I am a Catholic, I married a Catholic, and as such we were required to undergo something called pre-cana class, or pre-marital counseling class, which is typically given by a priest. A PRIEST. Uuuhhhhh, yea. But NO. I did not want someone who is not actually married giving me advice and counseling on how to be married. Sure, he is married to Christ, but Jesus doesn't leave the toilet seat up, fart in bed, and forget to buy milk. Luckily, our pre-cana was administered to us by our church’s deacon and his wife, an amazing couple who had a wonderful 30+ year marriage. We sat together, the four of us over coffee, and chatted about (almost) all the things married life entailed. We were over the moon in love. It would always be this easy, right? Nine and a half months after I got married, I had a son. Then 17 months later I had another, then another, and then another. After boy #4, on a particularly not so hunky-dory I am happily married kind of day, I dug deep into my pre-cana class brain bank looking for answers. What do I remember learning about marriage back then that can now get me though the tough times? How did the deacon and his wife make it look so easy? Then it hit me, they never had children. Sure, they took care of scads of nieces and nephews and kids of all ages spread across their extended family and neighborhood, but never did they have their own. That explains it.
I thought about all the mind numbing, mind blowing, and life altering things having children does to your marriage. All the crap-tastic crap, literally and figuratively, and kid ‘situations’ that test your marriage harder and more brutally than a graduate statistics exam with a tequila shot hangover. You know what I am talking about; those wonderful mom and dad moments that you two lovebirds get to endure, those lucky precious times where you are just grateful to come out at the other end alive, without having gouged your spouse’s eyeballs out with a hot fireplace poker. And then I realized something. My husband and I need to teach pre-cana class, because if your marriage can survive and thrive after four sons and the kind of mayhem we have survived for 17 years, all while laughing and still actually liking each other, than we must know what we are doing. We are happily married people, living amongst the chaos, and we have wisdom to share. But our class would be a little different. It would not entail us sitting around a table drinking coffee and talking about “yes dears” and “no dears” and holding date nights sacred. Nope. Instead it would be sort of a set of challenges, or situations, that you and/or your future spouse have to endure, and come out with your eyeballs still intact, sans fireplace poker. If you can do these and walk away still giddy in love, then by all means, tie the knot. Here would be a few;
1. Install an infant and toddler car sear No biggie right? Now do it in a late model car before the latch system was invented. And rear facing, in a backseat that 25 circus clowns would call tiny. Now do this at a truck stop, in late July, in central Florida. Then drive to the next truck stop, remove car seat (to clean off vomit from car sick infant and wipe down car upholstery) then re-install seat. Don’t wake up baby, who just conked out after repeatedly up-chucking sweet potatoes and Gerber puffs all over the back of your head. Repeat this process for 300 miles, or six truck stops, whichever comes first. Oh, and you also have a two year old with you. He’s potty training, and you are out of Pull-Ups. Godspeed.
2. Husbands, tend to the needs of your pregnant wife’s
morning all day sickness. This will look nothing like that cute time in college when she drank too much stale keg beer, and you brought her a trash can and shut the door. You will be taking care of a full-blown vomit machine from anywhere between one and nine months. You will spend weeks overwhelmed, standing slouched in the beverage aisle of the grocery store, carefully selecting 57 different flavors of hydration in the hopes you buy one she can actually tolerate. Sadly, none of them you bought will ever touch her lips, only the wall she eventually throws them at. Duck fast. Try to remain sexually attracted to her, even when the time comes when her belly, too swollen to make leaning over the toilet feasible, she frantically decides it’s just easier to throw up in the bathtub. While you are in it. And- bonus! At the same time she is heaving her breakfast, pelvic pressure from YOUR sweet unborn baby makes her pee right there on the bathroom floor. Yea, when that precious moment happens, you are gonna have to not say ONE. DAMN. WORD. (Hint: this is where you don’t speak, but just leave her alone, then clean it up.) Be ready to eat powdered mashed potatoes for nine months, because that great cook you married can no longer smell any type of food, or YOU for that matter. So go ahead and throw out all your colognes, hair products, and deodorants. As a matter of fact, just go ahead and move the hell out, then call her mother to take your place. Come back when baby is six months old.
3. Husbands, spend Christmas Eve up all night assembling toys. Don’t start until about 1 a.m., when it finally hits you that have two little boys sound asleep, who are dreaming of waking up to a cozy coupe, dump truck, train table, red tricycle, Little Tikes wonderland. Sure, your wife has been telling you for weeks to put the toys together but really, how hard can it be? Well, everything needs a flat head screwdriver. You haven't seen yours since you put that crib together four years ago. You bought AAA batteries. Everything needs AA. Your wife, up and awake to feed your third baby, whose diaper just exploded up his back and down her front, is crying with exhaustion and resentment. You had ONE. FREAKING. JOB. Finally, with baby strapped to you in carrier, and your wife long gone (she went back to bed, wishing you a Merry EFFING Christmas on her way there) you have two short hours to remember high school geometry, translate German (had to have the German made lead free toys didn’t you?) and somehow MacGyver the kid’s Blue’s Clue’s flatware into a Sears Craftsman tool set, aaaaand then find a store open that sells batteries. All before sunrise. Did I mention you’ve been drinking?
4. Wives, spend eight consecutive years either pregnant or nursing, and maintain a sex drive. Try to have some sort of affectionate touchy feel-y type feelings for you husband, other than wanting your fist to hit his face. Pay no attention to the fact he has remained the same weight since the day you were married, while you have had to gain and lose anywhere between 25-50 pounds four times. Forget the fact that all your parts, both those up there and down there, have undergone a metamorphosis of epic portions, (and I do mean EPIC-dammit if those engorged boobs weren’t awesome while they lasted) and his have all stayed the same. Try not to be upset when his loud snoring is all you can hear while you pace the living room floor at 4 a.m. with a colicky baby, while singing the entire score to Annie because you can’t remember any other song, having lovingly and unselfishly given all your brain cells to HIS babies. Have enough energy to actually give a crap about his needs, after having met the needs of every other human in the house for an average of 22 hours per day. Try not to look too giddy when last baby weans, and you start daydreaming about how far across the world you can get before your husband comes looking. Recall a time when all you wanted to do was hit the hay with him. This may require wine. It’s ok. Husbands, take it in any way, shape, or form you can get it. Don't complain.
5. Wives, try to be grateful and content in the fact you just found an old chicken nugget on the floor, to go along with that half a bag of goldfish crackers and an overripe banana that made up your dinner. Never mind that your husband just phoned and told you he was “so bummed” he wouldn't make it home for dinner and gives you the “…dang it, I have to take a customer to Ruth’s Chris Steak House tonight but I would rather be home with you and the kids,” line of total bull crap. Embrace the nugget. Be grateful and content when his job, which allows you to stay home and mop floors and wipe pee off the back of the toilet all day, also forces him to travel to places like Belgium, and Spain, but “business travel is so rough.” Sure it is. Embrace your exotic travels to the Super Wal-Mart at 9 p.m., with three little kids in tow, because it’s kind of like a foreign country in there anyway. Be grateful and content that you will never earn one single penny for doing all the mothering dirty work, day in and day out, sun up to sun down, but when DAD walks in the door you are immediately chopped liver. Dad=party. You=nagging. Embrace the party.
5. Teenagers. Just have teenagers. I am there now, and I believe the hype. Believe it people. Nothing, and I mean no crying baby, no terrible twos, no toddler tantrums, no annoying eight year old can hold a candle to dealing with small adult-ish versions of yourself. Mini, smart talking, smart ass, sarcastic little people who you have raised to find humor in all things, are actually NOT FUNNY now. If you and your spouse can get out of the teen years still married, and make it to that blissful place called the curbside of his freshman college dorm, than you have finished the ultimate in marriage challenges. I think my husband and I are gonna finish this challenge, and possibly still like each other in the end. But we have two more boys coming down the pipe. Never in a million years did I think saying “I do” would mean having to make it out alive after raising four boys. But I think we just may make it. No hot fireplace poker needed.