July 17, 2008

You be the ship on the ocean
You be the ship on the sea
You be the cargo, let I be the wave
And I'll carry you safely away

That's the refrain of a song my husband wrote. It is an allegory of parenting, about a fisherman who saves a baby mermaid. There was a time I cried Every Single Time he played it. I remember coming up the stairs with a basket of clean diapers to fold. I heard him humming the tune and I had to put my head in the basket and I wept. "You be the cargo, let I be the wave, and I'll carry you safely away. From me." It still makes me cry.

My kids heard us fighting last week and it scared them so bad. They heard me use the words: respect, end, and marriage and they were instantly worried. Use the words? They heard me spit the words. And it impressed them. As it should. I want to feel guilty they heard us fighting. But I check that impulse. They should hear us fight more because we do occasionally fight. How can you not? Living together is hard. Its is work. It is painful to offer yourself freely and so vulnerably. But love requires this. Requires it. You can not love well without loving freely and vulnerably. It is scary. And sometimes you have to say things loudly to be heard over everyone's Psyche. Kind of like parenting, really.

The children need to see this clearly and certainly. Its a lesson in advocating for yourself and for your marriage. Its a lesson in balance, in give and take, in fortitude and ferocity. All of that. I wouldn't want them to enter a relationship without those lessons.

But mostly, I wouldn't want them to enter a relationship with anyone less dedicated or less honest or less giving than their Daddy. A man who has responded to the challenge of parenthood by giving us everything he has. How can I fight with him? He gives more than any man I know. He bakes bread. He builds tree houses. He hands over his entire paycheck. He played banjo by the bathtub, back when they were small. He reads stories. He makes sure the nightlight works, finds the special blankie, plays endless games of Dungeons and Dragons. And he sings it all.

Does he sound amazing? He is. But that doesn't mean we won't fight. We will and do. And the kids should be aware. Perfection is not the goal and we are not perfect. We struggle. We fight hard.


Katherine said...

Sometimes I get amazing letters in response to this blog. Letters not meant to be posted. But I'm going to pull one line out and put it here. Because it says so perfectly exactly what I meant:

"I thought a lot about your last sentence "we fight hard". That has, as I'm sure you intended, two ideas behind it. Fighting hard in the sense of an intense fight, but fighting hard for what we hold dear and true. And very often it is each other.

Yes, my friend. Exactly. Thank you.

Katie said...

I don't mind arguing some in front of the kids. Otherwise, they might get the impression that people who love each other never disagree -- maybe that's why people these days break up after the first stupid fight?

MOM #1 said...

I really try not to let our arguments spill out in front of Baby Boy, but the truth is, on occasion they do.

I always try to use those opportunities as examples for him.

I want him to know that love does mean compromise, but it doesn't mean compromise without a hard earnest fight.

Love does mean happiness, but sometimes you can't get to that happy place without a very heated discussion.

I also want him to understand that people who love each other don't necessarily have to think alike, view the world alike and agree on everything.

They just have to be honest and in love enough to accept responsibility for every single word out of their own mouth, know the power of a good apology and know the TRUE meaning of "forgive and forget."

Heather said...

Because it's my nature to do so, I worry. I worry that my fighting will scar them. Then I worry that if they don't see healthy arguments, they may never learn that it's normal. Then I worry that they'll get too comfortable with the idea of "normal" fighting, and end up in some crappy relationship where that's all they do.

I worry that the lessons I try to teach them with my words don't always jive with the lessons I teach them with my actions. So I think, sometimes it's better to just LIVE and DO and BE what I am, because it will turn out the way it was intended even without all my worrying.

RegularMom said...

I have similar feelings and experiences with fighting with RegularDad. And the kids do get upset when we have fights. It's what kids do. I try to explain to them later that that's part of life. Sort of how they fight with each other.

I try to explain to them that part of a good marriage is having a safe place where it's okay to disagree. Be angry. Yell. Have unreasonable moments. And in spite of it, you are still loved and valued.

That's what I hope they take away from those scary moments when RegularDad and I have a fight.

What I want to eventually be able to show them is that some marriages exist in a state of complete love and trust -- even with arguments. Those are the marriages that last.

And there are some marriages that will come to a difficult and inevitable end because there is no TRUST left, and no LOVE left in it. And without those two things, there is never a moment when the fight ends and peace returns.

That's what's happening in RegularDad's brother's marriage right now. And he is finally ready to ask his CHEATING wife for a divorce.

And it's just the saddest thing I've ever seen -- watching a marriage come to an end. And knowing there's nothing I can do or say to make any of it any better. (sigh)

Well, I've rambled long enough.

Great post. Thanks. I needed it.

Mommylion said...

Great post. The song brought tears to my eyes and I can only read the words.

It is hard to let kids see our humanness, and as long as we are not destructive, it something they need to learn. Unfortunately, their futures will contain strife somewhere along the way, and it is our job to prepare them as much as possible. I am not advocating trial by fire, but for them to see our weaknesses and to see us recover, apologize, heal. It lays down roots.