Thursday, February 26, 2015

Miss Perception

I am becoming more and more convinced that men and women have such a hard time understanding each other because we understand the world very differently. It's not that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, because that would mean that we live in the same solar system. It's more like men are from Sakaar and women are from Krypton. Different worlds, different galaxies, different universes, different studios even. However, with enough communication and plenty of reminders, we do somehow seem to bridge the gap when necessary.

So MyTy and I had an argument last week, which rarely happens. Neither one of us is overly emotional or unwilling to share our thoughts, so we tend to talk things over before they become arguments. This usually ends in both of us getting only half of what we want, but then that's the mark of a true compromise. However, in any relationship, there will be the recurring issues that have to be resolved, again and again, due to personality differences or varying priorities. This particular argument was centered around my apparent inability to get my clothes successfully into the hamper, along with one or two minor complaints I had against MyTy.

On that note, just for a moment, I do have to admit that it is remarkable how I can focus so entirely on the simple act of putting an object into a receptacle when I'm on the basketball court, but completely lose interest when the object is a pair of underwear or a sock and the receptacle is a hamper. When I play ball with the guys after work, I am trying to think two or three moves ahead, taking powerful blows from opponents blocking me out of the key or setting picks for me to run full-speed into, all just to revel in the moment when I finally make a basket. My heart swells every time I make a three-point shot, which is usually out of range for me, and I go through a minute or two of self-loathing whenever I miss a shot that I know I can make, especially when the game is close. If I don't shoot at least 50%, I make myself stay after and shoot fifty more baskets before I leave the court. Often, I come home and brag about how many points I made, and I can report them in either overall points, points per game, or game averages. Then, I generally take off my sweaty clothes, throw them at the hamper, sink only about 20%, and get in the shower feeling perfectly fine with myself. I say all of this simply to say that my wife may have a legitimate gripe on this issue.

Anyway, this was the argument, which included some colorful language and some quasi-raised voices on both sides. If you don't know what "quasi-raised" voices are, then you've never tried to work out an issue while your toddler sleeps in the next room. From the outside, it looks a little like watching an action scene in a Will Smith movie, but with the volume turned all the way down to six or seven. Afterwards, however, we came to a compromise and apologized on both sides, hugged it out, and breathed a little easier, knowing that all was right in Christendom once again.

This is where the difference in perception comes in. A few days later, we ended up talking about the argument with a third party, and MyTy called it a BIG FIGHT. I actually got confused, because I didn't remember any other fight but that one, and I didn't consider it to be a BIG FIGHT. From my point of view, it was just working things out, albeit a little strenuously, and when it was over, I just felt very relieved that I had gotten to say what I wanted and that we weren't angry with each other any more. I really didn't think about it much after that. I have been involved in BIG FIGHTS before, and that wasn't one, at least not to me. Apparently, my wife was a little more rattled by it than I was.

I'm definitely not concerned about the state of the union, but my real concern is this: given the different lenses that we use to view the world, how am I supposed to know when we are in a BIG FIGHT? Or is every argument a BIG FIGHT?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

All Out Confusion for the Baby

Young children in blended families experience a great deal of confusion, or at least that's what my toddler tells me. I forget sometimes that just because I have the custody arrangements for her older brother and sister figured out, that doesn't necessarily mean that they actually make any kind of logical sense. So on the couple of days in the week when her brother and sister are sleeping at their mother's house, my two-year-old daughter either misses them quite a bit, or just assumes that they are around, and she can't find them. Some mornings, after getting dressed and watching her shows while I do the same, she announces that she's going to find her brother or sister, and no amount of explanation or logic can dissuade her. If she can't see them, then they must be in the bathroom. Once she searches the bathroom, she goes knocking on their bedroom door. After she looks in their bedrooms, including the closets, she goes back to the bathroom, or the den, or the kitchen, or outside. After about five minutes, she's satisfied that they're really not there, but I'm not sure if she understands that they have another mommy that they stay with sometimes.

However, the worst thing happened this morning - something that I kind of knew was coming, but didn't know when. The older kids obviously don't call my wife "Mom." In fact, it took some real negotiation to come up with a name for them to use that was appropriate for their step-mom, but not offensive to their bio-mom. The name we settled on was MyTy, a kind of derivation of her real name.

So, this morning, the baby asked me, "Where's MyTy?"

I wasn't sure what she was saying at first, but she repeated the question three or four times. And I get it - she hears her brother and sister use that name all the time, so why not her. Plus it was a particularly confusing morning, as everybody's schedule was off. The kids were there already when she woke up, when normally they would be at their mom's, and my wife was gone before the baby had a chance to say goodbye, since there was a big project at work, and she had to be on the road even before first light. So I corrected her the best I could, but it was still difficult, and I know she was confused.

It makes me wonder what else is coming.

The thing is, I don't think it makes much sense to try to explain these things to her, at her age, and we can't anticipate what sense her mind is going to make of things. So until she's old enough to really understand, maybe another couple of years, we'll just have to help her out when times like this come.

Although, I'm really glad my wife wasn't there when it happened.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Date Night Is a Joke

We have made a point of maintaining "date night" since we got married, but lately, it's just not as fun as it used to be. We set aside every Thursday night, mainly because that's the only night we are guaranteed not to have the big kids at home, and we even have a budget for it that we take out of the bank in cash every month, so that the money won't be an issue. Everything should be perfect for weekly romantic excursions, right? They were, actually, before we had the baby, which was basically the first few months of our marriage, but lately, because we don't have anyone close by who can watch our now two-year-old for a couple of hours unless we pay them, and if we have to pay someone, then there goes the date night budget, before we even leave the house.

So, we had an epiphany the other night. We were sitting in Pei Wei, waiting for our order, trying to calm our daughter, who, while normally very well-behaved in restaurants, was justifiably upset that the food was taking longer than usual. The fact was, the food wasn't really taking all that long, but we were all so hungry when we got there that even a ten minute delay was enough to put all three of us over the edge. Picture us, two parents trying to pacify a child with juice or soda which she never gets to drink, placating her with fortune cookies, which she doesn't even recognize as food, and generally having a miserable time, focusing every bit of attention on the baby instead of each other. Once the food came, we were frustrated about the fact that we were pushing it so far past the baby's bedtime that we'd have a heck of a time getting her to sleep, and so between the time crunch and our hunger, we were scarfing down our teriyaki chicken and brown rice like two heathens with no table manners.

At some point, I looked up at my wife and said, "This just isn't fun anymore. I don't like doing this."

She immediately dropped her shoulders and said, "Oh, thank God, I thought it was just me."

From that night we decided that it was too much pressure to try to maintain this night on the town type of tradition, and that some of the best date nights we had were when we both gave in to our laziness and agreed to stay order some food and stay home (but just this once! Next week we're doing something fancy!). Those nights, the baby can play near us in the den and pretty much ignores us as long as her toys work. We can eat in peace, watch a movie, play a game, with minimal interference. And when the time comes to put her to bed, we just put the flick on pause for ten minutes, run down the bedtime routine, and then get back to business, whether we finish the movie or not, if you know what I mean ;). It's a much better situation than forcing ourselves to make the extra effort to eat out, and another added benefit that we didn't anticipate at first was that by saving so much money on tips and extra food, we ended up only using half the date night budget by the end of the month, which means that if we do decide to eat out, it doesn't have to be Chili's with coupons; it can actually be a fancy restaurant that we don't get the chance to try that often.

Still, we want it to be kind of special, and not to devolve into watching Anchorman 2 on the couch, eating McDonald's out of the bag, in our gym clothes. So we try to do something special each week - special but cheap. Also easy. Also PG enough that the baby can be in the room, at least until she goes to bed. The first idea we had was a chocolate tasting, with different types of fancy chocolate. We spent about $12 on different samples of various chocolates, ranging from milk chocolate to very dark, and actually found that we liked some of the darker chocolates better than the safer ones we usually stick to. The idea came from this website, and it really went well. Then we complemented it by my introducing my wife to one of my favorite martial arts movies, Chocolate, and eating some nice, light sushi to cleanse the palate. Overall, it was great, no hassle, no frustration, no time limits, and everybody, including the baby, had a good time. From now on, it's date night at home until we get some reliable babysitting.