This is Why We Hate Each Other

man-couple-people-womanThe following is based on a true incident. This could be your life. It might be mine, but if you have kids it’s happened to you.

A paralyzing silence permeates the house. It’s silent treatment time for the grownups. The weekend has been looong and tensions are running high. A couple of hours ago the teen and the tween refused to go to bed. The toddler and the baby were howling in solidarity.

Mom and dad had words. Anger can be a drug and perhaps we both overindulged. Our simmering cold war escalated quickly. The kids who could walk sprinted upstairs and the baby knew silence was the winning strategy. Go team!

Nothing like a little drama on Sunday night to cap off two days of juggling playdates, swim practice, spills, errands, dirty diapers and finding the goddamn TV remote for the 17th time. The adults can’t wait to get back to the comparatively relaxing pace of the 9-5. We’ve both retreated to our corners, but the bitterness remains.

Relationships are hard. Kids make them harder and long weekends can be brutal. All either of us want is a little quiet without whining, squabbling, crying or any other soul sucking time consuming interruptions. You’re never off the clock. It’s the little things that kill marriages and relationships. Everyone needs to be themselves and stop being parents. Life becomes a pitched battle over minutes of free time and nobody gets what they want. Compromise is the only way to avoid a neverending argument.

It is easy so see the other person as the enemy in this situation. Their very existence which once was the whole reason you fell in love and wanted to live with them has now become an assault. Their face, their voice, their habits are all an attack. It is friendly fire masking malice and evil intent.

A few extra minutes at the gym or spent watching tv or getting home late while the other is struggling with the kids is grounds for rage and hostility. Everything seems a capital crime committed brazenly with a giant middle finger in added defiance.

And the truth is, it’s not. We want our time. We want our lives. We want a few seconds to read, maybe shower, maybe just go to the bathroom in silence. And we don’t get it. Someone wants something or another one demands something else. Every opportunity for a moment of peace is shattered and stolen by tiny grasping hands and demanding young voices.

So we turn on one another. It must be their fault because they got extra time sleeping or snuck off for the entire morning or dared to be themselves for one goddamn minute.

But that’s why we like them, why we love them, because they like to sleep in or go to the gym or read a lot or listen to music or eat like a king. We love them because they are funny, wonderful, creative, sexy, adults who have goddamn children and just need a fucking minute alone.

Stick Your Head in the Fountain

My kids and I have a finely developed routine when we visit the doctor. Doctor appointment. Pet store. Chipotle. Cookies. It has been scientifically tested and approved over the last several years by our sub-committee of three.

A few weeks back we went in for annual physicals. Despite some pre-doctor trepidation concerning the possibility of shots (possibly fueled by dad), my two offspring were well behaved and looking forward to our post-appointment ritual. Both kids were determined by the pediatrician to be tall, skinny and healthy. Plus, there would be no shots this year.

We hastened on our way to the pet store to begin the no-shots celebration. Since I can remember we have visited the puppies in the window of a Sixth Avenue shop. Horror of horrors! The shop is closed and the puppies are gone. This threw our schedule off balance and our well-knit team began to unravel.

What started as sniping and teasing in Chipotle had become guerrilla warfare as we headed east on 8th Street to Insomnia Cookies. My son and daughter had turned against one another and both angry words and threats of violence passed between them.

With frowns and cookies we wandered into Washington Square Park. Our usually blissful meandering afternoon in the city had become a nasty forced march. By the fountain I sat down to negotiate a peace between the warring parties. The 90 degree plus heat and humidity wasn’t helping. One faction was sulking, while the other was exercising his vocabulary of borderline curse words.

Then something happened. The little one stuck her toes in the water. The older one kicked off his Crocs and stepped right in as well. Despite signs declaring the fountain off limits a few other kids had dared defy the law and were cooling their heels as well. Leave it to my kids to up the stakes and dash into the jets, soaking their clothes and encouraging cheers from the dozens around the edge of the water. Several other kids dashed in. I feebly protested, but the huge grins on my kids’ faces and the ensuing free-for-all silenced my inner hall monitor.

Shortly the recent enemies emerged from the mayhem they instigated, dripping, laughing and best friends once again.

My kids provide me with great lessons sometimes. It’s my job to teach them right from wrong, but they show me that occasionally you have to break the rules and be a kid to really enjoy life.

Lately when I get off the PATH train in Hoboken on a hot day I almost always head straight to Pier A Park and wet my face and head in the cold spray of the fountain. Yes, my shirt (and sometimes my bag, pants and shoes) gets wet and all the adults stare at the guy soaking his head in the water, but the joy, freedom and refreshment make it all worthwhile.

Go ahead. Stick your head in the fountain.