We went to visit my parents this weekend. As we live in Lancashire, and they live in Somerset, this is not something we undertake lightly with two small children. Fortunately, Tim managed to take Friday off, so we headed down South on Thursday evening, with two sleepy boys in the back.
Going away, especially to visit family, is brilliant, not least because you get a bit of help with the children. They had the attention of grandparents, an auntie and uncle, big cousins, a small cousin and some of my friends. Despite the weather being appalling, we all seemed to have a good time.
Until night time, that is. Ben’s sleep was much more disturbed than usual, and Samuel woke up every 1-2 hours each night. Poor Tim had to decamp to the floor of another room to get some sleep, while both boys eventually ended up with me. I don’t know that we are much more refreshed in terms of sleep than before we went away.
But on the Saturday night, Tim and I left my parents in charge for a couple of hours and headed out to the local pub.
The village where my parents live is pretty rural, but the pub is quite highly thought of, as both a drinking and an eating establishment. It has low-beamed ceilings, flagstone floors and walls decorated with mementos of village life. One corner is dedicated to the local cricket team, while another displays notices of meetings from 1905. The pub itself was first licenced in the 1760s, so a fair few pints have been served there. Plus, it’s where I used to go as an (older) teenager and a student home for the holidays before moving up North.
With no family living nearby, it is really rare for Tim and I to go out alone. We occasionally hire a babysitter, and then we try to fit in as much as we can – a meal, live music, cocktails – before getting back at a reasonable hour to take her home. So a casual drink down the local pub isn’t something we’ve done for a while.
At the same time, with two small children demanding our attention, and Tim putting in as many hours as he can at work, our conversation had become quite functional: “Can you do Ben’s bath if I make tea?” or “Do you need the laptop tonight?” I’m aware that my days must seem quite boring to him, with the repeated processes of feeds, naps and nappy changes combined with moaning about our 3 year old’s latest behaviour challenge.
So for a couple of hours on Saturday night, Tim and I actually talked. Well, before that, we had to navigate semi-flooded lanes by torchlight to get to the pub. But when we were there (I had a cider; he had a beer or two), we talked properly. And laughed. And made plans. We talked about where we’d like to be in 3 years time. We talked about the children and how much we loved them. We talked about our families and our home.
And on the way home, I held his hand a bit tighter (although that may have been due to the risk of slipping on wet leaves).
And this morning, when the children got me up at 5.45am, I tried hard to hold on to that bit of loveliness from Saturday night. Because, ultimately, it’s our marriage at the root of this family.