Happy Mother’s Day to me! Got my writing retreat, six months late. I’m perched in the lounge, looking out at the patio, watching the fire pit whip around in the wind. The gray drizzle of the typical fall Seattle day makes the bar even cozier. There’s a wall fireplace between me and the lobby, and the bartender’s setting up for happy hour as I await my massage. I love the red wood beams and stone in the lounge, and the lodge’s native Northwest décor feeds my tribal soul. And now I’m finally writing, after lunch and an impromptu wine tasting.
But I have a voicemail. Matt called. Christian was screaming and Matt wanted to know where I’d put the diaper bags. I had gripe water in Christian’s diaper bag, for gas. Both diaper bags were in the car and I don’t remember mentioning it to him outright, but twice last week he’d asked what I was doing going out to the car at night. I said I was bringing the diaper bags out. Is it too much to expect him to hear the answer to his own question?
I’m supposed to be enjoying this mini-vacation but instead I feel guilty. I just called and both kids are now asleep. He says he feels better but I can hear that he’s still not happy. I didn’t notice his call for two-and-a-half hours. My phone was on. I just didn’t hear it. That makes me guiltier still. He hates when I don’t answer my phone, always says he wonders where I am. Why can’t Matt let me enjoy this? Worse, why can’t I let me enjoy it?
I feel bad for neglecting him but maybe it’s good that he had to deal with the parenting crisis without me. Maybe Matt will better understand the challenges I face on a daily basis. I’m sorry he had to go through the fussy free-for-all but it’s really not that unusual. Plus, Rose could have told him the location of the diaper bags. I think she could have, anyway. I wonder if he even asked her.
I didn’t answer his question and he survived. Maybe this will usher in a whole new era free of unnecessary questions. Every time I send him to the supermarket, I can expect at least three phone calls. That’s for a one-to-two-item list. Once I fell ill before my weekly shopping trip, so I sent him shopping with a full list of groceries. He called seven, yes seven, times. If I ask him to make, say, Rice-a-Roni, he’ll walk into the kitchen, then ask me how to do it. I can understand not finding something in the supermarket, but for God’s sake, if I ask you to make rice out of a box, read the damn directions! They’re right there, in English. It’s not the DaVinci Code, for God’s sake. Does he think I have some special recipe?
You know when I left the house this morning, Matt appeared resigned. Not angry, but resigned to the monumental task of caring for the kids for 36 hours. Driving away, I felt bad. My poor husband, I thought. Although I gave him several suggestions for Daddy breaks, he seemed pretty lukewarm on the idea.
Backing out of the driveway I felt bad, for a good, long while. Ok, about seven minutes. Halfway to my retreat I thought, Shit, he goes on business trips for days at a time, all the time, and I don’t get any help then.
So the one time I do get to go away I’m wasting my “free” time feeling guilty. I feel guilty about ruining one of his days when I have our kids every day of my life. I hardly get to leave the house on weeknights because he comes home so late and then hems and haws about babysitting, or worse, does it and complains for the next three days, telling me war stories rife with tantrums, dangerous close calls and nauseating poops (See “Annoyance Avoidance”). And every time he has a bad day with the kids I fear he’ll never take them again. I’ll be doomed to life confined to my house and my computer, which, I might add, I can’t even use around Rose. I went weeks without a “Y” key because she picked it off my keyboard. Thank God it’s not always a vowel.
I can’t help but suspect that he exaggerates problems and complains to get out of taking the kids. It’s not a nice thought about my soul mate but it does fall under the realm of the possible. I’ve no doubt that Christian was screaming for what felt like forever. I’ve had those days too. But I wonder if he’s pulling that guy ploy they all use to get out of things. You know the one. You ask them to say, sweep the floor and they either take so long getting off their ass that you do it yourself, or they half-ass it, leaving the pile of crumbs in the middle of the floor, claiming they can’t find the dustpan, which is stored in the same spot it always is, the same spot they put it last time.
The sad thing is that what he really needs to reduce babysitting stress is practice. Well, he’ll get a crash course in handling two children this weekend, I thought. Maybe Baby Boot Camp will make him more comfortable with them and he’ll babysit more often, I thought as the masseuse rubbed my neck for 10 minutes. My shoulders had jacked up to my ears by the time I got there. She started working my shoulder blades and I forgot all about it.
When I returned from my retreat, Rose was chasing her BFF around the house and Matt was feeding Christian. Our friend heard Matt was flying solo and came up with his daughter. The girls tore around the house and squealed, so it wasn’t quiet, but the house was at peace. Matt and our friend had ordered Chinese and chatted happily while the kids kept each other busy. Matt was completely calm and happy. Not desperate to see me. Today was a breeze, he told me. The kids were good and Rose’s playmate provided much-needed relief for both tired dads.
So maybe parenting my husband and two kids isn’t solely my responsibility. Maybe if I just let Matt learn for himself, he’ll adapt, just like I do. Maybe he will get better with the kids and maybe I’ll get to leave the house again. Then again, maybe not. Just today, after an impressive, yet generic, three-year-old fit, he insisted we get Rose professional help. He’d never seen a fit like that, “There’s something wrong with her!” I thought her behavior was pretty run-of-the-mill. Maybe I’ll take her to a psychologist so Matt can direct his questions at someone else. Then again, maybe not.