"Mama! Mama! Mamahhhh! MAMAHHHHH!"
At 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, Alice started screaming. This, of course, woke Sam, who also began to cry. The children share a small room that's separated from Ryan's and my room by a paper-thin wall. If anyone makes a sound, we're all awake within seconds.
When the fussing started, I was in a deep sleep. I felt like I was being woken from the dead—everything ached. (I was up until 1 a.m. the night before watching The Wire on Netflix.) But I pulled myself up, grabbed the kids, and lugged them into bed.
When Alice and Sam come into bed, they snuggle up on either side of me, with their heads on my chest and my arms tucked under their bodies. It's sweet and cuddly, but I'm stuck flat on my back and typically my arms fall asleep—while I don't. On the other side of the bed, Ryan sleeps comfortably and restfully. Sometimes I resent him when I look over at him sacked out and happy.
I never fell back asleep on Sunday—everyone else did. And so I sat there thinking about all the reasons my husband was irritating me. Mainly, I was angry because Ryan missed MCDS's deadline to apply for financial aid. I've put so much work into this process; he couldn't meet one measly deadline. I was also infuriated by his slovenly habits, which included leaving his crap all over the house, piling his dirty dishes in the sink, and failing to put down the toilet seat. And I was mad about the Disney princess flashlight he bought for Alice because I hate Disney and because it was on one of those lead-recall lists. And I was mad because he bought a box of sugary cereal. And because he never makes dinner, never cleans up the kids toys, never puts away his clothes, never lets me sleep in, never refills the toilet paper, never, never, never . . . (Please keep in mind: I was sleep deprived and thinking irrationally. My husband is actually a terrific guy and he does do quite a bit around the house, including the laundry sometimes.)
When Ryan and the kids finally started to peep at 8 a.m., I was grumpy. While Alice and Ryan jumped about on the bed, I picked a fight with Ryan.
"At some point, we need to move out of our condo and into a house—something with three bedrooms," I said. Normally, I feel like we never need to leave our cozy pad but on this particular morning I wanted, more than anything, a room where I could escape my family. In our current living situation—nothing like that exists.
Ryan responded, "If we end up at private school, there's no way we're ever leaving this place."
"You don't want to send Alice to private school, I know it!"
"That's not true. I just think it's going to be a huge financial struggle."
"You just want a new mountain bike."
"No, I've given up on the new bike. I'm trying to be realistic. You need to realize that if we send the kids to private school it will be a huge financial commitment and I don't think you've given this a lot of thought. We'll have to make huge financial sacrifices. It won't be easy. We won't take vacations. We won't save for our kids' college or our retirement. And you certainly won't get private school for the kids—and a third bedroom for yourself."
That's when, I hate to admit, I started to dig into him about not being ambitious enough in his career—and not making more money so we could comfortably pay for private school. (My husband actually works very hard and he's a scientist, restoring rivers to make them pleasant places for salmon—something that I'm usually very proud of.)
Our fight on "private vs. public," I'm ashamed to say, was entirely unthoughtful and shallow (the debates between visitors to this site are more sophisticated). Our fight focused on finances. We didn't talk about the differences in curriculum at private and public schools. We didn't talk about the teachers. We didn't talk about our role in this greater society. We didn't talk about how we want to make a difference in the world. And we really didn't even talk about our kids. Of course, we care about these things immensely, but I'm not going to lie: This fight was about money.
After 20 minutes of screaming and yelling, Ryan walked out the door—without saying a thing. I let him go. I needed a break. I brought my—our—kids back into bed and we hugged. Alice smothered me in kisses and said, "It's going to be okay, mama."
I told her that she has the world's best daddy, but sometimes mommies and daddies disagree. She said, "I know, mama. It's okay." She gave me more kisses. (Sometimes I wonder where this loving, nurturing child of mine came from.)
We went on with our day. A morning play date. A birthday party at My Gym in Potrero Hill.
I figured that Ryan had gone for a bike ride. He rides on the weekends, and his bike wasn't in the garage (I checked). But at 2 p.m., when I still hadn't heard from him, I began to worry: "What if he crashed on his bike?" "What if he's really angry at me?" "What if he wants a divorce?" I started to realize that I really loved this man.
After the birthday party, I called Ryan and left a message on his voicemail. "I'm sorry. I regret so many things I said. I know I was mean. We can work this out. I'm just really stressed out about this school thing. Alice's screening at Live Oak got me excited about private school again but I think we need to be open to all our options. I love you. Call me."
He phoned about five minutes later; he was just over the hill. When he arrived home, I was relieved to see him. We talked—this time I was rational. And we realized that we can't make any decisions before we receive word in March. And I'm realizing, that's what is so frustrating about this process—the uncertainty. If only we knew today, what we'll know in March or August or September. The uncertainty can drive you to the edge.