Marriage Advice from a Two-Year-Old


how to stay close to your spouse during the baby phase via @lizzylit

Image courtesy of Pixabay

This post originally appeared on To Love, Honor and Vacuum

My kids blew past me toward the door, an early-morning tornado of jackets, back packs, and lunch boxes.

“Come on,” called Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, jiggling his keys. “We’re going to be late!”

“Wait! I want kisses!” I said. “That means you! And you! And you!” My three older kids clattered back into the kitchen, planted kisses on my cheeks, and then rushed to follow my husband out to the van.

When the door slammed shut behind them, my two-year-old looked at me in horror. “Mama kiss Dada!” she said.

I blinked at her for a moment, not understanding. I heard the sound of the van pulling out of the driveway.

“Mama kiss Dada!” she insisted, her voice becoming frantic. She tried to pull me toward the door.

Then I realized: She was right. I hadn’t kissed my husband. I chuckled, trying to justify myself. “You’re right, but Daddy is coming right back, so that’s why I didn’t kiss him.” Even to my own ears, the words fell limp, a lame excuse. Little Miss stared me down, authoritative even in her bare feet and plaid nightie. I was not off the hook. “Mama kiss Dada.

I felt a blush creeping across my cheeks. “You’re right,” I said. “I should have kissed Daddy. I’m sorry.”

Little Miss seemed to accept this. We went back to our oatmeal. Ten minutes later, the door banged open again. My husband was home.

Before he’d even rounded the corner, Little Miss rounded on me. “Mama kiss Dada! Mama kiss Dada!”

Laughing, I stood up. “Okay, okay, you’re right! I’ll kiss him!” I walked over to my husband and planted one, two, three firm kisses on his lips. He kissed me back with a baffled half-smile.

I turned back to my daughter, who stood watching us. Weighing me. “There. Are you happy now? Mama loves Dada, see?” When she still seemed unconvinced, I wrapped my arms around him and snuggled into his chest.

She smiled her approval and toddled off to find her toys.

That day, she reminded me of several truths I had forgotten, lessons I’ll carry with me always.

The secret most kids won’t tell you

Our children have a secret, and it’s this: Kids love it when their parents are in love. Older kids and teens may pretend to be embarrassed by our kisses, but secretly, they love it. It makes them feel safe. Happy. Like they are a part of something special.

When my brother was young, he invited a neighborhood friend over. My parents walked into the room and gave each other a little kiss, and the neighbor boy said, “Ew! Your parents kissed! My parents never kiss!” My brother grinned and bragged, “Well, my parents kiss all the time!” My parents’ affection was a source of confidence and security for him—and for all the kids in our family. I want to give my own children that same gift, that same confidence, through my marriage.

Keeping the home fires burning

But let’s be honest: It’s all too easy, once kids come along, to neglect our spouse. To forget about even the simple things that keep us connected and close. We don’t do it on purpose, of course, but once a baby enters our world, our first and best cuddles and snuggles and kisses start going to the baby. When we walk into a room, our eyes slide right past our husband, hungry for another drooly “Mommy-Is-My-Whole-World” smile from our chubby-cheeked cherub.

And at first, our husband doesn’t mind. For a season, he’ll gladly serve as our Baby Gear Sherpa, the carrier of car seats and diaper bags and Pack-n-Plays. For a time, he’s happy to take a back seat while we figure out the whole new-baby thing . . . but before long—sooner than we think—he needs the front seat again. He needs and deserves our deliberate attention, our devoted affection—not just the leftovers. Not always the afterthoughts. Song of Songs 8:6 describes a passionate romance so beautifully: “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Every fire needs fuel to keep burning. If it runs out of fuel, even the strongest of blazes will die down to ember and ash. We have to keep stoking the fire of our marriage—nurturing it, coaxing it back to life when it ebbs, feeding it fresh fuel.

I get it: This is easy to write about, and not easy to do. Believe me, I know! As a survivor of four New Baby Adjustment Periods, I totally get it! I can’t tell you how many times my husband has turned to me after a few months of me disappearing into New Baby Land, and gently said, “Come baaaaack to meeeee!” Which of course made the post-baby hyper-hormonal version of me cry and feel terrible (which in turn made Kevin feel terrible and wish he’d never said anything), but also reminded me that I was a wife before I ever became a mother. So please don’t read this and feel guilty . . . It’s hard for EVERYONE. It’s complicated. We all have to figure it out in our own messy way, and give each other jumbo-sized packages of diapers grace. But here are a few strategies Kevin and I have tried over the years—I hope they give you some helpful ideas.

Five simple ways to stoke the marital flame, even with little ones in the house

These five simple tricks can help you connect with your spouse, even on chaotic days with babies and young children underfoot:

  • Remember simple acts of daily physical affection. Don’t underestimate the power of hugs and kisses to keep you feeling connected and close.
  • Use timers to set aside “Mommy and Daddy Time.” Tell the kids you need a few minutes to talk uninterrupted, and set a timer. The kids can’t come back into the room with you until the timer goes off.
  • Schedule sex. I know, this does not sound romantic in the least, but IT HELPS, especially when kids are young and life is crazy. We have found that if we wait for the stars to align—kids in bed early, house clean enough for me to relax, me not wearing exercise clothes covered in spit-up, both of us rested enough to be willing to stay up a little later, both of us “in the mood” at the same time—um, they will never align. But if we both agree ahead of time that on such-and-such a day, we will work together to put the kids in bed on time, get the dishes done and the house put back together so I can stop cleaning, shut down all the computer and phone dings, and meet up for an interlude in the bedroom—then as long as one of the kids doesn’t start vomiting, we actually stand a chance! We might go really wild and light candles and play mood music.
  • Build sacred Mommy-Daddy time into your schedule at a set time each day, so your children get used to it. (This idea comes from John Rosemond’s book New Parent Power.) Kids know, “This fifteen minutes always belongs to Mommy and Daddy, not to me.” You could try early-morning coffee together, before work and school. If mornings are too hectic at your house (like they are at mine), try setting aside a time slot right after you get home from work, or right after dinner. (When kids get older, we can even let them clean the dinner dishes while Mom and Dad catch up on the day! Let’s all take a moment to daydream about how fabulous that’s going to be . . . )
  • Buy yourself an extra half-hour on evenings when you need time to connect. How? Put kids to bed early with a book and a flashlight. They’ll think it’s a treat to read in bed—it’s kind of like they’re getting away with something—and you can start some early couch-cuddling before you turn into a pumpkin.

Strategies like this are especially helpful for the time of life when we have small kids in the house. But this isn’t just a new-baby issue. The older my children get, the more I realize that this is an ongoing struggle. Older kids mean a busy life and crazy schedule packed with homework, sports, friends, and activities. We will all have to re-learn how to put our marriage first in the preschool years, the elementary years, the preteen years, the teenage years, the empty-nester years. At every stage, it takes a conscious effort to give our marriage the attention it deserves—to give our husbands the attention they deserve.

My wise two-year-old saw what I didn’t see. My husband comes first, not last. No matter how late we are or how busy life is, everybody deserves a good-morning kiss . . . and every kiss counts.


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By This Time Next Year… A Christmas Miracle


A Christmas miracle about faith and the power of prayer through infertility, via @lizzylit

The Christmas chaos had finally died down.

My family members were lying around my parents’ living room on Christmas night, 2004—tinkering with new gadgets, trying on new clothes, laughing at the same old jokes that somehow never got old. Everyone was full of eggnog, fudge, and joy… well, everyone was happy except me.

The living room was crowded with the people I loved most, and yet in my mind, someone was missing— someone I had never met. My baby, the child I could not conceive, was not there, and that baby’s absence spoke louder than all the words of Christmas cheer.

Christmas miracle from @lizzylit

Christmas is about children, but there were no children in our family anymore. My three siblings and I had grown up, and now that I had been married to my college sweetheart for five years, a baby was long overdue.

thompson-155

But we couldn’t get pregnant, and no one knew why. As the lonely months stretched into years—two childless Christmases came and went, and our refrigerator was covered with photos of our friends’ babies wearing Santa hats—I sank into a deep sadness. I began to question everything, even my lifelong faith in God. Did he hear our prayers at all? How could he stand by silently while Kevin and I suffered?

As we faced that Christmas, I had vowed not to let my aching emptiness ruin our family festivities, and yet the loss cast a shadow over the whole day. As night fell, my father, who had been a preacher for more than forty years, gathered the family together, and we began to recount the blessings we’d been given over the past year. The talk turned to the future. What did we hope to see next year? What were our dreams?

Every family member wished for the same thing: a baby by the following Christmas. We shed tears, and as the hour grew late, Dad ended our Christmas by asking us all to pray for the coming year. Around the circle we went, each of us asking God the same thing: “Please give us a baby by this time next year.” We had prayed for a baby before—pleaded, cajoled, bargained—but never like this, never as a family, united in the same plea: “By this time next year…”

The next month, I began to see a new doctor, who had some fresh ideas for my treatment. And that spring, we received the news: I was pregnant! I embraced the months of exhaustion and nausea with ecstatic gratitude—every time I hung my head over the trashcan, I was singing inside.

The baby was due December 18. All through my pregnancy, people teased me: “A Christmas baby, how terrible!” But I, in my first-pregnancy naiveté, was convinced that the baby would come early, so that I could recover from the delivery in plenty of time for Christmas. We had waited so long to get pregnant, surely we wouldn’t have to wait past our due date to meet our child!

Christmas baby overdue

But December 18 came and went, and the baby only seemed to settle deeper into my womb. December 19, December 20, December 21… nothing. Not a single useful contraction. As Christmas day loomed, I began to despair.

I was never going to have this baby.

I had prayed for so long to get pregnant, now I’d be the only pregnant woman who stayed that way forever.


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When Kevin and I first awoke on the morning of Christmas Eve, we called to check in with our doctor. Minutes later, we were throwing suitcases into our car, rushing to the hospital to have labor induced. On the way to the hospital, we laughed and cried, terrified and giddy in equal measure, sure that our baby would arrive by that night. A Christmas Eve baby! Wouldn’t that be delightful?

But labor dragged on into the early hours of Christmas morning. Our families drifted in and out of the hospital’s waiting room all Christmas day, rushing through the morning gift-opening without us, eating Christmas dinner with cell phones by their plates, waiting for news.

Labor and Delivery 019

But the baby wouldn’t come, wouldn’t even move into the birth canal. Finally that night, it was clear that our baby was not coming without help. I would need a C-section.

That first wail—the cry I thought I’d never hear—was a foreign but familiar sound, the song my heart had been singing all those years. And what lungs she had! The baby cried angrily—after all, it hadn’t been her idea to come out—but the moment my husband spoke to her, saying, “Daddy’s here,” she quieted, calmed by the voice she had come to know from inside my womb.

And when the doctor held up a tiny head with chocolate eyes and a scrunchy nose, my brain tried to reconcile sight with faith. That squirming bundle was our baby! Cassidy Joy Thompson entered the world—seven pounds, five ounces of answered prayer—on Christmas night, 2005, at 9:46 p.m.

But we didn’t get it right away.

It was several weeks before my mother suddenly turned to me, tears filling her eyes, and breathed, “Do you remember our prayer last Christmas night?” And we realized that Cassidy Joy had been born, to the minute, one year after my family had begged God, “By this time next year, please give us a child…. ”

Now, whenever I am tempted to wonder if God remembers us, if he hears our prayers, I look at my daughter—our family’s Christmas miracle—and I know that he does.

miracle Christmas baby

Labor and Delivery 031

 

Christmas Card (2)

And here she is on her first birthday, Christmas 2006:

IMG_1537 - Version 2

And today, almost age ten:

Cassidy hugging apple tree

By God’s astounding grace, this is our family today:

Christian infertility

kids01

This story first appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas!

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Have Yourself a Merry Married Christmas


how to have a merry married Christmas

This month in Lizzy Life, we’re talking about having happy, holy holidays! We’ve already talked about 10 questions to ask yourself NOW to help you have your best Christmas ever. So today let’s talk about setting our marriages up to win.

If you’ve been married for even a single Christmas season, then you’ve already learned this: Spouses can envision very different things for holidays, without even realizing it. One of you wants to relax and keep it simple and never ever get out of their pajamas; the other wants to be Clark Griswold, and invite Cousin Eddie and every other relative to spend weeks partying at your house!

On our first few Christmases together, Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome and I ran into unexpected conflict over stupid things: should we invite 50 friends over for Ugly Sweater parties every other night, or go hibernate alone in a mountain cabin with no Internet or phone service or Ugly Sweaters (or clothing of any kind); should we drive thousands of miles cross-country to visit every possible relative, or stay home snuggling by the fire; should we invite friends over for Christmas dinner, or have a quiet meal with just our family…and the list went on. Plus, we both had our own list of like 36 Things We Absolutely Had to Do in December Or Else Our Whole Holiday Season Would Be Ruined. 

We quickly learned that we had to talk through ALL THE DETAILS of our expectations and calendar if we wanted to have a merry married Christmas. At first I, being rather a free spirit when it comes to holidays, ran away screaming when Kevin came at me waving a calendar and throwing out terrifying words like “schedule” and “plan ahead,” but I quickly realized how wise he was. And now that we have four kids and all of our family lives out of town, there’s no choice. We have to plan.

Kevin and I have learned that several weeks before Christmas (if you haven’t noticed, that’s NOW!), we need to have a little meeting together. We put the kids to bed and sit down in front of the tree (the calming presence of the tree helps me not hyperventilate). We grab our family calendar, pour glasses of wine (again with the hyperventilation prevention), and map out everything we both want to do over the holidays. First we talk about expectations and talk through our answers to the 10 holiday questions I posted last week—how we want our holiday to feel, what we are both hoping for.


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how to have a merry married Christmas

Then out comes the Evil Calendar. This is where we figure out how our expectations translate into life in the real world, with the limits of 24-hour days and the need to eat and sleep and bathe children. This is where expectations meet reality. This is where we figure out how to make our expectations actually happen. We are VERY specific—we pencil in everything we want to do over the holidays:

  • all the gajillion fun family outings we want to pack in
  • date nights
  • who we are going to invite over, and when
  • Christmas decorating and wrapping
  • shopping excursions
  • community service
  • church events
  • all 537 Christmas and birthday and New Year’s parties we need to attend
  • we even reserve certain nights for relaxing at home, watching favorite movies and wrapping presents 

These plans are not set in stone or signed with a blood pact or anything—we can always change them later. But they give us a roadmap to start from—and they make sure we’re working from the SAME map, trying to get to the same destination.

And you know what’s the best part about doing this? It doesn’t just unite us and prevent conflict and confusion, it also helps me to feel less overwhelmed. For example, your spouse might help you realize: Hey, I’m being unrealistic in my Big Holiday Pinterest Plans. If I’m going to decorate my yard with snowmen made from snow flown in directly from the North Pole, and carve an ice sculpture for a Christmas dinner centerpiece, then I’m either going to need my spouse to kick in and help me, or consider scaling back my decorating plans a little. This is especially helpful for me as a woman who wants to do ALL OF THE THINGS, but forgets that she does not have a body double, personal shopper, or house elf to help her. Kevin, wonderful husband that he is, usually offers to take a few Christmasy jobs off my plate when he sees how much I *think* I can accomplish in December—some years he has offered to do the wrapping for me; other years he’s suggested we get babysitters so we can go finish Christmas shopping together; other years he tells me to schedule in exercise and naps. (Really.)

But seriously. When you map out HOW and WHEN you’re going to accomplish all the different fun things the holiday entails, and when you come up with a plan for working together with your spouse to make them all possible, I promise: you’ll feel happy and free. Holly-jolly, even. All your Scroogey “Bah-Humbug-I’m-too-overwhelmed-to-enjoy-Christmas” feelings will vanish. This puts you and your spouse on the same holiday team, working toward a merry married Christmas!

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