Scintilla Day 3: What's the story of the most difficult challenge you've faced in a relationship? Did you overcome it? What was the outcome?
Things I thought about and discarded:
1. My husband going bald
2. My husband liking the Three Stooges
3. That time my boyfriend said he didn't like that I smelled of woodsmoke.
4. The Lost finale. No wait, that was my friend Collette's relationship. Jury's still out on if their marriage will survive.
Okay. In all seriousness. We've been lucky. Very, very lucky. We haven't had to deal with terminal or serious illness, serious financial difficulties or horrible in-laws (on either side. My husband adores my parents and I love his mother. His father is a bit of a space cadet, but well-meaning). So I'd have to say that the major challenge to our marriage has been...
Before I had kids I totally bought into that whole "it's more selfish to have kids than not to have them" poppycock. I said those very words to validate people who said they didn't want to have children.
I don't say them any more.
I think not wanting to have children is perfectly fine. I think it's admirable to know yourself that well and not to have kids just because people expect it of you. I think there are lifestyles and careers that it would be very difficult to incorporate parenting into, and good on you if you realize that. I'm sure it's very challenging and time-consuming to run a Fortune 500 company, or train for the Olympics, or split atoms or whatever.
But none of them are more challenging or time-consuming than trying to convince a sixteen-month-old that he should quit sticking his head into the space between the CD cabinet and the wall because it ALWAYS GETS STUCK. Or trying to get a spoonful of barley cereal into a nine-month-old's mouth when she's decided that said mouth will not be accepting barley cereal today, thank-you very much. Or...well you get the point, and this post is not about that.
We lived together before we got married. Marriage was not a huge transition for us. Before we had children, we were a case study in couples who communicated well, respected each other's feelings and generally made other people nauseous with the little hearts that floated up from our joined hands.
Children, on the other hand? Children were like a nuclear bomb. My husband always knew he would have children. My husband is fantastic with children. He had a brother born ten years after him so, when we had Angus, he taught ME how to change a diaper. I always thought I would probably had children, but I knew, with absolute certainty, that I would suck at it (positive thinking is not one of my strengths).
If anyone disagrees that having small children is hard on a marriage, I look at them with extreme suspicion. Before we had kids, when my husband traveled for business it meant I got to use the car, watch scary movies and have popcorn for dinner. After we have kids, when my husband traveled for work it meant I cried a lot, slept even less than usual and flipped through the yellow pages looking for divorce lawyers. Before we had kids, I didn't care that my husband loved hockey. After we had kids, this meant that my kid was going to play hockey. Before we had kids, our conversations contained phrases like "would you mind if" and "is it okay with you that" and "could you please". After we had kids, our conversations contained phrases like "keep your fucking voice down if you don't want to" and "would it destroy your soul to move the goddamned" and "If you think that then you're a moronic excuse for a".
I wasn't that great at parenting small children. I always felt like I was probably doing it wrong. On the other hand, I knew for sure that my husband was doing it wrong. I absolutely did that delightful thing that many, many mothers do - demanding that he help out more and then getting mad when he didn't do everything my way. Add to that the fact that I thought every sniffle and rash meant they had cancer, and that if he didn't react the same way he obviously loved them less, and .... yeah. Good times.
We got through it. The kids got older, and their needs became, if not less intense, less immediate and all-consuming. I learned to relax a little (shut up, I did so). My husband is a really great father. I am more hands-on in the day-to-day, but every once in a while he does something spontaneous and fabulous with them that they remember forever. He coaches them both in baseball, which I love to watch but can't understand, and he is fantastic at it. He helps with the math homework and I help with the reading and spelling. Everyone in the house is agreed that no matter what, Daddy never, never gets to pick anyone's clothes.
We're not back to being that sweet, harmonious, untested couple. We're something a little more battered and smudgy, and much, much stronger.
We are parents.