It’s not for the weak-willed or the faint-hearted. To build a strong marriage, I believe it’s about team work, effort, shared goals and mutual respect.
I know I’m lucky. I chose well. We are more alike than we are different, though our differences are pretty obvious: He is neat and tidy. Very neat. Very tidy. He takes after his father and, that’s fine. It’s a quality I admire, but one I struggle to mimic.
I am haphazard, last minute and messy. Last week, I organised Mabel’s 4th birthday party – not only was it 3 months late but I gave the mums at Nursery just 4 days notice. I thought nothing of it, but the mums were laughing and joking about how I managed to pull it all together last minute. I laughed along and realised that even if I’d planned the party for weeks in advance, I would still have been doing the food shopping and the party-bag shopping that morning. It would all still have been very last-minute.
My house is tidy – or tidy to my standards, anyway. I leave things out sometimes and my clothes are often strewn over Hubby’s trouser press (he hates it when I do that!) ready for wearing again the following day, and when I cook, I manage to use almost every pan and ingredient I own.
Hubby, however, loves neatness and has become known in our house as a Thrower.
“I can’t find my chalkboard – it was in the garage, wasn’t it?” – Martha.
“Daddy’ll have thrown it away!” – Archie.
“Where’s my bike?” – Archie.
“Daddy threw it in the bin!” – Mabel
This instinctive reaction to not being able to find anything is a learned behaviour. They have learned it from me.
A few years ago when I was about to return to work following my maternity leave with Archie, I searched high and low for my work clothes. Lovely trouser suits – one in particular was a beautiful tailored suit from Karen Millen and I loved it.
I looked everywhere. They weren’t in our house. They weren’t anywhere. Hubby claims he doesn’t know what he did with them, but I know exactly what he did with them. They went with loads of other “shit” to the tip one Sunday morning.
Again, last year, I had a winter coat – a walking coat; one I would watch Archie’s football matches in on a cold Saturday morning. Hubby “tidied” them all away at the end of the summer. Put them all in the attic apparently – out of the way, so that they weren’t causing clutter.
Now? Now it’s nowhere to be seen. Martha’s coat has also mysteriously disappeared and Hubby claims to not know what he did with them.
The one I have been most upset about over the years was when he cleared out the old VHS videos and I had one of me riding my old horse. Hours and hours of footage of me riding cross country, show-jumping and dressage-schooling. Footage taken by my dad on his old video camera, long before smart phones existed. It was a treasured possession and one I wanted to one day show my girls.
Now? Well, now I can’t as it was deemed to be clutter and has been discarded along with God only knows what else.
So, now when I can’t find anything, I instantly roll my eyes and grumble about him throwing it away. It is my first reaction and I must admit, I am mostly wrong, I just haven’t looked for it properly. But, the kids now also blame Daddy every time they can’t find something.
That is my fault (well, partly his too for being such an efficient ‘thrower’!)
But then I remembered being a child myself.
My parents had (still have, as much as they can) a very strong marriage. Like me and Hubby, they had their differences and sometimes that caused humour and sometimes arguments, but in general they were a pretty good team.
Mum was the organiser. She would know what we were all doing after school, she would have the activities planned and dinner made for whatever time we all rolled in. She organised their dinner parties and social lives and my dad did as he was told.
Dad was compliant. He worked hard and did more than his fair share of parenting. When he got home from his surgery at night, he would spend time playing with us – board games, card games, helping with homework…. it was never too much of an effort for him.
Dad was the bedrock that supported us all – solid, reliable, calm and gentle. Always steady, always reasonable, always there for us all and Mum’s biggest fan.
Mum was the glue that held us all together – the oil that kept our family life running smoothly.
They were a team. A bloody good team.
But the moments I felt happiest and most secure in my childhood were when I witnessed how much they loved each other.
It didn’t happen a lot. And not because they didn’t, but because life was busy – there were three children and a dog and work and friends and life…..but sometimes I saw it.
I remember once going on a family walk to Bolton Abbey – a beautiful spot near where we lived. We had family down visiting from Scotland and I have a clear memory of my dad swinging my mum around and then kissing her. Properly kissing her – not a token peck – a proper movie kiss. Mum giggled like a school girl and we all whooped and hollered and it still makes me smile now, remembering how young and in love they looked.
I also remember that I used to love hearing about the dad I didn’t know. The young man I never met – who he was and why she fell in love with him. Every time it happened – this opening up about how he made her feel, about how proud she was of him and about how lucky we all were to have him in our lives – it made me feel utterly secure and content, settled and confident in my life.
It was so magical, hearing and seeing my mother light up at her beloved memories.
I hope those memories are still in there somewhere. I hope she can call on them deep in her mind somehow. We have been robbed of her and she has been robbed of her life, but I hope deep in the dark recesses of her diseased brain her memories live and bring her some comfort.
So, I have had a word with myself…. I will learn from those moments when it felt like the stars were aligned and everything was right with the world. I will no longer lament at Hubby’s tendency to chuck our stuff away. Instead I will remember my mother’s openness about my father’s strengths and I will recall the warm feeling of security that would engulf me and fill me with pride when she would tell me lovely things about him. I will remember how my mum’s words made me feel and I will do better.
Instead of rolling my eyes and blaming Hubby next time I can’t find something, I will stop myself and I will share stories with my kids about what a wonderful man their daddy is. I will tell them about how he was the cutest boy in school, about how he loved The Smiths and his favourite t-shirt was faded and out of shape and had the Charlatans on it, but he still looked effortlessly cool. I will tell them about how we got told off for cuddling in the corridor at school and how he used to stand outside my house at night, on his way home and wake the neighbours by shouting “I love you!” after he’d had a few too many beers.
I will tell them how their Granny always knew he was the right boy for me and how she adored him.
I will tell them all these things and more and hope that in learning about why I love him and about the young man they never knew, they will feel as secure and as content as I once did.
Thank you, Mum. I will do better.
I miss you x