By: Shannon Ralph
Ruanita and I are in need of a date night. This fact was made painfully apparent this week when it suddenly occurred to us that our anniversary had come and gone without either of us realizing it. We celebrated, or rather, did not celebrate, our thirteenth anniversary back on December 27th. Until yesterday, neither of us had realized it had passed. In our defense, it was immediately after Christmas. We were both sick with some unidentified virus that managed to leave our sinuses simultaneously stopped up and dripping enough snot to fill a bathtub. We were exhausted. We found ourselves buried beneath the mounds of talking and beeping toys our children received for the holidays. I am sure we were still cleaning and scrubbing our humble abode after hosting both Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house this year. It was cold and snowy and downright miserable outside. I suspect at least one of us was on her period that day. Or PMS-ing. Or, at minimum, post-MS-ing. I can pretty much guarantee someone was crampy and bloated and generally cantankerous in my house. It’s a pretty good bet that our children were needy and demanding that day, as well. Perhaps the moon was in conjunction with Saturn, too. I don’t know. Maybe? I know zilch about astrology, but it sounds like a plausible explanation.
As you can see, I am full of excuses. I am the queen of rationalization. I can rationalize a catastrophe into oblivion. However, regardless of excuses, the plain and simple truth is that we dropped the ball. We. Messed. Up. We became so entrenched in the pace—the momentum—of everyday life that we neglected the one day of the year when we are supposed to celebrate…well…us. The us-ness that started it all.
So how did this happen? Not only did we forget on the actual day of our anniversary, but we managed to let weeks go by before we realized our error. What went wrong? How did we manage such a colossal screw-up? As is my usual protocol, I blame the children. Okay…actually, I don’t “blame” the children in the typical sense of the word. They did absolutely nothing wrong. However, our children may very well be the reason we managed to overlook our anniversary. They were the impetus for our wrong-doing.
When our oldest son, Lucas, was born, an astonishing and completely unexpected transformation took place. We naively thought we entered parenthood with our eyes wide open, knowing what to expect. We expected to be inundated with poop and puke. We anticipated the countless diaper changes and midnight feedings. We were ready for sleep deprivation. We weren’t the least bit surprised when our appearances changed, as sweatpants and t-shirts covered in spit-up became our go-to fashion. We were blind-sided, however, by the most unforeseen of developments.
Years prior, when we first began dating, Ruanita and I became accustomed to being seen as a couple. A unit. No longer Shannon and Ruanita, we were ShannonandRuanita. However, when Lucas was born, our identities suddenly and unexpectedly warped again. We weren’t even ShannonandRuanita anymore. We became Lucas’s Moms. Lucas’s Parents. Suddenly, our names were not even our own. Since then, we have expanded our brood, but our primary identities seem to have remained the same. We are parents. The lovely little creatures who have taken over every inch of space in our home have also pilfered our identities. Don’t get me wrong. I truly relish being a mom. Being referred to as Lucas’s mom is not a bad thing at all. Being called Sophie’s mom or Nicholas’s mom is actually an honor. However, it has also become an all-encompassing identity. And I am not certain that is healthy for any of us.
So what are two mommies to do? How do we get back some of the us-ness that we fell in love with? First and foremost, I think we need to make us a priority again. That is something we have not done in recent years. Since the day they first entered this world, our children have always been our Number One priority. Sounds reasonable, right? My children should be my entire world. Correct? I am not so sure about that. I am beginning to doubt this assertion. This belief I have held firm for so long. Perhaps our children do not benefit from being the be-all and end-all center of our existence. Perhaps –just maybe –they would be better served by parents who have identities beyond that of “mom”. Parents who are partners and lovers and friends. Parents who actually see one another.
This seeing the other person is an interesting concept. How can you live in a house with someone and not see her? Trust me…it happens. I can say with all honesty that I love Ruanita more today than I did thirteen years ago. Our love has deepened and matured and grown throughout the years. In addition to being the love of my life, she is my best friend. My co-conspirator, the funniest person I have ever met, the one person who understands my multitude of neuroses, and yes…the mother of my children. Believe it or not, after thirteen years, all of those wonderful qualities can be overlooked as easily and as often as I misplace my car keys. You find yourself looking through the other person rather than seeing them. It begins with small things. You stop writing the love notes that flowed so prolifically out of you years earlier. You forget to thank her for making the bed. Then you begin to assume she will make the bed. Your passionate, wrenching goodbye kisses become quick pecks in the morning as children are hanging on your legs and demanding their morning juice in the background. You get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Life moves fast and you find yourself ambling to keep up. It’s an insidious transformation. Eventually, you begin to view one another simply as co-parents. Ruanita is my children’s other mother.
In actuality, however, Ruanita is so very much more than that. She is this exquisitely complicated, rabidly devoted, absolutely brilliant woman who has numerous gifts and talents outside the realm of parenthood. It is a disservice to her –and I would argue to my children, as well –to view her as anything less. It is time that she migrates to the top of my list. It is time that our relationship be given the attention it deserves. Our relationship is the reason our children exist at all. Shouldn’t it be our biggest priority?
Yea, we need a date night. Or a weekend away. Or, better yet, an entire week holed up in a little cabana on the beach –all alone. A child-free week frolicking in the ocean (though it would have to be a deserted beach, as I do not frolic in public). A week to reinvigorate. Rejuvenate. Re-load, as it were.
Then again, maybe we simply need to open our eyes and see one another again.