My husband is a careful man. He’s cautious and predictable, sturdy and stable. He worries. He double and triple checks. He analyzes the placement of the knives on the countertop and not-so-slyly checks the lock on the oven door when I’m cooking dinner. He makes sound financial choices and he’s conservative with our money, despite my spontaneous day trips and deep desire to run away and live on an island in the Pacific.
‘But what about the boys?’ He says when he can tell I need him to entertain the idea, most commonly after a long day at the office and an exhausting evening chasing around our two- and three-year old.
‘What about them?! They’d love it. Think of all the things they could see and do!’
‘I’ll think about it.’ He says with a smirk. That’s my queue to do something more productive with my time. He doesn’t daydream and refers to mine as ‘crazy’ and, on his off days, ‘insane’. Maybe they are, it’s hard for me to tell. I don’t always comprehend the limitations of age or common sense as well as other adults. It’s both a fault and a guilty pleasure of mine.
Early in our relationship, my husband – while confiding his hesitations about us to one of his friends – labeled me a ‘flight risk’. Sometimes, still today, when we’re having conversations he can’t wrap his head around he’ll say things like, ‘you’re such a hippie’ followed by ‘life just doesn’t work like that’. I usually bitterly respond with ‘But can’t it?’ or ‘But why not?’
His answers are never satisfying.
We are opposites and in nearly every way it has proven to be for the best, except in the one way we have yet to see: parenthood.
He tells the boys to be careful, I tell him to let them be. He prefers they sit in carts at the grocery store to contain their behavior, I insist we should let them explore. He gets angry when they’re not careful with their chocolate milk because he doesn’t want to deal with the spills – or the melt downs. And while I can’t blame him, I get frustrated because I don’t understand how they’re going to learn the consequences if we keep preventing them from making the mistakes. He says I should stop letting them listen to the explicit version of Kesha’s album and I don’t see a problem with them singing ‘I’m a motherfucking boss, baby!’ at the top of their lungs. He is cautious and rational while I just don’t see what the big deal is.
I worry about things like what school the boys will go to and if we’ll financially be able to give them opportunities to see the world. I worry we aren’t equipped with the tools to build empathetic, kind and light-hearted humans. I worry we won’t equip them with the tools they need to weather the storms, lift up their communities or properly love their friends and family. I worry our time is too limited.
I worry from the top down while my husband worries from the bottom up.
He worries about the little things, the day-to-day and moment-to-moment things. He hates family trips, whether it be to the zoo or the store, because they’re full of undesirable possibilities and wayward outcomes. He worries about tantrums and that the trip will be longer than he has the patience for; he worries the boys will miss their naps and the rest of our day will be shot; he worries the boys will terrorize other patrons – or each other – to the point of absolutely no enjoyment; he worries they won’t listen and put themselves in danger; he worries they’ll spill something or our youngest will have a blowout and the trip will become an endless cycle of misery.
In the game of parenthood, these are all rational worries but I live for family trips. I believe exploration and risky play are valuable. I believe, even at the age of two and three, that autonomy is important. My husband says, ‘they’ll never remember it’ as a valid reason for not partaking in family adventures but, for me, whether they’ll remember isn’t the point – their minds and the way they work are altered only through their experiences and, for me, THAT is the point. I see the bigger picture and envision the payoff in the long-term; he sees the right now and the minimal pay-off in the short-term.
We live in a society where we’re frequently asked, ‘Which person do you want to be? The person who sees the glass half full or the one who sees the glass half empty?’ as if one is right while the other is wrong. My husband sees the glass as half empty. I see the glass as half full. And neither of us are right or wrong. We are two are fundamentally different people. At the end of the day, it’s not how we see the glass’ content but rather how we come to agree on the potential of the whole glass that’s important.
They say opposites attract and I can see why – the balance, when it’s good, is really good – but I’ll admit, it’s hard work. It requires a lot of introspection (not to mention frustration management). We’re constantly reminding each other of how we differ and consistently asking each other – and ourselves – why? and why not? So far our work to achieve a successful balance has paid off but parenthood is bound to be our biggest challenge, currently and to come. The stakes are high, as are my hopes, but only time will tell.
Until then, the boys will probably to tow the line between caution and screaming explicit Kesha lyrics at the top of their lungs while I laugh and their Dad rolls his eyes and nervously breaks out in a cold sweat.