During the four years that my husband and I were married before we had children, we dreamed of the nightly walks we would one day take as a family. I would push one child, he would push the other, and we would stroll into the sunset.
[Cue screaming child here]
Last week was rather tough for our family, and, despite our repeated failed attempts, we were determined to take the kids on an evening walk over the weekend. I am always surprised at the stubbornness my children can inspire in me – for better or worse:
Attempt #1: Screaming newborn. Wait ten minutes before second attempt at walk.
Attempt #2: Calm newborn, screaming toddler. Screaming toddler scares newborn. Screaming newborn AND toddler. Wait five more minutes.
Attempt #3: Mostly calm newborn and toddler. Newborn is placed in carrier then stroller. It is darker now, and newborn is frightened. This leads to crying. Toddler forgets favorite toy inside, which also results in tears. Double stroller and hope of a walk are abandoned on our back porch.
Exercise is a special way that my husband and I have bonded over the last six years. Early in our marriage, we were gym buddies and enjoyed countless two-mile bike rides to campus during graduate school. When I trained for my marathon, my husband not only made me pancakes before all of my long runs, but also helped me stretch and ice my injuries. Even in pregnancy, he ran beside me to ensure that I remained safe.
As life and our careers have become increasingly busy, our walks are one of the only ways on most days that we connect through conversation. Additionally, we find that it releases our stress and soothes our souls with nature. Children, however, do not and cannot understand these needs.
After three unsuccessful attempts at a walk the other night, I felt defeated and consumed with all that had gone wrong over the last week. My inner darkness grew thicker, and I suddenly found every reason to be discouraged. The compromises we feel compelled to make in parenthood can easily steal our joy, and, lately, it felt like my marriage was the most recent sacrifice.
Somewhere in the depths of my despair, I remembered the coach who held my hand during every contraction with both of our children – the young man who took my breath away all those years ago.
I found the energy to ask my husband for one more try.
Despite our recent walking setbacks, I knew we needed something, anything to stop the distance that had been growing between us. In this, the walk was more than just a stroll; it was a chance to sprint into each other’s hearts again. This time, I would carry our daughter in the front baby carrier while my husband pushed our son in the single stroller.
As I walked hand-in-hand with my son from the back porch to the garage, he stopped in his tracks and pointed to the sky.
“Look, Mommy! I see stars.” Sure enough, the sky was covered with tiny speckles of glimmering light…and hope.
Perhaps one of the most important decisions we can make in parenthood is to walk – to persevere through life’s distractions, detours, and disappointments – and not stop until we meet our spouse on the other side.
I am willing to bet that overcoming the distance will only make our hearts healthier and our marriages stronger. And, if we are really lucky, we may even find ourselves walking beneath the stars again.