This morning I woke up to actual feet in my face.
I mean, they were baby feet — those of my almost 5-month-old’s to be exact, so they were somewhat less offensive than had they been, say, my husband’s — but they were feet nonetheless.
The night had been a typical one, during what is supposed to be a relaxing, rejuvenating holiday “break” in our household — full of broken sleep, three out of four kids coming down with fevers, a 3am wrestling match with the toddler to get him to swallow some medicine, and an eventual breaking down in my quest to just get some freaking sleep. I wound up propping myself up on a pillow in bed, with the baby latched on to my breast, and apparently dozed off for a couple hours.
So when I woke up to the pitter-patter of tiny, oddly sweaty, feet on my forehead, I had exactly two thoughts: 1) I’m such a cliché parent right now and 2) happy anniversary to me.
Yes, that’s right — today is my wedding anniversary. And where I once would have dreamed of spending this day locked away in a charming bed and breakfast, soaking in a whirlpool tub and sipping champagne, I am instead spending it locked away in my office, working in between feeding the baby, fetching medicine and water bottles for my feverish children and sneaking in kisses to my husband as we pretend not to hear each other sneeze. (Because denial works against getting sick when you’re a parent, everyone knows that.)
We had thought about getting away for our anniversary — I’ve been dreaming of booking a night away at a bed and breakfast called “A Castle In the Country” (I’m a sucker for cheesy names) for about five years now, but when you pop out a kid every other year, it kind of puts a damper on romantic rendezvouses away. And then there’s the small matter of finding someone who is 1) willing to watch all four of our children and 2) willing to do so for a sum we can actually afford.
Again, kind of a problem.
It’s funny how I dreamed marriage would go down when I first walked down the aisle, almost exactly this time seven years ago. I was under no illusions that it would be a dreamy, constant romantic fairy tale, but I have to admit that I definitely thought there would be time for us to at least try to remember the romance. I just couldn’t have predicted how hard it would be to carve out any time for us as a couple in the midst of us as parents.
The truth is, at this point in our parenting lives, pouring time and romantic effort into our marriage is just not realistic.
Instead, our romance is found in the nitty-gritty reality of our time together as parents right now —
Like two nights ago, when we paid a babysitter almost $100 so we could take advantage of our Christmas gift to see the famous Jim Gaffigan in action. We drove four hours round-trip, and came home exhausted, with eyes burning from the smoke-filled casino, to a toddler soaked in urine and delirious from a fever.
Or this morning, when my husband tried to sneak out of bed to cook me breakfast in bed for the first time ever and got so far as placing two pieces of toast on an old beat-up cookie sheet before the baby started screaming and I had to nurse her and we both laughed at his effort.
Or right now, when my husband proudly presented me with a turkey-and-salami sandwich, to the backdrop of “Curious George,” naked (because who’s got time for clothes?) and I realized that he had never looked sexier to me than when holding out a plate full of processed meat.
The truth is, I’m OK with where we are at right now.
I’m OK with pouring Motrin down our toddler’s throat instead of toasting each other with champagne today.
I’m OK with devouring a sandwich made with love instead of the steakhouse dinner I had originally planned for us tonight.
I’m OK with listening to the sound of my husband bravely taking on the role of nursemaid to the kids while I work today, knowing I’m lucky to have him home and willing to be an equal partner, just as I was lucky that day seven years ago.
And I’m OK with the fact that tonight, after we’ve finally tucked kids into beds for the night, crossed our fingers that they will all stay asleep, and made a half-hearted effort to stay awake together and have a Netflix date night, we will roll into our respective cocoons to fall into the half-awake, exhausted sleep of parents with sick kids. And that will signal that our anniversary will be drawing to an uneventful close.
Because I will have learned, after seven years, four kids, and many, many dashed plans and disappointments later, that the real romance is having someone you can tuck next to, even on those days that start out with baby feet on your forehead.
By: CHAUNIE BRUSIE