Saturday, February 15, 2014
A dear friend wrote a wonderful post about love on her own blog this week, and I was inspired to do the same, seeing as how it's Valentine's Day and all.
Like many girls I was brought up on the idea that love is a fairytale, that we are all princesses waiting to meet our princes and find that elusive happily ever after. But love is messy and often complicated, and the reality of it is nothing like a fairytale. The reality is though, far more beautiful. I've loved my husband from the day I met him. I knew he was the missing piece of my puzzle, my other half, "The One." Not in a crazy and romantic way, but in a very practical, oh-so-this-is-how-it's-supposed-to-feel kind of way. Suddenly everything made sense in a way that it never had before. There were days in the first months we were together, that I couldn't imagine ever loving another human being as much as I loved my Dave. The fact that he saw me for who I really was, the good and the bad, and loved me back, was (and still is sometimes) astounding. For the first time in my life I could simply be myself, but a better version of me, and even now I'm grateful to have found that.
There have been times in our life together that have tested us. Getting married, bringing together two families, moving countries, having babies - they all put pressure on any relationship, however sound it seems. Through each trial, small and large, we've held hands and quietly weathered the storms together. And in each there is usually at least one act of selfless kindness that reminds me why I fell in love in the first place. Whether he's getting up to a crying baby so I can sleep, organising for my best friend to meet me for a drink, making me a playlist of love songs while he's on the other side of the world, or saying exactly the right thing at the right time, it all says "you are loved."
It's impossible to write a post about love without talking about the love we feel for our children. It's a different kind of love of course, but since romantic love is usually how you end up becoming a parent, the two types of love are intertwined. After our first baby was born I thought I was so full of love I might burst. It was all encompassing and terrifying. I wrote about that new and utterly vulnerable love that comes with being a parent in the very early days of this blog (here) and as my boys have grown I've experienced that in more ways than I could have imagined back then. I remember feeling guilty when I was pregnant with Charlie, I didn't know how I could possibly love another child as much as I loved Joshua. I didn't think I had any more room in my heart for someone else! I could not have been more wrong of course because I loved Charlie instantly, completely, just as much as I loved his brother. And each day I find more capacity for love as my boys do new and amazing things. I love seeing them grow and discover the world, and watching them play and be sweet and mischievous together as brothers makes me fall in love with them both all over again.
When babies are tiny parenthood can be a thankless task and until you start to get feedback from them you often wonder why on earth you wanted to be a parent in the first place (well, we did…). But when they start to show that they love you back, that is nothing short of miraculous. Our boys are very affectionate and Josh has been telling us he loves us, several times a day, for a while now. He's very good at compliments too and is usually the first to tell me I'm beautiful, even when I'm far from it. When our boys show how big their own hearts are, mine simply melts. This year I spent Valentine's Day sick in bed. I managed to get up in the morning and lay between the boys on the couch before Josh went off to school. He sat beside me rubbing my cheek with his cool hand saying "poor Mummy, are you ok?" and making sure his little brother didn't jump on me. This morning he wrapped his arms around me and said, "I love you Mummy. I couldn't do anything without you," and I had to hold back the tears. That's love, pure and true, not censored, not prompted and far from complicated. If anything our boys have taught us how to love better, how to let go and wear our hearts on our sleeves. We always thought it would be the other way around...
When you're married with children it's very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and forget just how precious this gift of love is. We sometimes feel like ships passing in the night, especially now we have two kids. We can go a whole day without a hug or a proper non-kid related conversation, and that makes me sad. The fact is there wouldn't be a family to get caught up in if there hadn't first been two people falling in love. Our children were born because we loved each other enough to want to create something amazing together, and seeing ourselves in them reminds us of that. Whatever your feelings about Valentine's Day, sometimes we all need a day to remind us to go back to the place where it all started. In the beginning there were only the two of us and in the end it will still just be us. Everything we've done, we've done together. The moments we've shared, from having a baby in the car to sitting in that wretched hospital while Josh had surgery, no one in the world knows what those moments were like but us, and we endured them because we were together. Those shared experiences and the emotions behind them are what makes a life together so beautiful. Our love is a constant presence that drives everything that we do, but it needs attention and care. Those knowing smiles across the room, the gentle hand in the small of your back, or the whispered conversations in the dark keep you more connected than roses or jewellery (although they can be quite lovely too!).
The reality of love is that it's not always romantic. It shines through when you least expect it to, and it reveals itself in quiet and simple moments. Just when you think your heart will surely overflow with love, the people you love do something so beautiful and splendid that you love them just that little bit more. Seeing my husband as a father, another heart bursting life experience, made me realise how little we really know each other before we become parents. I never questioned the kind of husband and father he would be, and I never really considered that he might not be what I needed him to be. But he's been there for us in ways I never knew I would need him to be. He's involved and committed and does things many dads don't do, without questioning it, and often without being asked. We are his world, and he shows us in a million little ways every day, and that means more to me than flowers or a date on Valentine's Day. At the end of the day, however you spend it, it's about being together and celebrating that togetherness, and I couldn't think of a worthier cause. Happy Valentines Day xx