Ever since we had kids (and probably before although I didn't spend as much time feeling annoyed about it because we could always go out for a leisurely dinner and talk everything over) Jeremy and I have the same few fights over and over again. Slight variations, sometimes, but the one we had this evening is quintessential.
It's 5:05pm. Jeremy told me earlier in the day that he would be home from work "regular time" which is somewhere between 5:15 and 5:30. I have factored his presence into my mental preparations for the rest of the evening. He will probably hit the tail end of dinner (yes we eat early and no I don't always cook for him, unless he wants pizza bagels with the kids), hang out for awhile and then put at least one child to bed. (When he has to stay late at work, whether it is planned or unexpected, I am understanding. Seriously, I am.) (Not that I feel the need to justify my actions. Seriously, I don't).
So back to 5:05. The last strains of the Dora exist music are wafting into the kitchen, cheese is bubbling under the broiler, children and beginning to move towards the dinner table. The phone rings Jeremy's ring (I Wanna Do Bad Things To You, a la True Blood. tmi?) and I answer. He sounds tense which immediately pisses me off. If you are going to be tense when you call then why call at that time?
I'm putting this in quotes because it makes the retelling more immediate and compelling although I acknowledge it may not be a verbatim account of the conversation:
J - Hey babe. I'm having a crazy day. I was thinking about going to the gym after work. Would that be ok?
Me - Hey. Considering you are going out of town from Friday until Monday to run a marathon with your bff and that the weekend after that you are on call, I will be pissed if you go to the gym. Do it if you want.
J- I'll be home by 6 to tuck the kids in. Is it ok with you?
Me - I hate it when you do this. You put me in the position of having to be the bad guy and say no, so I'm not saying no. But I'm also not saying yes. I'm saying if you do it I will be pissed but I will get over it, and if you don't do it don't come home mad at me because I told you no to go.
J - ? Uh.... Ok......
(kid chaos in the background)
Me - I'm just feeding the kids so I have to go, bye.
J - ? .. Bye...
So this conversation pisses me off. "Is it ok if I go to the gym" means to me "Is it ok if you go ahead and deal with the hardest part of the day, 5 - 7pm, without me" and really, who is going to say yes to that? It's not even so much the being left with bedtime duty solo, it's the question. If he called and said either "I am going to the gym" or came home, helped with bed (I would even give him the "easy" child) and then went to the gym, I'd be good. It's the putting the onus of the decision on me so that I have to either pretend like I would love nothing more than to tuck my sweetly scrubbed (read: bathed once a week) babes into their freshly washed (read: not unless peed on) sheets, kiss their rosy (chapped) cheeks and hear nary a peep again until morn (yeah, right) or be a bitch.
Also, really? Because it's 5:09. So you're telling me that even though you are at work and still have some things to finish up you are going to drive to the gym, work out and make it home in 49 minutes? I am dubious.
Also, the kids are being total pains in the ass today. I have been known to call him and tell him if he wants to go to the gym I've got everything under control so he should feel free. I am always supportive when he wants to go out with friends (or meet one in California for a marathon..) Today, I was feeling beat down and like I could use a little support myself.
So here we are. We apologized to each other, put the kids to bed (I got the easy one, score!) and are about to sit down to look over the bill for our bathroom remodel. And that's it. Forgiven, but not resolved. Little stains of resentment remain, along with the knowledge that we will have this fight again, and again, and again.
I do think we learn a little every time - if not about how to avoid the fight, at least about how to do it better- quicker, avoid the most hurtful barbs, remember that we each have personality quirks that drive the other crazy and that if we want to be forgiven we need to forgive. My parents are in their early 60s and they still have the same fight they have been having since I was a kid, just in a more mellow, easily resolved, less exhausted and more loving way than they did 33 years ago. So let's hope that, if we are having this fight at the old folks home, at least we can laugh at ourselves and make up in time to hit the canned pears for dessert.