I met my husband when I was twenty years old. Most people enter marriage with their parents’ old china and Velvet Elvis paintings; we had those plus abandonment issues, histories of domestic assault, and a complete inability to communicate on every level – oh, and youth, which is arguably the greatest obstacle we had to overcome.
During the first decade of our lives together, we grew up together, grew apart together, fell out of love, figured out who we were as individual people, fell back in love with those people, and had three children. And today I can say that we’ve finally figured this “married with kids” thing out.
Well, yesterday we had it figured out. Today my husband and I fought in front of our children for the first time ever – like, in twelve and a half years of having kids ever. I don’t mean to say that we don’t ever fight because god knows we do; it’s just that, when we fight, we make sure our kids never see it. We both come from split families – I had the domestic assault one; his had the abandonment – so we’ve worked really hard to keep our crap between us. Sure, we fight, but we don’t do it often, and when we do, it’s in private and it’s over almost as soon as it starts.
Usually, I will start being an insane a**hole and he’ll tell me to go take a five-minute walk to sort it out. Or he’ll open a big, fat can of jerkface and I’ll tell him to check it before I am forced to wreck it. (That usually works.) We’ve learned over the years to mitigate each other’s mood-swings, and, because of that, our kids had never once born witness to anything more than a long scowl or a stern “Other room, NOW.”
But today it would seem that my Mercury was firmly lodged in his Uranus, because while I was trying to get my middle son to clean the damn bathroom, my husband decided that at that very second, that same child needed to take the vacuum to his brother. I was so sick and tired of trying to get the kid upstairs to the bathroom, I told my son no. And my husband told him yes. So I told my husband no, and he told me to f— off, and I told him to shove it, and he threw the vacuum, and I told him to get the f— out.
Because we’re five, that’s why.
Meanwhile, my nine-year-old was just standing there, watching this whole parade of lunacy unfold before him, and as soon as dad walked out of the room, he started to cry.
Because we’re fantastic parents, that’s why.
He cried and told me he was scared. I held him and reminded him that he fights worse than that with his brother every day, pointed out that I am a pain in the butt and his dad is an overbearing know-it-all and we’ve lived together for 15 long, long years. So of course we fight sometimes.
And now I don’t know if I’m sad that my kid had to see us acting like three-year-olds or if I’m secretly a little glad that he witnessed an argument that resolved itself within ten minutes with a big hug and two unprompted and very sincere apologies (that I made sure happened right in front of that kid) and then ice cream, because ice cream cures all evils. Am I wrong to think that I should be teaching him that it’s okay to have conflicts and that the world doesn’t end when you have them? Because I lived thirty years thinking one raised voice meant the End Of Civilization as we know it, and I never learned how to fight and get over it until I had to learn the hard way.
Perhaps that’s a rhetorical question. I just worry sometimes that my kids think their parents’ marriage is this perfect, happy-go-lucky thing and because of that, when their time comes, they will have no clue how to deal with the reality of marriage – the reality that our partners are all, on occasion, more than a little crazy, but we love each other through it anyway.