If life is divided into trimesters, I am smack-dab in the middle of the second one, the Parenting Years. The First Trimester was about growing up, finding what I’m good and not so good at, building relationships, and falling in love with my husband. The First Trimester was a selfish one, doing more of what felt good than what was good for me, lots of introspective time, and building up an arsenal of ways to protect myself.
The next twenty or so years, the Second Trimester, is about birthing, raising, and launching these kids. This season is about hard work, busyness, and sacrifice. These years are juggling lessons, the most important lessons turning out to be which balls are okay to drop and which ones are keeping our family together.
I’m both dreaming about and dreading the Third Trimester, the grandparent years. I’m afraid of losing the busyness of this season, afraid of a time when I won’t be so desperately needed. I can’t imagine how quiet the house will be when the kids have moved on to families of their own. The thought of this season makes me want to both smother our kids and take them on big adventures–anything to anchor them to our family.
But there is one part of the Third Trimester I’m anxious to start, the time with Mike. Right now, we both feel the crushing pressure of our dreams and our responsibilities. We have a vague idea of where we want our family, our careers, and our relationships to end up, but it takes so, so much work to get there. Every family vacation, every new activity, every volunteer duty, and every work project we say yes to robs time away from another. We are both working harder than ever before, and yet, we feel like we’re making less and less traction.
It’s a good day when we can spend twenty minutes catching up with each other about our schedules. It’s a great day when we can go for a walk or lunch together to really hear how the other one is doing. Unfortunately, during this season, there are also bad days. These are the days when one or both of us has a project to finish before bed, or Mike is out of town, or I’m too exhausted for any more conversation than just “I love you. Goodnight,” as I stumble to bed.
Yesterday the kids were at Mike’s parents’ house, and we got to take a long walk together. We looked like those older couples we see all the time, those in the Third Trimester. These are the couples walking the dog and chatting about nothing more important than what to make for dinner. These couples have learned the hard lessons of sacrifice. They’ve felt life’s sharpest failures and tasted the sweetest parts. They know who and where to go for deep peace and contentment.
These are the couples in the sweet spot.
And one day, we’ll be there too.