This last weekend, while Kate and I were trying to get the kids to bed, I figured it all out.
This whole time Kate’s been counting to five with the kids. WTF? Five? I could never understand how I could reach therrrrr with the kids just looking at me, like, “yeah? And…?” and now I get it. They weren’t blatantly disrespecting me as I’d always thought, they were just waiting for me to get to four! This is, of course, a very exciting discovery but it still leaves open a few troubling questions. For one, why would they never just say, “whoa, hey, hold on, mommy counts to five” when I’ve hit my fifteenth ‘r’ and pretended to get up to punish them. Secondly, do they count to five in England? Is that “1-2-3-Magic” book everyone’s been giving us lately called “1-2-3-4-5-Magic” in England? Or, is Kate actually trying to undermine my authority with the kids and as soon as I start going to five, she’ll just go to six? Where will it end?
Anyway, it’s gotten me thinking about the importance of being on the same page as one’s spouse when it comes to running a successful household.
Here are a few (real life) examples that I hope will help illustrate this concern.
1. The Dogs on the Couch Issue
Kate doesn’t allow the dogs on the couches but I do. My argument here is that this is the couch (below) we’re working so hard to protect.
Her argument is that someday we’re going to be able to afford a new couch and we won’t want the dogs on it. My counterargument is that the dogs will be long dead by the time we’re able to afford a new couch. And if somehow we strike it rich before then, I’ll gladly have them both euthazined to preserve our new couch. Side note/story: My dad once had his wife’s cat put down because it peed in his gym bag. His reasoning at the time: Once a cat starts peeing in a particular spot it won’t stop. I suspect my dad would handle the dogs/new couch scenario the same way and with a similar rationalization.
2. The “Family Bed” Issue
Then there’s the “family bed” that I wake up in every morning. Theo is pulled in at around 2am each night. George slips in a little after that. And Louisa usually makes it as far as about 4am in her own bed. Every single morning I wake up (in a terrible position, often with no covers, sometimes in urine) to George and Louisa fighting, either over Theo or over who gets to lie next to whom. They kick and elbow each other. It’s usually a misplaced kick that wakes me up. I yell at them to stop. They keep fighting. They make Theo cry. They fight harder. They cry. I kick them out. They fight some more. They cry some more. And then I get up, put on my slippers and go downstairs to make them breakfast. That’s how my day begins. Every single day.
The nights I get the best sleep are my soccer nights. I play soccer two nights a week. Kate will usually be left responsible for the last-gasp, back-breaking stretch of nightnight time wherein the kids are in bed but far from asleep. When Kate is alone in charge of this final stretch, the kids often get to fall asleep in our bed. On these nights, I tend to come home hobbled and exhausted. I climb the stairs like an old man and when I eventually reach my bedroom, I invariably find Kate sprawled out like a road kill possum, with it’s live babies still crawling all over it, one or two still suckling a dead nipple. I stand over my family of possums trying to summon a warm thought, then head back downstairs to the couch where I will sleep. With my loyal dog, Angie at my feet.
It’s fine but I’d rather get my best sleep in my own bed without the elbows, tears, and urine.
3. The Breast Milk Issue
Another spot where Kate and I diverge is with the feeding of our youngest child. The crux of the problem is that Kate doesn’t like to pump at work and I don’t like to get a murderous look from my son (followed by a lot of barfing) when I feed him formula.
When she does pump, she likes to call me from her bathroom stall at work. It’s where she operates her manual breast pump. She calls me because, as she says, pumping is “soooo boring.” This is the only time Kate calls me from work. I’m usually happy to talk though because what I’m doing –trying to get a skanky outfit on Barbie or maybe holding Louisa’s hand while she sits on the toilet—isn’t particularly stimulating either. We have remarkably boring conversations, however.
“How’s your day going?”
“How’s that going?”
Pumping must be excruciatingly boring if this conversation with me is preferable. But, again, I’m happy she called because, if nothing else, I know she’ll be coming home with some milk, in addition to the bacon.
Theo had breast milk straight from the source whenever he wanted it for the first four months of his life. Then Kate went back to work and the maligned chalky milk substitute was introduced. Each day since then I greet Kate at the door, eager to see how much she pumped that day. The exchange is all business. I take the bottles, hold them up to check the amount, then transport them quickly to the fridge. There are, however, days when Kate comes home empty-handed, or, worse somehow, with just two or three ounces (and about another ounce leaking through her blouse).
I meet her at the door.
Kate: “I was super busy today, didn’t have much time….”
Me: “How much?”
Kate: (pulling it out of her bag) “Just a few ounces I’m afraid.”
Me: “No, where’s the rest of it?”
Kate: “Seriously. That’s all I have.”
Me: (Rummaging through her bag, growing agitated)
“Where’s the rest of it!?”
Kate: “That’s it, I promise.”
Me: Come on, seriously. Where’s is it?
Me: (raising a hand) “Bitch, don’t make me hit you. Where IS it!?!?”
No, it doesn’t really reach New Jack City proportions but it definitely feels like a drug deal or pimp/prostitute exchange at times. Luckily, Theo is maturing quickly and soon he’ll be no longer dependent on this foreign boob oil. Until then though, I’d probably be better off trying to get Theo hooked up to one of our spayed dog’s dry teats than relying on Kate to bring home the goods.
Little story… When I was in high school, our dog, Samantha, had puppies. It was a lot of fun. It was also, not coincidentally, right around the peak of my popularity in school. One very popular, pretty girl came over after school one day to play with the puppies. I showed her how cute it was when the puppies nursed on my nose. She took it a step further and lifted up her shirt, pulled out a breast, and put one lucky puppy up to it. She giggled as the tiny puppy suckled right there in front of me. Sure, it was a very weird thing to do. But it was also really really awesome. I remember trying to appear casual about it and even asking if it felt funny. To which she replied, “No, it feels pretty natural”. I’ve loved boobs and puppies ever since. True story.
Another story…and this is important (and perhaps more on topic than the last one) because it has served as a cautionary tale for me over the years. It was around this time of year, New Year’s resolutions looming heavy in people’s minds. My dad was knee-deep into his, determined, this year, to manage his money better.
This meant, in my dad’s “all or nothing” type of mind, that he was going to write down every single one of his purchases in a little notebook. No item was too small for inclusion. It would force him to be more aware of his spending.
I had the pleasure of visiting him when he was about a month into his new regimen. At some point in the visit, we decided we needed some ice cream (as we often do with my dad). He handed me a five and sent me out. When I got back he made sure I didn’t forget to me to mark it down in the ledger. Ice Cream: $5.89. While there, I took a moment to glance over some previous entries. Onion: $.46. Dishwasher soap: $3.49 Etc. I asked him why he didn’t just staple a grocery receipt to the notebook and save a lot of time. He said that the hassle of writing each little item down made him better appreciate the cost of things. He said he needed to be more mindful. His wife at the time liked to shop from new agey catalogs. Phrases like “Live Simply” or “A Jug Fills Drop by Drop” could be found on various mugs and floor mats around the house. I suspected “mindful” came from her.
On day three or so of the visit, while eating some of our new $5.89 ice cream and watching a basketball game on TV, a shiny, red SUV pulled into the driveway, it’s dealership sticker still affixed to the backseat window. We both peered out the window and watched in disbelief as his wife hopped out of the car, beaming. I looked at my dad. His face went tight and squinty, as it does. He sucked some air between his clenched teeth (his signature conveyance of inner pain) and pulled himself up from the couch to greet her.
Later on that day, I made sure I was close by when the spending ledger came out. There, right under an entry for $6.34 ground beef, I watched as my dad, tears no doubt forming in his eyes, carefully etched in his little book: FORD ESCAPE HYBRID — $32,989.
My dad and his wife aren’t together anymore. I don’t think it was the Ford Escape that drove them apart but I know this type of breakdown in communication didn’t help matters. What worries me is that Kate and my dad are pretty similar in their communication styles (in that they don’t like to do it much) and my dad’s former wife and I are also a lot alike. The other day, I was at the pet store with Louisa getting dog food and we were thisclose to coming home with two ferrets. It’s not the same as coming home with a new car but Kate said she would’ve divorced me just the same. As usual though, Kate was probably right. I would’ve gotten a boy and a girl and they’d probably have little ferret babies and I could really imagine Louisa trying to suckle them.
So, my resolution this year: Be more like Kate. My addendum to my resolution this year: Get Kate to be more like me. We’ll find each other somewhere in the middle; we’ll count to four instead of three or five. We’ll sleep with just one kid in the bed. We’ll let only Angie (my dog) on the couch because she’s not the one that uses our living rug as her personal toilet when the weather gets cold. Perhaps best of all, we’ll wean this baby and say goodbye to fighting with Ms. Leekyboob over the crack milk. We’ll live as one, in harmony. And possibly with ferrets.