I'm not saying I'm better than anyone

My daughter turns 5 tomorrow.
When my wife was 5 she kicked her father in the head for spanking her and he left.

I've been wondering ever since we got married and especially since we had the kid if I would make it as far as Wayne did. I mean, I didn't go into this family with the intention of breaking it up. Who really does that? On some level they think they will make it work, that it will be good and happy and fun. But I have to be realistic. With the rate of divorce in this country in my lifetime alone, including my parents, my mom’s parents, and I guess most of my family that I know, I had to realize that there was a chance that it wouldn't last. Emily and I had had our bouts. We had been as happy and as unhappy as a non-married couple where both people survive can be expected to be. So I guess in the back of my mind I have always kept the thought that, “if it gets really bad, I can get out.” And now, if it does get bad, I just lean back a little and I see that divorce option in my peripheral, and I’m like, “nah, it’s not that bad.” In fact, almost every time I've even thought about it, I've concluded that it's not even bad, let alone “that bad.” It just gets annoying sometimes.

I know without a doubt that it gets a lot more annoying for her than it does for me. That’s not to say that she’s uptight and hypersensitive and inflexible. I would not say that. It’s that I know how annoying I can be. I don’t mean to, it just happens. There’s something about my thought processes where I just end up thinking of the most annoying thing to do or say and it seems funny to me so I do it. I get really tense if I don’t. It sits there, heavy, tight, keeping me from being able to move on. I start shaking. I bare my teeth. She says, “What? What is it? What did I do wrong?” I don’t know why, she just always assumes I’m blaming her for something. And I’ll keep grimacing and vibrating for another couple of seconds, my good sense challenging my urge to form the words and let them out, and finally I’ll say it, through a throat constricted with effort from the unrelinquishing plight of the better of me. And it will be a crass pun worthy of a 6th-grader in a PG-13 movie. So yeah, she has a lot more reason to be annoyed than I do.

So tomorrow the kid is 5. Emily and I are nowhere near splitting up. We’re probably as happy as we've ever been outside of occasional moments on the aimless road trips we used to take. No complaints. We agree on how to raise the girl. We agree that the balance she receives from the opposing personalities of both parents is crucial to her upbringing. I think her biggest hangup is her fear of disappointing us.

So, even though I doubt it was the day of Emily’s 5th birthday that her dad left, I count myself as having made it. I know there’s a long way left to go, and I’m looking forward to every bit of it, but this is one of my milestones. If I can make it until she’s in high school I did better than my parents. One thing at a time. I’ll wager I’ll have some new examples before then to count as little victories along the way, I’m sorry to say. I know one couple I’m pretty sure is bound for that road. I don’t see specific problems (we’re not that close anymore) but based on what I do know about them, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't make it past the 10-year mark.

I've already said too much.


  1. This was over 3 years ago, and still we push on. Things aren't as wonderful and "can't complain"y as they were, ever since Emily's mom got really sick. That was a year ago, just after Wayne passed away. So yeah, our marriage is going strong but the life surrounding it has become more challenging in the day-to-day. We're still moving forward. The kid is in third grade, Emily is just about to start her student teaching, and I've taken off a semester, but will be back on the path to a music degree by Spring.
    I have a newer post about how the 10-year mark could be a source of anxiety or frustration for others in her family. Heck, we've almost made it longer than my parents did. And that couple I mentioned has one in the oven now, so hopefully they can keep it together for the kid's sake.


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