Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Friendship and Parenting

You know what I love about having kids? 

It’s super fun. Avie and Bailey make us laugh so so often, and so hard. They crack me up. They are sweet and funny and ridiculous. 

But you know what else I love? Time away from them with just my spouse - that time is so special in a way it never was before kids. I mean, I liked time with Paul, but now it feels so valuable because I get how rare that time can be. 

You know what I love about having kids?

I love watching my kids and my friend's kids get along (or really not get along, as the case may be). It’s so neat to see their personalities combine and get to walk out this whole parenting thing with people I like. 

But you know what else I love? How much more I value time with friends without my kids. I love when we get a sitter and I get away with friends for an evening, a weekend, an hour. Deep conversation, no interruptions, real relationships. 

Having kids changes relationships. It just does. It’s silly to pretend that life and relationships will be the same. But it doesn’t have to be worse, and it’s not necessarily better - it's different. How we react to it will dictate if it’s better or worse. 

I value making time to be with my friends and their kids - I love watching my girlfriends parent. I love watching the relationships grow between their kids and mine, as they grow older. At first, they all just laid next to each other, then they played with toys near each other and eventually started playing WITH each other. Magic. And to see my friends interact with my kids and get to interact with theirs? So fun. I also value time with those same friends without our kids. I love getting the chance to talk deeply with people who are in the trenches of parenting alongside me. I love getting to talk about anything but our kids with those same friends; about marriage and faith and work and life in general. 

I love watching Paul be a Dad. I learn so much from him and about him as he parents. I feel so much affection for Paul as we parent together - the kids add to our connection. It’s so sweet to cuddle together with our kids. When one of them ends up in our beds and I can see Paul and Bailey or Paul and Avie asleep cuddled up together; it just melts my heart. I love watching Paul and Avie set the table together, or watch how much Paul loves feeding Bailey (and eating half her rice cereal cause he likes it so much). I also love time alone with Paul. Watching him interact with other adults, or getting quality time just me and him to talk and laugh and pray. Communication has always been such a huge part of our relationship - we are awesome at talking. We love it - debate, conversation. Things that we are divided on, and things we agree on. I love it....and him. 

It’s so easy to miss all of this though. To focus on how hard it is to connect with your spouse or friends with kids around. How many new tensions there are to navigate now that kids are in the picture. We have a monthly family get together and often it would just be easier if we all stayed home - the kids are running around creating insanity and we barely get to chat because we are busy feeding and racing to the bathroom and trying to make sure we get to eat too. It’s crazy. It would be easier to focus on the crazy, missing that this all builds to something. It’s easy to mourn what friendships looked like before - the ease of relationship, the time to connect, the ability to stay up late and not worry about how early you have to get up.

It’s work to figure out the balance of these things. How do I prioritize my kids and my need for deep relationship? Both are just as integral, at least in my life. I need relationships in my life - they fuel me. I also what my kids to feel loved and valued, and parent them well. It’s the part of parenting that I didn’t quite see coming. Sometimes I feel selfish for prioritizing my own needs in moments. Other times I’m so aware that my sanity will only benefit my kids. Sometimes I need to put their needs ahead of my own, other times its good that they learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  Walking out these tensions isn’t easy but its such a helpful growth area in my life. 

I so want my kids to know that its possible to have deep and healthy relationships - those friendships are vital and that we need to pour time and energy into them. My parents showed me the importance of friendships and relationship. I love that. It helped me know that I could have that too and then work towards it. I watched my parents prioritize their marriage - they enjoyed each other and built deeply together. We knew they loved us, we knew they valued us, AND we knew that their marriage was just as important. I want that for my kids. 

I'm so thankful for friends that are willing to try. That are willing to pack up their kids, make the trek during naptime to the aquarium or the park, for the moments of conversation and cute pictures. That are willing to come over and eat with us, mostly monitoring children. These friendships are tricky now but I know that the time spent building leads somewhere and down the road, as kids get older and more and more independent, I will be so very thankful for friends who have stuck it out in harder and easier times. 
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