good carbs before jumping on the hamster wheel at work and school for the day as they race out the door with a briefcase and 50# backpacks.
The “one more story” or “drink of water” delays at bedtime of past years has transitioned to me falling asleep on their beds waiting for them to finish caring for their braces, packing up their school things, and remembering everything the next day’s demands.
The energy exuded in conversations of the past about how clouds form and why trees drop their leaves has risen to epic proportions as we deal with the hard issues of the real world that has barged, often uninvited, into their childhoods.
I wish I could tell young parents that things get easier as kids get older, but it doesn’t (though the benefits of parenting teens are amazing!). The issues just change. Serious problems occur in the family when the parents and children can’t/won’t change with them.
In order for that to happen, a major player in the scenario is that a marriage needs time. Time alone. Time to decompress. Time to talk, fight, laugh and just chill.
I am as predictable as the sunrise in our marriage. When time is neglected in our marriage, I become instinctively impossible to live with. I’m grumpy, angry, edgy and moody towards my man. Sounds like a party, huh?
Every time I find that my husband can’t do anything right, I’ve learned to stop and ask myself why I am being so critical. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s because of a lack of time being poured back into our marriage.
Marriages that function solely on autopilot eventually crash.
Holidays can be the worst for this scenario. Recognizing this, once again, as my intolerance seems to be an unfortunate Christmas tradition, I asked Bruce for some time. The kids agreed. Ha! Even they see the signs. Like a stomach churning with hunger or a headache from dehydration, symptoms exist for time-deficit in a marriage. A marriage is a living thing that needs to be cared for just as our bodies do. We feed and clothe our bodies. Likewise, we need to nourish and clothe our marriages to keep them strong and healthy, and to protect them from outside elements. So off we went.
Bruce asked me, Wanna see a movie?
Wanna go to dinner?
Nah. I’m not hungry.
Wanna go Christmas shopping for the kids?
Nah. I’m not in the mood.
Boy, I’m a tough sell. What I really wanted was some private time for conversation with my husband to connect, discuss, and communicate uninterrupted – before midnight when neither of us are at our best or via text or email as is often the case.
I told him just that, so we drove off with well-wishes from the kids for our date night. Our daughter was especially excited about our “date” as she loves a good love story.
We wound up parked outside a familiar book store. He suggested we go in, get some Starbucks, and relax in the big, frumpy chairs in the calm atmosphere of book-lovers.
It was raining and cold outside – the perfect night for a bookstore date.
I replied that I didn’t want to go inside. I just wanted to sit.
There is no privacy in there. I just want to talk to you without anyone else around, I explained.
So be it. He turned the car off and there we sat. In the dark. In the rain. In the chilly night air filling the car with people coming and going from the parking spaces all around us.
We talked for an hour. A precious, uninterrupted 60 minutes (before having to pick up one of our children). We were finally able to work through some things that had laid ignored out of a lack of time or energy, make plans, talk about feelings (yes, I just said that), and reconnect.
We never left the car. After picking up our teen, we returned home and were greeted by our daughter.
So, what’d ya do? What fun did you have? You so deserve it. Tell me! Tell me!
Well, I replied, we drove to the bookstore, parked and sat in the car and talked.
She scrunched up her face, tilted her head to the side and said with a completely confused and anti-climatic tone, That’s it? That’s what you did?
To her, it was a downer of a date. Boring. Uneventful. Weird.
To me, it was awesome! I got the full attention of my man for an hour in the midst of a blessedly crazy season of life.
If you haven’t taken time with your spouse lately, I encourage you to do it. I’ll never forget the advice someone once gave us a long time ago when, as newlyweds, we were completely broke and were consumed with working our way through college together. He said, You should go on dates now with your spouse because it’s a lot cheaper – and more fun – than therapy later if you don’t.
Some may believe the trap that they can’t afford to take the time or spend the money, but based on statistics of marital problems and divorce, I beg to differ that marriages can’t afford not to do it. This date night of reconnecting doesn’t cost anything, but the time spent investing in reconnecting is priceless and gives us something to treasure – and the entire family reaps the reward.