It’s Monday. It’s my night to work late, & I’m off the job early. Pulling out of the parking lot, I’m in a great mood. I can’t wait to get home to my family, to be able to eat dinner with them, to see how their days went, to start a fire in our fireplace, & have family movie night. (Every night after 6pm is family movie night.) The drive home is enjoyable.
I park the car, & go inside. The door opens to the sight of my kitchen littered with dishes, & baby jumpers, & baby teethers, & baby toys, & baby spit rags placed in every corner of the room just in case. Small boots & a unicorn backpack are discarded right in the middle of the kitchen floor, there’s a forgotten collection of markers with missing caps riddled across the dining table, & what is that smell? Did I mention baby items? I almost trip over the cluster of weekend bags, not yet unpacked, and set tactlessly smack in the center of the entryway. I navigate safely through them. What in the hell happened in here?! I assure you 12 hours ago this place was shiny. (Okay, not shiny. Dusty, but far more tidy.)
I is screaming because she’s unsatisfied with the current level of attention being received, M is sitting on the floor loudly contesting that it’s bath night, & my husband (my sweet, sweet husband) is attempting to wash dishes faster than a family of 4 can pile them up. (Not possible.)
We make eye contact. The kind of eye contact where you’re both thinking “Welcome home” & you don’t actually mean “Welcome home.” I ask whats for dinner, & he tells me they ate at his Mom’s. Excellent. I check the fridge, & there’s nothing. Excellent.
The next hour continues to proceed in a similar fashion, each of our blood pressures rising a notch every 15 or so minutes. J is sweeping, & I’m feeding I in her highchair. He makes a generic comment about the house being a mess. I was home all weekend, so I take it personal - was that a jab? “I’m always the one who is cleaning around here.”, I say. He laughs, not in a vindictive way, but I don’t care. It makes me madder. He jokingly says something along the lines of my makeup & hair items making a permanent home for themselves on our bathroom counter. I snap back asking why he sets his coat on the back of the kitchen chair everyday when he walks in the door, instead of hanging it in the closet where it clearly belongs. No one is joking anymore. I’ve successfully picked a fight. We banter back & forth with a couple of accusatory one-liners I can no longer remember for a few moments more. I’m into my next one, when J cuts me off & says, “Why don’t we just talk about what we love about each other?”. The playfulness is back. I don’t want to lighten up, because I’m too busy being annoyed. But I can’t help it. I crack. I smile reluctantly because the sudden turn in direction is actually funny, & he knows he’s got me. “I love what a great mom you are.”, he says. Dang, he’s good. I give in, & decide to play along. “I love & appreciate that when I work late, you wash all of the baby bottles so it’s one less thing I have to do when I get home.”, I say. He tells me he loves my sense of humor. With each complement, it gets funnier & funnier.
The storm clouds brewing around us have completely dissipated. The air is light again, & soon we are both actually laughing out loud. I tell him, “Good save.”
My husband is wise beyond his years, & it’s one of the things I love most about him. (I’ll mention that during our next fight.) It is one of his very best qualities. We don’t fight often, & when we do it doesn’t last for long, but we are a real live married couple. I admire that he was wise enough to realize we were on a road leading to nowhere, & re-routed the conversation to something positive in a time when I was feeling particularly stubborn. In a matter of minutes, we were both more focused on all of the reasons to appreciate one another, & it saved the night. After that moment, the night that I had envisioned having on my drive home from work became reality. The kids were calmer, the house suddenly didn’t seem so overwhelmingly messy, M didn’t whine during bath time, there was everything that I needed to make a sandwich in the fridge, & family movie night started right on time. Focusing for just a moment on what we loved about each other had taken the focus off of everything that wasn’t going right, or the way I’d imagined it would go.
“Why don’t we talk about what we love about each other?” - I’m going to call this line “the argument ender” from this day on. Married? Have a boyfriend? Have kids? Are you a human, who sometimes gets angry at or annoyed with someone you care about? Next time you’re feeling those feelings, I challenge you to ask the question, “What is it that we love about each other?” Ask it out loud. It’s such an intrusively positive question to be asked amidst the negative feelings we feel when we want to be mad, that it’s FUNNY! & it’s FUN! & I promise, it’ll stop any fight in it’s tracks. Unless you bought a new boat without asking your wife.