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We recently celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary. I awoke that morning and immediately started whining about whose turn it was to get up and feed the kids, who had probably been awake and starving since the first hint of sunlight. As I “accidentally” kneed J in the kidney for the fourth time, hoping to spur him on, he turned to me fondly and said, “happy anniversary, sweetheart.”
OK, so I momentarily forgot it was our anniversary. But that’s not the point of this story...
That afternoon, my mother-in-law asked me how our relationship has evolved since its beginning. I hadn’t really thought about it before. We have certainly adapted to big things: job changes, a move across the country, two offspring… And, “with adaptation comes evolution” ~ Heather D. Huybregts, and, also, probably, Charles Darwin.
I thought about her question while pouting over my disappointing meal at our favourite fancy restaurant that evening. We only go there once a year because we have two young kids, so it’s usually either homemade or McDonald’s with little time/mental stamina for much in between. The salad was lacking in flavour and colour; the greens were wilted and bare. The salmon was overcooked. The marinade - that I remember loving so much in previous years - was bland and used way too sparingly.
J was having a great time and enjoyed every bite of his food. Pitying his emotionally distressed (hangry!) wife, he took it upon himself to ask the server for extra dressing for my dried lawn clippings.
And yes, I completely agree: I AM the worst date ever.
But not seven-and-a-half years ago. Our first date was at an Irish pub, which we chose on a whim. We were in Calgary, and so we were stoked that there was a Newfoundland band playing. It was crowded and busy, but we fed off that energy. We drank rum and Coke and ate nachos and baby Yorkshire puddings - I had never tried Yorkies before and, in that moment, they were the most delicious things I’d ever tasted. The band was loud, which was great; not only were we loving the shout-out to my homeland, but also it forced us to lean in close to talk. Hubba hubba.
So, why, back then, wasn’t I having rage sweats about the noise and chaos, like I would now? Why didn’t I turn away the greasy blobs of spongey dough because “hello, empty calories!”? We chose rum and Cokes simply because that particular rum was on special. We didn’t care where we sat. We didn’t care if they messed up our orders. Everything around us was just “stuff”.
We had so much time to just go with the flow. We had nothing but time...
Flash forward seven-and-a-half years and there I sat, in a beautiful restaurant, trying not to cry into my dry, limp leaves and brick of petrified salmon, and wondering what it was about this bitter wine that we liked so much last year.
I’ve been comparing those two dates. The first one happened when we were seven years younger. I was still a vision of nulliparous youth with the urinary continence of a champion foal. My hair was still thick and healthy and curly; that was before the hormonal onslaught of pregnancy and postpartum turned my curls to wavy-ish fuzz and the healthy brown to patches of frizzled white. Our under-eyes looked nothing like inflamed hemorrhoids back then. We were rested. Perhaps we even slept in that morning; we certainly weren’t awakened at some ungodly hour by a two-year old crawling into our bed with a diaper chock-full of feces. We had no one depending on us, so we could go out to eat whenever/wherever we wanted. We could stay out as late as we wanted. We weren’t so desperate for a night away that we needed everything to be perfect because this might not happen again for another 365 days. There was no pressure to make it perfect (which, ironically, made it pretty darn perfect).
And, most importantly, we didn’t care about the “stuff”. Just each other.
We can’t really make ourselves untired at this stage in the parenting game. Nor do we want to rush this phase of having young children because, as our elders often remind us, “they will be grown and gone before we know it.''
To answer my mother-in-law’s question: our relationship has evolved - mostly out of parental/adult obligation - from two twenty-something lovebirds with not a care in the world into two flirting-with-forty, exhausted teammates with too many cares to keep track of. We used to be spontaneous. Now we thrive on routine and do our best to not be sleep-deprived arseholes (and to forgive each other when we inevitably are).
Relationship evolution is undeniable. And that’s not a bad thing (despite my recent nose-dive in dating skills). We know each other, now, as much as two people can know each other - a superpower we lacked seven years ago as we stared longingly at each other, rum-n-Coke-eyed, swaying to The Old Black Rum. We forgive each other’s moodiness when we’ve only slept for four hours and the baby has croup (again). We know what song to turn on and what drink to pour when the other comes home after a hard day. We are “Mom” and “Dad” now.
We still stare at each other - sometimes less with “longing” and more with “exhausted desperation.” And, at those times, we know when one of us just needs to chime in and ask for the extra dressing.
Here’s to the next five years of evolving together. And sleeping - definitely more sleeping.
Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger, wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook, N.L. Her column appears biweekly.
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