OK, so I gave in. On Thursday afternoon when we were meant to be having family together time at a park or a farm or some such thing, I caved in and released Ethan to a solitary few hours. Just him and the cinema.
It was a difficult thing to do. The self-preserving part of me fought the decision. I had been pretty much single-handedly keeping the kids entertained for the last two weeks. He had work to escape to where he could achieve something constructive and not be interrupted with whines, complaints and in-fighting every two minutes. He already has more time 'off' than me at home when he escapes to his office and loses himself in a computer game. Not that I begrudge him a bit of downtime from the kids...BUT WHEN DO I GET MINE???!!
I'm sure most parents out there can sympathise. But what I realised was that, although I might deal with most of the childcare, sibling rivalry, social arrangements, homework, music practise, mornings + bedtimes...Ethan does actually work really hard too (the horrible shifts alone deserve some recognition) and just getting through normal life and work meetings and conversations and the odd bit of banter is exhausting for him. And, if I want a husband that will give his best and make the effort and keep his temper and be nice to be around, he's going to need more time to escape than me.
Perhaps I'm maturing into this Aspergers diagnosis!
One of the warning signs that Ethan was getting close to needing time away from us all came on Wednesday night. He told Ava to brush her teeth. She started to walk away. He yelled at her to brush her teeth. She tried to tell him something but he didn't even acknowledge she was speaking; just kept on shouting. He does this a lot: just doesn't listen to what someone is saying. It happened today when I told him what meat was in the fridge and what was in the freezer for the BBQ. He appeared to be listening. He wasn't doing anything else at the time and he was standing next to me looking into the fridge but, at the end of my brief run-down of foodstuffs, he just looked at me blankly and said, 'What was that?' Sometimes he tries to cover up and pretend he's listened only to be foiled later when he doesn't do anything that you've asked him to do. At other times he'll admit that his mind just shut down, or that he was thinking about something else. It's very frustrating having to say everything twice.
Anyway, back to poor Ava and her teeth. What Ava was trying to tell Ethan was that her toothbrush was downstairs in her overnight bag and that she was going to get it. As Ethan shouted over her to do what she was told and 'brush her teeth right now', Ava got increasingly frustrated that he wasn't listening and started to shout back about her toothbrush being downstairs. By the time I'd heard what was happening and gone upstairs Ethan had pulled a crying Ava into the bathroom and given her a 2 day ipod ban. I had to step in, tell Ethan what Ava had been trying to tell him all along, send Ava down to get her toothbrush, lift the ipod ban and soothe Ava (except I didn't do any of that calmly - I went mad with Ethan. Although Ethan felt bad enough already).
It's upsetting for the kids when Ethan doesn't listen and loses his temper so easily. It's also upsetting when he zones out and is there in body but not in spirit. It also doesn't help develop parental respect when I'm so often 'telling Ethan off' in front of the kids and correcting his behaviour. I should try not to do it in front of them but sometimes I just have to jump in before the poor kids get a really raw deal. Plus I'm too fiery not to.
Anyway, Ethan had his time out on Thursday and did come home transformed and lovely. I, on the other hand, after another day on my own with the kids, was grumpy as hell!