Yesterday we were coming back from a day out with the kids. The kids were all asleep in the back of the car (looking like street urchins they were so covered in dust, mud and general gunk. We'd been on a monkey safari but, rather than watch the monkeys play just a few feet away from us, Sam (and therefore Oliver who copies everything Sam does) seemed only interested in rubbing his hands around in dust. So that was £16 well spent). Anyway, the kids were asleep, so it was the perfect chance for Ethan and I to chat. Like grown-ups. Nothing too heavy, just passing the time of day with a discussion about black holes, wormholes, the speed of light and how time goes slower in space.
I say discussion. Ethan was animatedly explaining the finer details of space and light to me whilst I listened/drifted off. I did, however, lock onto the fact that five years of space time is equivalent to around 20 years of earth time (space lovers - please excuse any facts that are slightly squiffy here. This isn't an academic paper on the workings of space and time. Ethan and (far more likely) I, could well be wrong on some details. Please allow for some poetic license!)
Ethan was annoyed by my comment. 'What? Then they'd have lost 20 years of life on earth.'
Me (trying to be light-hearted): 'Yes, but they'd have lived 20 earth years and their bodies would only have aged five earth years. That's 15 years less ageing on the body.'
Ethan: 'But what's the point? All their friends would be old, or dead. And they'd have missed 20 years on earth.'
Me (getting less light-hearted): 'What's that got to do with it? All I'm saying is that while 20 years of life had gone by they would only have aged 5 years. So only 5 years of wrinkles instead of 20, only 5 years of their body getting older and more tired rather than 20.'
Ethan: 'No. That doesn't make any sense.' (Talking very slowly and deliberately) 'They'd have still been in space for 20 years. They'd have lived those 20 years in space.'
Me (with all sense of light-heartedness gone. In fact, shouting): 'Yes, but for their bodies it would just have been five years. People are obsessed with looking young for as long as they can. I'm just saying, obviously not in a serious way, that going to space is a way to slow down your wrinkle development.' (Sensing Ethan feeling confused, and crumbling) 'It's just a bit of light-hearted banter.'
Me (building up steam again): 'You just can't see things from anyone's point of view except your own' (stick with me, it ends happily). 'I'm talking, in a jokey way, about wrinkles. I'm not interested in the 20 years that have gone by on earth. I'm looking at it in a different way to you. Why can't you listen and connect with someone else's point of view?
Then I realised that I was attacking and criticising Ethan for the very thing that I was doing; not seeing things from his point of view. Ethan was being serious and literal. I was being flippant and jokey. And I was taking the high ground. Presuming my way of seeing things was the superior one.
The result: We were actually arguing about the merits of space travel reducing wrinkle onset.
I smiled. And it eased the tension. We changed the subject and moved on.
I learnt a little more about accepting our differences. About not charging forward like a bull in a china shop when I think I know best. About not bulldozing Ethan's perspective just because I can communicate mine better, and it's usually more entertaining.
Most of all, I learnt that smiling, laughing and holding onto things lightly (particularly my own opinion), is vital.