That was 22 years ago. And now that boyfriend is my husband of almost 21 years and the father of my three children.
I was thinking of how far we had come from that younger couple who was planning our life together, when I heard Joe yell at our firstborn, “Tom, don’t kill your brother and don’t call him a pest.”
“Peter, no, you can’t build a swimming pool in the basement.”
And then hear him ask our daughter, LIzzy, what she was doing in the kitchen and laugh when she said nothing, since she was covered in chocolate.
I wondered what my younger self would think of the life we had created. Back then all I could think of was romantic notions of engagement rings, weddings and honeymoons in gorgeous locations.
Valentine’s Day meant having roses delivered to my office and going to dinner at a nice restaurant. Even after we were married, February 14th meant a day of traditional romance complete with presents and long mornings in bed.
My ideas of romance has changed a bit since then, because, well, we became parents.
A few years ago, our family was sitting around the table enjoying a nice weekend meal at home. Since Joe has a long commute and frequently doesn’t get home until late on weeknights, the weekends are the one time we can all eat together.
We were laughing and enjoying each other’s company, when Peter, five at the time, just got up from the table and nonchalantly walked to where I was sitting. He then proceeded to spit out the contents of his mouth into my hand. For some unknown maternal reason my hand instinctively opened up. Joe looked up at me and without missing a beat said, “And we thought we would never go anywhere exotic.”
Parenthood is like exploring a strange jungle together. Everyday brings something completely different from the next.
We have experienced such great joy.
Being pregnant with Tom and watching him dance around on the sonogram with the sound of his strong heartbeat in the background. Made all the more joyful since we had experienced four previous pregnancies when the sonograms showed no heartbeats.
Wondering if we would ever be lucky enough to have a second child, and then getting to see our daughter Lizzy, emerge three years later with a huge shock of black hair and a scream that could shatter glass.
And then three years after that laughing with complete delight when we found out we were having another boy after thinking our baby days were over. Having the wonderful feeling that someone was listening to our secret wish of having three, beautiful children.
Then there are the many times when we questioned our ability to care for these precious people.
The first time being the day my six foot husband decided to take a six month old Tom out of his crib and play the, “fly to mommy game.”
Perhaps this would have gone better if there hadn’t been a ceiling fan in the nursery. I can still hear the deafening sound of my precious baby’s head as it hit the ceiling fan.
I screamed and turned away.
“Kathy, look at the baby,” my husband said, in panicked voice.
“I am not looking if he has no head,” was my hysterical response.
I seriously wondered if we would ever survive our first year as parents.
But we did. Together.
Many a sleepless night has been spent tending to sick children or worrying over milestones not reached. There is nothing quite like being covered in toddler vomit to strengthen a marriage.
I now know that there is something very romantic about going through life’s ups and downs with the same person.
Joe and I have had weeks of panic as we endured the wait of possibly devastating test results for Lizzy. And we have had the frustration of sitting in a specialist’s office only to be told they have never seen anything like our daughter and her still undiagnosed neurological disorder.
We have become partners in the truest sense of the word. After all we are the only two people in the world who know how the other one feels when it comes to our children. Laughter and tears have their own meaning in our world.
Little did I know, 22 years ago this Valentines Day, that when I said “yes” to marriage I was starting on a journey to a place more romantic than any destination we could find on a map.