Yesterday I read a piece that one of my very favorite writers, Glennon Melton of Momastery, posted on her Facebook page.
I don’t typically love wordy, scholarly-type pieces, but I loved the SHIT out of this. Perhaps it says something about me that I considered this article “scholarly,” but I’ll own that. Part of why I love social media is that other people can filter through publications like the New York Times or The Atlantic and pick out interesting articles for me. Facebook is kind of like my personal concierge of reading material. So thank you, everyone who takes the time to read through various articles and then post it for people like me who don’t have time to peruse or chop vegetables because I’m too busy looking for the green blanket or finding batteries for the magic elephant that makes the baby sleep. I don’t do much without a toddler attached to my leg.
This is 34.
The article says that happily married couples share one common denominator: they’re kind to each other. I immediately commented, because I’m a big nerd.
Kindness. It’s so simple. But it’s so, so hard. I know this because I read that article that Glennon posted while riding in a car with screaming, tired children. I don’t think Robbie and I ever had a problem being kind to each other before we procreated. We are well-matched, enjoy each other’s company and call each other out on unacceptable behavior. I think we used to think the other person was hilarious and smart and hot and all of the things you think about someone when you’re madly in love with them. All was relatively smooth, easy, even — for a solid 5 years. And then we became parents.
All of the sudden, nothing he did was right. Nothing he said was right. There were times when I was convinced I married some asshole and I made a huge mistake and I’m sure he thought the same of me. Some of it was hormonal, some of it was just the reality of operating on very little sleep under very stressful conditions.
I saw every flaw, in both of us. It was hard to be kind. But we persisted, and we fought through that valley, came out on the other side and did it all over again two more times. It takes work and practice to be kind when you don’t want to be. When I’m trying to talk to him and kids are running and screaming, I get mad at them all, Robbie included. I want to yell at everyone, SHUT UP AND ACT RIGHT. Sometimes I do.
When Robbie forgets to take out the garbage, it takes work for me to be kind. I really just want to yell, WHAT THE HELL, MAN. THE KITCHEN SMELLS LIKE ASS AND IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT. Sometimes I do.
This is why they say kids are hard on a marriage. Children add a level of stress that is unmatched, and you just have to figure out how to deal with it and still be kind to the person who helped you create them.
Last week we took a family trip to the beach, and I was reminded once again that a vacation with small children is not a vacation at all — it is a TRIP and it is EXHAUSTING. We were on our way down I-10 and I was holding Robbie’s hand. No one needed anything. No one was crying. I let my thoughts drift, thinking how nice it was that we were all together and everyone was happy, when we heard a rush of air and realized that Asher had somehow opened the car door with his foot and was working on getting out of his carseat. “Lemme out,” he said.
Oh my God. These children.
I found myself yelling at Robbie, fuming at him for not PULLING THE CAR OVER RIGHT THIS MINUTE so I could tighten Asher’s carseat straps and put the child lock on. But we were on a bridge, and he was worried about me getting hit by a semi, so he kept going while I clung to Asher’s feet (to make sure he didn’t do it again) and yelled at him to stay put.
He responded by repeating, “Lemme out.”
Robbie drove to the nearest exit and pulled over, indignant over why I was so angry at him. He was not the one who caused the problem. He was just trying to keep us all safe. I wasn’t thinking about my own safety; I was only concerned about my child. The stress of the situation made me lash out at my partner, and I was not kind. I imagine this is what most couples go through, children or not. Life is stressful. Kids open car doors with their feet. Weird things happen.
It takes effort, real work, to be kind to the person that you love the most. I hope that when the kids are older and have a better understanding of things like gravity and the possibility of drowning, Robbie and I will have more time to hold hands and let our minds wander. It’s a good thing our kids are cute and my husband is hilarious, smart, and hot. Otherwise, I’m not sure I could handle any of them.