Love in the early years is all dewy eyes and worshipful devotion. Which lasts a while. Then, after you’ve washed his underwear, and listened to him belch, and worse, and he has endured the raging, monthly hormone storms, you slowly float back down to terra firma, to a comfortable level of fondness and tolerance. You think you’ve got it all figured out. But you’re wrong.
Along come the babies. Who demand all of your time, deprive you of sleep, and render you comatose by nine every night. While he is in the throes of advancing in the work world. All those long, involved discussions, late into the night when you were the girlfriend? Devolve into grunts and monosyllables and vague “hmmms?”
When he comes home at the end of the day [he’s been at work with grownups], and you’re so happy to see another adult [you’ve been tripping over toddlers all day], and he asks “How was your day, dear?” he’s looking for the five-words-or-less answer, NOT the dissertation. The glassy eyes are the giveaway. Them and the furtive glances towards the living room, the TV, the newspaper, the sofa, and the dog, whose only demand is to be scratched behind the ears.
But nobody goes hungry, except, perhaps, for the onset of intellectual starvation brought on by hours of scrubbing [cloth] diapers and mopping up pureed peas. Neither is anyone outside, shivering in the cold. We’re all inside with warm beds and stories to read. He’s steady and reliable as a rock, and makes it possible for you to be a full time mom. Which is good. Because if you had to go out and work, as well as raise five children, they might as well shoot you now and be done with it.
Toddlers turn into children, who variously turn into soccer players, swimmers, runners, dancers, martial arts practitioners, artists, musicians, bikers, hikers, bookworms, comedians, scholars, and at last, into teenagers. Oy. With opinions of their own. Often counter to the party line. They believe that their parents are SO out of step. So pathetically uncool. Oblivious to our wisdom, they must try everything out for themselves, and in the process, turn our hair white. Mine much faster than his. Because there is no justice in the world.
To our amazement we produce a gaggle of free thinkers. Our dreams for them are not necessarily the same as their dreams for them. Hmmm. Back to the drawing board. When they‘re babies you can’t wait for them to be toddlers. When they can’t talk, you can’t wait for them to start. When they start, you hold your head in your hands and wonder what was your hurry. You wish you had more time for each one, but hope they’ll be there for each other. The in-laws are appalled. Five children! Those Irish are like rabbits. What was he thinking?
Hot tempers and cold shoulders and extended sojourns in the guest room. But always, eventually, back to cooler heads and calmer waters. Laughter saves us from ourselves. It's tough to keep your seat on your high horse when you’re laughing helplessly. It all adds up to life, feverishly lived, without a script, making it up as you go along, ad libbing to beat the band, so no-one will find out you're groping in the dark. Not exactly a Cinderella story. But Cinderella is hogwash. Living happily ever after is only the beginning.
There. I feel better now.