Tuning out

Crying HeadSometimes, in a marriage, everything you do as a couple clicks. Sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know what the hell’s going on with my husband these days. He’s usually an attentive, compassionate guy and when I have a goal for the family, he supports me, but not lately.

He was out of town for three days this week, and usually I miss him, but this time I was glad he was going. He’s been working on de-cluttering the house for more than a month now – we’re drowning in toys and kids’ old clothes, yet every single weekend, he asks me what, exactly, he should get rid of. I told him what to trash at the beginning. I was specific. And the next week when he asked, I told him again. And the next week, again. And I’ve been as clear as I possibly can, but every weekend, the question comes up again. And every weekend I say the same thing. And, adding to the strife, the project keeps us physically apart, because, as any parent knows, it’s impossible to throw stuff away with kids around. We could be trashing concrete blocks and the kids would say, “Noo, I want to play with those!” So I take the kids out of the house and he stays at home and works on the project.

It’s this back-and-forth that leads me to believe that he’s not listening to me lately. I know husbands do that routinely, but mine really doesn’t. It’s not that we’re abnormal. There are plenty of times when he starts talking to me about college football and I completely tune out. But this is something that directly affects him and it doesn’t make sense. If he’s gonna ask me the same question every week, wouldn’t it make sense to listen to the answer?

So not surprisingly, I was getting annoyed with him and I was glad when he left for the East Coast last Monday. Usually I hate it when he’s gone because he’s very helpful with the kids and without him, I’ve got to do everything on my own.  And I miss his company. When he walks in the door at 5:48, I’m thrilled to have my best friend back, because quite frankly, hanging with the kids all afternoon makes me lonely. But this week I was happy to have the peace and quiet.

My son’s at the stage where he’ll only nap if he falls asleep in the car, and we waste a lot of gas driving him around, then it takes him forever to fall asleep at night. Add that to his insistence that we stay in the room with him until he falls asleep, and bedtime is a huge pain in the ass. I usually like him to nap, because I get some mom time in the afternoon, but when I’m alone with the kids, I prefer to get them down early and have some time at night. So the first day, I didn’t give my son a nap and after dinner, I got him in his overnight diaper and jammies, and he wanted to snuggle with me on the couch. I obliged, picked up the remote and discovered “MASH” is on at 7:00. I pulled the blanket over us and within 15 minutes, he was asleep.

It wasn’t easy, but I rolled off the couch without waking him, and put him down in his crib. No books (I know, I sound like a terrible parent), no songs, no sitting in his room until he fell asleep. I totally pushed the easy button on that one. We did the same thing the next night, same result. It was great not only because he went down so quickly, but because my daughter’s bedtime overlaps his. I’d worried about how I’d read and sing to her if I was stuck in my son’s room, and then her bedtime wouldn’t happen on time. I went to bed early after I’d gotten her down. I’ve been exhausted ever since we pushed back the clocks.

This is great, I thought. I can’t wait to show the hub this new routine. We can get the kids to bed early, have some time together, and actually speak to each other without child interference. So when my husband got back, I told him about the bedtime routine and how great it was and I snuggled on the couch with my son, but that night we didn’t watch “MASH.” My husband wanted to watch “Modern Family.” I love the show but I wanted to take one for the team and get my son to bed. Well, “Modern Family” is hilarious, and my husband started the raucous laughter. It was not conducive to sleep so I told him to knock it off, and when “Modern Family” was over, we switched to “MASH.” Then my husband and daughter started talking across the living room.

“Just forget it,” I said, pissed. “I guess we won’t be going to bed tonight.” I started the normal routine: two books in the living room, then two songs on my phone in the bedroom, then sit there until my son falls asleep. It took freakin’ forever to go to sleep, and that was after two days with no nap. I was even more pissed when I got out of his room and my husband hadn’t started our daughter’s bedtime routine.

When we got both kids to bed my husband asked, “What’s wrong?” Really? I get all excited about this new bedtime thing, you come in and mess it up and you don’t know why I’m mad at you? So I told him, and he said, “Well, this is my first night back. We can start that tomorrow.”

We did not start anything tomorrow and we’re back to our old inefficient routine. To top it off, my husband asked me again about what I’d like to de-clutter this weekend. I snapped at him Friday morning for not listening to me and he said “I’m under enough stress. I don’t need this.” And of course, we know he’s cornered the market on stress (See “The Battle of the Stresses”). To which I thought but did not reply F-you!

We had happy hour at our house last night and my husband and I got to talk, and that seemed to smooth things out. But I saw where these disagreements were going. I factored in the fact that we can’t talk in front of the kids and they’re never asleep early and I hired a babysitter for a date night. I think the problem is that my husband and I haven’t spent any time together and we’ve got big plans to talk about and all those words remain unsaid. I am glad he’s back, and now that I’ve told him that he doesn’t listen to me, we’ll see what happens. And I’ll do my best to listen to him. That is, unless he starts talking about college football.