Sunday, June 28, 2009
So, John and Kate are divorcing. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I have watched this TV show sporadically for a few years. It's obviously super easy for outsiders to judge, especially when we think that we have seen everything that goes on in their lives. And really, I usually could not give a fart what goes on on TV, reality or not. But this one has struck me. I think because there are some things that feel familiar. I get why this mother, Kate, was a nut. She felt like she had to be super-duper controlling because of how out-of-control the circumstances were. When you are planning on having one or two kids, and you get six, I think that the need to control must go in to over-drive. She couldn't control how many kids she could have, but by gosh- she could control every single thing they ate, wore, did, etc.. It's a coping mechanism. The problem is that her husband became kid number nine. He wasn't competent enough, in her eyes, to set the rules- so instead he was forced to follow them. Oy...been there. There is an "I'll-do-it-myself" reflex that rears it's ugly head far too often in a lot of mother's lives. It emasculates men, and just makes them retreat, wanting to give help far less in the future for fear of more ball-busting (for lack of a better term). I was guilty of that with Dalton. Gavin would come home late from work, with only enough time to see him for ten minutes before he went to bed. And I was so outraged that I had had no help the entire day, and beyond tired- that I would flip out if Gavin strayed from the bedtime routine in the least amount. The routine gave me comfort. Even though it robbed Gavin and Dalton of it. Most men back down quickly. They are not about to mess with the Mama Bear..forgetting that these kids are theirs too. They buy in to the idea that their wife must have all the answers. She must have read all the books about what to do. And that they should take their place in the back row, sit down, shut up and just be a passive observer to their kid's lives. It's just easier not to fight. And that seems to be what happened with John and Kate. Why would he want to put up a fight. It was too much work. So, he took the sarcasm, and belittling, and everything else..for the sake of his kids. But the problem with being passive-aggressive...or just plain passive- is that no one knows that they are doing anything wrong. She, just like me, thought that things were ok. Granted, she probably felt pangs of guilt..knew in her gut that she should treat him better..but he wasn't complaining..so things continued as normal. Luckily Gavin wasn't quite so passive. At some point he spoke up. He was quite capable of being a good father- thank you very much. And so, with much hesitation- I gave in. I let go of my need to control every aspect of parenting, and let him be a dad. Granted, he did make mistakes. At first I was there to make sure that he was aware of his mistakes and let him know that he should never forget them...oy. But after a while, I saw that he was really good at parenting. And Dalton adored him. Where I was overprotective and worried, Gavin was relaxed and fun. Where I was strict and nervous, Gavin was laid back and more sure of himself. I was 23 for heaven's sake. I really don't know how Dalton or I survived. I cringe sometimes when I think of that baby trying to figure out how to parent her own baby. And back to the TV show...so I get Kate. I get John. I get that finally he snapped. He verbalized what he, and everyone around him (including Kate) already knew- he deserved better. Problem was- it was too late. And poor Kate is wringing her hands, wondering what she could have done better, wondering where the signs were that she had missed- when really- there were no signs. He was like a car whose check engine light had gone out. And without warning the engine is beyond repair. I have been guilty of that with Gavin. A lot at the beginning of our marriage..not so much later on. But guilty none-the-less. When I don't hear or see any sign of complaint- I think "Lucky me that I can be so short with him, lose my temper, be a pill and he still loves me." It's only months later that he will open up to the resentment and anger that he has been suppressing. And I am sitting there dumbfounded, clueless to the impact that my rotten behavior has had. Those lessons have been hard ones to learn. When you have been in the bad habit of treating someone a certain way it is hard to learn a new habit and change your behavior. It's often even harder for the person to accept that you have changed. So, as I am watching the episode of this TV show where they announce that they are splitting, I get incredibly emotional...because that was almost us. It really could be almost any couple. Marriage is so hard. I know. And while there are a bunch of people who say that they have never had a fight in their marriage, and they have never had an unkind word spoken, and their partner is their best friend and they would die a thousand deaths before they were away from them for a second...well, lucky you, but that is not my life. Those are probably the same people who claim to have sex every day (and good sex at that) and claim that their kids never fight, and claim to be descended from royalty with an IQ of a million...phooey. As hard as marriage is..and as hard as it has been for me..with all the odds that have been stacked against us, and as many times as we have both wanted to throw in the towel..I am really glad that we are in this together. I really can say, after all these years, that Gavin is my best friend. However, I can only say that after many bouts of feeling, truthfully, like he was an enemy. Looking at these two people on TV I realized how human we all are. We are all making dumb mistakes, and trying our best, and we all want to be treated well. So, I, along with all the other rubber-neckers, will continue to watch this family and how their lives unfold. In seeing myself in them I have much less desire to judge them. The glass house that I live in is far too fragile.
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on marriage... I think you are spot on with the parenting/control aspect. I too am very lucky that my husband and I survived our first baby (at age 23). Looking back scares and shames me ... so I dont. Thanks again for being honest.
Thanks Elizabeth. Good to know that there are fellow survivors out there!
You are so amazing to read. You really touched on the reality of marriage. That is does take HARD work and NO ONE is perfect.
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