Having a kid has certainly put a new twist to our once-childless life. While parenting has filled us with a love we never knew was possible, it has also changed the dynamics of our home and our relationship.
Since having our son, my husband and I have struggled a bit with finding the new norm. The long days have resulted in us forgetting to connect in the way we once did. Don’t get me wrong, we spend time together, but we don’t often play together. We spend a lot of time sitting side-by-side, reading a book or, more often, our phones. We’re looking down instead of looking at each other – talking, laughing, smiling. We let our comfort in each other and the daily exhaustion take over what once was.
Now that our ever-engaging toddler has started going to bed later, a new chapter has opened up and a new kind of fun has been introduced. Not only does this mark the beginning of a family-play-time that I wouldn’t change for the world, it is also the launch of a new connection between my husband and I. This is the start of us finding ourselves as a couple with a child.
It all started one day, months ago, when our son ran up to us and said “play Catch-You!” Catch-You is a hide-and-go-seek/tag game that my son thinks is one of the greatest games ever. When the “missing” person is “found”, we yell “catch you!” and we all run back to our son’s room in a single-file line with our hands raised and waving. All that can be heard are screams of laughter. My husband and I were thrilled to see how happy our son was to play this exciting game with our son and a new connection began to form.
However, like all games that are repeatedly played, Catch-You got old. As soon as that happened, our son picked a new game called Big Ball. Big Ball is named after a big beach ball I got from the dollar store in the summer that I never got around to deflating. As per our son’s instructions, my husband and I sit on opposite ends of the room and take turns throwing the ball to our son while he hits it back to either of us. The excitement of the ball being tossed back and forth is clearly too much for him to handle and he takes off running around in circles like he’s taken a shot of an energy drink.
While he’s running around like a spaz, my husband and I start our own game. We have these mini-competitions to try to see how long we can keep the ball going back and forth between us without skipping a beat. We get really into it, and by “getting into it”, the game typically devolves into one of us spiking the ball at the other’s face. Occasionally, my son will run through while the ball is in play, aka being spiked, and the ball bounces off his head. Typically, he will stop and look at us with a scrunched-up face and furrowed brows. He looks at us as if to say “how dare you!” At this point, my husband and I pause as if we’re frozen in time and wait to see what will happen next. Luckily our son takes it pretty well; he laughs it off and continues to run around (maybe he did he have a shot of an energy drink).
I would never have thought that this play-time would have amounted to anything more than wearing out our son before bed. It’s proven to be much more beneficial to us than we thought. It’s not just about playing with our son. In a strange turn of events, it has also become about my husband and I playing with each other. Engaging each other. Laughing together and making games out of games. This is the time when we team up against the mini-dictator who runs the show and rules our home. It’s us against him!
Playing these games with our son has given us the opportunity to once again carry on like children and enjoy what’s in front of us: our family. Our heads are up, looking at each other and laughing uncontrollably as the mini-fun-police dictates how we play the current game. It’s been the missing piece all this time, it just took a while to figure that out. With every day that passes that we play together, we learn to appreciate each other a little bit more.
We’re not just our son’s parents. We are each other’s spouses and friends again.
Karen Szabo is a part-time worker by day, toddler-mom by night, and blogger any time in between. She’s doing her best to keep her sanity by writing about being an anxious mom. She’s a contributor for The Mighty and has written for Sunshine Spoils Milk, Sammiches & Psych Meds, and Mamapedia.