The challenge was to cut up these little pieces of paper that had tasks written on them and hand them out to people. I considered making a photocopy of the page and handing a few out just to see what kind of reaction I’d get… but instead I spent a good part of the weekend really listening to the number of “tasks” I hand out on a pretty regular basis.
The other morning I asked MQD if he “wanted” to do something. Something along the lines of making the bed or emptying the dishwasher. Surely not something that anyone WANTS to do. He responded by asking me if that was a request or an inquiry. A fair question. And a question that got me thinking…
My relationship with MQD has transitioned from being boyfriend/girlfriend to being roommates and co-parents far more painlessly than I ever imagined it would. Being a parent is an impossibly difficult task some days. My time as a single parent made me more than well aware of this. I am beyond grateful for the millions of ways that MQD has become a parent to Emily overnight. Their relationship grew alongside ours, naturally, but it was not until we moved in together that his role took on a permanency in her eyes, I think. He volunteered not long after we moved to start taking her to school. This has been a huge help, it gives me a few minutes of “me” time in the morning that I haven’t experienced in a long, long time. And it affords me the opportunity to watch the two of them leave the house together, looking like family. It chokes me up still, at least two or three days a week. All of this to say that perhaps it was my experience being on my own that makes me never take for granted his efforts to help me as a parent, and to be his own parent independent of me. I am embarrassed to admit that I might not be so grateful had I not had this experience. And gratitude is so essential to fostering an environment of respect.
I like cooking dinner. He likes eating. So I cook and he does dishes. I can’t stand the cat hair. He can’t see it. So he cleans the litter boxes more often than not and I clean up the cat hair. I’m a stickler for the way my clothes are folded. But he’ll switch it from the washer to the dryer without so much as a reminder. The list goes on and on… We fell in to an easy division of labor. There are certainly days, sometimes weeks, when one or the other of us drops the ball, but it is picked up by the other with the knowledge that the pendulum will swing back the other way in due time.
I started thinking about why, why we are able to exist for the most part in a fairly peaceful state. I believe our efforts at clear and concise communication are largely to credit. I have a tendency to slide backwards, in to a style of passive-aggressive communicating that really doesn’t benefit anyone. It’s lazy. And even if I can blame half of it on my low self-esteem and my struggle to speak up about what it is I desire I have to admit that the other half of it can be blamed on sheer laziness. MQD routinely calls me on it. Somehow I have learned to take his criticism as constructive and try and learn from it. I also have a tremendous tendency to ask for opinions I won’t heed… so I am working on that, too… I’ve learned a lot about communicating, oddly enough, from a person that communicates/speaks far less frequently that I do. There is a greater weight to his words than to mine it seemed. And in the last couple of years I have learned that my words have significance, too. And that I should choose the more wisely than I have in the past.
So, I passed on this challenge. Because there isn’t much I need to ask for. I have been rewarded with a partner that anticipates my needs and fulfills them. I’m proud of the work we’ve done. Independently and as a unit. To get our own needs voiced and met. I’ve learned a lot about how to communicate. And how to listen. And how to be patient. I’ve learned enough to feel like a complete asshole when a careless statement slips through my lips and hurts someone I love.
Oh, and I am trying not to be so god damn bossy. And this challenge didn’t really jive with that.