The 'Before Children' Us

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 

Scene: Our Dinner Table

Daughter: “How do you KNOW that you should marry a person?”

Son: “When you meet the right person, a spark happens. Then you have to nurture the spark so it becomes a flame and then eventually a bonfire across your marriage. And wick size is very important, too. A small wick means the spark goes out. Daddy’s wick is very big and it keeps Mommy happy.”

He is only 10, right?

All obvious wick jokes aside (and there are just so many….), this conversation occurred after we had a discussion with the kids at the dinner table about how we got engaged. The kids were fascinated with the details of how Hubby bought my ring, how he planned our engagement and how I said yes.

It made me realize that our kids don’t see “us” the way I see “us.”

Their only frame of reference of us is what they know in the here and now (read: the mom they mostly see from behind as she drives them all over God’s creation and the dad who provides for said activities). They didn’t know us “B.C.”: Before Children. And, by the fact that my son recently asked me if a Beach Boys song was something I listened to in college, it’s blatantly apparent that they really don’t know me at all (no disrespect to my “I Listened to the Beach Boys in College” readers).

There’s just so much they don’t know about the B.C. “us”.

They don’t know that on our first date in 1995, I looked at my blind date while standing by the ocean and sparks flew. In that moment by the sea, as I stared into his piercing blue eyes, I realized that my broken road of relationships had led me to the man I’d be with for the rest of my life.

They don’t know that their father was the one to take their mother out on her 21st birthday to celebrate “appropriately” because her friends couldn’t (ah, who am I kidding? They were there… just, uhm, not, ah, how do you say it? Le-gally….). The idea that their father often politely asked their mother to get off the bar so that we could go home would knock their socks off. (Let’s just keep that between us, m’kay?). And please, let’s not tell them about the housewarming party I threw in our first apartment…..

They weren’t there when, as I walked down the aisle to him, his eyes streamed with tears and he could only choke out, “You’re beautiful.” They would probably be amused to hear that their father and I giggled uncontrollably during the “for richer or poorer” part of our vows because on our wedding day, we had $23 in savings (True story. Our wedding gifts were gratefully appreciated….).

They couldn’t possibly know that their father and I sanded, painted, wallpaper stripped, hammered and toiled side by side until our first house, bought with every single penny we’d saved from our wedding, was perfect. My kids don’t realize that I can use a pneumatic nail gun with ease and that my spackling skills are stellar.

Finally, they weren’t there to see the joy and shock on our faces when that little stick had two pink lines. That stick marked beginning of the end of just “us”. And, over time, that “us” has since become a “we”. A very busy, very chaotic, all consuming “we”.

Yes, so very many things they don’t know about the

Disney World THREE times before children. Two door cars with nary a French fry on the floor in sight. Our given names used on a regular basis by friends we saw every Friday night without fail. Endless little details that our children will never know about the people we were back then versus the people we are now.

In this modern age of raising children, our kids often define us. We, as both couples and as individuals, are defined by the activities our kids do, the achievements they reach and the lives that they lead. It’s easy to forget who we were B.C. It’s easy to forget that you used to dance on a bar or that you once took an off the cuff road trip in the middle of the night with your girlfriends. It’s easy to forget that WE WERE HERE FIRST.

While I don’t need my children to know every single story of mine B.C. (God help me, they CAN’T know every story…), I do often try to tell them stories from that time so that they can understand who their mom is and how I came to be the domestic goddess that I am today.

And, in those crazy hectic days of childrearing when I’m feeling like yesterday is a whole lot like today and tomorrow will be a whole lot of the same, looking into those same blue eyes across our dinner table reminds me of who I used to be and still am at heart.

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