Friday, January 25, 2008

The Spat

My husband and I are not fighters. While single we separately hoped and prayed to someday be married, but both of us would rather have stayed single than deal with a tumultuous union. Our ninth anniversary is coming up this July, and I can say our marriage has indeed been a peaceful blessing. That's not to say we weren't faced with, about two years ago, the seven-year itch, which I think is when you find out your mate isn't as perfect as you thought. In our case, we were so busy with a toddler and live-wire preschooler, that we barely noticed we were itching. Today, anyhow, we had the rare spat.

We had plans to take the kids on a homeschooling fieldtrip to a Metropark Nature Center about thirty minutes away. The kids and I had previously gone in the fall with our homeschooling group, but there were so many kids it was chaotic, and I felt the very fabulous place deserved a calmer visit, with Daddy along too.

I wanted to get a little schooling done with at least Daniel before our departure. As always, we had to plan around at least one of Emily's naps. She can be late on one, but foregoing one of them is not pretty. It's not that she meltdowns, like the boys do when tired, but that she has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep if she's exhausted. When she doesn't sleep we don't sleep, so needless to say, we take her naps seriously.

We know people who claim they just go, go, go and their kids just nod off wherever, whenever. That's not our style. Emily Rose doesn't sleep in the car ever; her brothers are too loud. Short of putting tape over their mouths, which I've never resorted to, there's no silence until their eyes close at night.

We had our family breakfast, which we try to keep as a ritual, since Daddy leaves for work at 2 pm and can't be with us for dinner. It takes longer than I would like, and we get started on the day later than is ideal, but I'm learning and taking to heart that family traditions are an essential part of a really good upbringing. Along with God, they are the glue that stick us together, the foundation that supports us, and they make up the memories that sustain us.

By the time breakfast is over, Emily has usually been up two-and-a-half-hours, so her morning nap always follows our meal. I change her, cuddle and nurse her, shower her with kisses and whispered I love yous, then put her in her crib, which she always welcomes; she grabs her blanket, gets down on her belly, puts her little bottom in the air, and peacefully goes to sleep.

I emerge from the room, usually to find Don teaching either social studies or science to the boys. While they do that, I clean the kitchen and dining room and keep the laundry going. The boys then get a quick recess, before I start reading time.

Today, however, I emerge from the room to find Don reading with Daniel in the boys' bedroom, while Timmy is having his alloted twenty-minute computer time. I start to object that Daniel isn't reading with me, but then I decide to keep quiet and go survey the kitchen, knowing that we have to be ready to go out the door as soon as Emily awakens, or Don won't have time to join us. As I walk through the house to the kitchen, I already feel the stress of the rush.

The kitchen's a disaster, the dining room table hasn't been cleared off, and there are crumbs underneath it. Unfolded laundry still litters the couch; there are also items all over the living room, playroom, and kitchen floors, since Emily has recently become the distributor of all things. Imagine laundry, toys, cups, tupperware, whatever strikes her fancy, ends up littering our "cozy" world. She carries these things around some, then tosses them wherever, before continuing on to search for more loot. It's cute, isn't it, when you're not in a rush?

As I start on the chores, irritation wells up; Don didn't even think to clear off the table, or unload the dishwasher. "Today we're in a rush! Why couldn't he have streamlined things by at least clearing off the table, while I put Emily down?"

Meanwhile, Don and Daniel come into the kitchen. Don looks at me with a very serious, almost chastising face, and says, "Daniel needs a lot of work on sight words. He looks at words like could, should, and what and he doesn't have a clue."

Now, I'm livid. Just livid. Daniel was standing right there, having to listen to his Daddy put him down like that. I retorted, in a bossy, preachy, not-happy way, "Daniel is a great reader; let's not forget he's only six-years-old, and that he's a kindergartner, for heaven's sake. He doesn't know those words because he hasn't encountered them enough in print! I haven't covered the more difficult sight words yet, but I assure you I will when it's appropriate!"

Normally, I wouldn't let loose in tones like that with one of the children around, but the stress of having to get somewhere, and having to leave such a messy house behind, was eroding my sense of propriety. I dug myself deeper by adding, "Instead of trying to be a reading teacher, why didn't you notice this horrific mess and at least clear off the table?"

He responds, "If you wanted me to do something, why didn't you just ask?"

To which I responded, "I don't want to be one of those bossy women. I don't want to have to ask."

So it goes, right? We think they should notice things and have a clue about how to work together to get three kids out the door on time. They think we are unpredictable, wanting help one time, but not another. We refuse to write out honey-do lists, because that's for those bossy, hen-pecking women, and we want nothing to do with that.

I had to go in to Daniel, after this roughly five-minute spat, to apologize for arguing with Daddy in front of him. And to let him know that Daddy and Mommy love each other very much, but that we sometimes disagree when we are in a hurry. Daniel then showed me the story they had read, which was far ahead of where we were in the book, which explains why he didn't know the sight words. Daniel said he was sorry for not telling Daddy where we were in the book. Bless his heart.

I then had to go back to the kitchen, and hug said Daddy, who was emptying the dishwasher, and tell him I was sorry for my tone of voice.

Truthfully, the house was so messy partially because I have been blogging three nights in a row, which can eat up your time, let me tell you. I hadn't done as much tidying-up after the kids' bedtimes. I obviously need to work on pausing and identifying the true source of stress, before I let it get the better of my tongue.

We never made it to the Nature Center today, but plan to go tomorrow, as soon as Emily wakes up from her morning nap. At least, that's the plan. We'll see if we can get it right this time.

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