The Sadness

He emerged from the bedroom for the first time as an eleven year old with hair sticking out in unusual places and seemed a bit slow getting started for the day. I remembered that last night he’d wanted to talk but I was too tired.

After cooking his birthday dinner my head was feeling tight and I was done talking so I’d said we’d talk in the morning.

“Did you still want to talk about something this morning mate?”

“Yeah.” he said tentatively with maybe just the tiniest break in his voice. “What should I do today?”

He was obviously still raw. He’d been dobbed in for doing something he hadn’t done, then been punished for it at school despite doing his best to explain. It was his eleventh birthday and he’d been hoping for the best day ever. Now today he doesn’t want to go to school. It was his mates that dobbed him in and he didn’t know what to do about it.

He said even mum didn’t know what to do either.

Christ. If his mum didn’t know what to do what hope do I have, I wondered. She’s the relationship guru.
Tears welled up in his eyes as he sat in front of an over-filled bowl of Weet-Bix and wiped them away on the sleeves of his green woollen school jumper.

Mum had said he had lots of friends. He wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t sure either. At his age, friends come and go. Besties today, but acquaintances tomorrow. Things are fluid in primary school land. But what should he do today? I read between the lines. How could he play with his mates as if nothing happened when they stabbed him in the back yesterday? And how could he confront them and fix it? Would anything make it right?

“Do you have to do anything today?” I wondered if he had detention or any other consequences from yesterday.

“No.”

“So if you don’t have to do anything … that gives you options right? You might not actually have to do anything at all”. I explained that sometimes when I try and fix things when I’m sad or angry, I usually muck it up and make things worse.

We stand in front of the bathroom sink and brush our teeth. I put my arm around his little shoulder. I’m still thinking. I feel his sadness. Easy answers evade me. I try to talk with toothpaste in my mouth but it it’s just garble. I spit in the sink on top of his spit and say “You know what mate? It wasn’t right what happened to you yesterday… but it’s not wrong to feel sad.”

“What do you mean Dad?” He sounded open. Gotta love how inquisitive kids are.

“Well, feeling sad is just part of being human. Everyone feels sad at times. Do you remember that book we read about the boy who had anger*? Sadness is like that too. Sadness goes away if you take care of it.”

“How do I do that?”

“Well, do things that you feel like doing today to care of yourself and allow that sadness to pass away by itself. Be kind to yourself and your feelings.”

“Like maybe play with Reid instead of the others?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. He’s a good kid. Or maybe just hang out with Ella and Erica or go to the Library. Whatever makes you feel a bit better.”

Then my brain kicks in and I come up with something. “Hey I’ve got an idea. How sad are you on a scale from 1-10?” I ask.

“Umm maybe about 5…?” He said thoughtfully. Not as bad as I thought. I thought he’d put it up around seven or eight.

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do. You write down on a bit of paper what you think your sadness will be like at bedtime and I’ll write down what I think it will be and then tonight we’ll have a look and see how close we are.”

“We’re going to Ella’s for a BBQ tonight aren’t we?” he asks.

“Yep”

“So I’ll probably be happy after that.” He’s catching on.

We wander over to my study, and grab a sticky note each. He thinks, then scribbles, and sticks his note inside the front of the top drawer. I write on mine and stick it inside the drawer and slide it shut.

EPILOGUE

It’s 10.30 pm as we pull into the driveway. I smell like chops and sausages. The kids are exhausted from their swim and I just want them in bed. I check on the little one. She’s not happy that she can’t find the ripped off hem from her comfort blankie so she’s sooking. I threaten that I’ll find it and confiscate it if she doesn’t stop. She stops.

The middle one has made a hammock by hanging his doona on the underside of the top bunk. He’s curled up inside it looking like a possum in it’s mother’s pouch.  I’m too tired to care. He hands over his MP3 player that he’s not allowed to listen to because he hasn’t been focussing at school and is distracting others – according to the teacher who rang me while I was at work today.

The newly eleven year old has disappeared. He’s the responsible one. Doesn’t need checking on. I lift the lid on the fish tank and sprinkle some food in. I just want to go to bed. Dad’s arriving tomorrow … house is in a mess…. radiator in the Hilux needs replacing…. Then I remember the sadness.

The eldest appears. He’s remembered too.

“Dad! My sadness – It’s gone. It’s a zero!” This was better than expected. I feel happy – proud too.

“That’s great mate. Let’s check our numbers” I say.

He pulls his out first. It’s a three. Now my turn. A two. Happily, we were both cautiously wrong.

His problem hasn’t been fixed, but like dark clouds scudding across blue skies, the sadness has been allowed to pass and maybe, just maybe the problem isn’t as big as it first appeared to be either.

 

*Anh's Anger is by Gail Silver and published by Parallax Press.

Thirteen sex games that don’t involve sex (for girls only)

My 40-year-old mate Dave and father of four once said of wife jokingly “she’s got her kids now and the kitchen is closed”. I hope he was joking anyway. 1950’s woman would have always been prepared to keep her man happy in the bedroom, but todays modern woman is sexually liberated. This is good news for all the single ladies (put your hands up). But I suspect for those over 30 with small children it means their new-found freedom means choosing to abstain more often than getting their rocks off.

The modern woman who is having it all is feeling the squeeze. Careers, relationships, travel, exercise, diet, hobbies, health and kids means the after-hours bedroom romp has now morphed into a game of “how can I get out of it?” Add in mental illness and medication and the kitchen isn’t just closed, it’s most likely vacated the country!

If you’re new at this game, here are some tips on how to play (some I’ve experienced, others I know would definitely work on me).

1. Wait ’til he falls asleep. An oldie but still a goodie. I fall for this all the time. I go to bed hopeful, but can’t keep my eyes open and off I nod to the land of all things platonic.

2. Go to bed early and fall asleep. This involves sneaking off to bed unnoticed or hubby will think “great we’re heading off early – I’m in luck tonight!”

3. If he catches onto the sneaking off trick just do your regular routine before bed then grab a book and start reading in your comfy chair. Flick on the sports. When he’s engrossed then sneak off.

4. If you’ve gone for (2) and you’re not asleep – pretend. Lie very still. Do not itch that scratch. Try and breathe deeply. Every now and then hold your breath give a little throaty snort and start breathing again. He won’t dare check, in case you really are asleep.

5. When he pops the question explain you’ve had a terrible day. Go into detail. Lengthy detail. Start to repeat yourself until his eyes glaze over.  This will well and truly put to rest any amorous ideas.

6. Tell him your period is coming/here/going and you’re feeling bloated/tender/irritable. This should cover you for at least half the month. Use different combinations of those excuses so he doesn’t realize you’re making them up.

7. Following on from (6) hide the glow-in-the-dark lube and explain this is your “dry” time of the month and it just won’t be possible. Speculate that the kids have been playing in the room and probably mistook it for invisible paint.

8. Tell him the kids aren’t asleep yet (you can hear them and your hearing is better than his). How is that relevant? Because a) you can’t enjoy it if your listening out for them and b) they will come in any minute and ask for a drink.

9. Tell him you just had a shower and you don’t want to get up and wash again and you don’t want to feel sticky all night. Alternatively tell him you haven’t showered and don’t feel clean. If he assures you he really doesn’t mind tell him you’ll get UTI and that he might get it too. Explain UTI. In detail.

10. When he drops the hint tell him sex starts in the morning and he should have romanced you all day to get you in the mood. Explain that women are just wired that way and he should understand that by now.

11. Explain that you have candida or thrush. This will sound like you are now an avian enthusiast to him but mutter something about yeast infection. If he confuses this with some kind of baking activity (the term “bun in the oven” doesn’t help) and he still isn’t registering mention that he could catch it too and it will be like peeing razor blades. Since men think with their penises, this should start to make his temples tingle on the spot.

12. Naturally the closer you get to 50 and menopause you get to play the “my body is changing” card. Things are hot/dry/sensitive/uncomfortable/painful. Early menopause has been known to afflict a number of women so you could probably start this one, oh say 40?

13. The A-Bomb of avoidance that trumps them all is to say that you don’t feel loved and sex is about love not just some physical act of “wham bam thank you ma’am”. Have a lengthy discourse about how this sets us apart from animals, again, until the eyes glaze over. He has no comeback for this one and arguing would simply dash his chances anyway.

Obviously you’ll need to open the kitchen occasionally (or at least set up a camp oven) so he isn’t tempted to eat out. This is tricky. Too frequent and he gets used to it and this actually increases libido but on the other hand, too infrequent and it will drive him nuts and you’ll find him conversing with your boobs or butt depending on which way you’re facing at the time. Obviously this isn’t great either. But if you mix ‘n match the above I think you could probably get away with opening the kitchen oh maybe once a month? Good luck.

Help! My wife is doing man things

It’s been a fairly good source of humor for me to realize that now my wife works full time, and I manage the home, how much she’s doing “man” things – the things I used to do when working a stressful job more than full time. She’s a small, very feminine, good looking girl, who’s girly in every way (her two main hobbies are shopping and eating out), so it’s amazing how she’s picked up all these allegedly “guy” habits.

She dumps keys, sunglasses, diaries, paperwork, junk mail, bills and wallets on the kitchen bench. I’m trying to prepare a meal. This kitchen just aint big enough for the two of us. That would tick me off so much I’d push it off the edge.

I cook, and she doesn’t wash the dishes. It’s a rare occasion that she ever gets to the washing up. I do the groceries, attend to the kids, the laundry, some cleaning (I get a cleaner once a fortnight), pay the bills – the whole shebang. The only thing I don’t do is fold her clothes and put them away. That’s her problem. If they pile up enough, I dump them on the bedroom floor and make a little mountain.

She leaves clothes, socks, jackets and shoes about the house in various places. She leaves her plate at the table, and if she does happen to clear it, it goes somewhere near the sink, but doesn’t ever get rinsed. Then it goes all hard….

She likes to be “fun parent”. They’re the ones that distract the kids when they’ve got a school bus to catch or it’s past their bedtime and “responsible parent” knows that it’s going to turn to muck if the kids get hyper right before bed time, or start crying if the bus is there and they haven’t packed their lunch.

She comes home when she comes home. I don’t get a phone call saying she’s working back late. I never really know when she’s coming home. Then, she’s so tired when she gets home from work all she wants to do is turn on her laptop and vegetate on facebook. She doesn’t want the kids to be talking to her, or me asking her to help out. After tea, all she wants to do is stare at the TV until she’s tired enough to go to bed.

She gets work text messages and phone calls into the night and on weekends. She works some weekends and some weeknights so the kids don’t see her. She’s stressed about work – yesterday she went for a massage and today is going for a remedial massage because her whole body is experiencing muscle spasms. She took pain killers to get to sleep last night. Work life balance? Hardly!

She’s doing all the things I used to do, so it’s a form of natural justice – I can’t complain. It is funny though because these are all things that have been attributed to stuff guys do. But they’re not. They’re what people do, who are using all their emotional and mental energies on their job.

I have come up with a few solutions to save me nagging.

I don’t expect her to do anything. Ever. If I ring her and ask her to pick up some milk from the supermarket on the way home, I don’t expect her to do it. She may well say she’s too tired. I keep powdered milk and grocery milk in the pantry (plan B and C).

I plan my time and budget my energy to get absolutely everything done, so I don’t have to rely on her. If she helps out, that’s a bonus – and often she does. She would do more if she had the energy – I know her heart is in the right place.

I bought a big tub and anything she leaves lying around, goes into the tub behind the kitchen counter. Now if she leaves clutter on the counter, a little nudge and bingo, they’re in the tub!

I try and make the home a calm, clutter free, tidy environment for when she comes home, so that it’s a rejuvenating place. I try and cook her meals she’ll enjoy.

The kids and I eat at 5.45pm whether she’s home or not, so I can still get the kids into bed at 7pm. If I wait for her, it will only make it harder for me and I’ll get frustrated with her and I don’t want to be.

Finally, I understand. I know exactly where she’s living. I’ve been there. I wonder if marriages would be better off, if both partners experienced stressful jobs (not at the same time hopefully) because then they would be more understanding and supportive rather than nagging about their partners’ bad “man-habits”.

My wife is afraid of me

My wife and I were talking in bed, late last night. The conversation revolved around me being abrupt with her. I think she felt maybe I should be back on anti-depressants. I think I’m coping ok with my responsibilities which is a key indicator. I think she feels that if I am “abrupt” then I don’t respect her or care for her. I think maybe that I am a bit short and that my tolerance is fairly low, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. I can understand how it can come across that way to her though.

I think it’s hard living with someone who finds it hard to accept your behaviour if you’re suffering from depression. It means you have to spend precious energy on masking, and moderating your behavior, and you can never really relax. Home is just another stage.

Today I received a text from her “I am afraid of u and ur aggression. In your depression I don’t know if u would harm me or the kids. I feel like a shel of a person in ur presence most of the time”. This isn’t a great situation obviously, and not conducive to recovery for either of us. I thought I’d just put it out there, in case it helps give you perspective.

On the solution side of things, I think it’s clear, that spouses of scrapheap pastors can really do with a lot of support. They also need to get their head around what depression means and how it affects their spouses, so they don’t take things personally.