One of the things that parents like to complain about is the fact that romance goes out the window as soon as the stork drops off your first-born. So books are written on how best to makes time for yourselves and gurus emerge who despite often being childless themselves offer all the cliché steps to “rekindle” the flame. All of them, as far as I am concerned, are useless.
Romance as a parent is different. It has nothing to do with how much I love my wife (which is unquantifiable). It has everything to do with how I express my love. The equation changes, inevitably. The selfishness we had as a couple is gone – forever. No lazy Sundays. No last minute getaways. No surprise anything. The surprise is if I can get away with surprising her with anything at all. Everything needs to be planned these days around our son and even with attentive planning things rarely go as planned. There is always a last minute diaper change, a forgotten toy, a tantrum or a runny nose that forces you to be flexible.
When I was wooing my wife and she was having absolutely none of it – that’s the Italian way – I threw the kitchen sink “romantic” at her: flowers, chocolate, surprise visits at home (which may have spooked her a bit), dinners in little hidden places, walks along the Tiber (I was living in Rome, at the time), long hushed conversations on benches while the rest of the city slept, bringing her a fresh baked cornetto and coffee in the morning – you name it, I did it. I did it because I was in love with her and wanted to spend every second of the day just looking at her (OK maybe not just looking). I had that knot in my stomach every second I was not near her. And then, to make a long story short, along came our bundle of joy. And things changed.
Not in a bad way – just, as I said before, different. As you must learn to adapt as a parent, you learn to adapt as a couple when you have a kid. Every minute alone (the rare ones) is sacrosanct and can be used to do something as simple as enjoying the silence – or napping (personally it’s on my “Top 5 Romantic Things To Do With My Wife” list).
There is always a lot of grumbling from both of us. No doubt about that bit. “You were more this or that… You used to do this and that” before Jr. showed up. Maybe it is true about the time alone we spend with each other, but I challenge the notion that it means less in terms of being passionate about each other. In my case, having a child together is one of the most passionate and romantic gifts I could give or receive in my life.
So once you get past: the complaining; the sore backs; the mind numbing headaches; the “Mine! Mine! No! No!” ringing in your ears; the half eaten stash of rotting fruit found in the back of the closet weeks later; the smell of bodily fluids – day in and day out – there is the joy of parenthood. No box of chocolates, no trilogy of diamonds, no dozen roses, no iPad (although…), no Date Night, none of the traditional romantic “things” can give you that amount of happiness. Does that mean that we stop making these gestures all together? Not at all, but they are, in the end, just “visual” reminders of a much more important underlying sentiment.
By now you must think I am crazy so I’ll wrap it up. It all comes down to the fact that I know, as does my wife with me, what she is thinking about at any given moment, I know what she needs or wants when she gives me a certain look, I know when she is pissed at me because I did not understand what she wanted when she gave me that look or if she is just pissed in general and has decided to take it out on me, I know when it’s my fault and I won’t admit it and vice versa, I know when I have made her happy, she is my lover, my partner, my confidant, my right hand, my counselor, the place I call home, my laughter when all else sucks and, of course, the mother of my child. And that is what I mean when I tell her I love her. That to me is a different kind of romance.