Monday, May 13, 2013
Dinner isn’t the only thing heating up
Celia wants to talk about how it felt to read the Noah’s Ark story together to William, from a children’s Bible,before bed. Rob just wants to eat dinner.
Celia felt her face burn; she was almost insulted at Rob’s obvious intention to stonewall her efforts to get him to talk. “Why do you have to be so stubborn?” she said, her voice rising.
Rob sighed and sat at the table with the bowl of soup he had just ladled. “Please, just get some dinner and sit down.” He started to eat.
“Can’t you even wait for me?” Celia said, even angrier as she headed to the stove to get her own.
“I asked you if you wanted some and you didn’t say anything,” Rob said. “I figured maybe you ate earlier.” He put his spoon down and waited.
Celia almost wished he had kept eating. She needed something to fight back against and be mad about, because Rob was being slippery in his refusal to talk about reading the Bible storybook. She served herself some soup and sat down, and they began eating together.
“Since you won’t talk about reading together,” Celia started, eating fast, “why don’t you tell me about your day?”
“My day was fine,” he said. Celia heard the edge in his voice but he would not cop to being either stubborn or angry.
She got up from the table and pulled a loaf of bread and a tub of margarine from the refrigerator and tossed them on the table a little too carelessly.
“What is your problem?” Rob said.
“This is important to me!” Celia said. “I want you to care about this!”
Rob put his spoon down, shook his head at her, and put his head in his hands briefly. “But I don’t care about it, Celia,” he said, looking up. “It is not important to me.”
What happens next?
Monday, April 15, 2013
Family time with the bible
Rob went to church with Celia and William on Easter under pressure but has little interest in anything religious on his own.
At ten months old, William loved his bath but preferred to stand up. “Sit down, William,” Celia would say repeatedly, as patiently as she could. “It’s not safe to stand up in the tub.”
Massaging bath gel gently around William’s back, Celia reflected that Rob had been as good as his word about Easter. He took pictures of Celia with William, all dressed for church, in their muddy spring backyard. He attended the service with them, standing up and sitting down on cue, and holding his half of the open hymnal she offered if not bothering to sing along – but of course he neither read music nor knew the songs, so that was to be expected. He stood in line with her and shook the pastor’s hand and laughed when William crawled his way through the children’s egg hunt.
In fact he had done such a good job of imitating genuine engagement in the morning that Celia dared hope that he was actually enjoying it, but Rob had disabused her of this notion when she asked him later what he thought.
This was a quandary she had not seen before marriage, that to show their children two faces of faith – one invested and personal and one routine and meaningless – might be more confusing to his faith upbringing than if the family did not go to church at all.
She rinsed William and lifted him out of the tub into a warm towel, conscious of the sole weight of responsibility for raising her son not only with a religious foundation, but with a meaningful faith.
Ten minutes later, she was sitting in the rocking chair, getting ready to read to William, when she heard Rob’s car pull in; this being tax season he had been working late almost every day. At that moment she had an idea. It was a mild idea, not earth-shattering, but it was a place to start.
She set aside William’s favorite book and picked up the children’s picture Bible from the book basket. William began to fidget in excitement when he heard Rob coming up the steps.
“We’re just reading,” Celia called. “Come listen with us?”
Rob stood in the doorway and looked upon his family. “Not sure I can take another listen of “Goodnight, Moon,” Rob said.
“I thought we’d try something else tonight,” Celia replied. She held up the book to show to Rob.
How does Rob respond?
Monday, March 25, 2013
Faith and Parenting
Celia is realizing how much she wants a shared spiritual life with Rob, despite knowing that he wasn’t interested in religion when they got married. Having a son changed things for her.
“I don’t want to go to church to pretend to be interested,” Rob said. “I don’t see how that helps the situation at all.”
Celia got out of bed and put her bathrobe on.
Rob sat up. “Celia, when William gets older I want to take him to ball games and put a basketball hoop in our driveway. What good will it do for you to do that with us? You’d be bored. You’d just get in our way.”
“Going to church is not the same thing as going to a basketball game!”
“How are they different? I’d really like to know how they’re different!”
“Faith is not a sport, Rob,” Celia said, raising her voice. “It’s about”—she groped for the words –“a meaningful life together.”
Now Rob got out of bed, too. “What are you talking about? We have a house with a backyard, and a beautiful son to play in that yard, and jobs we like – I mean we’re not rich but”—
Celia cut him off. “You’re describing financial security, Rob. That’s not the same thing as meaning.”
Rob looked stunned.
“I know financial security may be the highest form of meaning for you,” Celia continued. “But someday we’re going to die anyway.”
“I don’t think about that!”
“I think about it every day!”
Rob and Celia stood facing one another, their unmade bed between them, though to Celia it felt like the Grand Canyon. They had discussed, even argued, their faith differences before. They typically reached a lukewarm agree-to-disagree stance, but for the first time Celia feared the obstacle was insurmountable and would create a friction on their relationship that would subtly degrade it over time.
“All right. I’m taking William to church on Easter,” Celia said. “I hope you’ll come with us.”
How does Rob respond?
Monday, February 04, 2013
The Laugh heard around the world
Celia handed William to Rob and left the house, upset because Rob did not come upstairs to see her and William immediately upon arriving home from work.
Rob was putting William in his high chair, wondering where Celia was and when she would be home, when Celia’s mother Mary walked in. Mary lived with Rob and Celia and provided care for William while Rob and Celia worked.
Mary dropped some bags on the counter and began to coo at her grandson. She stopped abruptly and looked around – “Where’s Celia?” she asked.
Rob paused, focusing intently on making sure William was secured in the chair, while he thought about how to answer. “She took a drive,” he finally said, being evasive.
“At dinner time?” Mary said. She stood there, questioning.
“Well – she was kind of upset,” Rob said, opening the refrigerator to get out William’s applesauce. “I was watching basketball and she was hurt when I didn’t go upstairs to see her when I got home”—
“You work hard all day!” Mary said. “You do what you want when you get home.” Mary tended to favor Rob, he knew, and would tell whatever story made him look better than Celia; this meant that Celia felt perpetually disadvantaged by their living situation.
“I get it,” Rob said, keen to protect Celia in the conversation. “It’s kind of the pattern I set up, that she and William listen for my car, and then wait for me”—
“Robbie, you are a good husband, but Celia can be”—Mary made a “crazy” gesture with her finger at her forehead – “a little neurotic.”
Rob began to feed William, spooning applesauce straight out of the jar, provoking William to wriggle in excitement. “Sensitive,” Rob said. “Celia can be sensitive.”
“You say potato, I say po-TAW-to,” Mary said. “When you married Celia, you got both.”
Rob laughed, then looked up to see Celia standing there. The look on her face made it clear that she had heard their exchange and, worse, she had heard Rob laugh.
What happens next?
Monday, January 28, 2013
Celia feels ignored by Rob, who stopped in the living room to check on a basketball game before going upstairs to Celia and William.
“I just wanted to check the score,” Rob said. “I wasn’t blowing you off.”
Celia stood there for a long moment with William resting on one hip, staring at Rob. The basketball game continued, loudly, on the screen behind Rob, its cheers of collegiate rivalry at stark odds with Celia’s hopelessness. She felt like the world was ending.
Vaguely aware that her internal reaction was disproportionate to the situation, Celia handed William to Rob. She turned around, grabbed her jacket and car keys from the front table, and left the house. Rob called after her but she ignored him.
She drove out of the neighborhood, crying in anger, but once she hit the main drag she realized she had no idea where to go, nor did she have any money with her to get something to eat or to do some retail therapy. It was too cold to park and sit in the car, but she had to be home in less than an hour to nurse William before bed anyway. So she drove over to the Ohio State campus, where she and Rob had met as students, and trawled the neighborhood.
Celia wondered what had happened to her, as if something that had been fragile and straining to hold up had collapsed unexpectedly. She hated basketball season and she always had, but something was different this year.
She wondered why Rob did not try to call her, but realized she did not have her phone with her. She kept driving. The only difference between this year and every other year she and Rob had survived basketball season was William’s presence. Sure, Celia was tired, all the time, but this wasn’t just a fatigue reaction.
Driving past the Schottenstein Center, she started to think of her father. Ah, she thought. This is a dad thing. Somehow, even though she did not know what it had to do with her father, this realization calmed her, and she turned around to drive home.
What does she find when she comes home?
Monday, January 14, 2013
The holidays brought family challenges and a trip to the ER with William, their seven-month-old son, but Rob and Celia are starting the New Year optimistically.
Celia was changing clothes in the bedroom while William played happily on the bed, chewing on a toy. He was at that wonderful stage in which he could sit up quite well but was not yet crawling, which meant that he stayed where you put him, engaged in what was going on around him.
“William… guess what I hear?” Celia said. She pointed to the window, where they could hear Rob’s car pulling in the driveway. This was a daily game, and William cooed happily and waved a toy. “Daddy’s home!” she said.
Celia heard Rob’s car pull into the driveway. As a teacher, she was usually home a couple of hours before Rob and she relished that time alone with William. But this was her favorite time of day, when all three of them could be home together.
“We’re up here!” Celia called downstairs. “Mom went to the mall.” She flopped on the bed next to William and he laughed and rolled over onto her. For a minute they played, waiting for Rob to come upstairs, but he did not come up.
Celia picked up William, cradled him on her hip, and started down the steps. “Rob?” Approaching the first floor, she could hear the television on in the living room. Turning the corner from the stairwell, Celia saw Rob standing there, the TV remote in his hand and his overcoat still on, watching basketball.
“What are you doing?” Celia said.
Rob did not even notice they were in the room he was so absorbed in the game. William bent away from Celia and reached for his father, just as Rob shouted and raised his arms in support of a three-pointer.
William, frightened, burst into tears. Rob looked startled as he turned around.
What happens next?
Monday, November 12, 2012
Taken for Granted
Rob accepted an invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family in Cleveland.
Celia was beginning to feed William some of the mashed potatoes she, Rob, and her mother were also eating with their meatloaf. Celia’s mother made good meatloaf. Dinner was one time of the day when Celia did not mind her mother living with them, because it meant a set table and hot meal even when they both worked. Further, it was the only area in which Mom took full initiative well, neither asking stupid questions as she did about some tasks or requiring excessive direction in order to get it right.
“I have news, Mom,” Rob said to his mother-in-law. “My mother would like you to join us when we go up for Thanksgiving next week.”
William, sitting up hungry in his high chair, sputtered and lolled his tongue around, ensuring that no potato was actually swallowed. Celia rewound what Rob just said in order to make sure she heard correctly. No discussion about Thanksgiving had occurred and she looked forward to a quiet day at home during which Rob watched football, Celia took a nap and Mom – well, Celia assumed Mom would do what she did best—make dinner.
“We’re going to drive my sister Maria home from school, too,” Rob continued. “It’ll be a tight fit but if I pack the trunk well”—
Celia was furious. She could feel the anger start in her chest and bloom forth into her extremities; she sensed that when the anger hit the top of her head she would simply explode. Observing this reaction of her body as if in slow motion, she wondered if she would scream, or cry, or run from the table when the anger piqued. Rob, oblivious to her response, continued to talk animatedly about the weekend.
“So if you want to make some pies or other dessert to take along”— he said to Mary.
Celia pushed the chair back and stood up.
Rob did the same. “Celia, you’re really pale. Are you all right?” He walked around the table toward her like he feared she would faint.
Celia looked him in the eye as he walked toward her, shaking in anger as he got closer.
“How dare you make these plans without even asking me!” she said, quietly and evenly.
“Oh, Celia,” her mother said. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch. Robbie just wants us all to have a good time! Of course I want to go,” Mom told Rob.
What does Rob say to Celia?
Monday, October 29, 2012
Thinking it through
Celia and Rob have distinct perspectives on the relative advantages and disadvantages of Celia’s mother living with them. This has contributed to the two-jobs-new-baby stress and fatigue already present in their marriage.
Hard to be in a bad mood and try to lead singing to a bunch of first graders, but this was her job after all… Celia always liked the American folk tunes she used to rouse the younger kids, but today even Stephen Foster’s tunes irritated her.
She was waiting in the hallway, her keyboard-on-wheels ready to roll into the next classroom, checking her phone. Rob had called. She clenched her teeth and listened to the message.
“Hi Cele,” Rob said. “It’s me. I was just thinking about all this. I know it’s hard for you to have your mother here, but thank you for everything you’re doing for us. This is definitely a situation where there is a short-term loss for you against what I hope will be a long-term gain for us all. Anyway – can I do anything to make it easier for you? Let’s talk about it tonight. I love you.”
The classroom door opened to the hallway and the kids streamed out, heading to the gym for recess because of the rain outdoors. “Hi, Mrs. Benson,” they said, one at a time. One little girl stopped and asked, “Can we sing ‘Oh Susanna’ today?”
“You bet,” Celia said, her heart warming. “I’ll see you after recess.” After saying hello to their teacher who brought up the rear, Celia pushed the keyboard into the room.
Her first thought was that Rob had been talking to Lucy, his cubicle-mate, a woman built like a brick house but with a sensible head on her shoulders about relationships. Celia didn’t mind that Rob was being tutored by someone who knew what they were talking about and besides, she knew he would not parrot words he did not believe just to end a tiff.
Celia walked around the room, putting a homemade songbook on each desk. She was still mad that Rob liked having her mother there – irrationally, she admitted, because she was jealous that Mom stayed home with William—but Rob had said all the right things in his message. She sighed. It was hard to think about what he could do to make it easier. Rob had already taken on the job of communicating with her mother about how they wanted things done around the house and with William, because neither Celia nor her mother did well discussing those issues together.
For what help does Celia ask from Rob?
Monday, September 10, 2012
Rob and Celia have finally had sex again following William’s birth.
“Thank you for being so patient with me,” Celia said.
“You are worth the wait,” Rob whispered to Celia. This must have been the right thing to say, because she responded with a hug and kiss, and with a sigh settled next to him to sleep. Rob turned and looked at the clock’s glowing digital image. William would probably be awake again in three hours; it was good that Celia was sleeping. She had been handling the nighttime feedings almost entirely alone and had not complained about that, but now that she was heading back to work – her maternity leave had coincided nicely with the school district’s summer break – Rob wondered if the balance they had achieved so far could be sustained.
When he heard William stir, he was shocked that he had fallen asleep himself and that it was now almost three in the morning. Though he had not done so since Celia had recovered from giving birth, Rob got up and pulled on his boxers, which were lying by the side of the bed. Celia did not move.
He walked into the nursery. Celia had said it was important during the night feedings to be quiet and calm, to avoid waking William more than necessary, thus teaching him to sleep at night and be awake during the day. So he did not turn on the light and allowed the small nightlight to guide him.
He picked William up and held him, murmuring softly about how strange it must be that it was he and not Mama who came. “I’ll just change you and take you to Mama,” Rob said. William seemed to like the change.
Two minutes later, Rob sat gently on the side of the bed where Celia was still sleeping. He awakened her by pulling back the covers and laying William next to her. Celia, still naked, rolled on her side to let William nurse.
“I thought you might appreciate the help,” Rob said as he got back in bed, feeling protective of his family.
How does Celia respond?
Monday, August 27, 2012
Celia is resisting sex, pleading exhaustion, though it is the first time Rob has initiated it since their son William’s birth.
“I know you’re tired,” Rob said, laying on the floor of William’s room while Celia nursed their son before bed. “But I miss you.”
“You miss me?” Celia said. “Or you miss sex?”
“Both. I miss sex with you,” Rob said. “We’re married, Celia. So they’re the same thing.”
Celia flipped William from her breast to her shoulder and began to pat his back, burping him like a pro. She sighed.
“OK.” She turned her head to the side so she could look Rob in the eye in his prone pose.
“But I thought you’re too tired,” he said, rubbing the back of her calf with his hand.
“I am too tired,” Celia responded. “But I’m too tired to get up with William at midnight and 4 in the morning, too, and I find a way to do that.
“I don’t want you to do it because you think you have to.”
How does Celia respond?
Page 1 of 6 pages 1 2 3 > Last »
Return to home page