Tammi sent me the following texts over the course of one night while I worked my part time job.
5:30 pm: “Glenn just peed on Jackson in the bathtub. How is your day going?”
5:40 pm: “And now Jackson has pooped in the tub. This is a disaster.”
Now, I did what anyone would do.
I called to make sure she wasn't shaking the children, and, then, I had a good laugh at her expense.
Once I got home, I got the full story.
Glenn peed on his brother, but he did apologize. This wasn't R. Kelly, but he did offer to clean him with his hand towel afterwards. So thoughtful, that one.
Then, Jackson started what turned into a terrible gastrointestinal week by letting it fly right there. Glenn, of course, freaked out and nearly climbed straight out of the tub. Tammi then took two dripping, screaming, and dirty children into our shower. Neither of them enjoys taking a shower, and I can only assume that by the end all three were standing in the shower sobbing uncontrollably. To make matters worse, Jackson had clogged the bathtub, and (stay with me people) Tammi could tell what he had eaten for lunch.
Few things in this world test your parenting mettle more than feces…FACT
When I got home, I nodded approval of her large glass of wine and gave her a hug. I then started to clean the tub. Glenn asked me how I was going to do it, and, for the first time, I said something that sounded like my mother. Sort of.
“Well Glenn, Daddies are just better at cleaning some things up than Mommies.”
One more bit of back story till I can get to my point, which is not (actually) to make you sick. I had lost my wedding ring that week. A coworker suggested that Tammi had the ring. Still, I spent the three days trying to hide my left hand from her and fidgeting with a ring that wasn't there. When I came out of the bathroom, I had decided now was the time to break the news that I had lost the symbol of our love and commitment. Again.
“Tammi, you should know I've lost my wedding ring. Now, seeing as how I just cleaned feces out of a tub, may I have a pass on receiving any shit from you?”
Sure, she said. And then she stood up, walked to the bookshelf and handed me my ring. Arrrgh.
So, what is my point? Listen, being a stay at home parent is hard. Being a PARENT is hard. Just because Tammi has a full time job doesn't make her time with the kids any easier.
When we are home together, the kids will default to me. I make lunch, do diapers, time outs and bath time. For me in particular, and I think stay at home parents in general, it is easy to dismiss the challenges our spouses have with children.
We see them struggle with the kids, and we think to ourselves “Saw that coming… doesn't she know that when he taps his foot three times it means he wants to do it himself?’ The main difference is that they rarely see us struggle with the children. We have hours and hours upon which to test our methods, read nonverbal cues, and to learn when to just give the damn kid the blue plate. But we do have struggles…many of them… and often… and a lot of times we don’t have the correct parenting response.
Tammi will tell you it is harder on the working parent. Their growth pattern changes almost daily, and a small change in their routine can cause a lot of undue stress for all parties. Tammi finally did get me a successful day to sleep in. But her day started with Grant screaming, “Noooooo, Daddy!” for the first 15 minutes. It’s not that he has a preference for me. Well okay, he does (so do a lot of people). He just wants his routine to stay the same. The more consistent things are, like who gets him up, the better he is able to start to make sense of this crazy world.
For me this is a classic parenting trap. It is so tempting to let yourself fall victim to this trap. Who is the harder working parent is no less volatile than which kid do you love more, or who is the better parent? None of the answers to those questions matter. Life is hard, dying is easy, don’t sell out your partner and dismiss what they bring to the table.
Tammi did want me to make very clear that she had not left the feces for me to clean up. When I got home the boys were in their pajamas, and Tammi was half way through a post bathtub apocalyptic glass of wine. I could see how stressed she was in her face. That feeling I could understand so I did what I could to help out. I’m not a super hero, just a parent.
*As always, I hope that you enjoy the reading, as much as I’ve enjoyed the writing. Don’t be afraid to post comments or share with your friends.