Stress, growth and blending a family

SO…I’m back from my vacation and I definitely need to dish about it. Overall, it was a great trip. Lots of sun, trips to the pool, strolls along the beach, a two-hour jaunt to Miami one day and another to the Everglades, and loads of great food in some pretty amazing restaurants. But it was 100% KID FOCUSED and I don’t think D and I talked once about anything remotely adultish, let alone kissed or hugged for more than a second.

This, of course, took it’s toll on me, brought up a few of my insecurities (spurred on by a couple margaritas and the remnants of a diazapam I took to get on the plane), and made me, at times, quite cranky. It’s not that I was demanding of his attention and he wouldn’t give it. Oh, gosh no. It was that the children were so demanding of our attention that all we did was focus on them. We broke up fights, we punished, we rewarded, we talked baby talk, we battled over Children’s Menu items like chicken fingers and grilled cheese sandwiches, and who’s going to actually order something healthy to eat; we got kids dressed for the day and undressed at the end of the day; we got them in bathing suits and took them swimming and let them run around parks and get dirty; we gave time-outs and stopped tantrums, and gave turns to each child to open the car door and close it; we hugged our kids, comforted them, loved them, told them that they are not allowed to whack any one with a Barbie doll and that they have to share their Legos; we praised them, changed the sheets if they wet the bed, got them meds at midnight when they had an earache, and eventually took them back home. And at the end of each day, we stared dazedly and confused at each other and simply went to bed in separate rooms– not for any other reason than the fact that the children wanted to sleep with us.

When I first got back home I was so happy to be in my own house, I kissed my counter top and shambled around each room looking at all my stuff. I was confused when I got home. I was burnt out. I felt something had gone horribly wrong between D and I on this trip. Not the first three days, mind you, which were exciting and pleasant, but day four and day five, which had me wanting to pull my hair out.

I blamed a lot on the kids- especially the younger ones–they are only three and five, and C (the five year old) is prone to tantrums and being disrespectful to his father and G (his three-year-old) who just by the very nature of three-year-olds is adorable, but  needs a lot of watching. She is prone to disappearing in shops. But in retrospect, and after I had calmed down and had some alone-time back home, I realized I could not blame one set of children or another. That it was the whole picture.

The trouble was this– it was simply TOO MUCH. I am not a “kid person” by nature (know thyself!) and to expect me to be loving, patient, easy-going and laid back in the face of four crazed children and a man who does not have an authoritative bone in his body is simply asking too much. When you put his energetic, younger kids together with my twelve-year-old who, by nature is a very good, loving and laid back child (and who practically took care of G the entire time, chasing after her, playing with her etc.) but who can also be a little annoying and in your face, repeating the same joke over and over until you’re like, “OK, sweetie, that’s enough. We get it,” and my nine-year-old who is competitive and at times moody, but otherwise extremely helpful and sharp, you have the PERFECT STORM. For me, at least.

It’s easy for me to see now that this was the trouble on the last two days of the vacation. But, unfortunately, I could not see it when I was in the thick of it and so I looked upon D as if he were doing something seriously wrong and that the two of us would never work out and that this was the beginning of the end. I seriously, wanted to pack my bags and run away! And I certainly could not, in the least, imagine a life of living all together under the same roof. Impossible. I also began to project my insecurities on to him. Because I was uncomfortable in this situation, I automatically assumed he was too and because of that, I assumed he was fed up with me, didn’t love me, didn’t want me anymore, and couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Yes, I thought all these things, and yet, the morning after the trip the first e-mail in my inbox was his and it said this:

“Well, I got back to the office, and not at all bad. Pretty good actually. I have that road issue with the two neighbors that has flared up in M, but it’s a freakin’ road, not life or death.

So anyway, I just wanted to say that I love and adore you, and even though I just spent five days with you, I miss just holding you close. Thanks for posting the pictures of the trip. They were great. I think some of the ones of us came out great, and I LOVE the picture of us and all the kids on Barefoot Beach at dusk.”

Strangely, I thought, he still loves me. Despite the craziness. How can that be? It almost reminded me of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas…the Grinch steals all of Whoville’s materialistic stuff and yet, in the morning, they are still singing and celebrating the joy of the holiday.

I think, despite the fact that the kids wore me out and the fact that D did get on my nerves from time to time (not taking a more authoritative role over his kids) I need to learn the difference between getting through a rough time with someone you love and complete failure between two people not suited for each other. This is hard to do, especially coming from a world where “discomfort” within a relationship meant “danger” or “ugliness” or “neglect” or “the end.” I have to compartmentalize now, and keep situations in perspective, whereas before, one bad move on a PoA’s part applied to the whole picture; it always meant one step closer to a permanent break up.

I think what ultimately confused me the most was that although there was discomfort on this trip it wasn’t RED FLAG discomfort. It was simply that- discomfort, which goes with the territory of ALL HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS. I had never really know there was a difference between the two. When there was discomfort in the past, it always meant, I was beginning to dislike the man and an escape was in order. That’s not the case now, and I have to learn that discomfort is OK. It does not mean the end. It does not mean that it is permanent. It does not mean that I or the relationship is in danger or that something holistically is wrong. What it does mean is this: things take TIME, people need to experience people for a long time, before there is a smooth, comfortable world, and that a different approach is now needed to resolve the discomfort. Instead of shutting down or beginning the process of protecting myself from impending danger or disaster, I need to open up and communicate my fears and discomforts with D and trust that he will understand and still accept me. It means that I have to try and not blow things out of proportion, or think in terms of “disaster” but rather, that every relationship has its ups and downs, its good times and bad. And most importantly, I have to start thinking in terms of solutions to stay together, as opposed to solutions that require a termination or a “way out.”

I have to admit, I am at a strange, foreign place. Things don’t “feel” right all the time and I am wondering about and over-thinking much of where the discomfort I felt during the last days of the trip is coming from. It is most likely that I am just not a kid person, or the fact that I come from a very happy, loving family that, for the most part, gets along really well on vacations (because there’s lots of adults to carry the load). Whatever the case may be,  I will continue to think about it until I feel I’ve figured it out.  Not turning to my PoA and instead relying on myself for the first time felt weird and uncomfortable too. Change is weird! But I’m hoping that it’s worth it. This article helped a lot too!

Tonight D is coming over. It’s Friday. We will be alone without any children. I will even hide all the toys so there’s no trace of anyone under the age of twelve! We plan to order Chinese and stay in. And we definitely plan to talk and kiss and hug and be ADULTS!


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