Wednesday, June 29, 2011

North vs. South

I don't drink iced tea. I don't even like it. I don't expect someone to hold the door for me everywhere I go, and I never think to ask if anyone else would like anything when I get up to get a drink from the kitchen. In effect, I am not southern. Not even close. I am very much a city girl from the Midwest. As such, my communication style tends to be assertive, even to the point of aggressive at times, and a bad word or two may slip into a heated conversation. (Hopefully when the tot is not within earshot.) On the flip side, my husband is southern. He is Georgia born and raised. His family is always polite and welcoming to guests, whether they feel like it or not. They drink tea with every meal. And it's not gossip, it's "sharing facts" about someone. As for communication - it's always polite, mostly surface level, and rarely if ever straightforward.

Of course, I realize this may have more to do with his family's culture than that of the South, but there is definitely a stark contrast between the way our two families operate. When my parents get on my nerves, I tell them. Usually in an offensive way. We have plenty of conflict in our family, but we tend to have it out and get over it. There is plenty of conflict in the husband's family as well, but it's never addressed and tends to fester. My mother-in-law is still telling me years later about the offensive thing my sister-in-law said to her "that one time". So, it's just a different environment all together. Don't get me wrong, I love my in-laws. They are kind, they are generous, they love me for no other reason except that I am married to their son. But when conflicts occur, I am clueless how to address them.

I bring this up because as you may recall from yesterday's post, they are supposed to be visiting on Saturday. But yesterday, my husband gets an email from his dad that they are coming on Friday. No explanation as to why they are coming a day early or even an acknowledgement of the inconvenience that might cause their hosts. My first response was "Tell them no, they can't come until Saturday" which was (of course) met with incredulity and "I can't do that!". It's not that I don't want them to visit, it's that I want them to realize and acknowledge that changing their plans lackadaisically is inconsiderate and inconvenient. However, my husband is insistent that they will not recognize having changed plans and will insist that they said Friday and he just misunderstood them. Because his listening skills are also suspect, this is a definite possibility.

In either case, it leaves me with one less day to clean and an ridiculous amount of anxiety about their visit this October. You see, they are coming to help with the new baby and, more importantly, to care for the tot while we are recuperating. Because, unlike my family, his family is quick to jump in and help even when it means a 15 hour drive each way and rearranging their own routines and lives to make it happen. (There are a lot of great things about Southern hospitality.) I am a planner and though I am not thrilled about having another c-section, the idea of being able to plan my child's birth and know exactly when I need child care is a dream come true. So, the thought that we might be expecting them to come on a specific day and stay for two weeks and they may come three days early and leave a week before we are expecting them to, keeps me awake at night. My husband has offered to address this with them but (as I stated) he was raised in the South and has the same discomfort with conflict that the rest of his family has. So, in effect, it falls on me to use my Northern communication style and explain in the nicest way possible that I need them to commit to an arrival and a departure date and STICK to it. I am hopeful for a brief, positive discussion about how we just need to have secure plans because of all that is involved with childbirth and toddler care. I plan to even be funny about how I won't be able to take the tot to school that week because driving on painkillers with a gash in your middle is not recommended so I really want to make sure they will be there. I am then going to pull out the calendar and write down the dates they agree to - in front of them- so they can see that this is the plan and they cannot change it without telling us in advance. My hope is that this will all flow nicely, we will have a good laugh and they will, of course, agree to being more consistent in the future. My expectation is that even if this happens - this will be one of those incidents that my mother-in-law will complain to my sister-in-law about for years to come. Such is Southern living.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peek - a - boo!

I haven't been hiding, I swear. These last couple of weeks have been pretty crazy. I spent last week in panda ears every day teaching preschoolers about God's love. It was incredibly fun and very exhausting! I would finish about noon every day and then grab the tot from the nursery, race home, feed him lunch and get him down for a nap. Then while he napped, I used my "free" time to eat my lunch, straighten the house, and prep for the next day's lesson. I was glad to do it but also glad when it was over. I haven't committed yet for next year because of our new edition this Fall. I want to play it by ear and see how easily he or she gets on to a schedule first.

This week has been chock full of crazy. I have every day planned out on my calendar and I have to say - in spite of my valiant attempts to plan ahead, nothing so far has gone as planned. My hair appointment didn't happen last night due to a scheduling error on the part of my stylist. She was very apologetic but it didn't change the fact that I still need my hair done and she isn't available for another two weeks. So I had to schedule an appointment at a new place (which is anxiety inducing to say the least). Yesterday, I got a call from my friend who's father was very ill and she needed me to keep her son for the night. This wouldn't normally be a big deal except for this being the week before my in-laws arrive and my strong desire to make my house look like I clean it once in a while. Also, Ben's last swim lesson was today. So my initial response was something like "I'd love to but..." but then she offered to get a sitter for Ben's lesson so I really couldn't say no. So we had two toddlers to care for last night and all of this morning. I had to then get them both fed and dressed and bring the other little guy home to his baby sitter before rushing off to swimming with my own little guy. While at the pool, I got a call from the man who is supposed to come and check our roof that he could meet me in half an hour. So, rather than shower and change the tot (as I normally would), I wrapped a towel around him, tossed him straight into the car and zipped home to meet the contractor.

Additionally, I have an OB appt. today which the hubs completely forgot about. So I was texting sitters at 9:30 last night. Praise the Lord that one was available. That also means that I had to get Ben washed, changed, and down for his nap in time for myself to eat and clean up the hurricane that the two toddlers had left behind this morning. Now I am trying to squeeze in five minutes of blogging before she shows up and I have to zip off to the doctor.

People say "Men plan, God laughs". I don't know if that's really true, I doubt God is that vindictive. But, if it is, he must be having quite a chuckle at me this week!! And THAT's why I haven't been blogging. But I miss my blog and I hope for things to simmer down by the end of the week so I can get back to posting exciting news like Ben's first movie experience this past week and our trials with swimming lessons. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Those People

The last couple of weeks have been crazy busy. Our basement project is almost finished! The carpet folks come today and we have a guy coming today or tomorrow to finish hanging the doors. Next up, the plumber will be installing the fixtures and we are all set!

You would expect now that the project is at it's end, I would have something profound to say about it like "Gosh, it sure was tough at times, but I am so proud of us for getting it all done." Well, I did learn from this project, but not like I'd have thought. You know those people who hire painters and cleaners and landscapers? The ones who would rather not do it themselves but prefer to pay a professional to handle the job? Well, we are those people. I would much rather pay someone to do the job that they are experienced doing, that they know how to do, rather than try to figure it out and go through hours of frustration and aggravation myself.

Both my father and my father-in-law have the motto "why pay someone money when you can do it yourself" and that's all well and good if you are a handy person but we really are not those people. My motto is "why do a crap job yourself when you can pay someone to do quality work?" My husband initially wanted to be the next Bob Villa, but after sweating through framing, insulation, painting and tiling the bathroom, I think he agrees he should stick to stuff he is good at and enjoys doing. We have both agreed that while we are very glad to have our basement finished, our next home will come with a basement already done.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Make New Friends...

It was a rough weekend. I am not at all sure how I feel about it, so maybe I shouldn't even be blogging about it, but whatever. I had some friends in town to visit for a "girls weekend". I have known these ladies for almost 9 years and even though we have lived far apart, we have kept in touch through regular (sometimes daily, even several times a day) emails.

Unfortunately, as there are three of us, sometimes the dynamics can be a little unbalanced when we are together. In the past, we have had great times and long chats but occasionally one of us feels left out. Recently, though, I have found more and more that I am the one on the outside looking in. I have no good explanation for this. It might just be my own sensitivity, but there are times that I have felt that the good natured teasing gets out of hand. This weekend was one of those times where it felt that it started on Friday night and didn't really let up until they left on Sunday. Add to that a few combative disagreements and sharp words over minor issues and it led to a very stressful weekend.

If I am being honest, I was glad to see them go. I ended up feeling that I was in a defensive position most of the weekend and it wore me out. I just felt rubbed raw by the end of it and wished that it had gone differently or not at all. I am sad about that. These women are/were a major part of my life and support system. But it left me questioning whether the hurt feelings and stress were worth the positive aspects of our friendship. I am sad to say, I still don't know the answer.

I suppose every friendship goes through ups and downs much like every relationship. It's possible that this is just one of those times. But it also left me wondering about my friendships with women and where they rank in importance in my life. Is it possible to outgrow someone as a friend? Is it unrealistic to expect to have a best girlfriend at this stage of my life when I am a busy wife and a mother of (almost) two? Many of my friendships with other women here in town are not as close as with these two, but are mostly positive interactions. I don't have anyone here besides my husband that I feel I could tell anything to, but I wonder if that's actually normal for this day and age. I enjoy the social interactions that I have and I rarely have a negative experience that makes me feel like I did this weekend. My husband has theorized that it's the stage of life that I am at - these two close friends are both in committed relationships but neither have children. He has suggested that my focus has shifted over the last few years which may make it harder for us to relate to each other as friends. I wonder if he is right on some level, but then I remind myself of the friends I have who are also not mothers and it doesn't appear to have had much impact.

This morning I received an email from one of the girls that I had an argument with over the weekend. She apologized for her reaction and explained her feelings had been hurt. I felt guilty as I hadn't meant to hurt feelings, but had also been feeling very defensive already by that point. I also greatly appreciated the email as it was expedient and very kind of her to think of me. It made me feel a little better about the negative situations this weekend as I still feel that she values my feelings whereas I was definitely doubtful about that last night.

The question for me now is "when is enough enough?" How do you know when a friendship has become unhealthy? And if you do decide that - then what? Do you try to change it? Or throw in the towel? The other factor that weighs on me (for better or worse) is that my son is getting older and more observant. I don't want him to think that picking on your friends is an okay way to behave. Or that getting your feelings hurt repeatedly is acceptable and tolerable. This realization that I am a model for him in most aspects of his life adds a whole other uncomfortable dimension to the situation because I obviously am forced in to action in a situation where I might normally be more comfortable just ignoring it and hoping it gets better on it's own. The question I keep coming back to is - what action? What is appropriate in this case? Is it an email explaining my hurt feelings? Is it diminishing or ending contact with these friends? I wish I had an answer.