Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Coming Back

I try not to share too much about my personal relationship with the Captain. After all, many of my readers know him, and it's just not fair to dish on him without his having a voice. But I think he will be ok with this.

This morning he made me cry.

It's not really his fault. He was just trying to get me to "man up" and solve a problem on my own. Which I would really rather not, since it had to do with cars and such. And when I realized I didn't have it in me to take charge of the situation the way he wanted me to, I promptly fell apart. Which is a female prerogative, is it not?

So I ended the call, grabbed my keys from the surprised store manager, and stormed out of the tire store all full of tears. I then drove to another tire store, still in tears, to find out for myself if the price I had been given for a full new set of tires was really as reasonable as the first store would have me believe. This actually was not the Captain's problem, he just wanted me to ask for documentation that I truly needed a full new set of tires. And it's very typical of me, when we have this kind of episode, to try to solve a different part of the problem than he is trying to get me to solve.

Men and women simply solve problems differently.

The point of my story is, I had no idea how to come back. I'm not very good at what happens after a disagreement, because we didn't practice that step very often when I was growing up. It doesn't matter who is at fault, but in a healthy relationship you have to acknowledge that both parties contributed to the situation, and come back together. And the quicker you do it, the less time is wasted on something far less important than your overall relationship.

The Captain excels at coming back. He also excels at helping me come back. And every time he does, I fall in love with him just a little bit more.

We did not actually ever have to practice coming back, until we had been married four or five months. Yes, we made it almost two years into our relationship before having our first argument. Go, us! But when it did happen, it was so silly we still have to laugh about it, a dozen years later.

Our first fight involved a shower, and a cold tile wall. We were taking a shower together and he bumped me into the tile. Yikes was it cold! Or maybe I bumped him, my memory gets fuzzier with time. Whoever got bumped, retaliated. I think that person was intentionally pushed into the cold tile--see how that feels, you insensitive person! Upon which the newly offended one escalated the situation by cranking the water all the way to cold. Wow that is unpleasant!

Next thing I knew, we were both mad, and he left the room. I immediately burst into tears, thinking I had destroyed any chance we ever had for marital happiness. It's true, I am that irrational sometimes!

But a few minutes later, he humbly returned, saying, "I'm sorry I was a jerk. May I come back? There are bugs in the other shower." Even though I was likely the one at fault, he came back and apologized first. Face it, we were both at least a little at fault. But with his humor, he helped me come back to a place where I could apologize, and we could both get on with the business of enjoying each other's company again.

I've noticed that the most disarming thing the Captain ever says to me is, "Sorry I was a jerk." Because the next thing I get to say is, "Yes, you were. But I was, too. So I am also sorry." I hate conflict, so it's such a relief to just get it all out there in the open, and then we can talk it over.

Back to today's tire story.

Sure enough, five minutes after I stormed out of the tire store, while I was still in cry-mode, my phone rang again. I picked it up, pulled myself together, and managed, "Yes?" To which he responded, "I'm sorry I was a jerk. Can I take you to lunch?" And I cried water all over my phone and explained how I thought we had an expectation problem and how while I enjoy being an awesome capable woman, I really have no desire to be the car maintenance specialist of the family...

Other than our difference of opinion on how capable I should aspire to be, I am still not sure how I was wrong in that situation. But it doesn't matter. Because when the communication broke down, it was my fault too, and we both had a responsibility to help fix it.

After lunch, we went together back to the tire dealer, and ended up getting a full set of new tires on both of our cars, for only $150 more than I had been quoted for the first car. He dealt with the sales rep, I just got to sit in the showroom for an hour while they did the work. I hate going to that tire dealer, I really do. It is why I put it off so long.

I still don't know if it should be my job to know how to intelligently purchase a new set of tires. I had never said so, but I guess I sort of thought that was part of the package when I walked down the aisle to meet him 12.5 years ago. However, I suppose I do have more available time. And I am willing to try, now that we have aired out our respective opinions on the matter. And that's a step toward a stronger relationship, made possible by the Captain's insistence on a speedy comeback.

I love you, honey!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Adding Structure

As I told the Captain recently, I have reached a point in my non-stellar career as a wife and mom, in which I think of myself as a social misfit. Apparently I lack the skills to even manage myself.

So I hired him. He is, after all, a systems analyst.

We sat down the next morning and arduously worked out my schedule. Down to when I take a shower. The upside is, I felt incredibly validated that I do indeed have a lot going on. No wonder I never feel I come to the end of my job list. It's endless! But this list gives me permission to let things slide if they are not part of my task list for Today.

Last Saturday, as part of the new schedule, we implemented the first-ever family cleaning time. In less than 90 minutes, we had straightened and vacuumed both kids' rooms, put away toys and vacuumed living rooms up and downstairs, and cleaned bathrooms up and downstairs. Boo-yah!

At the end of that 90 minutes, we received a call from some dear friends that just moved to Austin, who wanted to come visit us for the afternoon. What a great reward for cleaning the house!

I'm glad we banged that cleaning out over the weekend, because since then I have been rather preoccupied between finding my favorite home-school reference book, and dealing with THE FLU. AAAUGH!!! I am not a fan of all the sickness and anxiety caused in this household over the last six weeks. Time for it to GO!

My reaction to the stress of having sick kids has also underscored another personal detail: We have enough children. No need to keep going, I'm pretty much maxed out emotionally with the ones we already have in play. So for those who keep asking and hinting, that's my answer. We are done. Is it my final answer? Probably. When will I have a final answer? About the time Lulu turns two. And there is your TMI for the day.

Going back to the home school reference, it was really neat to talk with our awesome friends from Austin, because they homeschool their son. I pulled out that reference book after they left, and was excited all over again about the possibilities of teaching Boo myself. Boo has been home sick all week, and I have really loved having her around so much.

In fact, she validated my entire existence the other night. Monday night, as she was falling asleep, she asked me: Mom, why are you so awesome?

What a great question coming from the kid I battle with constantly. As I have put structure back into my life, I have enjoyed intentionally spending more time with the kids. They are so much fun as long as I am not distracted to the point of constant irritation with them.

Being a mom takes everything I have, but it pays back in dividends.

I have a feeling this thought is disjointed, sort of like the way I feel today. Take what you can from it; I just thought you might like to know.