Context is Everything

Or Why I Suck at Marriage, Part who the hell even knows anymore

This past weekend a LOW GRADE ALERT email appeared in my inbox.  And Chris’ too.  I happened to be sitting in front of my computer when it arrived, and within approximately 1/100th of a nanosecond of seeing the email notification, my phone rang.

“What are we gonna do about this?,” Chris asked me with 100% concern and 0% judgement in his voice.  

My brain is becoming somewhat calcified in my advanced age, and I’m not as good with numbers as I once was, so both those percentages are +/- 100%.  He also enlightened me with many suggestions about how to tackle the problem and what we should do.  

Did we have every desire to fix the situation? Oui, we did.  And perhaps he was getting his we’s and oui‘s mixed up because he was calling from France.  

Let’s back up a bit, shall we?

Late Thursday afternoon I received an email from a teacher saying our child had failed to turn in a very big assignment.  I immediately texted J with my ever present loving maternal nuance and asked ‘What the in the hell is going on with the essay?’.  There may or may not have been more colorful language included.

This would be but a small sample of our correspondence.  And yes, as a matter of fact I DID need the hulu login info right at that very moment.

After a long evening of of supper, probably 30 texts between J and me regarding the status of the essay, why it was late, what was going to happen if he didn’t get it turned in by the end of the evening; him leaving the house sans permission, to go to dunkin’ donuts with his friends while I was out fulfilling my destiny (driving other kid to soccer practice, which is why this all took place via text instead of face to face); he ultimately sent a screenshot showing me it’d been submitted.


Was it my finest evening of parenthood?  Hells to the NO. But nobody died and the essay got turned in.  I would deem this as success on any night, but chose to count it as doubly so since my husband was in France, sleeping soundly after an evening eating onion soup and other fine food (apparently they don’t call it French onion soup there– go figure) and drinking French wine and enjoying dinner with smart people while I was slogging through the parenting trenches alone.  

And prior to France he’d been in North Carolina.  At the time of his call, he’d been gone something like nine out of the previous 12 days.  He was woefully lacking in context.  In hindsight, I can appreciate his concern, but in the moment, my only response to his ‘What are we going to do about this’ inquiry was one of silent, seething rage.  

I do not entirely hate all his work travel.  It has afforded us a comfortable lifestyle in a school district with scads of really entitled white people and top notch schools, lots of frequent flyer miles which have allowed our family to travel internationally on a regular basis, and a beautiful home in a neighborhood full of awesome people. And I don’t always hate having the bed to myself.  

But, despite the fact that Chris being gone quite a bit has been our reality for five-ish years, we have yet to master the ability to maintain healthy communication and co-parenting when we have oceans and multiple time zones between us.  

So…. today’s reason I suck at marriage is because knowing which details to keep him apprised of and which ones to simply deal with on my own is a conundrum I can’t seem to figure out.  I’m not saying this with malice, because his plate is overflowing with shit to deal with, but he absorbs about 60% of what I tell him.  I guess that means I should tell him everything and hope that the important stuff is within that 60% absorption rate.  But if I were to tell him everything, he’d be far less effective at bringing home the bacon (yeah, PETA, I went there); and since it’s been established that I’m bringing home exactly zero bagels (fine PETA, you win); I try to put out fires on my own when I can.

Here are some other contextual pieces that were lacking when I responded to his concerned call from France with rage:

In addition to the essay, I’d also been to Tuesday night’s choir concert and gotten the girl home from the post-show DQ run, and taxied to soccer practice on Wednesday, and taxied to soccer practice on Thursday, and gotten the boy to the Sadie’s dance on Friday and received and dealt with texts later in the evening, while at a concert with friends, about whether or not he could spend the night at his pal’s house, and covered husband’s coaching duties for our son’s basketball team (which included emailing the team and finding a substitute to cover the substitute <that’d be me, if you’re keeping track> since I’d need to taxi the other kid to ski and soccer practices at the same time I was supposed to be substitute coaching).

He also didn’t realize the work I’d done to find a substitute for the substitute basketball coach (which also included some texts when I was simply trying to enjoy The Weepies concert) ended up being in vain, because the soccer player on skis was home sick, and had spent the night sleeping in his spot (next to me), hacking up her lungs. It was a week.

How much of this should he have been in the know about? I dunno. Because I suck at marriage.

At any rate, 2018 work travel is in the books. Woots.