My husband is an easygoing guy. Boyish good looks, kind, supportive. We are heading into our fourteenth year together. When I look back to our early days, I wonder what became of that couple…so playful…always filling our weekends with little excursions and intimate moments.
We were the couple that once ended my adventurous birthday weekend by dragging our mattress into the living room so we could lay back with our wine glasses and watch movies by the fireplace.
I think of them and wonder what happened. Wait, I know what happened. A mortgage happened. And a lawsuit. Then a few lay-offs. And then the children came. They were planned, and came after our greatest obstacles had been ironed out. Our children have blessed us mightily but children create challenges on every level even in the best of circumstances.
I think that trajectory of our relationship is not so very unique. The husband is the steady anchor and the wife, slightly uptight and detail-focused. He loves and supports…but leaves his dirty socks laying about, dishes mouldering in the sink, projects started but never finished. She resents and nags. He becomes dejected and annoyed. She feels buried under a mountain of grunt work. He can’t understand why it can’t wait till tomorrow. He spends his time playing with the children. She folds laundry and cooks dinner. Resentment builds.
These words are not pretty but they are honest.
There is a boy who goes to my son’s karate school. Sweet and active, I notice his parents scolding him and slapping him on the arm as he squirms in the seat, waiting for his class to begin. I shake my head in sorrow. We’re not at church, I want to say. It’s OK if he moves. But they watch him every moment, poised to disapprove. My heart hurts for him.
I was almost that parent, until my husband coaxed almost every last particle of rigidity from me. It’s OK for him to try on his Halloween costume and then keep it on all day. It’s OK if he wants to go puddle-jumping in the rain. He wants an occasional comic book for his bedtime story? Let him. Today is not always some preamble to the future. Sometimes, today is simply today, and this moment is this moment. Just let it be. Let him feel that he can sometimes have what he wants.
I took my boy to karate last night, and the active little boy was there with his father, the mother absent. For reasons known only to the cosmos, last night became the night that I was in the father’s sights. I could feel his eyes on me each time I entered his line of vision. I registered unease to have this person’s attention. And then, as my son walked by him, he uttered a kind salutation, a kindness that I have never seen him afford his own son. My skin crawled as he turned his gaze again to me.
My son wakes up at night feeling scared. He runs and jumps in bed with us. I used to try to insist that he sleep in his own bed, until my husband encouraged empathy. My boy truly is scared when he wakes up at night, as evidenced by the sprint that I hear as he closes the gap between his room and ours in the dark of the night.
Last night I awoke to the bouncing of my bed as my son climbed in between us. I lifted the covers and he scooted under them and into my arms. I laid there, my face in his hair as he drifted back to sleep. I thought of the karate father. I could have ended up with a man like that, I thought. That is what’s out there so often. And here I have a husband who never gets mad at me (well, unless I get mad at him first.) He never sends me on a guilt trip. No yelling, and no silent treatment. And I would never know a moment like this, comforting my son back to sleep in my bed, where he feels safe.
My sweet husband, who drives me absolutely crazy with his mess and his clutter. He has found in me the loving mother I was meant to be, drawn her into the light of day. And I give him grief over the dishes.
Here’s to my renewed efforts toward being the wife he deserves. Sometimes a glimpse of what is out there can deliver a resounding reality check.