There are a couple of things that I do know. I do know that a solid marriage has got to be a foundation in every family-and maybe even more so when you are parenting a child from a hard place. Ryan and I tell the kids "It's us against you all forever. We are always on the same team." Sometimes this may be between gritted teeth and a glaring smile, but we honor that we were together before these little people joined us, and we will be together when they leave us one day.
That being said, there is one more thing I know about kids in general and especially kids that aren't attached to their parents. Routine is huge. Let me say that again. ROUTINE IS HUGE. A child that once didn't know if he would get food when he was hungry or a hug when he was scared needs strict structure to get through every day without those old fears creeping back in again. That sweet kid needs us to reassure that we will meet his physical and his emotional needs every moment. Example: the day that I didn't eat breakfast with all four kiddos the way that I do every single day of their lives was the day Etienne ran himself full force into a wall at school. Or when we tried to have our sitter put the kids to sleep one night, I found the frame of the bed covered with teeth marks. These two incidences have happened in the past few months. Those teeth marks are a permanent reminder that breaks my heart. Routine matters a whole bunch, friends.
Obviously, if we strive to have a strong marriage and we need crazy structure at the same time, we can't easily go to dinner and a movie. It isn't for lack of friends and family not offering (you all have been great), it is just that most of the time, it's too much change, even if only for a night.
Here's some things Ryan and I do:
- We utilize our parents when we can. For us, we know our parents know the ugliest and most challenging times in our family. They've seen the intimate stuff and they love us better than anyone else in the world. If grandparents offer, we don't ever turn them down for giving us a date out of the house.
- Early bedtime. We are religious about "mommy and daddy" time. The kids all know that after lights out, their parents are spending time together and they have learned to honor that. Almost every night, we have 2 hours together without kids. Sometimes we will make it an official date with fun nachos and a movie. But most of the time, we just share a love seat together.
- Overnights. This is tricky but good. Etienne especially needs to see us leave him and return to him again. We don't get to do this a lot but we know it's invaluable for us and him. Again, hit up the family for this one.
I could write blogs and blogs about strengthening a marriage. That's not the topic here. The topic is specific to date nights. And more specific, to parents with kiddos that have a lot of struggles. So my first discussion is how do you keep your relationship strong when alone time leads to distress?