The thing about co-parenting is that no decent human being WANTS to fuck up the other parent's program. You want to be on the same page.
You have conversations about your values and agree that baby Wally will not eat sugar cereal except on special occasions. You brainstorm ways to help him transition into a toddler bed, or how to invite his cooperation in getting into the damn car when it's time to go. You are a team.
But here's your first mistake, and it's actually very common: You had a kid with another human. And speaking for the breed, I can tell you that humans are, as a rule, inconsistent, easily hurt, self-centered, and occasionally careless.
Case in point:
I heard this story from a friend of a friend.
I don't actually know the couple who got into this specific fight.
And yet I feel I know them so well.
Husband says to wife, "babe, you sleep in tomorrow. I'll take care of getting Wally up tomorrow morning."
Wife says, "that would be amazing. Can you wake me at 7 so I can take him to school?"
Husband says, "sure!"
What wife heard:
"babe, you sleep in tomorrow. I'll do everything that you do with Wally in the morning. I'll wake up when Waldrop wakes up, make him breakfast and make sure that he eats some of it. I will change his diaper, get him dressed, pack his lunch, and have him happily waiting by the front door with his shoes velcroed and his jacket zipped by 6:57 am. Then I will bring you coffee in bed."
If there are pancakes
there is nothing
I won't do
but only once though
What husband actually said:
"babe, you sleep in tomorrow. I'll take care of getting Wally up tomorrow morning."
And that's exactly what he does.
He gets Wally up.
Wife gets out of bed at 7 am, feeling happy and grateful for the break, for having a partner who understood how badly she needed it. She's ready to have a great fucking day. She doesn't even care about the pancakes.
Until she walks into the living room to discover Wally on the floor in tears because he hasn't eaten breakfast. He is still in his jammies, and is toting around approximately 8 pounds of urine in a diaper so swollen he might as well have stuffed a Sharper Image neck pillow between his legs and peed on it all night.
in the color-coded fuck
have you been doing
since 5:30 am
There is no lunch. No jacket. No shoes.
This is a total fucking disaster.
Wife is pissed at husband for breaking the promise she heard him make. She is making the angriest lunch on the planet, stabbing a knife into the jelly jar and slapping bread together like sandy shoes on the porch. She's explaining to the baby that she's sorry he's so hungry and she knows he needs some breakfast and that it must be uncomfortable to have such a wet diaper on for so long.
She hates how shrill she sounds. She hates that she's talking to her husband through the baby. She feels like she was promised an ice cream and he brought her curdled milk, and her refusal to eat curdled milk makes her the bitch in the sitch.
Husband is bewildered at wife because he did exactly what he said he was going to do. Husband gets embarrassed that all he did was try to help and obviously he made everything worse. He gets pissed because he hates it when wife talks to him through the baby and slams around the kitchen. He wants some credit for trying to do something nice. He wonders why everything has to be done her way all the time.
He feels helpless. He can't win.
Wife is now in the position of having to either:
a) make requests of husband in a painfully specific, step-by-step kind of way. It might get shit done, but he'll feel like he's being patronized and get irritated.
b) make requests of husband in a respectful, general way. Seethe in rage and feel so alone when he doesn't meet the request the way she hoped he would.
c) stop making requests of husband, go slowly insane.
It feels like such a shitty fight to have, like it should be easy for everyone to just sack up and be real about what they need from each other.
And yet Ryan and I, one of the sackiest couples I know, have some version of this fight all the time:
Did you pack the beach bag? Did you put in the sunscreen? Did you put in the sun hats? Both of them? Not the cotton ones. The ones with the SPF. Oh never mind, I'll just take care of it.
Can you get Buster ready for the day?
(10 minutes later)
Why did you put shorts on him? He needs long pants. I know it's hot but I don't want him to get sunburned. No, no, the short sleeve shirt is fine, I don't want him to overheat. Oh never mind, I'll just take care of it.
I'm not willing to let my kids get painful sunburns because I didn't want to "nag" or "henpeck" my husband. That's not my marriage. That's not my family. But I also feel like an asshole when I get annoyed because I have to re-do shit that I've asked him to do, because I wasn't specific enough about what I needed from him in the first place.
Is this just a mindset shift? Do we just need to, in this instance, get a little more "professional workplace" in our communication?
RE: Day at the Beach
Per our conversation this morning, please take care of readying the bag for a day at the beach. I've taken the liberty of preparing a list of necessary gear. Please do not deviate from this list. If you have questions please contact me directly.
1. Bottle of organic child-friendly sunscreen (orange tube, located in medicine cabinet in bathroom)
2. 4 swim diapers
3. 3 size 4 diapers
4. 3 2T pull-up diapers
5. 2 beach towels (the crappy frayed bleached-out ones from the linen closet)
6. Water bottle, full of water
7. Sippy cup (stainless steel, not plastic) full of water
8. 2 changes of clothes for each child (shorts or pants + tees)
9. Snacks (please see Appendix 7 for a list of appropriate beach snacks)
10. The SPF hats (bright blue nylon hats, not light blue cotton ones, located in hat bin in their closet)
11. Sand toys (no more than 5 pieces total, we don't want to be chasing this shit all over the beach when it's time to pack up and come home)
12. 2 binkies
13. 1 Swimsuit and 1 rash guard for each child
14. Waterproof shoes for each child
15. Small trash bag or plastic shopping bag to use as wet bag for used swimsuits/swim diapers
Please be ready in 20 minutes.
Thanks in advance.
I mean, is that it? Did I just solve the problem? How do you deal with this?