Bill Linnane: 'We worry so much about the kids, we forget to worry about ourselves'
A December wedding is a bad idea. There are some benefits to it - most of the guests decline the invite as it is an opportune time of year for excuses - the weather is poor; and you feel less weird about being hammered at 5pm when it's dark. Generally though, it's a poor choice to wed in December because neither of you will remember your anniversary. This is because it's Christmas, and at Christmas all we can think about is Christmas. However, on the off chance one of you does remember in time to organise a night away, nobody is available to mind the kids as, once again, it's Christmas and everyone has something on, every hour of every day.
This year, however, we performed our own festive miracle by enlisting a Christmas cornucopia of in-laws to mind the kids for us. Sound the romance klaxon, hoist up the faded flag of marital love, and light the fires of coitus uninterruptus, for we managed to get a night away. It took a lot of wrangling, and a last-minute dig-out from my mother-in-law after our coffin ship of a people carrier failed its NCT, but we made it. Our destination was the beautiful West Cork town of Clonakilty, the black pudding capital of Ireland, because nothing says romance like having a plump blood sausage brandished in your general direction.
It's a great tragedy of being a parent that as soon as you manage to rid yourself of the kids for 24 hours, you talk obsessively about them. What should be a blissful break, when you reconnect with your soulmate and remember what it was like to fall in love in the first place, actually turns into a kind of office away day, one of those tedious outings where you do team-building exercises that involve poorly constructed rafts and brackish streams. That's right Brian, you fell in that swamp because you don't understand teamwork - maybe next time you will ask for my stapler before you take it.
But it's ok, because time away from the kids is exactly that - a team-building exercise. We may not be the highest-functioning team, and if we had the budget, we would probably call in some Six Sigma expert to help us achieve kaizen and eliminate pointless arguments about tumble dryer usage, but all these little people are relying on us to function as a unit. It's easy to forget all this, and it's also easy to forget that we need to look after us. As parents, we spend so long worrying about the kids, or money, or work, that we forget to worry about ourselves.
Like many couples, we are so busy and so preoccupied with all the nuts and bolts of keeping a family operational, that to simply pause and take a breath once every couple of years is an overwhelming experience in itself. And so it was that my wife started crying during lunch. It's never easy to be the bloke in that situation, knowing if you try to comfort her, it will only get worse, escalating from quiet sobs to banshee-style keening. So you sit there looking dopey and wondering why the background chatter has dissipated. You get the urge to turn and explain that actually, this time, it isn't entirely your fault, or try to explain it away by saying she was upset the pitta bread wasn't Fair Trade.
Instead, I got the bill and whisked her away to the pub, where a salve of overpriced G&Ts was applied to the malady. After a few of those, we finally managed to relax, and switch off to the point that we were able to talk about something other than parent-teacher meetings, blocked washing machine filters, and which model of people carrier best tells the world that we are on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
So we laughed and drank and even made out, despite the fact that we really are too old for public expressions of desire. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we were asleep by about 10.30pm, whilst stags and hens bumbled through the streets below, all set for their winter weddings and blissfully unaware, as we once were, of how much work it takes to keep a marriage alive, or how none of them will remember their anniversary in a few decades.
The next morning, we rose early and came home to the kids, renewed and replenished, but not before a hearty breakfast of black pudding, which, it transpires, my wife does not actually like. Given my family came from Clon, this makes us a sort of offal-based Romeo and Juliet, and was a reminder that even after all this time together, there is still some mystery left in our world.