Check It Out . . . Family Ever After

Family Ever After: A Practical Guide to Loving Your Crazy Family. This is the working title of my upcoming book. The thing you must ask yourself before reading it…Got Your Ever After?

Isn’t that the question of a lifetime? When your ever after began I’m sure it was a happy one, but over time, something about family life becomes a little less perfect and likely a lot less glamorous. Call me crazy but I got married so I could be with my husband. See what I said…Crazy. If you are anything like me, and probably the rest of the world, this book is for you. It gives great perspective on what we call marriage and family life. Let it be your guide to making your ever after truly, sublimely happy. I invite you to stay tuned for sneak peeks into Family Ever After.

Ever After
Challenge: Write down how you picture your happily ever after
As I lay in bed with sleepy eyes and little motivation to rise from my slumber, I couldn’t help but notice my hus- band still asleep next to me and think, “Why don’t I want to make him a special dinner, go on a date with him, or be romantic?” As I pondered these questions, I wondered, “What happened to our happily ever after?” It seemed like just yesterday that I was gazing at my ‘soon to be’ with to- tal devotion—almost to the point of worshiping him. In my eyes, he had been perfect and so handsome. I had twirled in my flowing white dress and felt like a princess. I had smiled that everlasting smile, the smile that lasts through the wed- ding, the luncheon, and the reception. It was the kind of smile that made your cheeks hurt just as much as your feet. I had breathed in the beauty of that lovely day, and had let a tear roll down my cheek. I had thought I was the lucki- est girl in the world. I had never imagined someone could love me so deeply, and I had never imagined those feelings would ever fade.

As we honeymooned, we explored our new expres- sions of freedom. We could be, do, and become whatev- er we wanted and manifest our love in whatever way we liked. I pictured us growing old together, hand in hand as we walked life’s scenic paths. I saw my white picket fence, my perfectly behaved children happily playing behind it. I saw a successful and delightful family. Our honeymoon should have lasted forever, but work got busy, friends re- surfaced, bills had to be paid, and we wanted to have chil- dren. We began to ease ourselves back into reality and out of our newlywed bubble. It was not bad, just not as perfect as I had imagined.

As the pace of life quickened, our waistlines began to expand, our hairlines began to recede, and the stress of life began to creep in. As our children joined our lives, our bed became the communal sleep fortress for our children and we forgot what it was like to have a solid night of rest. We would blow a kiss and holler an ‘I love you’ as we passed through the portal of our home. There seemed to be a constant time lapse between us and we could never land ourselves in the same place at the same time. My happi- ly ever after was quickly transforming into a heap of work, and I found myself thinking, “This is not what I signed up for—this is not how I pictured happily ever after.” Then I realized, maybe this is what I signed up for and I just don’t know how to make my ever after happy. I began to wonder, if perhaps it is possible to have a happily ever after, even when my white picket fence is broken, my ‘beautiful’ lawn is dead, and my children are less than angelic.

This unexpected realization of hope was not without precedent in my life. Similarly, as I had prepared to go to college, I had been smothered with warnings: “It is so hard,” “don’t give up,” or “you can do it.” I, of course, was all confidence and not the least bit worried. As my first finals approached, in my sleep-deprived state, the stress of school tumbled down onto me and I quickly realized my previ- ous visions of an easy and blissful college experience were flawed. I had then thought to myself, “This is really hard.” The same is true in marriage and family life. Nothing can prepare us for such a lengthy road of dedication; the only way to experience and understand family life is to live it.

When I spoke to my baby sister two months after her marriage, she told me about an exceptionally discourag- ing argument she had with her husband. In desperation she had burst out, “I don’t know how to be married!” This couple had spent months preparing for marriage. They had discussed every family life topic they could conjure up; they had taken marriage preparation classes, and they had seen each other in just about every circumstance imaginable. They had received solicited and not so solicited advice and tried to listen, but still they felt unprepared. The happiest couples I know, many whom have been married ten, twen- ty, and thirty or more years still have moments when they just don’t know what to do, and they find themselves say- ing, “this is really hard!”

Family life is like riding the white rickety roller coast- er at the amusement park, the one you are sure is going to tumble down before you finish the ride. Your journey be- gins when you make a commitment and jump into the roll- er coaster. It is so exhilarating to strap your belt on, clasp hands with the one you love, and begin the climb. As youget to know each other, you discover he leaves hair shavings in the sink and she leaves makeup powder on the counter. You climb to the first peak with butterflies in your stomach. You have no idea what to expect, but you hope once you get to the top, the hardest part will be over. It is both horrifying and thrilling at the same time. You roll over the apex and a nonsensical ride looms before you. You realize in that tiny moment it is not going to be the smooth coast to the end that you imagined.

The honeymoon is over, you throw your hands in the air, your stomach is in your throat, and you are flying faster than you thought humanly possible. You slam into a turn— you have a new baby, no insurance, and school loans—it hurts. Suddenly, there is a brief moment of peace—as you enjoy a romantic weekend with your hubby, your son makes the football team, you get a great new job, or you finally potty train your three year old. Without warning, you are spinning in a circle—running kids here and there, volun- teering to coach the Pee Wee football team, scrambling for enough money to pay the bills, and cleaning up your neigh- bor’s shattered window that your son shot a rock through.
For a moment, your cart feels claustrophobic and you envision yourself suffocating under the pressure of life as you have a major blow out with your husband over disciplining the kids. As your stomach begins to churn, you real- ize you are at the top of a giant loop de loop. You have lost your thirst for adventure and are wondering, “Am I really going to make it?” More than anything, you want the ride to end. You want to feel human again, you want peace, and you need love. You begin to wonder, “Is there any way to get off this ride?” Instinctively, you know the only way is to jump, and you know that would be catastrophic, so some- how you stay strapped in, and you keep going.

Through all the ups and downs, twists and bends, the kids grow up and move out and you unexpectedly find yourself back at the beginning. You are left where you started with only the two of you in your slowing cart, and you think to yourself, “What a ride!” You begin to look at the family photos and reminisce with fondness about how loud you screamed and how your stomachs dropped when you flew through the last loop-de-loop. As you survey the panorama of your life while squeezing the hand of the one you love so deeply, you find in the end you are an entire- ly altered person, a better person. You are better because you held tighter when things were hard, you sacrificed, and you let love overpower all obstacles. You are delighted you jumped in the cart so many years before and realize your happiness wasn’t found in your destination but rather in the crazy ride.

Happily ever afters don’t just happen; they must be made. There will be unforeseen bends and bumps. No mar- riage or family is free from exhaustion, financial struggle, argument, disappointment, tragedy, or heartache. We all have mornings when we wake up and wonder, “Who is this person I married, and what have I gotten myself into?” Maybe things in your family are good but could be better. Maybe you feel like your family is broken or maybe you think they are so annoying you can’t stand to be with them. Maybe you’re depressed, or you always feel exhausted. There are numerous difficulties and detours on the road to ever after. Whatever your personal situation, the good news is there are things we can all do to make the burden lighter, and to have a stronger, happier family.

Equip yourself with extra pillows when you climb onto the rickety roller coaster. Bring forgiveness, compas- sion, patience, humor, and extra love. You will need all the cushion you can get. Hold tight to forgiveness when your husband says something stupid, or your wife doesn’t show gratitude for your hard work. Pack some compassion for the moments your children are embarrassed at school or your daughter doesn’t make the team. Bring patience for that hundredth time you have to convince your kids to brush their teeth and put on their pajamas. Find humor in the mundane, and when you are uncertain about what to do, stuff in all the extra love you have to offer. Let these pillows soften the blows of family life’s sharp turns. Find comfort in them; let them heal you when you think you can’t make it, and relish them when things are good.

Everyone’s picture of happily ever after is different. My happily ever after is doing dishes with my husband and simply being happy to do it, sliding down a mountain on my bum and ripping a hole in my pants while my husband laughs at me because I’m too scared to walk down. It is watching my kids splash in the pool, their deep, carefree laughs filling the air. It is waking up Christmas morning to a house full of balloons, or lying on my husband’s shoulder feeling safe and protected. It is the joy that engulfs me when my family knows I love them, and the peace that comes from knowing how much they love me. This is not the ever after I imagined years ago, as the satin folds of my white sparkling princess dress twirled around me and I was lost in my hus- band’s brown eyes. Nor is it what I imagined during our short honeymoon bliss. This is better because this is real. Find your vision of ever after and live it; you may be sur- prised to find the journey is the part you love the most.

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1 comment:

  1. Wow that was wonderful. We did start out our life on that rickety white roller coaster at Lagoon after a wonderful day at the Temple 36 years ago. You are so right- ups and downs along the way and yet I am thankful for the ride and that we stayed on the ride. By the way thanks for the Café Rio and your friendship tonight.