Last night the girls and I spent a few hours running errands. Sienna had a late doctor’s appointment and afterward we went to Target to get diapers and valentines for her class party and then ran over to Trader Joe’s to get some groceries. When we got home the Ogre disappeared into the study with the girls while I fed Liam on the couch.
I was a little irritated; we’re both trying to spend less time in front of the computer and more time in the living room with our kids, so it was no small self-sacrifice for me to plop down on the couch with the baby instead of whisking him off to the study to surf the internet and troll facebook while I fed him. After Liam ate, the Ogre and the girls were still in the study, so I made my cranky way back there.
I rounded the corner to see the man I married, who hardly ever sings and is a bit self-conscious about it, serenading his daughters (accompanied by Steve Earle) with “Galway Girl”. The girls were both cuddled up in his lap and when I came into the room he looked over their heads at me, still smiling, but his smile changed a little. His song was for me, then, and the fifteen seconds while he held my gaze and sang to me over our children’s heads were some of the most tender we’ve had in recent memory.
It can be exhausting to weather the storm of parenting. We’re buffeted on all sides by the needs of three little people, financial concerns, the Ogre’s teaching and studying, the daily grind of housework. Too often we spend the few snatches of time we have alone together asking things of each other. “Can you do this more…can you please stop doing that…can you help me with x, y or z.” It isn’t often that we sit down together and just enjoy each other’s company. It isn’t often that we take time to remember that we actually like each other, that we can make each other laugh, that little things like singing can be a salve to each others’ weary souls.
This morning I was thinking back over that brief moment and I realized that I’m profoundly grateful for one thing: I kept my mouth shut.
I was stomping back to the study, irritated that he had plopped down in front of the computer when we are both making an effort not to do that. Generally when I’m irritated I begin my rant before I even make eye contact with the Ogre. It wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for me to enter the room saying, “I really wish you would have stayed out in the living room like we said we’d do,” the baby on one hip, annoyance written all over my face. But I didn’t. I kept my mouth shut, and in return I got a brief, lovely moment of peace and unity with my husband.
I wonder how many moments like that I’ve missed in my crusade to make sure that the Ogre knows exactly how annoyed I am when he does something wrong. I wonder how much more peaceful our lives would be if, instead of “reminding” him that he’s not absolutely perfect, I spent more time with my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open. I wonder what our home would look like if, instead of looking for things the Ogre doesn’t do right, I spend my time looking for all the little things he does do, things like putting the dishes away at night because he knows I hate waking up to a messy kitchen, or always changing the cat’s litter because he knows I hate doing it.
Sometimes the quest to die to self and become a better wife and mother can get discouraging. It seems that everywhere I look I find things that need to change, and the more I change, the more I realize how far I have to go. But it’s little moments like last night, moments when I glimpse the way we could be if, for instance, I learned to keep my mouth shut more often, that give me hope. All these little blows to my pride pale in comparison to the vision of the joyful, peaceful home the Ogre could come home to at night if, instead of welcoming him with accusations and annoyance, I welcomed him home with love and gratitude.