If you don’t have kids you may not understand what I’m about to say. You may think I’m exaggerating. You may think “Well, when I have kids…” I can only say to you what so many said to me, This is how it’s going to be and there is nothing, nothing you can do to stop it:
When you have children, you will almost altogether stop having interesting, civilized, adult conversations with your spouse. Some time around month six when the children transform into food-flinging, screaming terrors, you too will transform, devolve actually, into a caveman, pointing, grunting, and hurling commands at the closest able-bodied adult. “Hold this.” “Grab that.” “What?” “That.” “Where?” “Take her.” “Ugh.” “Grr.” “Hmph.”
I remember waiting all day to see my husband, so eager to talk to someone, anyone who could talk back. But he’d come home at six just as baby number one was crashing and baby number two needed feeding. So he’d feed number two while I fed screaming number one and drew a bath. As I pulled number one from the bath, he’d hand me the other. He’d do bedtime with the first kid and I’d take the second. Or he’d take the second after he finished with the first while I made the two of us dinner.
At 9:30 or 10 we’d sit down to eat, so tired we couldn’t listen to the answers to our own questions.
These days, the schedule is more forgiving but the kids are pushy interrupters with a penchant for steering any decent conversation toward princesses and knock knock jokes.
Justin and I had been married for seven years before we had kids, and when they came, we were totally unprepared—for the work of parenthood, yes, but mostly for the serious hurdles parenting threw into our relationship with one another.
How were we going to make it if we couldn’t conduct a three sentence conversation?
Bottom line: We weren’t.
Which is why we made some changes. For one, Justin starting coming home a half hour earlier from work. We started putting the kids down earlier, too. We settled for quick dinners—nothing that took more than twenty minutes to make. And we stopped eating in front of a television.
Beyond that, we started weekly date nights. We wrote them on our planners in Sharpie and never, ever, ever missed. We went to dinner, never a movie, and we talked.
Slowly but surely, we watched our relationship bloom.
This week I’ve been feeling terrible. Tonight I felt terrible. Just… not right. I’ve been sick for the last few days and had company for fourteen straight days before the sickness set in. My couches are in weird, inaccessible places because I’m rearranging the living room. The house is a wreck. I’m out of my routine and off balance and unsettled.
Tonight, sitting on the carpet in my living room whining to my warm and nurturing husband I realized why everything was so out of line. In all the chaos, I’d gone caveman, and I’d stopped talking to God in full sentences.
So I marched to the backyard and grabbed a chair on the back porch, took a deep breath, and started talking. I said, “Hi.”
It was late. The kids were asleep. The full moon made silhouettes of the trees along the back of my property, and as I watched them, waving and leaning and reaching, they became a sort of manifestation—the visible echo of God’s presence.
And so I talked to the trees, alive in the wind, responsive. I told God in the trees I was tired. I told God in the trees how hard it was to mother well. I told Him I felt small. I told Him all my stuff seemed too big. And I asked the Wind in the trees to fill me. Spirit, fill me, fill me, fill me…
And do you know how good it felt to talk to God like that? With no children interrupting me and no laundry timer and no unpaid bills on the table? To just sit in the dark, me and my Creator, under a navy sky pulled taut, lit by one lone bulb of a moon and a thousand tiny grains of light? All of it, me and the sky and the waving trees, bearing the image and the message of God…
God and I need to talk. Like I need to breathe. That’s truth. But it’s equally true that life conspires against conversation, especially the holy kind. And so, God and I need dates, dates I will write in Sharpie on a planner, never, ever to be neglected.