My daughter has been nagging me for days. “Mom, you are behind on blogging.” “Mom, you still haven’t posted. What’s the deal?” Well…sometimes we get writer’s block. Other times we have lots of ideas, but none of them really gel. So today, I was going to force myself to write something, anything. And then I was nudged to “just be honest”. Groan….I hate those nudges! So here’s the deal. I was a colossal jerk. I hate admitting when I’m wrong, but apparently today it is easier to admit that I’ve been a butt head than it is to go to the gym and do leg day! So here goes nothing!
My friend Alison texted me today. She’s had a long week with a sick mom who lives in another state, and on top of that her husband is deployed. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When your spouse is deployed, every crazy, inconvenient or emotionally draining thing that could happen WILL happen. Alison has spent the last week in another state, sitting in a hospital, away from her kids, dealing with making tough choices ALONE. And today she is home. She texts me, “I am home, and I am angry.” I felt compelled to ask why. I mean, what kind of friend ignores a text like that?! As we are talking we sort out that Alison isn’t really angry at all. She is overwhelmed. Her husband asked her from across a distant sea what her plans were for the day. “What does he think my plans are?! I’ve been gone for a week. Life went on, and now I’ve got to catch up. I guess I’ll start with grocery shopping.” I found myself reminding her that her husband loved her, and was just trying to use that question as a conversation starter. He wanted to show he was interested in her day. And in that moment, I felt humbled….
I have been married for 14 years to a man that works terribly hard. In fact, he has a hard time pulling himself away from work, and just relaxing and hanging out. It has been a topic of conversation for years. Lately though, he has really tried to break that nasty habit. He has invited me on dates, sat down to watch TV with me, and really made an effort to connect. But I have been short sighted. I too have complained about the question, “What are your plans today?” In fact, I have been salty and snapped back, “What am I, 4? Do you want a running list of my plans Dad? Are you keeping tabs on me?” Here is what I didn’t realize until I was sharing so much wisdom with my friend. *insert eye roll here* Pete wasn’t trying to keep tabs on me. He was trying to make sure that he showed interest in my day. In his mind if he asked early about my day, he could mark “asked about her day” off his list. Not the most romantic line of thinking, but he still should get an A for effort. Of course if I snap at him enough, eventually he will stop asking. So who’s the idiot now? But it gets worse. I somehow manage to up my jerk game, and I don’t realize it until I’m talking to Alison this morning.
Pete invited me on a date Friday. The invitation was extended on Thursday evening with tentative plans for Friday night. “I feel like Asian food. Let’s go on a date tomorrow night.” I happily agreed, and mentally noted that that also meant there would be no time for the gym after work. Bonus!!! Well Friday rolls around and he texts me the name of the restaurant, and my grumpiness kicks in. This place serves Thai food and Japanese food. I don’t LIKE Thai food or Japanese food, unless it’s sushi.
In the midst of being annoyed with the restaurant choice my oldest son pops into my classroom with a giant grin on his face. “I’m filling out the recruitment form for the Naval Academy. I’ll let you know if I have any questions.” In case you didn’t know, the Naval Academy is in Maryland, and this mama wants to move back to Florida when my boy finishes high school. (We will save that emotional roller coaster for another blog post.) So you can just imagine how my emotions were that day. I was excited for my son, but my heart ached as I thought about the distance. Oh, and I should probably also tell you that my hormones ran out a week ago, and since I was without my cell phone full of my contacts, I had been unable to call the out of state pharmacy to check on my refill. So yeah, I was a wee bit hormonal.
All of this should have factored in to how I addressed my upcoming date, but it didn’t. Nope, I opted for mad and pouty. How could he not know I don’t like Thai food? We’ve been married a long time. He should know everything about me. Bless him. He sensed I didn’t want to go to the chosen location. He even offered other options. Most of them were still in the Asian food realm, so this didn’t help with the situation. I just folded my arms and stewed. “I’m trying to make you happy. Tell me what you want.” “OMG…Let’s just go to the stupid restaurant and get it over with!” I was in full on brat mode.
We were seated at a table near the door. Every time anyone walked by they bumped my chair. It was beyond annoying. Pete offered to switch seats. “Nope! I’ll just sit here. No point switching now.” Poor man. They served us water with no ice and no straws. Another strike! A young college couple sat down at the table next to us. I could have reached out and stolen food off their plates they were sitting so close. So I got to hear all about sorority elections on Saturday, and how Ellen couldn’t believe that Itsy had the nerve to run for president when she KNEW that Bella wanted to be president. What was she thinking?! Oh dear heavens, I’m going to snap! Of course Thomas Paul Walker the 4th was busy trying to console her and tell her that when elections were done he would take her out some place nice. I kept thinking, well I hope it isn’t this place!
Pete just looked at me. I pushed my food around my plate looking sullen. Pete meanwhile looked defeated. “You hate this place don’t you.” “It’s fine. Now stop asking.” Needless to say the date didn’t go well. And for the record, I did indeed hate the restaurant. But it wasn’t Pete’s fault. He had offered to take me somewhere else. We get in the car and he says, “Well I definitely won’t ask you to get Asian food ever again. But I DID offer to let you pick somewhere else. Now will you PLEASE tell me why you are so grumpy? What did I do?” Now would have been a good time to change my approach. But why do that now, right?!
“You wanna know what’s wrong? Jackson wants to move to Maryland to attend the Naval Academy, and I’ll have an even emptier nest. First Paige will go. 1 year later Jackson will go. And my own husband doesn’t know I hate Thai food! Or that I don’t like seeing TV cords on my wall! All these years I’ve been mothering, and you haven’t listened to know simple things like what I like to eat. PAY ATTENTION!” Well that certainly felt good!
But here is the problem. I stand by what I said. I have spent my adult life being a mother, and it’s scary not having that job much longer. But my dad scolded me. And for those who don’t know, he rarely doesn’t take my side. “Katie, you complain that he doesn’t make time for you or pay attention, but did you miss that tonight that is EXACTLY what he was trying to do? Sure, he may not have listened enough when you were younger, but now when he tries to be there and listen, you punish him. Give him credit for trying to be more present now.” And again as I reminded Alison that she wasn’t angry with her husband, she was just overwhelmed, I again felt guilty. (For the record, she agreed that indeed she is overwhelmed, and just wishes she wasn’t doing these hard things alone.) But I messed up. Pete tried, and I messed up. One day it will just be us rattling around in an empty house. I need to stop punishing him for not listening when he was 20 something, and instead be grateful that he is willing to listen now. I’m the jerk, not him. At least this time…
So I guess what I would say to young wives is…First off, guys sometimes say dumb things with the very best intentions. Second, don’t hold grudges, you only punish yourself. Be grateful for the effort your husband makes, even if he messes it up along the way. Third…Learn to be humble and say I’m sorry. (I’m still working on this one.)
Pete, I’m sorry I was a brat. I still hate Thai food, but I love you. And I promise to get more hormones so that my emotions aren’t all over the place! You were right. I was wrong. I was being a brat…
Photo Credit Goes to Amber Joy Phinisee Photography