United against the children we birthed

by renegademama

Fine, I birthed them. That particular portion of the situation was mine and mine alone. But we made them together, and now that they’re here – all freaking four of them – I’m damn glad you’re here, Mac.

It’s funny, the way marriages change. The way you start out all in love and innocent and shit, dreaming of the family to come, or, in our case, drinking Captain Morgan and trying to raise a baby while getting to know each other and yelling.

And then you spend a few years realizing the person you married is, in fact, their own person, which seems rude and unnecessary, because as my partner I know how you should behave and if you would just follow through with my ideas of how you can improve yourself, we’d all be better off, dude.

And that begins the portion of the “Let me mold you into what I had in mind” stage, which can go on for years, and, as far as I can tell, culminates in either acceptance of the parts of the other person that will not change – or divorce.

Maybe an affair? Don’t know. Never considered that route. Sounds like too much work and a serious dick move. That’s what she said.

It’s fine. I’m a grown up.

Anyway, my husband and I are often told we’re like “the most in love couple ever,” which is for sure not true, because my grandparents existed, and they used to hold hands on the couch and flirt well into their 80s, and I watched their faces pressed together as my grandfather was dying, recounting their lives together, and I thought “They are the most in love couple ever.”

I mean, we like each other, which seems like something of a feat. I guess we flirt. We like to piss our kids off by making out in the kitchen. We’re definitely best friends.

It wasn’t easy getting here. We were separated twice, once for two years. We’ve gone to years of therapy. The screaming matches could shatter all the glass in the county. We’ve threatened divorce approximately 9000 times and twice on Sundays. When people ask us how we stayed together, we say, “We never hated each other at the same time.”

To this day, when we fight, we like to yell “Fuck off” to each other, which I hear is not the kindest or most productive option, but to them I say: EIGHTEEN YEARS, MOTHERFUCKERS. And I still want him with me more than I want any other human with me.

So get the fuck outta here with your “effective marriage communication” workshops or whatever the hell you’re selling.

Anyway, lately I’ve felt more connected to dude than I ever have in my life and it’s a new type of connection. I think it’s because our kids are unbearable, and against the wall of wailing child death trap, all I’ve got is him.

There’s really something nourishing about texting somebody “I’m gonna kill your kid right now” and have them just respond “What now?”

And: “Thank god we aren’t having any more.”

“Holy fuck (insert kid name) is really pissing me off.”

“What’s wrong with that one?”

“I think they’re defective. Maybe we stopped parenting. Did we give up?”

A well-placed “Entitled little assholes” goes a long way, too.

And yesterday, when we finally got into bed, after having decided earlier in the day (STOP READING NOW, DAD), that we wanted to have sex, we were straight up blocked by kids everywhere.There was nowhere to go to be free. We have a rule of “no kids in our room during the weekends,” and last night was Monday, and we had said they could sleep on our floor, so one kid was on our floor, and two more were in their room, and the other was in her room, and the living room and main room are too easily accessible by wandering children of any type, so we just kind of laid there and laughed and got annoyed and kissed.

“My god, they’re everywhere,” we said.

And they are everywhere, except where we are, in this bed, alone. We’re surrounded, but there’s a place that’s only ours. I don’t think I’ve ever quite realized how lucky we are to have that space. My mom didn’t have it.

 

The teenager with her tornado tantrums. The teenager-light with his silent brooding and passive aggressive retaliation. The 8-year-old with her endless projects and scream fests and the toddler with all of the above. Every damn day it’s a fight to get that one dressed. They bicker with each other and whine and bicker some more and ask for food and shit and then bicker about the thing they just asked for and I am over all of it right now. It’s a rough patch. The roughest of rough patches, maybe.

Or maybe this is how it is from here on out. Whatever. Things are hard, and yeah, today we cried looking at Arlo’s first day of preschool picture. That’s how this goes. Get me the fuck outta here. Please god don’t ever let it end.

There’s something sacred about having a friend to cling to in the maelstrom of nonsense. Just when you think your last shred of energy is used up, your friend comes home, or you mention what you’d like to do to him tonight, and it’s you and me against them.

The them we’re terrified to lose. The them we worked so fucking hard to keep, to bring back around, to heal. It isn’t us against them, is it? It’s us beneath, behind, above and around them – they’re like swirling winds.

It’s nice to be a rock with you.

And it’s nice when you sing me those songs.

The other day we were talking about the years when Mac and I were in the same twelve-step group in our little town and he was batshit and I was unable to remain sober, and how when I finally got sober, and our family was reunited, we kind of became the couple the older alkies pat on the head and smile at and feel a part of, like they watched us get our heads out of our asses and grow up, and things like this don’t happen too often with addicts like us.

Mac looked at me and said, “We’re like the little losers that could.”

Stick that shit on our headstone, cause it’s good enough for me.

 

*****

People have told me that book I wrote is a love story to Mac.

I didn’t see it at first, but it’s true,

it’s a story of people who for sure shouldn’t have made it but stuck around until it got good.

 “We were always good friends, I guess.” I wrote that. It seems true. That’s the story we found.

BTW, I have three upcoming book events: two in northern California and one in Vancouver, BC. Learn more here.

17 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | September 4, 2018
  • Erin Dixon

    Omg. I don’t know how u do it, but u always seem to hit home. My husband and I have been together for 20 years this year and it’s so true. We just never seem to hate each other at the same time! In a world of airbrushed, edited, highlight reel bullshit, it’s nice to hear the truth periodically. U rock and thank u, again! 💚

  • Sue

    I love this and I really loved your book. So much of what you write resonates so deeply with me and I thank you for the gift of sharing it with all of us. Dealing with two teenagers here – exhausting and exasperating and thank god my husband and I rarely hate each other at the same time. And can I just say that if your husband smiled at me like that, I could forgive him for almost anything!

  • Peggy

    Omg… I just love you,Janelle
    Everything you said has happen here too. Crazy Fing Kids.
    We’re married 43 yrs. that’s right 43 years. Kids range from 40 to 15 …..I guess we like each other.

  • Tanya

    It isn’t us against them, is it? It’s us beneath, behind, above and around them – they’re like swirling winds. – F’g brilliant.

  • Kristy

    I love this. You nailed the kids are everywhere aspect of trying to find some alone time.

  • Larissa

    That video + me = tears and a big goofy smile on my face. Thanks for sharing. Just… thanks.

  • Peggy

    Love love love this

  • Patty

    I love you. Thank you for being the brave voice who simply tells it straight, even when that straight is a roundabout. I needed this today.

  • Jen

    omg you are supposed to warn people if you’re going to make them teary. Kids are the worst/best, often in any given 10 minutes. Mom to 3 here and coming up on 20 years of being married. Thanks for sharing your story. “We’re like the little losers that could.” Best line ever.

  • laura

    damn.

  • Caroline Kavin

    Loved this and felt it in all of my feels. Great writing once again. We are in the 18th year too, and fuck it was a rocky rollercoaster and I love my husband more than anyone else. I need him. Took me about 15 years to figure that out and stop fighting it.

  • Tiffany

    This is exactly my life – no joke. The past few weeks have been a nightmare and it is beyond comforting to know that it’s not just us. My husband and I have been together for 20 years and there are days when I don’t know how we’ve stayed together and other days that I love him so much that it overwhelms me. And these kids! Everywhere, all the time – always talking, screaming, protesting, demanding stuff, making messes, yet they have my heart and I can’t bear to think of these days of parenting being over – okay well, I think that when they are being cute. When they are out of control monsters, I daydream about having a clean, quiet, and empty nest in the future. For now, it’s chaos and I’m so grateful for my husband, even though he drives me crazy!

  • Ellen

    Love you guys

  • Miranda

    And then sometimes you just go it alone because if you had stayed it may well have killed you…or at least your soul. Learning to be my own rock…tough stuff. Kudos to you two for growing together!!

  • Alison

    You’re coming to Vancouver! I’m so glad I read this blog post in time. Hope you enjoy it up here in BC (we’re Trump-free, so we’ve got that going for us, among other things).

  • Jennifer

    I didn’t think I could love you any more, but there you go again, speaking right to my heart.

  • Heidi HO

    Come to Ft. Lauderdale!

    Love you.