Monday, April 29, 2013

Why I'm the lucky one

Back in the days of my youth (what feels like another world ago), I wasn’t too bad to look at. I was particularly proud of my butt and my boobs. I even liked my stomach; it wasn’t particularly spectacular, but I had a line down each side that made it look like I had somewhat toned abs. And I’m allowed to say this without sounding conceited because I’m looking back with an air of longing and no small degree of realization that the “hot number” ship has sailed on a one-way ticket to the mystical land of Not Here Anymore, Sister.

The reason for this bitter little trip down memory lane is not to try to trick you into thinking of me as I was and not as I am (not really… it working, though?). Rather, I’m trying to paint a picture. I was young, relatively attractive, and could hold up my end of a fairly entertaining conversation. I like to think I’ve grown by leaps and bounds as a person on a deeper level since those days, but on the surface, I’m pretty sure my glory years were those of my college career.

(If you don’t hate me by now, I’m sure you will after I say what I’m about to say.) Since I thought so highly of myself back then, it should come as no surprise that I thought Dan (my now-husband) was pretty darn lucky to have me. The quiet, shy guy who wouldn’t meet my parents for the first year and a half that we dated, who didn’t pay for my dinner and refused to acknowledge we were even really dating until I threatened to break up with him two years in. And me, a slightly above-average looking girl who got along well with adults, liked children, went to church and loved to read self-help books to make herself a better person. I mean obviously – who was the fortunate one there? I’ll give you a hint: his name rhymes with can, man and van.

(See, told you that you’d hate me!)

I eventually deigned to marry this humble man, and I set out on a path to play wife to the luckiest man in the world. Imagine my complete and utter shock when the myth began to unravel.

Sure, I polished Dan up a bit. And before we had children, I was mostly able to maintain my fantasy of believing that our match always weighed a bit in my favor. But then, Lucas was born. And then, more importantly (for this story’s purposes, anyway – not in the grand scheme of things), Charlie was born. My egotistical myth unraveled in a hurry after that.

We had been thrust head-on into the insanity that is parenting toddlers and making adult decisions that all-too-often play out for the good of the children (read: sacrifices). My body took a major hit and my personal demons rose to the surface more quickly than you can say “psychotic”.

And somewhere between suddenly and gradually, I began to see my husband with clearer vision. The way he plays with our children. The way he sheepishly makes me laugh even when I feel like punching him in the face. The way he is quick to forgive me when I mess up (all the time). The way he works a full time job that required 12-hour shifts at night, and also ran his own landscaping business part-time in the spring/summer/early fall for 8 years. The way he supported me in my decision to take a job that involved a pay cut and more expensive health benefits because it was doing something I enjoy doing. The way I can count on him to take care of things that barely held my interest long enough to communicate them to him (oil changes, car troubles, home repairs, taking the garbage out). The way he carries more than his fair share of cleaning responsibilities. I could go on and on.

And now that the seasons of our lives are shifting slightly, my husband is taking on even more child-rearing responsibilities by staying with our kids part-time during the week. When it dawned on me that he is now a part-time stay at home dad, it blew my mind. That’s when I truly realized what a freaking diamond in the rough I have in him.

The decision for him to “retire” (as we like to joke) from lawns and be with our kids for half the week has not been easy for him. Even though he worked like a madman during lawn season, he enjoyed an enviable schedule during the off-season. On his days off, particularly during the week, the kids would go to daycare, I would go to work, and he would be left to his own devices. He had two or three days in a row to himself to do whatever he pleased. Luckily for me, some of his activities included cleaning the house, doing laundry and grocery shopping. But he also got to play hockey, do some home projects, or just generally relax. For him to give up those days has been a true sacrifice.

But he is taking it completely in stride. He keeps the kids busy, taking them to play at the mall, playing with them outside, or running errands. Instead of being miserable and crabbing about how he misses his days to himself (as I surely would), he looks at each day with a “what can we do today?” attitude. The house is almost always cleaner to some degree than when I leave for work in the morning, and the kids are always fed and happy. He’ll text me pictures of the kids throughout the day, and they always make me smile (and feel ever-so-slightly jealous that I’m not with them).

This is the man I married. This is the man that is getting better as we and our marriage age. Certainly he is not perfect. But I am in the very happy position of only growing more thankful that he is the one I “chose” as the days and years pass. Instead of thinking that he is the lucky one to have an amazing person such as me by his side, I am now thanking God that I managed to lock Dan in for life before my fa├žade of awesomeness fell aside. Not quite a bait and switch, as I’m sure I do bring some things to the table, but I think it’s my attitude that has changed.

Which is obviously a good thing, I think. For me, for my children, and for my husband.