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It was one of those beautiful August summer nights in Iowa when the locust are loud and the air is sweet with the smell of corn. The deck was thick with smoke—cigarettes and cigars, the conduit for good conversation. We talked about marriage and parenting, how it opens us up parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. How having kids forces a person to become less selfish, to care less and less about things that used to matter, replacing them with new loves, new emotions, and new fears. My friend sitting across from me is at a different stage of life—little kids, early bedtime, ornery toddlers full of life, the excitement/anxiety of a new baby. Me? I’m entering the realm of teenager parent; my daughter will be off to high school in a few weeks, which means I’m officially “middle-aged” dad. Our conversation that night was about what it takes to be a good parent. I know, Facebook makes it look easy, but sometimes (most of the time?) it’s just hard. Sometime you want to channel your inner Samuel L. Jackson, and tell your kid to Go the F*#k to Sleep. (It’s a real audiobook, honest…look it up.) Being a parent can be exhausting, never mind being a good one. I’m starting to think this is the way it will be until the day I die, and I’ve made peace with it.
We also talked about marriage, which is related to parenting because for those who choose to have kids it changes things. With so many things vying for our attention, and with increasingly less and less privacy, there are fewer and fewer moments we have to ourselves. We used to have our evenings, after the kids were in bed, to watch a show or eat ice cream, but now that our kids have claimed the nighttime too we’ve staked our claim to the early morning. Coffee on the back deck, that’s the last stronghold for private moments, how ever brief and fleeting they might be. Yesterday, Kate’s blog referenced the “Love your spouse challenge” all over Facebook. I enjoy the pictures and making fun of my friends in public, but I get her point. I haven’t seen anyone post pictures of holding their spouses head while they barf into a toilet, or the time they swore at each other on Mother’s day, possibly with a hand gesture or two; they’re mostly groomed moments of harmonious peace—a truce in the chaos of life. I’m ok with it… most of the pictures I’ve seen are funny because I know better. On the deck that night I pontificated about what I’ve learned about marriage after 19 years, that you have to take the time to fall in love again because they’re not the same person you married, and you’re not the same person they married. Sometimes I ask my wife if, knowing then what she knows now, would she still marry me? The silence is always a bit disconcerting. Acting the part of the older, wiser, middle-aged man, I suggested to my friend that every so often we need to make sure we fall in love again so they don’t wake up one morning and wonder: “Who let this homeless guy in the house, and what is he doing in my bed?”
I can honestly say that I love my wife more now than I ever have. She’s a wonderful partner, a great mom, and a beautiful human being. It’s the imperfections that I love the most—we’re not meant to be “perfect” after all, our imperfections make us who we are. I love her body, the way her [redacted…….redacted………redacted………redacted]. Getting older with her has been a joy, full of challenges and lively arguments that add to the goodness of it all. I close with the poetry of scripture—King James Version:
How much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.