I’ve been meaning to put this post up for some time, but life has gotten in the way. Our main computer situation is still tenuous and I don’t have normal access to all the pictures I want. Did I mention how terrible it will be if we lose all our pictures? All my gazillions of thoughts and dreams about backing up photos, scrapbooking, uploading to off-site server, even making prints are for naught since I did not actually DO any of those things. I chose this picture because it represents, in some small way, what this post is about.
Several weeks ago my family was vacationing at the beach with my in-laws. It is a glorious time of eating delicious food, hearing peals of laughter from delighted children, basking in the sun, and watching the sunrise over the water. My father in law remarked near the close of the week that we are lucky to be in a family where we can actually spend a week together enjoying each other’s company and I have to say, that is no lie. Both J and I could not really have done better in the in-law category than we have. Both of us come from close, supportive, families who all enjoy spending time together. Our families are generous, wonderful to our kids, and best of all, they are all in the area. We are lucky lucky lucky.
Okay, now is the part where I transition and if you are my in-law, you have to bear with me. But there is also reality. Spending a week with anyone that you don’t normally live with is hard. Remember after the “honeymoon” phase of your freshman year of college, when you suddenly realized that your roommate had reorganized all your books and you could not fathom why. (I love you Kristi, but clearly size is no system for organization. Think–genre!) Remember after a few months of marriage how you looked at the back of the closet and speculated what your spouse could possibly be storing all those wires and phone implements for. Do you remember? (Maybe I am being too specific.) Well, I do remember. And in both of those occasions, I had to adjust my lifestyle, my expectations, and my priorities for the greater good. Survival of the relationship.
Every year at the beach, I get a little better at focusing on the greater good. But it is not easy. I start out pretty well, but as the week progresses and everyone else is relaxing more and more, I am getting wound up tighter and tighter. Here is the basic problem. I am high maintenance. And, I am not a beach person. I am a whiny whitey. I have sensitive, white, burnable skin. I don’t like the sticky, sandy, sweaty, salty, sunscreeny film that covers over life. It begins to cover over everything. My brain. My eyes. My hair. My children.
I also am bad at parenting publicly. Even though I know (or hope strongly) that my in-laws are not judging or critiquing me, I cannot help but feel that there is a vicious attempt on the part of my kids to always get diarrhea, fail to sleep, publicly meltdown, or require constant streams of television at just the moment when such behavior is least appreciated. And I have to smile and nod. I am not kidding when I claim that I physically encountered more sand in poop than sand on the beach. I washed the cushion on Anika’s high chair five times in one week–because of poop blow-outs! She never does that at home! (I mean, let’s face it. Here at home that thing is crusted in dried food, but fecal matter, well, that’s just over the line.)
In previous years, I have annoyed J, who of course loves the beach, with complaints about how unsuited I was for the tasks of public mothering and sunbathing. It is hard to say which is more painful for the onlooker. But this year, not being pregnant or toting a newborn was in my favor. I was ready for the beach. Honestly, I was excited. I was ready with my faux-low maintenance personality and my puzzle. (I like to do a puzzle at the beach.) Bedtimes for my kids, food rules, and routines . . . . out the window. Plus J and I also realized that taking a little family or couple time every day helps me in my quest toward NOT becoming a hystrionic or OCD. In that effort, on Wed night after the kids were in bed, J and I decided to go out in the kayak.
It was lovely. He rowed down the canal and the breeze blew softly. I just sat there decompressing from a harrowing bedtime with Dylan, who was crashing from his daily beach sugar rush. We were having a nice conversation about how great beach week was going this year and actually commenting on how well (after nearly 8 years, mind you) I was doing at adjusting to being a Ryder. For some reason, maybe the night air, maybe the tranquility, I began philosophizing, or thinking deep thoughts and we got to talking about the Oedipus complex and whether we agreed that it was man’s tendency to marry a woman like his own mother. We went through all our family and friends determining whether we thought the guy was an Oedipus or not. (Wouldn’t you like to know what we said about YOU?!)
And then it was my turn. So I said, “So do you think I am more alike or more different from your mom?”
Now here’s the thing, J could have gone on for several days, even years, discussing the ways in which my temperament is utterly and completely not like his mother, who is gracious, posed, serene, generous, and never fretful, silly, paniky or rash. He could have also listed a few areas we we share interests, like puzzles, gardening, decorating, teaching, or have similar tastes in clothing, colors, and style. (Did I mention my mother in law is amazingly’ cool? :))
But here is what my dear husband, who knows me better than anyone in the world, said.
And he was not drunk.
And he was not trying to flatter me for personal gain. (Since we were in a beach house with his parents and sister for crying out loud, sickos.)
This is what he really said after a long thoughtful pause, the oars dipping gently into the water.
“Well, you’re easy going like my mom.”
Did you catch that? EASY GOING!
Easy going . . . .and then the summer solstice wind and the dark night whipped gently past my lusciously smooth soft skin and my silken hair tossed wildly over my shoulders because . . . GOD BE PRAISED . . . my husband, who has seen me frantically rinsing poop out of the carpet of the upstairs beach house bathroom trying to maintain cleanliness, order, and the impression that all is well, has just told me that I am easy going.
Me, who assuredly still smells like bleach and may continue to for several days more, so thoroughly have I just disinfected each surface my little beasts have touched with their turdy sandy butts.
Me, whose coupon pile you have witnessed and whose anal meal plan and budget you are currently subjecting yourself to reading about.
Moreover, he actually believes it is true.
No one in all my 32 years of life has ever told me that I was easy going. Probably because I am not. But this is love, my friends. Allowing yourself to be deluded into thinking something utterly false about your spouse for the greater good. That is what J has done for me. He has believed me to be easy going.
Music to my ears.
I wonder how many years before I believe that I’m easy going. And how many more before I actually am easy going.
So, what are you going to believe about your spouse for the greater good?
7 thoughts on “The Greater Good”
I love this post for several reasons – we’re about to go on our own huge family beach trip and this made me think of how awful it can be… (we had a poop blow-out year too!) and how every year it just gets better and better. And it reminded me of all the times I’ve been at the beach with you and how I never really understood how you couldn’t just LOVE it. And the best of all, he thinks you’re easy going – I think he must have had sun-stroke, but like you said, that’s love 😉
Katrina- great post….we have much to look forward to in the parenting years…I do have to laugh at your Oedipus discussion…the only thing I could think of was what an awful mother Edna Pontillier was before she walked straight down the beach into the ocean to drown herself. Some awakening!
Haha, loved this post thoroughly. “Easy going . . . .and then the summer solstice wind and the dark night whipped gently past my lusciously smooth soft skin and my silken hair tossed wildly over my shoulders because . . .”
I read this post last year, and just read the whole thing again. (This is what happens when I wake up a little early and the baby has not yet woken up screaming in hunger). What I remembered with this read was that I have been to the beach with you–at least I think so. I’d have to pull out the church youth group beach trip pictures to be sure you were there, but I’m not sure either of us want those pictures to surface. My main memory from that beach trip is that a large majority of us got some major sunburn. I suppose the trip sticks in my memory because I have been on so few beach trips–only 4 that I can think of where I actually spent the night anywhere close to the beach. I have never been a fan of the beach. Growing up my parents tended to take us camping, mostly in the mountains, for vacations. They’ve never been beach people either. Hmmm…I guess it makes sense that they’ve finally moved from NC to CO… Anyway, we might be going to the beach in a couple weeks for the first time with kids, with my in-laws. I’m sure it will be quite the adventure. We’re headed to my in-laws in MA for a long weekend over the 4th of July, and they just discovered recently that Nathaniel has never been to the beach (other than a sandy “beach” along a lake) and decided that this must be fixed. Thankfully if we do go, it will only be a day trip, maybe even just a half day…we shall see. Not really looking forward to it, but hopefully I’ll get some good pictures…if I’m not too scared to let my camera near sand…
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