Because of the inconveniently early hours my offspring keep I was awake in time to watch the Royal Wedding as it aired live this past Saturday. Only I forgot that it was happening, so I didn't see it. By the time I remembered to tune in the nuptials were complete and the new Duke and Duchess were negotiating a sixteen foot train into a horse-drawn carriage. I spent a few minutes watching the live coverage of the two "love birds" parading through the throngs of well-wishers before caving to the demands of my children for some Peppa Pig. (Also British, so still fitting for the day.)
But before I clicked over to Peppa I was struck by a few pieces of commentary offered by the news anchors. That this was a "fairy tale come to life." That you could "see the love in their faces." And, what a "true gesture of romance" it was that Prince Harry actually handpicked some of the flowers in his beloved's bouquet.
I love a good royal wedding. I loved William and Kate's, and loved this one as well. I definitely checked in with the Instagram account of the Royal Family throughout the day. I loved the fashions and formalities of the occasion. I loved seeing my feeds fill up with everyone's wedding pictures in honor of the occasion, and even posted a couple pictures from my own wedding.
After all, we should be celebrating marriage.
My only concern is, if we hold up a royal wedding as the standard of true love and romance, we're likely to end up disappointed when our own middle-class, Midwestern marriages seem to pale in romantic comparison.
After all, I don't know that meeting at a bakery counts as a "fairy tale come to life." And if you were to drop in at our house on a given day I'm not sure you would see the same looks of smitten admiration on my husband's and my faces as Harry and Megan were wearing on their wedding day. And I don't mean to throw anyone under the bus, but it's been a while since I've been given flowers, much less flowers hand picked from a castle garden.
Does that mean the romance in our marriage is dead? No! Far from it! But it has taken on a different appearance over the last 9 years. I don't require the same gallant displays of affection that characterized our dating, engaged, and newlywed years. My husband has found other ways of showing me that he loves me and cares about me. Theses things probably seem boring to the outsider, but to me they are a sign that I am deeply known and loved.
Every night my husband packs Johnny's lunch for school the next day and gets the coffee ready in the coffee maker. He happily does these things because he knows that after a long day of preparing three meals, doing multiple loads of dishes, and repeatedly wiping counters and sweeping the floor, I just can't be in the kitchen for one more minute. And it means the world to me.
We quickly realized after having kids that one of the truest gestures of romance we could make to each other is letting the other sleep in in the morning. In the past we would take turns on the weekends getting up with the kids. But throughout this pregnancy Alex has gotten up with them nearly every morning, allowing me to get a couple extra hours of much needed sleep.
We're just as happy to have some ice cream at home after our kids go to bed as we would be to get dressed up and go out on a fancy date.
Remember the coffee that Alex prepares and programs every night? Every morning he brings a cup of it upstairs for me before I'm out of bed and we have a time of morning prayer together.
Deciding to turn off the TV and just sit and talk. Taking turns changing diapers and fielding tantrums. Texting each other during the day just to check in. Telling me I look beautiful when I know I look like a hot mess. These are gestures of romance that don't require a horse drawn carriage.
All this doesn't mean we shouldn't make time to go out together, or that there's no need to ever give a gift, or write a special note. But it does mean that at the end of a day that was by all appearances perfectly mundane, we know that we've got something really good going here. It's these hundreds of little "true gestures of romance" that show that we are in this for the long haul.
It's easy to be in love when life is idyllic. But what about when it's not? What about when life is monotonous, when work hours are long, when kids are difficult, when appliances are breaking down? What about when crisis strikes, health problems, job transitions, financial difficulties? All marriages will go through these things, but I would argue that's when the real "true gestures of romance" get to shine.
I hope that some day Megan gets the stomach flu and that Prince Harry can hold her hair back for her while she vomits into the toilet. That's a "true gesture of romance" that she will never forget.