Fight Club Vol. 9: How to Be a Bad Parent Partner

Dear Milo,

It may seem from these letters that life at home is just all smiles and laughs. It is, for the most part, but your mother and I definitely still get into fights. Just this past weekend, we got into a good one that had all the makings of a juicy schadenfreude-worthy story replete with drama, icy looks, storm-offs, misgivings, misunderstandings, and smart-ass comments — basically, the type of stuff I normally love to hear from other couples, but rarely ever hear because I’m not shameless enough to ask and everyone wants to maintain an image of stability.

This fight started out innocently enough as a conversation about money (as every adult conversation does). In this particular instance, it revolves around my insecurity with money (e.g., the “we never have enough” line), which had permeated into all aspects of our lives including something as basic as whether to go out to eat with friends. Just a week earlier, it was a fight (which I thought was couched in a misunderstanding) about unrealistic expectations to commercialize your mother’s blog with the limited time she gets to work on it. So your mother normally hears all this moaning from me and offers up a rational solution — she’ll go find a job. Then I get all worked up because she’s being a fixer and not a listener. My rational side knows we’re in a very comfortable situation and we’d be content with far less, but it’s my irrational side that’s stirring trouble and riding my insecurities.

Thirty minutes later, I had managed to call your mother annoying, told her to shutup twice, did not eat the lunch she prepared, stormed out the room and slinked my way up the stairs to sit on the first landing where I would stay for an hour. (If you’re wondering what you were doing — you were chewing on your toys in the living room and then cared for by your mother).

Fast forward three hours and nothing’s been settled, but your mother and I are courteous. I had previously planned for all of us to have dinner with a friend from out of town and didn’t want to cancel on him, so I asked your mother in passing whether she still wanted to go. She was nursing a headache and declined, so I took the liberty to just up and go without asking whether she was fine with watching over you (that’s a big WHOOPS! in retrospect). I come back with my friend after dinner (nope, didn’t alert your mother in advance) thinking I was being chivalrous by bringing leftovers for her. I further advanced my supposed chivalrous cause by giving you your bath and then handing you back to your mother so my friend and I could quietly get intoxicated and speak of deep things like being content vs being happy (this concept was a revelation to me — content being a sustainable state vs happiness as a fleeting feeling).

And of course, the next day, I’m feeling enlightened and refreshed, so I try to share this new way of thinking with your mother. To her, this was just pouring salt on the wound because I was prioritizing my own agenda over all the inconsiderate (in polite terms) bits I overlooked the prior day. I apologize, she doesn’t think it’s genuine, and this struggle endures until, as far as I can tell, your mother decides to feel otherwise, which took the rest of the day. All the while, you are probably wondering what you can put next in your mouth…how I wish for that simple life.

[Funnily enough, I always find these letters as the conclusions of an apology to your mother, as it’s an opportunity to reflect. However, it can be a little stressful since I need to make sure I’m reflecting and regretting the “right” things (e.g., what I did wrong) otherwise it’ll demonstrate to your mother I’ve totally missed the point, which would probably just lead to more grief. BUT, if I get it right, I’ll be fully out of the dog house. So yes, this is a high-risk, medium-reward type of proposition I am engaging in in an effort to give you the 4–1–1.]

You can read my weekly letters to Milo at Still going strong from 2014!