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ARTIST: Dar Williams
TITLE: The Christians and the Pagans
(from Gunther Anderson)

Amber called her uncle, said “We’re up here for the holiday
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been awhile”

/ G C Am D / / Em C Am D / / G C Am D / /

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

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So Cheryl’s 11 weeks going on 12. In the meantime, life has gone on pretty much as it wasbefore we got pregnant, except now the part of our time and energy that was filled with excitement and anxiety about trying to get pregnant has been filled with excitement and anxiety about staying pregnant. For me, at least, it hasn’t really slid over into the excitement and anxiety of actually having a kid, yet. It’s a matter of time, though, and I can start to see it phasing in, little by little. Coming up with a proper noun to replace the surprisingly awkward him/her/it has been helpful, as has, obviously, seeing the ultrasound.

There’s a little bit of concern about whether or not we’ll actually be any good at parenting, but I think we’re pretty sure we’ll be good at it. We both love kids, have had a lot of time and experience holding them without crushing them and watching them while, admittedly, not paying enough attention that they don’t run into things and fall over, but enough that they never run into things too hard or fall too far. We’re good at things we enjoy, as I think most people are, and we enjoy kids and playing and, really, finally, the day-to-day work of life. A good marriage between good people who genuinely want children is, as far as I can tell, the best thing you can really do for a child.

I just finished reading Freakonomics, and the parts about the really important bits of parenting being done before you have the child resonated a lot. I think, in truth, a lot of it is actually what you do when you’re around your kid, but not what you do when you’re thinking actively and consciously about what to do, but what you do when you’re just being yourself, on autopilot. Whether you read to your kid, or take them to museums, or let them watch TV all day long seems to me to be way less important for long-term outcomes than whether you’re the sort of person who generally values reading, and does it on your own as a leisure activity, whether you react to conflict in a constructive or violent way, whether you are a private, introspective, considerate, conflict-averse person or an outgoing, opinionated, public and assertive person or some mix of the two.

I’m sure we won’t be immune to parenting advice, but I kind of hope we are. We’ve been true to ourselves in a lot of ways, keeping the parts of our upbringing and education that have made good and reasonable sense to us, and jettisoning or replacing the parts that don’t, fashioning our own mix of the best available and feasible way to live, or at least the one that seems to suit us best. I know that having kids changes a lot, and I have to imagine one of the ways it changes things is simply to make everything a lot more tiring.

The process by which Cheryl and I form belief is pretty long and drawn out. It involves discussion and looking things up and sometimes (or maybe often) a heated argument and then we both backtrack and retreat to our corners and look at things from the other person’s perspective and then we come back together, conciliatory, and reach a preliminary consensus–more of a hypothesis or set of hypotheses, really–and then kind of agree to let it rest, or kind of just get tired and happy together and let our running mutual internal monologue drift to another topic, and then usually it comes up again a little while later and we do a shortened version of the whole thing and reinforce our settled mutual belief. It’s really great. It makes us both smarter and more humble and more considerate and better informed. It helps with consensus on everything from religion and cosmology to how much to fill the tea kettle (still working on that one) or where shoes are and are not meant to be placed (not on countertops, apparently). It is a lot of work, though. And in between feedings, I think we may have some trouble getting through all the parts of the process. (the Process?) Maybe once Pickle is 6 months old, we’ll be able to rub our tired eyes, reassess and figure out what parts we’re doing right and what parts we’re doing wrong.

For me, though, the Process is one of the most fun and rewarding parts of our friendship and marriage, so the fact that it’s challenging is a good thing, and a greater challenge just implies a greater reward. It’s the work we put into it, and the knowledge that Cheryl’s willing to work with me so that we can understand each other better, that gives it such force. Sometimes, when it’s a lot of work, it’s really tiring, but when it’s more work, it’s more worth it. So there’s a hopeful tone to strike.

—-

Cheryl noted the other day that there’ll probably be a surprisingly large amount of time where it’s just her and me and Pickle. It seems like such an event, I guess. Hell, it is such an event, especially the first great-grandkid on my dad’s side, and the first grandkid in my immediate family (sorry, Pickle II). The eventitude makes it seem like everyone will be there for an extended period of time, but that’s not how it works, right? I mean, you may juggle in front of crowds, but let’s face it, if you do that, you’ve spent a lot of time juggling alone.

The nice part of which is that we won’t be juggling alone, but juggling together. And Cheryl will temper my impish desire to dress the kid up in funny ways or make him try to wriggle out of a pillowcase or gloat over the fact that I can beat her in arm-wrestling without even trying hard (HA-ha). And hopefully I will provide perspective when Pickle is keeping the neighborhood awake with ear-piercing shrieks, by jumping into my own rendition, and trying to outscream the screamer. I don’t know exactly what it’ll look like, really, but it’ll be fun and funny, and I’ll be making up catchy jingles and mathematical derivations of the kid’s birthday and social security number, and Cheryl will be making up new words and teaching the kid her version of espanfranglish and cracking jokes about poo (the best kind, really–hell, even just saying “poo”–hehehe). Eventually Pickle will be the one cracking the poo jokes. And that’ll be awesome enough to make up for sleep deprivation. It’ll be our club, no bullies allowed, just a good life to be had by all.