I had to go to the registry today to update my voter registration and get a copy of my title for the dead van so that we can get rid of it. Marc and I both went, as we were both on the inactive voter list. We had to wait for over an hour, and Julianna was mostly awesome. She ate her goldfish and sipped her water and when those activities lost their appeal, she sat on the floor and went thru my wallet.
I was sitting there, half reading my book (the new Anna Quindlin memoir) and half watching to make sure that she didn’t lose my license and other assorted cards in the wallet when it occurred to me that Marc would never have just handed over his wallet for her pleasure. Just would not happen. But it bothered me not at all, in fact, I was pleased that I had such a cheap, easy, accessible way to keep her occupied and quiet.
I’m not sure if it’s a difference between a mom and a dad, or a difference between men and women, or a difference between us, in specific. I sense it’s more of a difference between he and I. For as much as we are alike, there are major and distinct differences in us. Somehow the differences work, mostly. And if they don’t, the things we have in common are enough to smooth it over. But the differences between us are huge when you think about it.
He’s much more organized and single minded than I am. I’m more laid back about things and better at keeping vague track of a lot more information. He never loses his keys and his peanut butter, but I know pretty much all the little details of the house and the kids’ lives.
I’m always going to give my wallet to a toddler and he’d never dream of it. Because it’s just not that critical to me, if the price of keeping her content and happy is a confused and mixed up wallet, well, that’s not all that much of a price. Especially given that it’s all jumbled up from the last time she did it. It makes him nuts when his license is behind his health insurance card, or when his socks are to the left of his underwear instead of the right in his dresser. It wouldn’t occur to me to mind. I consider myself lucky to get socks and underwear into the dresser at all.
He’s better at stories than I am. Every night now, he reads a chapter of Harry Potter to Sammy and tells Julie a Princess Julianna story. Sam will reluctantly let me read to him if Marc really can’t do it, but Marc reigns supreme for Julie, in the story telling realm. I’m better at setting limits, and at taking emotional control of a situation, assuming command of a tantrumming toddler (or rabid six year old, or dramatic nine year old).
He’s steady, emotionally, where I’m a lot more… mercurial, shall we say? I’ve got a lot more highs and lows, Marc just exists at this steady content level. I’m much more likely to get frustrated or impatient or irritable, or wander around singing and dancing or giggling to myself. I’m a lot more in touch with my emotions as well – I can tell you exactly how I’m feeling. Marc has trouble articulating it. He can spend hours explaining in exhaustive detail about constitutional law or some abstract scientific principal that proves… something I can’t remember – but ask him to explain, in detail, his thoughts and feelings regarding an emotional issue? He’s baffled. It’s like asking me to know where north is – I don’t know. I can, with a little time, orient myself eventually, but only if it’s daylight and I can remember that the sun rises in the east and then figure it out from there – but Marc knows instantly. Exactly where he is, geographically, and where he’s going. I spent at least 80% of my time when I’m driving at least a tiny bit lost, he’s always aware of where he is.
So why do we click as well as we do? Part of it is the bigger issues – we’re both strongly connected to our families, we both want the family we’re building together to succeed in ways that our own might not have. We both have a strong spiritual inclination, and tend to put emphasis on the same things. We’re both aware that the two of us together is bigger than either of us, apart. I just read (in the aforementioned book) that the biggest indicator of why a couple stays together is their own determination to NOT get a divorce. I’d say that we’re the opposite, or rather it’s the combination of his absolute commitment (he’s already done one divorce and won’t do it again) and my exceptionally high standards (I see so many miserable unhappy marriages, or worse, resigned unhappy marriages and can’t understand why anyone would accept that as status quo. I was raised by a single parent, that’s my default way of seeing adulthood – nobody is more surprised than me that I’m actually in this really great marriage) – that’s what works for us. We have to stay together (for him) and we have to be happy (for me). Not that I’m not committed and not that he doesn’t also want a happy marriage, but I think we put the emphasis on different things, and the combination is what works.
One thing is for certain – there’s nobody I’d rather sit at the registry for over an hour with than him. There’s nobody I’d rather raise children with, nobody I’d rather wake up to every morning than him. He’s the best and most consistent part of my life, he’s the person who’s always on my side, no matter what. He’s my partner, in the truest and best sense of the world, and I’m always, always aware of how lucky I am.