Monday, February 14, 2011

To Love Your Spouse Is To Love Your Kids

One of the complaints I’ve heard from some men when it comes to marriage is that their wives always put the children first. Sometimes, those comments have come from men who don’t have the maturity to recognize that priorities change once you have a family and who can’t seem to cope with not being the centre of the universe anymore. Sometimes, however, these comments can come from a thoughtful, fully engaged father and husband who is frustrated at his wife’s inability to leave the kids for longer than an hour or two. “I’d love to take her away for a romantic getaway, but in the four years we’ve been parents, she hasn’t let us leave the kids overnight with the grandparents even once!”

I am a full believer that the best thing that couples can do for their kids is to keep their own relationship healthy and strong. Not only does it help maintain a loving and secure environment in which the kids can thrive, it sets the example for what they should expect from a healthy relationship when they reach adulthood.

In no means, however, is this lament of “always putting the kids first” uniquely uttered by fathers.

I should know. I'm guilty of doing it with my own kids.

I do it for two main reasons. First, I adore being a father more than just about anything in the world. Loving them is as easy as falling off a truck. Second, it’s much simpler when there is spousal stress to spend time with two little boys who can find no fault with you than with a partner who has grounds to find many.

I'm guilty not so much in terms of being unable to let the kids out of my sight, or dropping everything on the spot to attend to every whim: I do it more on an emotional level. My kids often get the lion’s share of my love, patience and attention in the day and frankly, my wife deserves better.

Now, I am not going to fall into that destructive, tired old stereotype of long-suffering-yet-patient-wife-tolerates-inept-yet-well-meaning husband. That crap still gets played time and time again as a bad punch line and does nothing but widen some of the “traditional” gender role divides which can cause a relationship and a family a great deal of strain.

I will say, however, that my wife is remarkably patient. She has seemingly limitless patience with our children and she has demonstrated the patience of Job with me. She has shown unwavering faith in me and my business, not only when others must have questioned my sanity, but even when my pursuit of it threatened the financial well being of our family.

She has loved me unconditionally through two major bouts of depression and was somehow capable of finding something loveable in me when I was near-useless as a husband. She loved me when I was at my most vulnerable and naked, and for that, I will never have the words to express my gratitude.

She loves me even when I succumb to my own personal albatross -- verbally lashing out at those I love when I perceive their comments reflect a disappointment in me. It is an ugly side of me which has long outstripped its use, but can still return in the form of a sharp tongue and a dismissive tone. It strikes with lightening speed and then disappears, leaving me with a giant mess and an enormous sense of remorse for having hurt my best friend.

But my wife also brings out the best in me. She never fails to encourage me to be my best, simply by tell me what an amazing father I am. She inspires my sense of integrity by applauding rather than cringing when I stand up in very public ways to rail against injustice. And her laughter, and even her groans (here I will admit to her putting up with me with gentle, good humour) at my sense of humour and out-and-out silliness remind me that life should be filled with joy and gratitude.

On this Valentine’s Day, I want the world to know what an amazing woman I’ve married. She has her faults as I have mine, and at times our first wedding dance to “Lost Together” by Blue Rodeo has seemed more like prophecy than love song. But marrying her was still the best thing I’ve ever done.

I know my sons think so, too.

1 comment:

  1. Hello-

    I recently came across your blog and wanted to reach out to you in hopes of you posting about an event that we're particularly excited about at Primrose Schools.

    I have an article/event that I would like to submit that is about dancing and how it relates to fitness. Primrose Schools is hosting a Dance Off competition (with proceeds going the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals) for families and I think it is something you and your readers would enjoy!

    I look forward to hearing from you!
    Thank you,
    Emily Patterson