Wednesday, July 15, 2009

There's No Place Like Home?

After seeing the musical Wicked the other night (which was a completely amazing experience), I'm stuck with multiple Oz-related references resounding through my cranium. But Dorothy's famous click-of-the-slippers catchphrase hits me much closer to home than the lions and tigers and bears that we saw at the zoo today.

I've been at my mom's house for three weeks. This weekend, I'm packing up the kids and returning home. I sorta have to, right? After all, I do live there. I have bills to pay and obligations to fulfill, my kids are enrolled in swim lessons at the local community center in August and will be starting school again in September...and oh yeah, my husband is there.

My marriage has been so emotionally tumultuous over the past year that I was on the verge of filing for divorce a month ago. I changed my mind when my husband experienced what seemed to be a genuine change of heart just before I left. My only explanation for his apparent turnaround is that he could tell how disconnected I was from the relationship, and it helped something click for him. I can't quite explain it, but he acts much differently towards me now. I can tell that he is feeling things more deeply and has gained some awareness of his own emotion.

He calls it a miracle. If it turns out to carry any sustainability, I might use the same word.

That should be a good thing, right? Honestly, the lack of any deep sense of connection between the two of us was one of the biggest voids in our marriage. And it seemed that all of a sudden, his emotional light bulb went on--but it felt more like a stadium flood light than a 50-watt reading lamp.

That's typical for him, though. He's a very extreme person overall. With him, there is almost never such a thing as a middle ground. His positive emotions are smothering and his negative emotions are crippling. And now, even though I can clearly sense that he feels things much differently than he has before, I am still very much aware that he is still the same highly intense person he has always been.

I want love to grow in my marriage, without a doubt. But it feels like his love for me has turned from a tiny seed into a mighty oak overnight, and any love I might feel for him is still a young, tender shoot that needs gentle and proper care--not a sudden blast of desert sun doused with a tsunami of water, but something warm, nurturing, and appropriate.

Although I feel ready to go back home and get back into my regular routine with my kids, I carry with me a sense of dread about the emotional roller coaster ride that awaits me. Caring for my husband is a hell of a lot of work. I hadn't realized how much until being away from him for a while. And ultimately, I've been much happier while not having to live with all that uncertainty about what my day to day life will be like.

Living with my parents can be difficult, for sure, but at least it's predictably so. I know my mom is anal about crumbs on the counter and dishes in the sink, I know my dad is rather silent and endearingly protective, and I know that my kids have to clean up after themselves around here or they'll send my mother to an early grave.

But I can always count on that, every day. It's secure. It's stable. It carries a vague sense of lunacy and a slight air of dementia, but those things feel comfy here because they have always been a part of this house. It's much easier than living with a person whose personality is so naturally volatile that he can seemingly turn from an arrogant bastard into a smothering emotional flood overnight.

I have been able to discuss some of these feelings with my husband over the phone, and I can tell by his responses that he is listening and understanding at least a portion of what I'm saying. But the conversations feel eerily vacuous when I lack the ability see his face or read his body language, and I can't feel confident that the person I will be living with when I get home will be at all receptive to my efforts to communicate with him.

I'm going home because I live there, because I want to give my marriage another chance, and because I know my husband needs me. But I wish I needed him as much as he needs me. I wish that I was going home with a sense of excitement and anticipation. I wish that I really missed my husband and couldn't wait to see him again. I wish that I could trust him to ask me what I need from him instead of assuming that he has already figured it out.

But mostly, I wish that I could be as certain as Dorothy that there's no place like home.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Can't live with 'em, can't sell 'em on Craigslist.

I've noticed a lot of my mommy friends are encountering the same stressful problem right now. Our seemingly delightful offspring are fighting more and it's bugging the snot out of us all. Summer is here and we're still trying to get everything done that we normally do, only now we've got all these little needy people in the house and no school to send them off to during the day...and they're BORED little needy people.

Planning things to keep them busy will work to cut the fighting down a lot, but I know I'm not always that on-the-ball. So when we fall asleep at the Parental Wheel and the fighting begins, what can we do to keep our cool?

There are a couple of quick and easy fixes, that I use myself, They really will work. I just need to remember them in my day.

Say this. Don't think about it, just say it.

"I charge a dollar a minute to listen to children argue. Solve it yourselves."

Then look at the clock. Those kids will skedaddle out of there faster than you can blink. If it comes to fisticuffs, so be it. They'll learn other ways of solving their disagreements without bringing you into it.

For those kids who have no sense and very few cents, toys can be easily substituted for cash. Only the most awesomely cool, most played with toys are confiscated. Then they have the opportunity to earn the toys (or money) back by replacing the energy they drained out of you in doing some extra chore(s).

One for the tweens and/or teens who need to be chauffeured everywhere is this little gem: "I'll drive you to (wherever) as soon as ____, ____ and ____ are done." If these ____s are not completed before it's time to leave, the kid doesn't go. Simple as that. Their friends' birthday parties are not a grade requirement.

Whatever you need to get done today, make your job less stressful by getting those able-bodied young'uns to help. They live there, too. Home is more than a place for them to eat and sleep and ask for sh*t.

These are actually a couple of techniques I picked up from Parenting with Love and Logic, and although I can't take credit for them, I can certainly tell you that Love and Logic really does work.

Even the toddlers can do this stuff! It keeps me ahead of the AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH Moments when I remember to use it.

I hope I've just made your day easier. If you like these, use them. If you don't, forget them. Just remember that we DON'T have to do it all. Really. Keep your cool. It's summer and it's a jungle out there.