Category Archives: Marriage & Relationships
The hell that is the hyphen
I have always been the person that does things my own way. I usually try to think of all of the consequences of my decisions before I dive right in but, obviously, that is not always the case. However, major life decisions get significant review and consideration before I bite the bullet.
So, when Matt and I got married five years ago, we discussed (at length) my desire to keep my last name. [I suggested the idea that we both change our names to something new and exciting. Matt was not amused.]
I never liked the idea that I was expected to change my name. Plus, I have always loved my name. It fits me. Matt, forever avoiding the uncomfortable and confrontational, never really said much else about it. It was never really an issue. After all, we had already been together for 10 years, owned a house together, and had shared bank accounts. The only time I ever really even remembered that we had different last names was when someone got it wrong.
However, when it came time to decide what last name our baby would have, sh*t got real. My amazingly sweet, funny, and laid back husband put up one hell of a fight. Since that doesn’t happen often, I really did entertain all of the possible options (my last name, his last name, combo last name, and hyphenated last name). We talked about it from top to bottom, inside and out.
Finally, when I was about 8 months pregnant, I waddled into my mentor’s office and sobbed. I had never had so much trouble making a decision before, I was giant and full of hormones, and I needed to make sure that I made the right choice.
I finally figured out the right choice when I thought about 10 years down the road, having to pick him up from school, and some random secretary thinking that I was his dad’s girlfriend or the step-mom. Decision made. Noah’s last name was getting hyphenated.
Matt assured me that he understood (although I knew he was lying) and, the day after Noah was born, we signed the paperwork with a hyphenated last name. Decision made; problem solved. [Boy, was I naïve.]
In the past three years, I cannot even begin to count the number of times people have screwed up his name, alphabetized him incorrectly, argued with me about what his name really should be, and/or looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I have had issues picking up his medicine at the pharmacy, registering him for activities, and getting the right information when I need to call the doctor about something for him. The first couple of years, it got on my nerves. In the last few months, as he is getting more involved in different things throughout the community, it is just down right driving me crazy.
So, as Matt is preparing to start a new job and Noah and I will need to rearrange our health insurance options, I decided that, enough is enough. It is time to change Noah’s last name (which also means changing my last name- the fear about the school secretary is burned into my brain).
Changing my name was, quite possibly, the easiest thing I have ever done. I walked in to the social security office, waited for less than 10 minutes (and there was a very nice police officer who really loved his job and was very helpful and pleasant). I met with one of the employees there, gave him my marriage license and, boom, name changed. I don’t even think I had to sign anything. It was just done.
[Side note: in talking with other women and friends, everyone seemed to be very nonchalant about changing a major piece of their identity. When it was so easy at the social security office, I had a moment where I wanted to yell at someone, “Seriously!? This is my name. This is a big deal to me! Why is this so easy?”
Well, I am glad I didn’t shout that because, as the universe loves to do so often, changing Noah’s name has been one of the hardest and most complicated things I have ever tried to do. After getting a different answer from each person I spoke with at the social security office, the vital records office, and the licensing office, I got a hold of someone at the clerk of courts. She informed me that I needed to hire an attorney and have them draft a petition to change my son’s name because my county doesn’t have any forms that I can fill out.
My first thought, “That’s just silly. I’m sure she’s wrong.” My second thought, “Dammit! She’s right. I need to find an attorney.” My last thought, “That’s stupid! I have the internet. I can write the petition my self.” So I did. And I thought it was pretty awesome. I found statutes and examples. Matt and I had the petition notarized and, off to the courthouse I went. I was so proud of myself.
Then, the lady at the clerk of courts office handed my petition back to me, and smirked.
“Ma’am. You’re missing a sworn statement that the applicant does not owe any back taxes or past due child support. You’ll have to resubmit.”
“Seriously?! He’s three!”
“I understand ma’am. But the legislative representatives did not take minors into account when they wrote the statute.”
“Seriously!? [expletive, expletive] Okay. I will do it again.”
So, I rewrote the petition, Matt and I had it re-notarized, I went back downtown to the courthouse, I paid the $120 it costs to change a birth certificate, and she sent me on my way and told me to wait for her call me.
In the meantime, I went to the DMV to get my new driver’s license. This shouldn’t be a big deal, right? People do this all of the time. Every woman that worked there had some little comment to say about why it took me so long to change my name.
For the first couple of comments, in typical “Callie” fashion, I made a joke about divorce rates and making sure he didn’t snore. But, after a little while, I started to get angry. I actually snapped at the lady who said, “I can’t believe your husband actually let you keep your name.” What the hell, lady?!?
I get back to work, all bitter and fired-up, pull out the temporary license they give you while you wait on the real one to be mailed. And, par for the course, they spelled my name wrong. [expletive, expletive] I call the DMV, they tell me I have to come back tomorrow so they can redo the data entry and retake my picture. He told me I would just get 2 IDs in the mail.
Finally, I get a call from the clerk of courts. Noah’s paperwork is ready. Now, I thought I would be able to take the paperwork to the vital records office, get a new birth certificate, and head over to the social security office. Obviously, it turns out to not be so simple. Now, I am waiting for the state capitol to legally recognize the name change and inform the vital records office.
Meanwhile, to make matters so much better, just guess how many times Matt has said, “I told you so.”
Travel away from the boy
It’s kind of amazing how much I have missed while I have been traveling over the past week. Before this work trip/vacation, I had only been away from Noah for a weekend, at most. He was a little over a year old at the time, he had just stopped breastfeeding about a month prior, and I was a complete wreck. I cried the entire way out of town, called to check on him constantly, and couldn’t get home fast enough (only to realize that he hadn’t even really noticed that I was gone). Side note- Matt also decided to drop a 50 pound weight on his foot at the gym that weekend and ended up having to have his toenail removed. When I wasn’t calling to check on Noah, Matt was sending me disgusting pictures of his gnarled up toe and arguing with me that he didn’t need to go to the doctor. Seriously! (Additional side note- when I got back and forced him to go the doctor, he got a lecture about waiting too long to see the doctor. I then said a very quick and arrogant “I told you so.”)
This trip, however, not only have I been gone over a week (8 days), but I am in a very different time zone (6 hour difference!!). It has been unbelievably difficult to call at a time that is feasible for Noah’s schedule. When I wake up in the morning, he is at preschool. When I get a break during the day around lunchtime, he is in the bathtub and way too preoccupied with his tub toys to even notice that mommy is on the phone. And when I am done for the day and ready to call home and chat with Matt and the baby, both of the men in my life are fast asleep on east coast time.
I have been able to sneak in a few “Hi Mommy!! I played in the sandbox today!” and “Guess what?! I pooped in the potty!” moments during the week but, for the most part, it has just been Matt telling me about good and bad moments. I realized how much I take the little things for granted. I miss hearing his sweet voice first thing in the morning. He always wakes up and announces whatever he has been thinking about all night. I miss hearing him breathe over the baby monitor- that stuffy-nosed snort that is full of innocence and peaceful dreams. I miss his ridiculously funny comments about random experiences that his little mind just doesn’t understand yet. And, most of all, I miss the constant enthusiasm about dinosaurs and sharks and playing outside and diving head first into life.
On top of all of that, I feel really guilty about the amazing time I have been having. I mean- I’m in Hawaii for goodness sake! It is so incredible here. The experience has been completely surreal. I keep reminding myself about how lucky I am to be here. I have taken over 1000 pictures and I have tried to squeeze in as many adventures as possible. And I so wish Matt was there to experience it with me. He and I have such wonderful vacations together. I did so many things that I know he would just absolutely love. (And, it doesn’t help that I keep texting him pictures of all of the delicious food I have been eating. When I sent him a picture of my oh-so-amazing breakfast one morning, this is the text I got back:
The guilt comes in when I think about how freeing and wonderful it is to be having all of these adventures without worrying about parenting or putting sunscreen on a little person or scheduling everything around Noah’s naptime. (The guilt does go away pretty quickly when I think about the fact that it was 31 degrees and snowing when I left North Carolina. It was 78 degrees and perfect when we landed in Honolulu. Did I mention that Hawaii is amazing?)
And then I find myself staring at the little children playing on the beach. I watch their little faces light up with excitement as they watch the huge waves in the ocean, their fat little hands digging in the sand. I am sure the people that I was with were getting pretty tired of me telling Noah stories and quoting his sweet little sayings. Last time we went to the beach, we got a little close to the edge of the water when a big wave came in. He got drenched and it scared me and him both half to death. From then on, when we talk about the beach he always says, “Watch out. That ocean gonna get you!”
I watched the unbelievably brave women walking the beaches and hiking Diamond Head with often more than one child holding their hands. There were so many mothers and fathers wearing their Ergo Baby carriers while shopping, strolling along the beach, or eating out at restaurants. All I could think about was how terrible it would be to travel (on the 12 hour plane ride) with children and babies. I imagined Noah on the horrifically long flight. He would be running up and down the aisles, crawling over chairs, bugging the living daylights out of the passengers around him, and talking way too loud, preventing anyone within ear shot of falling asleep.
And then, I see these other women doing it with such ease. They make it look effortless. And I wonder if they wish they had left the children at home. Do they ever look at the children and the husband and think, “Man. I really wish I was here by myself.”
When I was planning the trip and Matt and I were trying to figure out if he would be able to come out after my conference was over and who would watch the baby and would we want the baby to come. We decided that Matt would stay home with Noah because we didn’t want to be gone for that long, that far away just in case of an emergency. Matt, being the saint that he is, stayed home and played single dad for a week. His parents, thank goodness, were able to come for a good chunk of the week and I think that made it easier on both Noah and Matt. And I was able to have some much needed and much anticipated alone time. I am sure all of you parents know that alone time is very hard to come by when your kids are little. When we are fortunate enough to have some time to ourselves, Matt and I want to spend it together. There is never really an opportunity to just be by ourselves. This was it. It was incredible. It was amazing. It was everything I expected it to be and more. And now, I miss my husband. I miss my baby. And I am ready to hear someone call me “mommy.”
I want to apologize. I have been silent on my blog for the last couple of weeks. Not because crazy parenting things haven’t been happening in my house, but because crazy parenting things can be so emotionally draining that the thought of sitting down at my computer and writing sounded about as wonderful as poking myself in the eye with a stick.
Don’t get me wrong- I love writing. It has always been my solace when life gets crazy. But, as life gets crazier and crazier with a 2 year old, finding time to write (which I used to try and do every day) has gotten to be more and more difficult. I no longer have those 2 to 3 hours at night to think about my day, process my experiences, and enjoy the company of my husband. Now, in those few hours after the baby is in bed and Matt and I can finally “let our guard down,” there is the laundry and the dirty dishes, cleaning and organizing, planning for the next day, and last night, Matt had to go out at 8:30pm and buy pull-ups because daycare sent a note home that Noah needs them to help with potty training at school (seriously- a little more advance notice would be awesome!).
And then the next morning at 5:00am, the alarm goes off and we start again (gym, daycare, work, daycare, 2nd job, bedtime routine, housework, bed…). I never understood the “living for the weekend” mentality… until now.
Usually, it is not that bad (or at least it doesn’t seem like it). I guess we still haven’t fully recovered from our crazy summer. We haven’t been able to have any kind of down-time to collect our sanity. And now, what seems to be adding to the exhaustion is that we have discovered the true meaning of “the terrible twos.”
[Man! Does that kid know how to throw a tantrum!?! I mean, is it built into their genetic coding to throw themselves on the ground and writhe in such a way that it is absolutely impossible to pick them up? Is there a toddler class that I don’t know about that teaches them how to go completely limp as soon as they hear the word no?]
Fortunately, I have an amazing husband who does way more than his fair share of the work around the house. He will be the first to tell you that I cannot clean worth a damn. I don’t pre-rinse the dishes before they go in the dishwasher, I don’t measure the laundry detergent or separate colors from whites, and I only vacuum in the event of an emergency. Oh and I am terrible at cleaning up actual messes (be it dog- or baby-created mess).
In fact, the other night, I opened a container of yogurt for Noah’s supper. Somehow, the container slipped out of my hand and strawberry Greek yogurt went flying. I mean, there was yogurt splattered all over the floor, the kitchen cabinets, Noah’s toys, and me.
What I should have done: Get out the mop and cleaning stuff, gotten down on my hands and knees and cleaned up the spill (which is what Matt would have done).
What I actually did: Called the dogs in, let them lick everything, and yelled to Matt, “Don’t worry! I handled it!”
Needless to say, Matt does all of the cleaning. He even re-cleans everything that I tried to clean the first time. I do all of the cooking and grocery shopping. Pre-baby, I handled all of the financial decisions and banking stuff. Post-baby, we split this task. And we have reimagined our previously very defined and rigid roles within our relationship because, well, we had to. Parenting not only shifts your worldview and the way that you experience your environment, it creates new challenges and opportunities that force you to reimagine everything.
I am not a perfect parent… I am so far from being a perfect anything that the word perfect doesn’t even sound like a real word anymore. In a previous post, I talked about striving for adequacy. And I think Matt and I are succeeding. We just need to be reminded of this bigger goal every now and then.
I need to remember that it is okay to force my child to wear pants to school even though it takes 10 minutes to put them on his chunky little writhing and squirming legs. I need to remember that being late to drop him off sometimes is just a fact of life now. And, even though Matt would disagree, it is okay to let the dogs lick up the mess in the kitchen rather than clean it the proper way.
Oh, and remember to write more. For my sanity!
Stressed Out Summer
August is a really tough month for my family. My husband works in student housing and he has a very short time frame to get all of the apartments ready for the incoming students. What that means for me and Noah is that we are on our own for about a month (mid-July to mid-August).
In previous years, this hasn’t been a huge deal. Three years ago, I was a poor grad student so I spent that summer waiting tables at a fancy restaurant. It was a good way to make a little extra money and to stave off boredom. Two years ago, I was big, fat and pregnant for most of this busy period. And then, wouldn’t you know it, I gave birth to Noah during the craziest time of year for Matt. But, while he was able to take a few days off while I was in the hospital and for our first days home, he had to go right back to work. It wasn’t too bad though because I had family at home to help out. Last year during this time, I was still a stay-at-home mom and Noah had just started walking and was still easy to catch. And, while it definitely got lonely at times, being a temporary “single mom” wasn’t so bad.
This year, however, I am going CRAZY!!! Matt has been leaving for work at the time that I get up in the morning. He hasn’t been getting home until well after 6pm (weekends included). And, on the nights that I see clients, I don’t get home until after 8pm. We have had to have family come in to town to help on our overlapping nights. And, as if things weren’t busy enough, Noah’s birthday falls smack dab in the middle of everything.
Party planning, hosting a house full of company, and (I hadn’t mentioned this part yet) because of a summer full of rain storms and wind damage, we had to have a new roof put on our house (while also dealing with all of the previously discussed stress) is not exactly the greatest way to manage my life while Matt is working 12 hour days, 30 days straight.
But being busy and going a little crazy are actually the smallest annoyances to this hectic speed bump in our lives. What really sucks the most is that I desperately miss my husband. While we do get to “physically” see each other for a couple of hours a day, when I do actually get a chance to sit down with him after we put the baby to bed, he is so tired, frustrated, or he has more work to do to get ready for tomorrow. We are both just exhausted. We have been short with each other, snap at the smallest things, and our patience is at an all-time low.
Noah has really noticed the difference as well. I think he is really confused or maybe even angry with his daddy. And, because he is 2, he has no idea how to express his emotions. He spends the whole day talking about how much he misses daddy and asks about where he is but, as soon as Matt gets home, he distances himself from him and won’t leave my side. He turns into this clingy, crying mess (Noah that is, not Matt).
Our entire world has been flipped upside down and these are things I never anticipated. Matt has been working in student housing since 2006. This isn’t new to us. But we have never done this with a toddler. And let me tell you, this sucks! This situation has given me migraines, made me sick to my stomach on more than a few occasions, and I rarely sleep during the night because I am so worried about the next day’s to-do list.
Matt and I are the couple that talks about everything. We rarely fight and if we do, we generally stop somewhere in the middle of the argument and laugh about what we’re fighting about. [Or, Matt just apologizes and we move on.] We communicate. And we usually do a damn good job at it. I’m a counselor. I teach others stress relief techniques and coping strategies to use during times like these. I should be awesome at this!
So, in these final days before the college kids move in and things get back to normal, I am trying to remind myself often that this is only temporary. Remind myself that he will be back to his typical even-keeled self in a matter of days. And remind myself that I need to start coming up with a much better plan for next summer. Either that, or find Matt a new job.
The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn DOMA has really got me thinking about what I want to teach my son about marriage and relationships. As a marriage and family counselor, I see all kinds of relationship. I have seen marriages at the most poisonous of stages. And I have seen amazing couples struggling to figure out a way to make their families work. My husband and I are always super conscious about talking to our son with an open mind about our expectations. I know, he is not even 2 yet, but habits (both good and bad) are hard to break and I want to be sure we start thinking about these conversations and lessons now.
One of the things we do all of the time, and it totally takes certain members of my southern family by surprise, is that we always make sure that any discussions of future partners is kept gender neutral. We say things like, “Noah, you are really going to make some woman or man really happy one day.” Or we will ask him about a girlfriend or boyfriend from school. We just want to make sure he knows, from day one, that we will love him and support him no matter who he grows up to be.
On a separate but related note: It really stresses me out when adults place job labels on my toddler based on his current interests. For example, Noah LOVES to play with my shoes. He puts on my high heels and wears them around with more grace and ease than I ever could. We recently spent some time at my mother’s house and, of course, he got in her closet, put on her spring sandals, and took off running. My mother says, “I really think Noah is going to grow up to be a show designer.” To which I replied, “Or he could be cross-dresser. “ Seriously- stop it!
We have also always talked about marriage as choice. My parents got divorced when I was about 5 years old. I took it really hard, needed lots of counseling, and eventually learned to cope with the craziness through writing. But, the remnants of the divorce never went away. My parents fought for years- about child support, visitation, college tuition, holidays- and, as a result, I developed some nasty ideas about marriage and commitment. Why would anyone ever want to get married if this could happen? Yes, there were other successful marriages that I knew about but, like I tell my clients every day, your children learn how to be in relationships by watching their parents. There is a reason that women with “daddy issues” make terrible relationship decisions. They never learned how to be an equal partner as part of a healthy couple.
I became one of those girls. Fortunately, I had Matt. We met early. We were 16 and went quickly from best friends to high school sweet hearts (maybe I will tell y’all the story one day). I fell hard and fast and, after a couple of years, when I knew I had him wrapped around my finger, I began doing everything I could to try and get him to leave—just like my father did. I won’t go in to the details (for his sake) but there were a couple of years that I treated him and our relationship like crap. And I came home every night expecting his stuff to be packed and him to be gone.
But he stayed. He grew up in a home with parents that loved and supported each other. They weren’t perfect- far from it. But they showed Matt that marriages are forever. They take work and commitment and communication. Gender roles were non-existent. Men were gentlemen- polite and caring and hard-working. Women were all of the same things too. So, Matt stayed.
He ended up convincing me to figure out to come to terms with my “daddy issues” and so, after a long year of the silent treatment and some pretty severe soul searching, my father and I figured out how to start over. While I have never really given my dad a lot of credit, I would like to tell him out loud that this took A LOT of courage. My dad drove to Chapel Hill, not really knowing what I had in store, and listened to 20 years’ worth of hurt and pain and abandonment. Now, don’t get me wrong, he had a few choice words for me as well but, he allowed me the space to stand up to him. Allowed me the opportunity to say what I needed to say and fight the fight I had wanted to fight for a long time.
And, while I am so grateful that my father and I now have a very good relationship, this “fight” made it possible for me to evaluate my behavior in my relationship with Matt and gain some awareness as to why I was so desperately afraid of letting him love me. I finally conquered my “daddy issues” and Matt and I learned together how to be in a healthy relationship with each other. We are honest, we talk about everything and anything, we confront each other, and (probably the best advice I could ever give any couple) we laugh and laugh and laugh- all the time. Our home is full of funny. We make jokes; we make fun of each other; we don’t take each other or ourselves too seriously. We truly enjoy being married to each other.
And that is what I immediately thought of when I heard about SCOTUS and finally figuring out that everyone deserves the right to feel the way I feel every morning when I look at my husband in the bed next to me. I always thought of marriage as a choice- something 2 adults decide on together based on history, logic, and maybe even love. But in watching all of the media coverage and seeing the true joy and celebration in people’s eyes as they finally feel the way I felt when Matt proposed, I now know that marriage is not a choice. Marriage is a basic and human right. I want to teach Noah that relationships are valuable and deserve respect from everyone. And I hope that, one day, he will be lucky enough to meet a person, woman or man, that makes him feel the way I feel about his father.