Sometimes you have to put your spouse first: Nathan Graziano’s recollection of a late honeymoon.
My wife and I never had a honeymoon.
We were married three days after Christmas in the modest living room of a friend’s house, a small affair with a catered buffet laid out on the dining room table and candles on a mantel above a fireplace. My wife was already pregnant with our daughter, and we both had to work the next week, which left little time for sunbathing in the Barbados, sipping margaritas and making love in the sand.
I haven’t mentioned we were also broke.
By the time Liz and I had celebrated our one-year anniversary, our daughter was born, and Liz was pregnant with our son. In fact, for the first five years of our marriage, we were too busy changing diapers, carting the kids off to daycare in morning and picking up them in the evening—the same rote routines familiar to any middle-class family—to plan a honeymoon.
And like many families trying to raise kids and remain fiscally afloat, we fought often. We fought over free time and the bills and the stagnation of our respective goals and dreams.
But we worked through it for the kids. The kids always came first.
In our ten years of marriage, the closest Liz and I have come to an actual honeymoon was a three-day getaway on Block Island, a summer tourist spot a mile off the coast of Rhode Island. We went in October—off-season—when the motel rooms were discounted.
After dropping the kids at my parents’ house, and a tumultuous ferry ride that involved numerous passengers’ heads dipped in trash barrels, we arrived at the quiet island. The college students who had held down summer jobs had gone back to school, and many of the restaurants and small niche shops had closed for the winter, plywood covering the storefront windows. Liz and I were hosted by the less than 1000 locals who live on the island year-round.
It turned out to be exactly what we needed: a weekend of pseudo-seclusion where we could rediscover each other as partners, and not see each other as parents.
For three days, we dined on delectable seafood dishes in a tavern below our room and drank too much beer, stumbling, arm in arm, through these Prufrockian “half-deserted streets.”
One afternoon, we walked for miles along a barren beach, only encountering one other couple, and that night we traded jukebox songs in an old seafaring saloon with some locals.
More importantly, in those three days, I was able to rediscover the woman with whom I’d fallen in love, not just the mother of my children. As we waited for the ferry back to Point Judith, sipping our final cocktails on a patio outside the tavern, I tapped Liz on the arm.
“What do you say we miss the ferry?” My imagination was wandering. “We can get jobs here for the winter, become locals, and I can write and you can make jewelry. We’ll never have to go home.”
“Let’s do it,” she said, lifting her sunglasses.
We laughed and, of course, caught the ferry home. And when we docked, our children were holding their grandfather’s hands, smiling and waving to us. I grabbed Liz’s hand as we stepped off the boat. “We’re back,” I said.
“When can we go back?”
“Soon,” I promised.
Without divulging too much, Liz and I have had a tough year in our marriage. The pressures and stresses of parenthood and working full-time have worn on both of us—in some cases, it has jaded us. But we’re trying to weather through it, to be both good parents and good spouses. Sometimes being both seems to be a slight-of-hand trick. We end up taking our frustrations out on each other, sharing the blame without fair proportion.
But our kids come first. And they should—most of the time. But it feels like we’re raising kids alongside another disproportionate number of helicopter parents, who passive-aggressively guilt other parents into feeling ashamed if the kids don’t come first all of the time.
I’m not talking about issues of safety and general needs. Of course, the children will always get everything you can possibly provide to assure they are healthy and happy.
I’m talking about emotional needs and personal time. Not only do we all need time alone, but couples need time, together, when their marriage comes before parenting.
Our culture seems polarized when it comes to parenting. Either you’re a good parent—meaning you surrender your whole life to selflessly drive the Dad-cab; or you’re a bad parent—meaning an absentee, selfish and immature and irresponsible.
However, with the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, it seems both options are wielding similar results: you eventually become a single parent. This is not to say that single parents are flawed. But we do not get married assuming we’ll become single parents.
I mean to say that all couples need their Block Island.
In the long run, if parents aren’t afraid to put each other first sometimes, it is good for the kids as well. It helps develop their concept of a healthy relationship when they see their parents enjoying each others’ company, as opposed to bitching about who is going to do the dinner dishes.
And no kid ever wants to hear about what happens on their parents’ honeymoons, nor do they need to know.
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