a trip to the dentist

Ryan took a two-week staycation. We are nine days in.

I think if we were higher-functioning adults we would have planned a bunch of fun outings. We're seasoned-enough parents to know that the key to a happy toddler is a full schedule. That, and grapes. So in hindsight, maybe we should have taken this time to visit a petting zoo, have a picnic in the park, hit the aquarium, take Chicken to his first movie in the theater.

Here's what our mornings should have looked like:

7:00 am - Buster wakes up. Ryan and Katie alternate mornings with Buster. The Buster parent gets up, changes the baby, makes the coffee, and bounces Buster back to sleep when he starts yawning 15 minutes after he's woken up.

8:00 am - Chicken wakes up. The parent who got to sleep in wakes up, changes Chicken, brings him into the kitchen for breakfast.

8:30 am - Check the calendar for the day's activities. Oh goodie! We're going to the zoo this morning, and then this afternoon Ryan is off and Katie is breaking out a new puzzle for Chicken!

But no. Instead, we wallowed in our 81-degree house, googling "best way to poison your spouse," a manic Chicken running in circles and falling to the floor like an epileptic when we tried to put his shoes on to finally go outside and do something, for the love of God.

Every night as we climbed into bed, I thought, "we should do something tomorrow." Or rather, I started to think it. I probably got about 2 words into the sentence before I fell into the numb, dreamless sleep of a parent who knows that they're not on duty yet.

So every morning, we stared into the most face-clawingly hideous abyss, every parent's worst nightmare: a day without a plan.

Here's what our mornings actually looked like:

7:00 am - Buster wakes up. Ryan gets up with the baby every morning. Katie lies awake in bed feeling guilty that Ryan keeps getting up with the baby, but she's tired... so tired... she ends up checking Facebook on her phone for the next hour.

8:00 am - Chicken wakes up. Ryan goes into Chicken's room. Katie gets up and goes into the kitchen to make Chicken's breakfast. Sees last night's dishes in the sink, and no fresh coffee. Silently resents Ryan. Thinks, "if I'd gotten up with the baby an hour ago I would already have this kitchen clean and the coffee made." Meanwhile, Ryan is changing Chicken's diaper despite Chicken's athletic and enthusiastic protestations.  He is also silently resenting Katie for getting to sleep in (again) and for not coming in and insisting that she take over the toddler diaper gymnastics.

8:30 am - Katie asks Ryan what he wants to do today. He looks at her with desperate eyes and says, "I just need some time off today at some point." Katie taps a pen on the table and says, "... okay... morning? Afternoon?" Ryan shrugs. Katie feels guilty that her husband is obviously so tired and not having any fun at all while he's at home. She feels like she can't in good conscience ask him to do more. So she says, "I'll take the boys out this morning. You take the morning off." She thinks, "please say that I can have the afternoon off." He doesn't say it.

I don't know why it has taken me 9 days and this blog post to diagnose the creeping unpleasantness that has settled like smog over our little family. Actually, I know exactly why. His name is Buster and he likes to make little grunting noises all night long. But that's neither here nor there. Now that I've written this post, I know exactly what that feeling is. It's resentment. I am just a spicy beef stew of resentment, slow cooking until the meat is about to fall off the bone.

Resentment is sneaky. It's like plaque. It builds up bit by tiny bit, and eats away at you, and sometimes you just need to get in there under some harsh lights and jackhammer that shit out.

How are we clearing the air and setting ourselves up for success for the rest of our staycation?

First, we're scheduling our boys, establishing which parent takes which kid and what time of day. I'm taking point on Chicken because his two-year-oldness is giving Ryan all kinds of hernias and heartburn. Seriously, after an hour with Chicken, Ryan looks like he just witnessed a botched execution.

Second, we're planning fun shit to do. Like our dumb asses should have done to begin with.

Third, I am asking Ryan to help less. I know what you're thinking. "Help less? You want your husband to help less? (slaps my face) You are out of the sisterhood!" I'm not telling him to step out for a pack of cigarettes and burn rubber on his way to the border. I'm asking him to pull just his weight, and to let me pull just mine. If he tries to do everything here's what happens:

1. He doesn't do it right. Sorry, but dem's da facts. If I try to do everything I don't do shit right either. But when Ryan doesn't do it right,  I have to re-do it. And then he watches me re-loading the dishwasher or re-wiping the counters, and he googles "how to poison your obsessive-compulsive-passive-aggressive wife."

2. He tells me to go off and enjoy myself, but I don't enjoy myself because I have freedom guilt. It's like survivor's guilt. Only way sicker. If I go out and read a couple of chapters of a great book while sweating on the elliptical, and get the perfect Americano and - what the hell - a scone to go with it, and get a pedicure and drink my entire coffee while it is still hot, and then I come home to find that the boys were a handful for Ryan, my first thought is, "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have gone out. It's all my fault." See? So sick.

3. When I do go off (but not to enjoy myself. To buy groceries or something.) I know for a fact that I will come home to find the house trashed, Chicken screaming in the corner with Ranch dressing smeared in his hair, Ryan swaying and bouncing back and forth with Buster in the Ergo, and the contents of the vegetable drawer smashed on the kitchen floor. "He wanted to make salad," Ryan will say, his voice coming from a far, far-away place, his face slack with despair. So. Not. Worth. It. It's like coming back from vacation to find 8,000 unread messages in your inbox. Nothing fucks up vacay mojo faster than coming back to work and seeing the overgrown bramble bush that your life has become.

So yes. Ryan my love, do less. You'll like me better, I promise.

Aaaaah... now that we've taken these steps, I have that just-scraped-out feeling.


I'm sorry, did I just write that "I have that just-scraped-out feeling"??? That sounds fucking gruesome.

I was trying to bring you back around to the resentment-as-plaque construct, and make a pithy reference to "that fresh, just out of the dentist's chair feeling," but I ended up taking you to William Wallace yelling "freedom," as his guts get ripped from his body, or that scene in Maria Full of Grace when she finally poops out all the drugs. Oh, shit, spoiler alert.

Can we just pretend that I pulled off the return to the plaque metaphor, and that you're feeling hopeful about taking resentment out of your own life as you finish this blog post, because now you have this sharp image that helps you understand why it's important to take some time and clean out your resentment like a dentist cleans plaque off of your--- oh for fuck's sake, I'm just going to stop typing now.



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