Sunday, April 16, 2006

Stay up Late

Do you think we have enough money saved up? Am I a good writer? If I died, would you get remarried?

All the questions I’ve bombarded my husband with over the years have now become a sort of standing joke between us. Punch lines. But they weren’t always so funny to us. You see, I always manage to bring up the heady topics right at bedtime, at the exact time my husband wants to put his stressful day behind him and start thinking happy, dreamland thoughts, not, “Do you think we’ll get our taxes done in time?”

With busy lives—kids, careers, pets, and a house to take care of, it seems the only time my husband and I have for private conversation on important matters is right before bed. We can’t talk about these things when he’s at work or I am, and certainly not when the kids are around. I’ve considered setting an alarm and waking him up at three a.m. to ask if maybe we should sell the Jeep (It’s starting to routinely nickel and dime us at the shop—actually, it’s more like it’s starting to Franklin and Grant us), but I doubt my plan would improve my chances of getting that Lexus.

It’s true what they say, about little kids meaning little problems. Now that the boys are older, the issues are grades and whether or not they’re playing too many computer games, versus, shouldn’t they really stop spreading peanut butter on each other? Finding time to talk about them, without them present, is becoming more and more of a challenge.

I don’t know what we’re going to do when they’re teenagers. Their bedtime now is already perilously close to mine. In fact, sometimes when I have an early wake-up call, I’m in bed before they are. The boys find this amusing. I find it amusing that nine-year-olds fight so hard against their appointed bed times, trying every trick in the book to delay: I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I forgot to do my Spanish homework, while us forty-two years olds are trying every trick in the book to get into bed early—and stay there as long as possible, as in, I really am sound asleep and don’t hear the dog whining to go out.

Sure my husband and I find time to talk on our date nights. But after a glass or two of Pinot Noir and some seared wasabi tuna tartare, who really wants to talk about the science fair anymore? And aren’t date nights supposed to not be about the kids. I think so. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but I love my husband too. I want to enjoy his wickedly funny sense of humor, the one he can only trot out when he’s not within earshot of anyone under eighteen. Besides, who wants to turn into one of those people who are only capable of talking about their children?

The vase is blue.

That reminds me of the time I saw something blue when I was with my kids.

Yawn.

Sometimes my husband and I manage a private conversation at the table, after the boys have finished eating and we’ve sent them upstairs to take showers. We’re oddly comforted by the raucous stomping above our heads, the screaming and thuds that accompany the shower running—and in the last few weeks, the water dripping into the kitchen from the new hole in the ceiling under their tub—because at least then we know they’re not listening to us complain about work or talk about finances or who needs to work more on their division fact triangles.

Women are, of course, from Venus and I do need to get in my quota of 2200 words each day, to my husband’s four. On days when I’m home writing, it’s entirely possible I’ll need to get in 1800 words between 10:30 and 11:00 at night. My husband can be unbelievably patient in letting me vent, but I can always provoke a sideways glance when I stray into heavier topics like career change. That’s when I’ll pull out one of our punchlines, “If I died, would you remarry?”

At least we’re laughing. Perhaps my husband should be more grateful to be in a marriage where we like to talk to each other. I see those other kinds of couples on our date nights. I’ll bet you’ve seen them, too, out driving in their cars, two stony faces and no conversation. I don’t get it. Some days my husband is the only person on the planet I want to talk to. He’s my best friend. I couldn’t imagine my life if I couldn’t talk to him, vent my frustrations to him and have him, occasionally, look up from his paper and grunt.

So when I see the silent, stone-faced couples, it makes me sad. I’ll look over at my husband, to see if he noticed them too, which is when he usually looks over at me and says, “I'll bet she just asked him if he thought they had enough money saved up.”

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