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Friday, 19 October 2012

44. 50 shades of green

At 20-something, I was an ardent serial dater but convinced that ‘THE one’ only existed in movies and fairytales.  Thrice engaged, friends swiftly tagged me ‘the runaway bride’.  But I couldn’t help it as I see-sawed between hurtling towards, and then running screaming from, the white-picket-fence-2.5 kids stereotype of my generation. Fueling my emotional schizophrenia, was my memory of being a bi-product of a union that imploded when my father’s two-timing came to light and a determination to never put myself in a position where I could be similarly cuckolded.  And then, I met Matt.  And in spite of myself and my fears, I fell head-over-heels (relatively cautiously) and allowed myself to be vulnerable (somewhat reluctantly!).

But for the first few years, I worried.  Worried that my older brother would turn out to be right when he ‘sagely’ told me that ALL men cheat because they ‘simply cannot help it’.   And the problem was, I often witnessed it myself.  At work, wherever I sang, all sorts of men would pursue me with ardent declarations of love (only to cheekily turn up with their wives/girlfriends days/weeks or months later!); or later on, as a mother on the school run, having dads ‘hit’ on me.  And I would feign ignorance – if only to avoid the entailing drama!  Later I would ask Matt, “Am I SO old fashioned and such a prude that these guys’ behavior bother me?”  Was I a prig to measure these situations against whether I would be comfortable with Matt behaving or talking that way with another girl; or how would he feel if I behaved that way?  Was I over-reacting by then steering clear of that latest pesky geezer-in-question?  But by the time I got to 30-something, it was evident that the cause of marriages collapsing was no longer male-dominated. 

Which brings me to the topic de jour: why do some, BOTH men and women, feel that what they have at home is not enough?  An acquaintance has recently started texting and going on ‘dates’ with a man she met at a nightclub on a girls’ night out.  The problem?  1. She is married with the 'requisite' 2.5 children  2. The ‘other man’ doesn’t know she’s married – and the lies and half-truths just multiply!

Not wanting to play judge nor jury here because nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors,  but using this scenario as an example, why do so many dabble with the taboo – be it flirting, ‘hooking up’, or a full blown affaire de Coeur in spite of the nagging feeling there cannot be a happy ending and at least one person will end up devastated.  Why the sabotage?  Men who say things they shouldn’t and make promises they couldn’t possibly keep because of prior 'commitments', women who risk everything in exchange for a little bit of attention or the ones who romanticise that bastard ex -- perhaps looking to recreate something they read in books like D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover or E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey,  to fabricate an ‘exciting’ diversion from what they consider their monotonous and dreary everyday. 

This whole ‘grass is greener on the other side’ notion is often fiction at its 'best'  because majority of the time, if you climbed over the ‘fence’, there’s a high likelihood that its astro-turf or worse, dyed!  Over the years, I’ve had friends (both male and female) whom I’ve had to shake and ask “What were you thinking?”, only to be faced with responses of varying versions of how things weren’t perfect at home and blah, blah, blah..  They forget it takes two to tango.

And so, in spite of some 16 years together, I don’t assume that Matt and I are impervious to the relationship fallout's we have both since witnessed all around us and we try to keep a close eye of the state of our marriage, working very hard to keep things interesting between us.  I am no gardener but I DO know that the grass is greener where it is watered, mowed, fertilised and taken care of.


Thursday, 11 October 2012

43. Daughters

I’ve had one of those months where besides the ‘everyday stuff’, I feel as if I’ve spent nearly every waking hour, running around trying to put out one ‘fire’ after another – of the emotional kind – and frankly, I am exhausted.  Years ago, someone knowingly chuckled when I mentioned I have three daughters.  Back then, I didn’t get it.  But now, I am just beginning to understand.  

It began with me trying to encourage my eldest to participate in the everyday with honesty and awareness, instead of just going through the motions and/or only skimming  for the barest of details before throwing herself head-first (or heart) into a commitment.  That said, in spite of my not-so-subtle hints, she procrastinated over one of the matters for a little too long – and then the issue was taken out of her hands and she felt bereft and hurt.  Sigh.  There is only so much a pep talk and motivational one-liner can help when you are feeling down; and at the end of the day, its up to the individual to haul themselves out of that emotional 'ditch'.  And yet, considering she was also negotiating a new school AND the ending of a crush-that-was-going-nowhere, to her credit, after earnest tête-à-têtes, she appears to be getting on with it with a grace that I never possessed at her age.  But before I could say “Whew, let’s do a happy dance for surviving that challenge!”, another ‘fire’ appeared, and another and another… You get the picture.

Meanwhile, in-between trying to encourage my other child to believe in herself and see how exceptional and wonderful she is, I ALSO had to discourage her latest occupation – creating drama (which I sense also stems from her insecurities).  The crazy thing is, she is the child who achieves so much with so little effort and always seems to be able to form strong friendships which aren’t wrought with jealousy! So why the theatrics?  I am still trying to figure it out..

Sigh!  And just when I finished clearing up all the balled-up snotty tissues yielded  from that 'case', I noticed my other child’s inability to say “no” was getting her in all sorts of situations.  Luckily, at nearly-9, the scope is limited in what KIND of ‘situation’ you can find yourself in.  But as I imagined all the types of bothers she COULD get herself into later on in life if she didn’t learn how to say “no”, we had a few heart-to-hearts.  But yet, as I watched her from across the school playground a few days later, it was evident she had a long way to go before she learned the lesson and I reconciled myself to the knowledge that it was going to be an ongoing conversation for the foreseeable future.  But before I could take a breath, another situation cropped up which involved all three!

Urgh!  Trying to teach the girls the fine balance of standing up for themselves, but in a way that doesn’t cause them to mutate into mean girls, is no easy matter.  In our household, all three are quite awesome when it comes to standing up for others, but when it comes to themselves, it becomes an interesting study.  One child becomes overly defensive and aggressive, one is deceptively passive but actually on a slow-boil – until her emotions get the better of her and she explodes.  And the last?  She just wants everyone to be happy but forgets that she too deserves that satisfaction, until it all becomes too much and overwhelms her.  But no matter the behavioral feature of the child, it all ends in frustrated and confused tears.  Sometimes, even mine!

And its these times especially when I am grateful I have the choice to be there for them because not everyone is lucky enough to be able to nominate the role they want to play in their children’s lives.  

Yes, the drama, whenever it crops up, is draining.  And more often than not, unnecessary.  But, I understand it’s a rite of passage – the drama and zits, the tears and menstruation-induced mood swings, the angst and emotional roller coasters.   Throw into the mix the different personalities and traits, and with no ‘surefire-guaranteed-to-solve-it-all guide book’, all you can do is 'doggy paddle' (and in my case, pour myself a nice stiff drink at the end of the day!).

But yet, in spite of the drama, tampons and stuff that seem to magically walk out of my room and end up in their’s, I would not swap my daughters for all the tea in China because they are MY girls.  I may not always understand them or their needs but I think, alongside Matt, they are the most wonderful people in the world and so I try my hardest to figure it out, often learning on the job and making it up as I go along.

And so I pray.  For guidance, wisdom and insight.  For patience.  And most importantly, a healthy sense of humor – for us all!