remember us.

Lee Brown PhotographyOn Saturday night we met my friend Lee at the river preserve for our annual family photos. We wrangled the kids, stashed the car with m&m bribes and emergency extra clothes, and hoped for the best. Being a photographer myself, I had scheduled the shoot during the golden hour, which of course coincides with bedtime. Call me crazy, but I’d rather deal with meltdowns than bad lighting.

Just like every year, I was quick to request photos of Brett and I as well. I like the reminder that our marriage is a separate entity, a force to be reckoned with. A few times throughout the evening, we strapped the boys in the stroller and ventured into tall grass just the two of us. For the most part, Everett and Carson sat and watched patiently, only occasionally crying out in boredom.

We tuned them out for five minutes and kept our eyes mostly on each other, purposefully and intentionally because even though we don’t always practice this perfectly, we want our kids to see Us.

“Us” being Brett and Ashlee, husband and wife, two people who still love each other after almost eleven years together.

It would be easy to let these kids swallow us whole if we let our guard down. They are young and needy right now, and it would be easy to save everything marriage-related for after bedtime. It would be easy to let them interrupt every conversation, to let them leave toys in our bedroom, to let them be in every single picture.

It would be easy to let them destroy Us on some days.

If we want our kids to respect our marriage, we have to let them see our marriage. We have to let them see our date nights, see us kiss in the kitchen, see us fight and make up. The only way they’re going to see Us is if we let them. Or, in the case of annual family photos, if we force them to watch from the sidelines.

Some days I think our marriage has never felt more difficult than it does right now. In this demanding phase of parenting two little kids, we have to fight for our marriage every single day—for quiet, for date nights, for intimacy of any kind. Our days are full and messy and exhausting and it’s all too easy to give our marriage the leftovers, the 2% of energy we have left at the end of the night.

We deserve better.

Some people might think it’s weird that we take family portraits every year, but I love documenting our kids at this age because they are changing so much. Last year, Carson was barely a peanut in my belly and now he’s eating butternut squash from a booster seat. In twenty years, it will be nice to look back at these pictures and remember this year, the year that Everett turned three and said the funniest things, the year that Carson rocked his gummy smile.

This was the year we became parents of two and it was damn hard and exhausting as hell, but look at us. We survived, we relayed, we fought and made up 200 times. We made mistakes and apologized and forgave each other and slammed a few doors and offered grace upon grace upon grace. We argued at 3am, watched our boys become best friends, and basically became parents all over again. We re-examined our expectations, had our fair share of living room therapy, and learned to love each other a little bit better.

It has not been easy. Some days the pressure and tension in this house could blow up the moon. But even on those days, somehow—by the grace of God—we find our way back.

And this is why I always ask for photos of just Brett and I.

Because in twenty years, when we look back at these pictures, I will be glad that we stopped for five minutes to remember Us.

Lee Brown Photography-1 Lee Brown Photography-3 Lee Brown Photography-5 Lee Brown Photography-6

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15 Responses to remember us.

  1. Melissa says:

    Beautiful Ashley. And such a great and encouraging reminder of making time for your marriage outside of your children.
    Melissa´s last blog post ..A Wheels on the Bus Birthday Party

  2. This was beautiful Ashlee! As a long-time reader here, I remember that this blog started out with your marriage, just you and Brett! So it is always nice to see when you guys are able to go on your monthly pre-paid dates, or even do things like the yearly portraits. It is good and refreshing, especially in this day and “divorce crazy” age, to watch another couple go through life, trials and challenges and still have a lot of love for each other. As I am learning in my own relationship lately, love ain’t easy…but love is what can hold us together as well when we both work to love selflessly, and this post was a reminder of that. Everett and Carson are lucky to see that at home, and will thank you both someday.
    Ashley Prendergast´s last blog post ..road blocks and breakthroughs (a poem).

  3. Beautiful post and gorgeous photos! I love the last dippy smooching one the best. so sweet.
    Trina @ Let’s Just Build a House blog´s last blog post ..Nursery Details: Ben’s Burlap print

  4. Beautiful post, and inspiring as well for this mama-to-be!

  5. michelle says:

    beautiful photos – the light was totally worth it!

  6. Oh these photos and the sentiment behind them just took my breath away. I appreciate how real you are. These images are gorgeous. Thank you for sharing.
    Shaina Longstreet´s last blog post ..Your Ampersand Studio

  7. Karena says:

    Wonderful post. It is so easy to let your marriage take a lower priority when kids come along and my husband and I have fallen victim to that lately. Without question, I love my kids more than I love my husband right now and I know that’s not how it’s supposed to be but how does one change that? I’m inspired by your post and awed that you’ve been able to keep your husband as a higher priority during the challenging phase with young kids.

  8. Love this, friend.
    Katie Blackburn´s last blog post ..thirty

  9. Angela says:

    Such a sweet post. It’s so important to remember each other, but so hard with kids! Beautiful pictures!
    Angela´s last blog post ..Hadley’s Baby Sprinkle

  10. Sarah says:

    So beautiful Ashlee and absolutely on point. As always, love your writing.

  11. Janel says:

    Can I just ask what you do with your yearly family photos? Do you always find a frame and put them on the wall somewhere? Or do you put them in a photo album? Replace the current year frames with this years? I’m trying to decide what to do with our family pictures this year! Thanks, Janel

  12. Benita Eldridge says:

    I am not married, but reading this makes me want to be married… Thanks for sharing your heart and soul with us. How beautiful it is that you are making separate memories with your husband so that you have memories for your children. Yes, your children need to see that you’re in love and see the ‘real’ in your relationship. God bless you as you make memories. I am excited for the two of you!

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  14. ReadYouIWill says:

    I love this piece, both the message and your pics. Over the years through my and hubby’s friendship, dating, engagement and marriage nearly every couple we know who had children got divorced, and I am not exaggerating. Sadly it was in all cases the guy who made the move, I think (and in some cases know) because he just felt left out. The wonderful love of mother and child made him feel like the interloper in his own family. I don’t mean to imply that anyone was in the right or in the wrong, but it has really made me appreciate the importance of prioritising the “couple love” in the face of any other demands, to maintain a strong unit that forms the core of your family, whatever shape that family may come in.

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