Friday, May 21, 2010

Sometimes it's Better to Just Hang up the Phone

Yesterday was big, and it was hard on us...on all of us.  Big Sprout celebrated a milestone birthday, and he never likes to have birthdays in the absence of his dad.  It has been a longer stint with my husband gone, and both me and the kids are starting to show signs of wear.  Littlest Sprout gets physically violent (mind you, she is four and half-laughing as she does it), but she will sprint across the room and tackle down her brother at his knees.  He laughs too, but it is a very real attempt at getting out frustration and aggression.  Big Sprout wears his emotions on his sleeve, and the birthdays he has had to spend without dad have often resulted in some loss of privilege. Yesterday was no exception, but the "trouble" he got himself in this year was at school.  Middle Sprout quietly keeps things together while her bookend siblings are tearing things apart, and then when she has bottled enough, it comes out in champagne-cork popping fashion. I anticipate an emotion explosion sometime this weekend.  Add to all of that the fatigue that spring brings, responsibilities that remain at work for me, and you have a perfectly disastrous recipe for a bad phone conversation.

Proud of myself, though. I think that I have identified that Middle Sprout and I deal with emotional stress in the same way.  During the day, I put on an air of calm (tongue in cheek, because even yesterday I wasn't able to stay totally calm with the kids), and then when the kids are sleeping, my husband's voice is on the other end, and my walls drop, I pop the top.  Last night, I made the other decision.  Instead of staying on the phone too long, and letting my own little emotional volcano spew all over my husband, I abruptly ended the conversation and went to bed.  I used to hold tightly to the idea that I should never go to bed if my marriage was in that angry place, and in the past I would have tried to draw out that frustration for much longer than necessary.  I read recently though, that it is a myth that you should never go to bed angry.  When you are so gosh dang tired, it makes no sense to try to fix things, and a morning perspective is often much clearer. Things do look better this morning, and I have every confidence that today's conversation will be much better.

I suppose it is a good thing that we all miss my husband that much, but the kids and I can cling to each other while he's gone.  Sometimes I forget that he doesn't have someone on his end to cling to, and I'm glad I made the decision to get off the phone...he doesn't need the reminder that his absence is hard on us. He doesn't need to be the one fielding my frustration. When he is my only sounding board for emotional stress and then when the frustrations include him, I sound accusatory.  I  want to simply vent sometimes, and at least with my husband, he wants to then take what frustrates me and fix it.  He can't fix then he gets frustrated too.  I just wrote myself to an epiphany...  Note to self...either write out frustrations prior to a phone conversation, or call a good friend and tell her, "hey...I just want to talk and you need to do nothing more than listen", or if it's too late to call up a friend and/or I'm too tired to get a single letter down on next best solution is to just hang up the phone.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Seeing my Husband's Reflection in the Bonfire

I sometimes learn more about my husband in his absence than I do when he is right here beside me.  Today marks the start of week four that he has been gone, and the connection he and I have seems to be deepening.  There is the part that happens to my heart in his absence...I do grow a little fonder, but there is also something else transforming in me.

My husband grew up in Minnesota and I in Colorado.  During these months when he has to leave for work, he goes to Colorado, and I stay in Minnesota.  I'm glad that I get to experience Minnesota spring and summer, and thrilled that I get to do it through the eyes of our kids.

Weekends are usually the hardest for me.  People are huddled with their families and it is too much of an imposition to ask to crowd in at their dinner tables. Often baseball and soccer schedules keep people moving, and since we are in our lull from sports, it gets hard to stay connected to people around here.  Not this weekend.

Friday night we spent on our own, but something very Minnesotan happened for us on Saturday.  We know the people in our neighborhood much better than in past years...and I must tell you that it seems somewhat dependent upon fire...winter makes it seem like nothing but cars and snow blowers occupy the houses around us, but you can find groups of warmly-clothed folks warming themselves around a fire. 

Saturday night, when I had walked one of my son's friends' home, we found ourselves included in the bonfire that was happening among those neighbors.

"Mom!  Mom!  Can we stay for their bonfire?  PLEEAASE?" my kids begged and Big Sprout ran back with his buddies before I could even really make a decision.  Bonfires are not something that I grew up doing.  I was taught to be terrified of fire and fireworks because even just thinking about those things could start a forest fire.  But Minnesota is different.  This fire was in a pit in the ground, right in the middle of their back yard,  and the adults crowded around it in chairs while the kids ran around playing games.

We left that bonfire party, I put the kids to bed and then I saw one of our cul-de-sac neighbors also stoking a fire.  I sneaked over with my glass of wine and sat visiting under the stars.  The older kids in the cul-de-sac played kick the can (which the adults had to teach them) and I started to know just a little more about the heart of my husband.

Minnesota is bonfires and boating...fenceless yards and spontaneous community. People work hard and play hard and they have a laid back attitude about who shows up at the party.  That is my husband.  Informal and inclusive, hard-working but fun too, and learning this without the present-day him around, is like being handed the gift of a marshmellow on a roasting stick.