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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Every silver lining has a cloud

What a gloomy title for a post. And it jars a bit since I'm generally quite a positive person - negativity is Ethan's specialism.
But, in this case, every silver lining having a cloud really is the best way of explaining the predicament I found myself in on Sunday. Sunday's a funny day - it seems to be the setting for so many arguments between Ethan and I.
Last Sunday, after church, Ethan was positively personable! He was chatting away to all and sundry - and managing far deeper conversations than I was (mainly about lighting or the latest Apple apps - but then 'things' are generally what men talk about).
Part of the reason that Ethan was having such good, in-depth conversations though, whilst I was, at best, managing a few distracted, disjointed lines, was because Ethan was completely and utterly oblivious to everything else.
Our three children were all over the place - Ava playing hide and seek with some other kids and weaving in and out of all the old dears with their cups of tea, and Sam and Oliver alternating between whining at me, fighting with each other and trying to make a run for it out the main doors.
I tried a couple of times to make eye contact with Ethan, to plead with him for some help but he was engrossed - iPhone out, eyes down, mind elsewhere.
At one point, when I got fed up of not being able to make any meaningful connection with any grown-up myself, I put Ava in charge of keeping an eye on Oliver and I actually focused, for a few minutes, on a conversation (I say that I focused on a conversation, in actual fact I spent the whole time wondering if Oliver was behaving and if Ava had got distracted and was playing hide and seek again). After a few minutes I thought I'd better just check...only too find Oliver trying to open the door to the outside world and Ava being quizzed by an old lady. As I stepped in and took Oliver away from the door I had to endure a telling off from the old lady for being an irresponsible parent (she didn't use those exact words but that's what she was implying).
Throughout the whole process, Ethan stayed completely absorbed in his conversation about technology.
I felt stressed, badly-done-to, neglected and put upon. But at the same time, Ethan was making conversation, he was being sociable and connecting with others. And I was really torn - here's where the silver lining and cloud come in. I tell him endlessly that he needs to make more effort to be a friend, that he needs to put himself out there, that he needs to initiate conversations. When he was doing this so well (the people Ethan was conversing with seemed genuinely into the conversation too) it seemed wrong to have a go...
But I couldn't help myself. I was just too stressed not to. I'm sick of always being the one thinking about everything and being responsible for the kids because Ethan isn't. I'm sick of being judged by other people (usually old ladies) about my parenting skills when I'm often trying to look after three kids all aged 7 or under (and two of them boisterous boys) all on my own. Excuse me for attempting to say hi to a couple of people after church and build some relationships. What a terrible person I am.
When I'd ranted a bit and cried a bit, Ethan and I reached a resolution. Because Ethan's pretty good. He realises that being totally absorbed in conversation for half an hour while I struggle on my own with the kids isn't fair. But if he's going to chat and be sociable, he struggles to do this whilst also keeping an eye on the kids. The conversation has to engulf him for him to be able to focus on it and keep track of where it's going. So we agreed that every Sunday before church, we'd divvy out our kids! I'll be responsible for two of them after church and he'll be responsible for the other.
Whether one child + conversation will be too much for Ethan we'll have to wait and see. I expect that, at some point, I'll see whichever child Ethan is responsible for running riot and I'll have to step in. But, like with everything in our marriage, we'll keep trying to make it work.
A silver lining with a cloud is better than just cloud after all...

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