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Having kids makes holidays better. I hit a slump when I got into my twenties, and started to feel that once you were an adult, you were supposed to have only mildly exciting days, with reasonable expectations and a good meal.

Having kids made everything sharp and sparkly again: I was excited about Christmas morning, I spent months planning Hallowe’en costumes, and I planned rhymed couplets to lead my son in an Easter egg hunt. There was no mushy middle. I was on-board with everything, and my enthusiasm as I cut out construction paper and planned special St. Patrick Day meals was not faked.

FAMILY VALENTINE

FAMILY VALENTINE DAY

I have some unresolved feelings about Valentine’s Day, though. I like writing out cartoon character cards with my eldest, and I like the chance to make them something special. But unlike other holidays, Valentine’s is a split holiday, with adults on one side and kids on the other.

We adults can trade little cards with our colleagues and snarf cinnamon hearts the whole day long, but we’re told that for adults, Valentine’s Day is all about romance. And despite the way our kids came into this world, kids and romance are not supposed to mix.

I think about the romance issue a fair amount. I’m one of the lucky ones, although it might not seem that way at first. My luck comes from being divorced and re-married. Although it’s not a life-plan I would wish on anyone (the legal fees and dreams are terrifying), there are a few fringe benefits.The best one comes from falling in love with my second husband after we were both parents. As much as it sucks to constantly plan my life around split custody for two different kids, it is worth it for the romance.

When we fell in love I felt all the giddiness, all the vertigo, all the classic teenage symptoms – and in the middle of it all, I would make my son breakfast, or try to figure out if his sandals would last another season. When you have kids “the right way,” you fall in love and then have the babies. Having both at once meant that we got used to having the romance along with the family.

I know how “the right way” works, and I saw first hand how it could leave you feeling betrayed, feeling that you’d passed though the romance on the way to responsibility. Having a baby when you’ve been together for awhile is only sensible, and I’m glad many of us do it this way. But the one problem with this eminently sensible approach is that you have to welcome a baby into the middle of your love story, and the natural realignment that occurs to change a couple into a family can leave one or both parents out in the cold.

Happy Family Valentine DayThose feelings of early parenthood: that nothing is ever going to get easier, that you’ll never get a minute to yourself; I remember them well. I remember the absolute lack of interest in sex, the bone-deep weariness, the barely controlled regret that you wanted to do this at all. I remember being convinced that being too old to be excited on holidays meant that I had to get used to the complete lack of romance in my life as a mother.

Some of us find this spark when our kids leave. Some of us get used to its absence. Some of us quickly find the balance between being lovers and being parents. And some of us get a second chance, or a third.

I remember having a dream once, that my second husband and I were kissing on a couch. In the dream, a strange baby crawled up and we stopped kissing so that we could pick it up. This has pretty much been the story of my recent life: kissing, and caring for the small ones, and then kissing again. It can happen. Kids and romance can be in the same place. Just maybe not at the exact same second.

Aleta Fera is looking forward to another Valentine’s Day helping her kids write out cards. More about love at Further Adventures of Rocketbride.

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