Sometimes he’ll whisper playfully to me, when I’m doting on the kids and not paying him much attention, “Hey, none of this, ya know,” gesturing to our boys, “would have been even remotely possible without me, the big D,” with a wink and a smirk. And I’ll smile involuntarily, roll my eyes, and concede, usually silently, that yeah, he’s got a point. A great point, actually. Without my (truly incredible) husband, without the two of us, there would be no family as we know it, no world as we know it.
It’s not about loving my husband more, nor is it about placing him on a pedestal, à la the 1950s or Stepford Wives. Rather, it’s about building the strongest possible foundation for our family, recognizing parents form that base and bedrock. When we lift up each other, we lift up all four of us.
Of course, we clash sometimes. Most certainly we disagree. Such is human nature—after all, we didn’t marry ourselves.
We can be moody, touchy, oversensitive, undersensitive, temperamental . . . the list goes on. Those moments of discord, those heated debates, are crucial to solidifying the foundation of our relationship and, even more critically, are absolutely necessary to teach our wide-eyed, spongy offspring that it’s perfectly okay for two people who love each other to not be in sync all the time. It is essential for our kids to know that arguments, even vehement ones, are not to be feared. The way they are handled and the effort each side puts into understanding their partner’s perspective, into compromising because they care about and respect each other—that matters and is the hallmark of a great love. Arguing, followed by compromising, can strengthen a parental unit and augment the foundation of the family. We always try to “kiss and make up” in front of the kiddos, even—well, especially—when it takes some time to get there.
Importantly, putting my husband first is reciprocated by him putting me first. As the cliché goes:“Love is a two-way street.” It is a display we purposefully showcase in front of our kids through everyday actions, through a simple “hello” kiss, a prolonged hug, or the most ordinary acts of affection. We hold hands everywhere. We say “I love you” to each other all the time. We call each other “sweetie” because nomenclature is vital in reinforcing an image.
Here’s the thing: kids may act “grossed out” by the slightest parental PDA, but in their heart of hearts, I know it makes them happier, more confident, and more grounded, to see this love reinforced.
Once when the boys were very little and my mother-in-law was visiting, she asked our oldest, then maybe 2 years old, if he knew Mommy’s name. He thought for a second and replied with, “Mmm . . . Sweetie?” It gave me a giggle and simultaneously warmed my heart. We loved that our kids knew we were one another’s “sweeties.”
Regular date nights, whether out on the town or at home at our kitchen island, are invaluable. So are romantic getaways, sans children, when possible.
Those are the moments we remember to put each other first and prioritize one another. Yes, there was a bit of moping and whining when the kids were younger and needier, but they quickly got used to the notion that even boring old mom and dad need their “special time.” That even though we revolve our worlds around them and cater to all their needs and love them to death, it is imperative we refuel and reignite our own relationship, which is at the cornerstone of our family. Ultimately, like with the G-rated PDA, seeing their parents so committed to each other instills in them a sense of security that is absolutely precious and perhaps the greatest gift parents can give their kids.
I never knew my own parents’ anniversary date. I still don’t, to this day, even though they stayed together in a cheerless, wretched marriage for 20 years, until I was in college. My brothers and I prayed from a young age they would get a divorce; how ironic they thought staying together in misery was best for the children. They brought each other down constantly. There was very little lifting up or putting the other first. My childhood was dysfunctional and mostly melancholy as a result of their tumultuous relationship, so I am driven to make sure my kids have a wholly disparate upbringing.
In contrast, I truly do love celebrating anniversaries with our children. We celebrate on our own but we also take the kids out to dinner to commemorate and we make a big deal out of it on purpose. I take pride and delight in showing our growing boys how important that day is. It imprints on them the paramount importance of our togetherness, of us as a couple, of our serendipitous meeting that resulted in our family, which I treasure.
So thank you, dear husband, for not only being a man with whom I am still madly in love, but also for being a guy who is easy for me to respect, love, and put first. You are quite right when you quip that you “made it all possible”—well, half right, anyway. But I’ll give it to you.