I'm writing this as the sounds of bath and bedtime trickle down the stairs.
I'm not part of the routine tonight. Actually, I'm not most nights.
In the earliest days of our shared parenthood, I would have been in the room (if not right on top of him) while he made his best attempt at helping. Because of course it wouldn't have been right, and I would have had to do it anyway.
It took a few years and a few children to find our rhythm. These days, we are settled into our roles and we know our strengths. We know when he does it best and where I tend to have more patience.
I am a micro-manager, he is a big picture holder. I worry about the what ifs, he focuses on the here nows. I wonder what people think, he just doesn't. I notice tiny hearts and big feelings, when he forgets to see them. I cook from scratch, he makes nachos for lunch. I talk, he plays.
But we are not stuck in these roles; we have found ways to be interchangeable. We are always able to step in when needed, and the kids are happy to have either one of us. They are comforted by him as much as they are by me.
We've been in this place of contentment for awhile now. I would say we had it figured out just in time to welcome our fourth and final baby. And with the challenges of life and work and all the hard stuff that happened in her first year, I am so glad we knew where each of us stood.
A few days ago, I looked over from my place on the couch to see our brand new puppy curled up against JB's side fast asleep. We are supposed to encourage the puppy to sleep in his bed. We are supposed to follow the routine and rules. We are supposed to be on the same page.
I felt a flicker of anger. Though the years have softened it into exasperation more often not.
And I felt the old me creeping into the room. An exhausted new mother with a newborn that wouldn't settle, the weight of that exhaustion heavy across my shoulders. I thought about the many times he would reach out to take the baby and the many times I hesitated to let him. He kept reaching anyway.
He would break the rules, step out of the routine, let the baby sleep on his chest while watching late night TV. Instead of going back to bed, I would whisper that he was doing it wrong, that I should just do it myself, that we weren't on the same page.
We got through those hard days, because he never wavered in his belief that the only goal we should share was to love them. Though he often thanks me for seeing the small details and being steadfast in my routines, he won't change the way he parents to please me.
And starting over at the beginning with this needy ball of fur has reminded me how easily resentments and frustrations can build walls in a relationship. If you had asked me at the beginning of our marriage, I would have told you we were a couple who would always be on the same page, when it came to raising our family.
I would have been surprised if anyone told me how many times we wouldn't be.
But I've learned that appreciating those differences and believing in his best intentions, has protected us from a shrinking love.
That it has created a safe haven for our children, where they feel unconditionally accepted for being themselves.
You're going to spoil that dog, I say. And he shrugs.
It will be okay, he tells me.
I let it go, knowing tomorrow I'll put the routine back into place.
It will be okay.
And so will we.