Roostler and I cannot seem to synchronize anything in our lives. It seems that starting a relationship post-divorce and past the age of 30 brings with it problems that younger, more naive couples do not experience. And things become even more complicated when one of you has a child with a previous partner. Indeed, we both brought some baggage into the relationship. And we have had a hard time finding a place for it. Or, to use another metaphor, we are not clean slates. We’ve tried erasing the board to start over, but there is still some residue left. So, it really comes as no surprise that we each have different ideas on everything from running a household and raising children to how we spend our leisure time. In fact, the only thing we have been able to successfully coordinate is a crisis.
Sunday afternoon, as I sat down to do some work, Roostler announced that he was going to mow the lawn. Omelette was with her dad for the weekend, and Early Bird was happily on the couch watching a video, so I continued with what I was doing. In the back of my mind, though, I knew that with both parents preoccupied, the child was likely to get into something.
As I sat at the computer typing a response to a student’s question, I began to hear a rustling sound like that of dried leaves being blown about in the fall. I find that sound very soothing. Except when it’s in the house. I went to investigate and found Early Bird with the dried flowers I had saved from my grandfather’s funeral. She had completely shredded one and would have soon done the same to the other had I not intervened.
I immediately reacted. Yes, I got onto her for what she had done. No, she did not understand that what she had done was wrong. Nor did she understand why hot tears streamed down my face. She only knew that Mommy had raised her voice. And, of course, her own tears just gave me reason to cry harder.
When Roostler returned from the yard, I transferred my frustration to him. There was yelling. And blaming.
“You saw that I was sitting down to do some work. You couldn’t wait until I was finished to mow the lawn?!”
From him, I got little sympathy.
“You left them where she could get them. They’re just flowers. The same thing happened to the ones from my grandmother’s funeral.”
Meanwhile, Early Bird chimed in.
“Mama. Daddy. Stop.”
The fight ended as explosively as it had started. Still fuming, I returned to work. Roostler and Early Bird settled themselves on the couch to finish watching her video.
A few minutes later, Roostler came up behind me, put his arms around me, and planted a kiss on my cheek.
“I’m sorry. If I hadn’t had my own moment, I would have been more understanding.”
He went on to explain that one of the neighbor’s dogs had left a gift in our front yard. and he had run the lawnmower over it.
“So,” he concluded, “I had myself a little shit shower.”
Insert several minutes of uncontrollable laughter punctuated by Early Bird repeatedly asking, “What, Mama? Why you laughing?” Finally, I was able to regain my composure enough to respond.
“Daddy said something funny,” I said to her. To him, I mused, “I never heard of the shit hitting the lawnmower. You may have just coined a new phrase.”
Shredded flower and doggie poo aside, we’ve at least given ourselves something to laugh about next time the you-know-what hits.