Last week around these parts we had a bit of a situation. Last weekend was too busy and this week too exhausting to get into it here, but today has generally stunk so I guess there's no time like the present. Work was frustrating, the kids were brutal at dinner, we found out about a couple of unexpected ongoing expenses, and my brother's college roommate lost his battle with cancer today. So, yeah, craptastic. Might as well get into a little more since my mood is already in the toilet. Maybe getting it out of my system will help.
On and off for the past few years, Craig has talked about going to this year's World Lacrosse Championship, which is going on in Denver right now. Of course, back then we thought things would be a little different--that Jacob would be a little easier to manage, that baby #2 would be a little older than Carter is now, that our financial situation might be a little different--so perhaps it could have been a family trip. Well, considering where things actually are these days, that sort of a scenario really wasn't going to play out. A few weeks ago, Craig started talking casually about going to Denver himself. He'd talked to a few national teams that were going, but it seemed his best opportunity was with Team Israel. The Knighthawks' team photographer was working for them, and a guy that used to be in the NLL league office was working for them as well. At first it didn't seem serious, but as time went on things started to take shape a bit more.
All along, I can't say I was excited. Jacob wasn't either...until Daddy offered to bring a couple things back for him, of course! But I was trying not to be "that wife" and tell him flat out "no"--he's not my child, after all--but I wasn't showing any enthusiasm, either. Let's face it, 10+ days alone, working full time with two kids, is not exactly how I want to spend 1/6 of my summer. I love my kids, but sometimes my patience only goes so far and not having a convenient opportunity for a break is a scary prospect. Ten mornings of getting us all out of the house, ten nights of double bedtimes, ten days of trying to cook dinner while trying to keep the peace between the kids, ten days of not being able to work late or having to recruit help to do something as simple as go to the gym. I feel like I can't keep up on a normal day with a live-in partner, so the thought of all of that was simply overwhelming.
I did that same duration a few years ago when Craig went to Prague for the indoor version of the world championships. Back then it was only one kid, though, and I didn't really want to stand in the way of him getting a chance to go somewhere so exotic. But this time around was Denver, and while it was still a unique opportunity, it wasn't quite as once-in-a-lifetime as the other one. In addition, this wasn't for work, nor would it really be a career-enhancing opportunity, so it was purely a pleasure trip for him--albeit one where he'd be working a ton. Which means that he'd probably come back exhausted and need a while to recover, which isn't really ideal either.
Less than a week from when he would, in theory, be leaving, things got serious. And all of a sudden, he was ready to go and I was feeling stuck. I didn't want to get in his way, but I also wasn't sure I could make it through that much time without him, without losing my mind. He could finally sense that I wasn't happy about it, and suddenly one morning I just let it all spill. There were so many emotions playing into this. After so many months of him working nearly every weekend, this summer was supposed to be our time as a family. At the same time, I feel like our time as husband and wife has been so limited, so it hurt that he was so eager to run off to Denver, when it seems like pulling teeth to even consider a weekend away for us. I felt like I'd be in a holding pattern the whole time--getting time to accomplish anything is almost impossible with two kids. Going to the gym, keeping the house in one piece, going shopping...everything would be so much harder. And again, it would be different if this was for work, but it wasn't.
Over and over in my head I kept thinking, how would it be if I was in his position and he didn't want me to go? But the thing is, I can't even fathom that. I wouldn't even be able to consider that much time away, so it's nearly impossible for me to consider how I would react. Craig doesn't really cook, and with Jacob's special dietary needs, I'm pretty sure if I was gone for 10 days, they'd all be subsisting on cereal, PB&J, and McDonald's. Even when I'm gone a couple hours, I feel like he's quite eager to pass the kids back to me when I walk back in the door. Maybe that's just my perspective, and I know it's hard because Jacob monopolizes him like crazy, but I have no idea what would happen if I was gone for an extended period of time. I guess I would just know better than to even dream about going away for 10 days. Things change when you become a parent, and I guess sometimes you have to make tough decisions as a result.
Oh, and as an added twist to this, I've been thinking a lot about marriage in general lately. I have this page-a-day calendar that I got as a Christmas gift. Most of it had been fine, but sometime in June it started talking about marriage. And while I tried to appreciate the spirit of the messages, it really started to bug me. It was very old-fashioned advice and it was focusing on the passages that talk about a wife submitting to her husband. It was giving tips about preparing for your husband's daily return home. Give the kids a snack so they're not whining. Hang up the phone so you're available when he arrives. Put on some lipstick and make sure you don't look like you've had a hectic day. Be physically available for him. Like I said, I tried to appreciate the spirit of the advice--pray for your husband, try to make him happy and make him feel loved--but in this day and age of working moms, why should I add even more to my full plate just to make his life so much easier? Why shouldn't he do the same for me? We should strive for that, yes, but where is the fine line between being supportive and risking sanity? So, with all that in mind in the weeks leading up to this trip, I felt very torn about what to do.
Ultimately, I had to share my feelings with him. I wish that those feelings were different, but they weren't. I didn't want that anger and frustrating building inside of me. Even still, once I got it all off my chest, I told him to go. All the plans were made, and quite honestly, I felt like a lot of the "damage" was already done. It was clear how eager he was to go. While his argument was that I never told him (prior to that one morning) not to go, I reminded him that he never directly asked me if I was okay with him going, either. I think he knew the answer wouldn't be yes, so he didn't want to ask the question. Whereas I would agonize like crazy if I was in his position, it seemed like an easy choice for him. Maybe that's a testament to the trust he has in me, but it just felt like he wasn't really considering the full impact. I know that wasn't his intent, but it still didn't feel good on my end. The thing was, I'd survive him being gone--I wouldn't like it, but I'd survive--but what bugged me more was that I was even in that position in the first place. Ultimately I didn't want to have to be the one who told him not to go. I wanted him to consider on his own why it might not be a great idea.
Despite me telling him to go, of course he didn't. I didn't want this to turn into a guilt/manipulation thing, but I guess there was probably no other option. Now that competition has started in Denver, he's wishing he was there. While I'm thankful he's not, I also feel bad that I'm the reason why. I don't like that, but again, I was having a very hard time changing my feelings about the trip so it was either let that anger fester and let him go, or let it out and be the reason he stays. Neither one is a good option.
So...now what? Well, it's sort of along the same lines that I talked about in regards to our anniversary. We need to focus on our relationship. Our kids are important, work is important, taking care of the house and spending time with our extended family is important. But this family doesn't work right if we're not right. And while we're really fine, I think it's sometimes more of a passive fine. Nothing's wrong, but nothing's outstanding either. We're getting through day-by-day however we know how. We're tired, we're both at our limit many days, so it's hard to put in the effort to communicate well and focus on each other. We're interrupted constantly by the kids, and when they're asleep, we're both too spent to do much but veg out in front of various electronics. If one of us goes to bed even five minutes before the other, the odds of that person staying awake long enough to talk is pretty slim. For the first time in the 11 years we've been married, I'm truly aware of how much work marriage can involve. It was never really that clear to me before, but now it is. We're far from critical, but I want ensure we never get anywhere near that point. We somehow need to focus on ourselves before we turn into one of those couples that wakes up in 20 years and realizes that we put so much time and effort into our kids that we have nothing else in common once they're finally out of the house. Whether that's a few more date nights (or lunch dates, for that matter), an overnight, a weekend, or a longer trip away, I don't know. Maybe it's just making a concerted effort to set aside an evening to snuggle, or forcing ourselves to go to bed earlier and at the same time so we have time to chat in bed. It's about being communicative, even when you might not like the response, but being ready to talk through it regardless. It's about teaching the kids that interrupting is not okay and that if Mommy and Daddy need to talk, they need to learn to be quiet. It's about turning off the electronics, or focusing together on one. All easier said than done, I know. But I don't just want to get by, I want to excel at this marriage thing. Before kids, that wasn't hard, but now it takes a concerted effort, and I think we've been too busy to notice that. Until now. I get it, and I'm grateful that it all became so clear to me before it became a real problem.
Marriage can be hard. Parenthood can be harder. But mix the two (and throw in a few speed bumps) and you have a daunting challenge. I've seen too many good marriages end to assume that anyone is immune, but you can bet I will do everything in my power to never go down that road. Not only do I think marriage is worth working for, but the last thing I'd ever want to deal with is lawyers or court rooms or custody agreements. That alone is motivation to work harder, and I say that every time I hear someone's horror story. But ultimately, the true motivation is that image of growing old together...having a long, happy marriage with two great kids, a plethora of happy memories, and a bright future...to love, honor, and cherish as long as we both shall live.