Sunday, February 14, 2010

Minor (petty) Dilemma/update at bottom

I was a stinker, and I'm teetering on a guilty impulse to undo it, with no one the wiser.

It started as a good will gesture.  Connor has snowboarding lessons today on Mt. Hood.  This is his second in a series of 4.  He and Gary leave the house early, and are gone well into the evening.  So Gary decided he and the boys would fix a Valentine's dinner last night instead.

It was a very nice meal and left a very big mess.  Which was still in the kitchen this morning when I got up after they departed. 

I would have hoped that a Valentine's dinner surprise might include the follow-through of cleaning up as well.  That seems it would round out the gift.

I dialed the cell phone.  Connor answered.  I asked if the dog had been fed and let outside to relieve himself.  No.  I asked him to tell his father that I was unhappy at having been left with a really dirty kitchen.

It's been a sore point anyway.  Nothing that people with a healthy relationship and functional communication skills couldn't handle, but we're beyond that.  I usually plan the meals, shop for them, cook.  I do a lot of the clean-up as-I-go, but the division of labor is that he cleans up the dishes.

We don't eat terribly late, and there is a lot of time in the evening where he could put the dishes in the dishwasher.  In the mornings I'm the first one up, and I like to have a free sink when I'm preparing lunches for school, and breakfasts.  So it's been a recurring resentment when there's a sink full of dirty dishes to work around as I'm trying to do my job.

I think it's not even so much the presence of the dishes when I've requested respectfully that he clean them up (more than once) so I have a clear space to work in.  The resentment comes from his not acknowledging that making his life easier is at the expense of making mine more difficult.  He resents that it bothers me.

He and Connor are gone all day.  If I leave the dishes for him I will be the one living with them.

My behavior was indefensible, though, to make Connor the conduit for communicating my displeasure.  Classic selfish dysfunction, to have involved my child.

Gary:  (I could hear him off the phone):  "Tell her to do the dishes. It's no problem."

Me:  "Yeah.  No problem for him."

When we rang off I was tempted by a wicked thought.  Let him deal with a mess in his workspace.  I went downstairs and opened up his home office.  I found a plastic box and loaded it with the dishes and pans and carried it down.  Unloaded the box on his desk and floor--careful that the bottoms weren't wet so they could damage any paperwork.

The whole time I'm chiding myself a bit thinking, "This is more effort than it would be to just do them..."  ..."Since our understanding is that one of us cooks and the other does dishes, isn't he within reason to have expected that I do the clean-up (even if this was supposedly a treat they were doing for me)?" ... "If the dinner was a gift for Valentine's, maybe my gift to him should be the Valentine's clean-up?"  ..."You're making a lot more work for yourself if you relent and decide to cart all these dishes back upstairs and do them."  ..."That's really childish, and it's not going to help things."

I guess that's the angel on my one shoulder.  On the other is the devil remembering, "Tell HER to do the dishes.  It's no problem (it's no problem, it's no problem, it's no problem)!"  Rage rises when I consider my real grievance was again being dismissed, discounted, and minimized.  If he'd said (to Connor so I could hear), "Yeah, it is kind of cold to leave her that big mess; tell her I'm really sorry" the dishes would still have been there, but I probably would have done them charitably.  I would have been inclined to take the perspective that while a special dinner doesn't usually involve the consequences of cleanup to the recipient, I could make that my gift.

The dishes are there for now.  Who will prevail, angel, or devil?


Well, I split the difference.  I left the dishes down there.  When he and Connor got home they were in pretty high spirits and the mood was pleasant.  Gary asked if I'd slept in and I replied I'd gotten up shortly after they left.   There was a little silence as we both remembered my phone call, and he mentioned it first:  "Oh yeah.  You called...about the dishes..." (pleading tone) "I know you were bummed...but I'd made you dinner!"  I said,"But I thought when you made a gift of dinner you didn't expect the recipient to clean it up.  When I make you dinner for your birthday I don't expect you to have to clean it up."  He said, "But no one gave me a Valentine's present." (Side note.  I quit giving him valentines several years ago.  Just as we're beyond give-and-take negotiations to resolve issues, so are we also beyond valentines.  I've quit pretending.  He's more about the form, or propriety of the event, so he'll keep up appearances.  I don't bother.  I wouldn't have cared if he'd not made a dinner.  I don't expect it or particularly want it.  But still, a gift is a gift.)  I said, "If you'd said anything but, 'tell her to do them', if you'd said anything like you understood it was kind of unpleasant, I would have willingly done them and considered them my gift to you."  Pause.  "So I took them downstairs and put them in your office."

"WHAT??? "

"They're down in your office."

Feeling charitable, I even told him where to find the tote I'd used so he could bring them all up in one trip.  (I heard him say to Connor and Scott, "She put the dishes in my office!" and they all laughed.)  I let him bring them up, then I put the dishes, bowls, and silverware in the dishwasher.  I told him he could do the pans and clean out the vegetable leavings still in the sink. And called it good.


Mama Zen said...

Oh, the temptation!

I am honestly not sure what I would do. I probably would have just cleaned it up, seethed with rage, and wished that I had the guts to put them on his desk.

Sheri said...

That sounds like a terrible situation. I can empathize with your feelings!

I'll be curious to hear what you the end.

Lavender Luz said...

I am seething alongside you.

I, too, am curious what you decided. When I put myself in your place, I can seem myself going either way.

Whatever you choose, you are choosing consciously. That's the most important thing.

PaleMother said...

"If the dinner was a gift for Valentine's, maybe my gift to him should be the Valentine's clean-up?"

Well, you didn't really have any input into that agreement. And you are right ... the mess drains a lot of the pleasure and goodwill out of the 'gift.' I can see why you are bummed. Too bad he didn't just take you all out to dinner instead and then every could have been happy.

It's about consideration, more than the dishes. And I can totally understand why it was his reaction on the phone that was the real nail in the coffin. Maybe you put Conor in the middle, but he didn't help matters by modeling a lack of consideration and respect for you. A lack of "got your back." To me, that's the real shame. Meanwhile, it's okay for Conor to see you stand up for yourself.

Consideration is such a huge thing in relationships and in roomates. I have been known to dump things in Mike's parking spot in the garage ... after asking repeatedly for him to deal with XYZ and being ignored or dismissed (a big hot button for me). They are always things which only he can disperse and which, like your dishes, are an inconvenience to others. When he arrives at night, he can't pull in until he gets out and deals with it. Sometimes it feels like you have to resort to drastic action to break throught the wall and be heard. Sometimes you have to send the "I'm not your doormat" message. But for me, it's a fine line that to walk ... between effective communication and escalation (and I have a temper, so escalation is in my nature). Such a tough nut to crack. The fact that we're all so damn busy and overextended doesn't help. In fact, that may be more than half of the problem.

We do a lot of two steps up, one step back crazy dancing around here. Both of us screw up. Mostly in The House Doesn't Take Care Of Itself category. There is probably some really great Buddhist wisdom out there about perspective, like, Do not wax indignant. Understand. But quotations don't make you whole and they don't do dishes.

I hear your frustration. Thanks for sharing.

Take care of yourself!! I meant it, Ex. Take care of yourself. You deserve care and consideration. It's very hard to consider others when you are pretty sure they are taking you for granted. I wish I had better thoughts for you.


Ailey said...

I pictured you doing this...and I was surprised that you did it and IMPRESSED. I so get the part about his dismissing your feelings as being the final straw. You showed your son (never mind that he was temporarily put in the middle)that you will stand up for yourself and you did it again with a sense of humor, as you placed the dishes in husband's space, I kind of think. You weren't vindictive. You didn't leave the dishes in his space in a way that would mess-up any of his work. You were considerate of his work space, unlike he of yours.

I'm sorry. I think I may have minimized your experience with my response over the phone. Or maybe I just showed you how little I stand up for myself.

What a difference a simple acknowlegement of the mess you'd been left with, and an apology, could have made, taking the sting out of his thoughtless action.

I really do think that your boys are soooo blessed to have you as their MOM!!