Sunday, June 29, 2008

Taking Care of Each Other


Sunday, June 15 was my birthday, which coincided with Father’s Day. I was born on Father’s day, and so every once and a while this overlap occurs.

When I woke up, I wanted to be nice to Craig, it being Father’s Day and all. And I knew he would be nice to me since it was my birthday. I told him that I would take care of the kids for the morning and I would cook him a nice dinner. I asked Craig if he would watch the boys while I went for a pedicure and if he would help the boys bake me a cake. He pleasantly agreed.

Mid-morning, Craig sat with the boys outside for an hour—not even his scheduled child time!—while they all made me birthday cards.

As I started making dinner that evening, I told Craig that I had a surprise for him—a large and fancy beer from Whole Foods. And Craig reached up onto the top of the fridge and pulled down some expensive tequila that he had gotten for me.

Later that evening when we were talking to Craig’s parents, I heard him say, “Well, it is Ser’s birthday, too, so we took care of each other,” apparently in answer to the question about what we had done to celebrate Father’s Day.

His answer really struck me to the core, because I realized that so often we don’t take care of each other. We usually don’t start each day wondering what we can do for one another. I start the day scheming about what I can get Craig to do so that my day will be pleasant, and he starts the day staring into space and thinking about who knows what he thinks about in that spacey yet excessively rational mathematician’s head of his.

And so often, we get stuck in the same circular arguments that all come down to this: who works harder, whose work is worth more, and whether each hour staying at home with the kids is equal to each hour spent outside the home earning income for the family. And when I write this down we sound so petty and ridiculous—which we are, sometimes, but also we both care about living in a way that is mutually satisfying.

In all of my long-term friendships, the dynamic has been much more what can I give rather than what can I get. But sadly, too often I find myself wondering what I can get from Craig.

I’m sure that much of this is normal and natural. Craig and I feel the need to be more careful with each other, I suppose, to work out patterns that are sustainable, while with friends we can be more carefree with our generosity. We leave friends at the end of the day. But with one another we must work out a rhythm that is repeatable again and again for the rest of our lives.

But if we were to take care of one another a little more, engage in carefree generosity more often, this forbearance might just become joy. Think of that. The moments of happiness and flickers of delight might just settle in and take up residence here in this, our shared life.

6 comments:

Martha-Lynn said...

Wow-- I can really relate to this, especially the part about starting my day scheming how to get Mr. Milkweed to help out in a way that works for me . It makes me feel so guilty to confront this in myself, which I do several times per week, so I'll go a few days feeling like I'm probably taking advantage of him and then I'll do all of the baby-care for a while and insist he hangs out with a friend so things feel more "equal."
Hmmm...I feel a spin-off blog post coming on!

And happy, happy birthday to you! The next time we get out, the movie's on me!

Jenny said...

Ser,

This is a beautiful post and a lovely insight into marriage. I think you're right about needing sustainable patterns in a marriage more than in a friendship, where you can be a little freer.

Will call soon!

Jenny

Molly Sabourin said...

I love this post, Ser. It is a great reminder to step outside of the chaos of family life and actually think about what we are communicating to our spouses - at least every once in awhile. I admit it, I'm a closet schemer too (other wise known as an "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" sort of partner). Isn't marriage fascinating?

Nancy said...

When Brian and I have the kind of "my day was harder-no, MY day was harder" discussion, I read somewhere that this is called a juniority contest, and that term was just beautiful.

I'm so glad you had a good birthday, and what you have written here is really lovely. I think those little kindnesses are definitely the currency of a good marriage.

so yung said...

Ah - a blog that I can actually relate with personally! I am blessed with my own family even if it's just us where 1+1 is still only adds up to two.

I was struck with the irony of my husband yelling "we need to stop treating each other this way!" at me during one of our sadly-usual-let's-be-mean-scenes. It's not easy being considerate to the person I should be the kindest to ... afterall, he would help me earn a glorious, beautiful, HUGE crown if only I would let him.

It's nice to see how thoughtful you and Craig were with each other on June 15th. Some folks just seem very natural together as life partners - like you and Craig.

Beck said...

Beautiful.
I am horribly guilty of neglecting my husband. We have lots of children, you see.