We discussed our neighbors, who don’t have kids, and how they come and go as they please. A six-mile bike ride here. A ballgame there. Planning the next vacation. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a little jealous. The years seem like yesterday when we were in that place. Of course, we were on a married-college-student-budget, but our freedom was aplenty. We stayed up late. We slept in on Saturdays. We spent afternoons running or lounging at the park – whatever fit our fancy.
Saturday, Tyler ended up building a fire in the yard and we spent the evening as a family enjoying it under the “night sky full of wonder” (as Eden called it). It turned out to be a great night. After bath time Tyler joked with the girls, “Y’all go ahead and put yourselves to bed. Mom and I are hittin’ the sack.” As far-fetched as that sounds right now, I told him I knew it wouldn’t be long before that was our reality. I know couples just a few years ahead of us who already have so much more freedom.
But it’s these years, here – these ones in the middle– that I think will make or break us as a family. I love the memories of our childless years and I look forward to the day we enjoy more freedom as a couple, but oh how I want to invest in the middle. These days of potty training and milk pouring and bedtime prayers and date night planning. They deserve the best of me and not the remnants of a soul that longs for something else.
I prayed that night that God would help Tyler and I stay knitted together during these trying, exhausting years. Because sooner than we know, we’ll be on the back side of this thing, with kids who are teenagers or even out of the house. If we spent the middle years just biding our time, surviving until things got easier, we may wake up as strangers with no desire to enjoy our “empty nest” together.
Instead I’m praying we keep one eye on the horizon, remembering that day will be here soon. But that we sink our roots deep down into the difficult, because this is what matters most. This is where the silly songs, princess tea parties, and belly-aching giggles beat out all the adventure in the world. And honestly, this is where so many couples wish they were. The temporary lack of freedom is so worth all of this.
And I have a hunch that one day, when we’re reading the newspaper in our clean house and sipping coffee we ground ourselves, we’ll look at each other and – with the world at our fingertips – we’ll have a longing for the middle.
Because this is where it’s at.