Arguing for two (and eventually, three)

Joe and I are celebrating our ninth anniversary today – which makes me remember that when Joe and I first started dating, I quickly learned that for some people, arguing is a sport.

Indeed, Joe would have – or has, I guess, as a litigator – turned pro, so born was he to this calling. I, however, am not cut from the same cloth. Being the classic, diplomatic, peace-keeping middle child, I have always gone to great lengths to avoid confrontation.

Plus, the two of us came from very different families. Nothing was too insignificant to parse, and argue about, at length in Joe’s family. When I was growing up, meanwhile, the only kind of disagreement that happened usually involved tears, slammed doors, and extreme discomfort (on my end, anyway). To my mind, arguing was an absolute last resort. If there was nothing significant to be gained by an argument, I didn’t see the point in engaging in one.

So how were Joe and I ever going to work? It’s a question I asked myself several times early on – especially when, on one occasion, Joe stridently argued a position that I couldn’t believe he actually held. In one moment, my eyes narrowed, and I stopped pounding away at the issue long enough to say, “You’re just arguing this side for fun, aren’t you?”

He was. And as extraordinarily annoyed as I was in that moment, the exchange did finally convince me that arguments about beliefs and issues didn’t have to be painful and wrenching. Look at Joe. He was arguing passionately for something he didn’t even believe. When you experience someone turning that ability on and off at will, you realize that most arguments can simply be an intellectual exercise, not a soul-deflating, emotional fistfight. Continue reading

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Inevitably tardy letter to Neve on her first birthday

Neve at her first birthday party

Dear Neve:

In this age of blogs, when we share every (warts and all) experience as it happens, I sometimes wonder about how we will feel about all this openness years from now.

For eventually, despite my good intentions, you and Lily might be annoyed – perhaps justifiably – about your childhood being parsed and recorded and analyzed in this blog.

And when you finally read something like the post I wrote about not being at all sure about whether or not your dad and I should have a second child, as well as the panicky pre-partum blues essay I wrote while pregnant with you, you might feel stricken with worry about whether I feel I made the right choice.

But you shouldn’t for even a second, baby girl; I fell head over heels for you during your first 24 hours of life, when you firmly insisted that we both sleep right through what was supposed to be your 3 a.m. feeding. “A thousand blessings on your little head, Neve,” I said at the time, as you snoozed the night away. It sounds stupid, I know, but from the start, you seemed like an old soul baby who, for example, knew we could both use the extra rest after a crazy, eleven minute delivery (check out that story here); and this past year has only reconfirmed this idea, frankly.

For it often seems like it simply doesn’t occur to you to throw a fit. Generally, you accept the circumstances you’re in; you play with what you have in front of you; and you smile and laugh easily. Yes, you often suffer separation anxiety when I leave for work – which is hard on us both – but really, this underlines the fact that we have a healthy attachment to each other, and you recover quickly. And while Lily, as a baby, often wigged out when I put her in the stroller – which is why she sat on my shoulders as I walked her to daycare every day for months and months – you make peace with that and just about any other situation (longish car trip, running errands, restaurants) in which you find yourself.

Now I know this may be partly because, as the second child, you don’t really have a choice. Because you’re not, and never will be, the sole center of our family’s world, you just hang on and find enjoyment when and where you can. Plus, you have a highly entertaining big sister to watch. But regardless of why you’re the way you are, your low-key “roll-with-it-ness” makes me and others around you feel calm and at peace – an unexpected gift, to be sure. Continue reading

The Nuclear Option

The other night after dinner, Lily begged me to go with her to ask whether a neighborhood boy – whose house we pass every day as we walk to and from Lily’s preschool – could come over to play on the trampoline in our backyard.

I’d previously mentioned Lily’s interest in playing to the boy’s mom, so I agreed to help carry out Lily’s plan (and yes, she DOES always have one).

Indeed, because we’d run into the family earlier that day, and suggested the possibility of a post-dinner get-together, the boy – I’ll call him William – spotted Lily as we approached and burst out the door to accept her invitation.

All good, right?

We walk back to our house, and the kids jump on the trampoline for a few minutes. Then Lily decides she wants to change into her bathing suit and run through the sprinkler. Now, as it happens, she’s so excited that she’s had an accident, anyway; but then I worry about William not having his swimsuit with him. His mother quickly says William can just wear his shorts, though, and Lily’s giddiness at having a new friend over to her house instantly ratchets up several notches.

So the two of them run through the sprinkler a couple of times, until Lily decides that she wants to fill the kiddie pool with water and go in that next – and she kind of orders William to do the same, even though he seems initially uninterested.

“Lily, you should ask him if he wants to go in. It’s up to him,” I say, but she’s like a coked-up hummingbird by this point and doesn’t hear a word, doesn’t change her bossy tone.

“She’s just excited,” I tell myself. “Nothing is making it through those little ears just now. Cut her a little extra slack until she get a bit more used to William being here.”

Joe arrives back home with Neve at about this time, having taken her downtown to an outdoor concert for kids. The poor little pigtailed baby is konked out in her stroller, so Joe, after chatting with William’s mom for a few minutes, takes Neve inside to get her jammied up for bed.

Meanwhile, in the pool, things slowly go off the rails. William agrees to come in as the hose fills the pool, and Lily suddenly gets obsessed about seeing his underwear under his shorts (“Let it go, Lily,” I tell her – and the source of all this is another blog post altogether, people); she also starts randomly throwing things like a large plastic watering can, with no regard for whom it might hurt on its way down.

I sternly tell Lily not to throw it again, but she’s just as oblivious to my voice as before. She starts splashing William, who asks her to stop it. She promises him she will; but then, moments later, she points the hose at him again, and I see the watering can go airborne again, too.

That’s the instant when some switch inside me gets flipped on – some recognition that Lily is way out of control, and that suddenly, the only option is the nuclear option. Continue reading