Saturday, June 8, 2013

what not how

Early in our marriage, my husband would load the dishwasher.  I would come along behind, completely annoyed at how he had loaded it and would rearrange the dishes.  I knew my way was the right way because I could fit more dishes in the dishwasher.  I didn't get on his case, I never yelled or nagged.  I simply rearranged.  No fight needed. 

Eventually the day came when I was annoyed because he hadn't loaded the dishwasher.  I found myself getting more and more annoyed.  I was reaching my breaking point, I should not be the only person in the house who did dishes!  Finally one day my frustration boiled over and I asked why I he wasn't helping with dishes anymore.

"Because you're just going to redo it so what is the point of both of us doing it?  It is just doubling the work."

I felt the air exit my lungs.  Really?  That was it?  I was that wife?  Here I had thought that by not bringing it up, by not nagging, by not riding his case that I was doing us both a favor.  I was showing him the right way to load the dishwasher in a gentle manner that involved no argument.  But my actions were still nagging even though my words weren't.

I was completely humbled by that conversation.  I realized that I could have the dishes done MY way but that meant that we weren't partners, I would always be the one to do the dishes.  I proposed to him then that we would have a new rule in our marriage, what not how.  We both agreed that we can ask the other in love to help out but cannot hover or require it to be done our way.  I can ask for what I need done but I cannot tell him how to get it done. 

I realized that I can have my dishes done my way or I could have help.  Help sounded nicer to me than a perfectly loaded dishwasher.  Some days it is really hard to not "fix" things.  Some days it is really hard to not micromanage.  Some days it is hard to let go and accept that we do things differently.  And the really hard part is remembering that rule with my kids.

I can teach my children how to mow the lawn and take out the trash.  I can give them the knowledge of the basic skills.  But really is it the end of the world that my middle child starts mowing the lawn in the middle of the yard instead of traveling in neat rows that begin on one end of the lawn and move evenly across to the other side?  No, in the end the grass (weeds, whatever....) ends up completely cut even though he doesn't move in the same pattern that I do.  It it helpful or beneficial for me to get myself worked up and demand it gets done the way I want it done or should I just thank him for mowing the lawn and be grateful that I didn't have to do it? 

By the way, I totally have to walk away when he mows the lawn.  It may be the only thing that keeps me from criticizing how he does it......

Food for thought... Are you happy when things get done or do you need them done your way?  It is a process, learning to be thankful for the what and worry less about the how.  A process that I still fail at but I'm getting better each day. 


Sarah said...

I absolutely LOVE this post and the wisdom in it. I was watching Sex and the City the other day and I realized that I treat my husband the way Miranda treats Steve sometimes. (Basically, your dishwasher I am an genius and he is an idiot or like I'm a mom and he's a bad child.) Eek!!! It's disheartening to have those moments of clarity. I think that being in charge of our daughter all day makes me feel like an "expert" on her, but I would so much rather feel like a "partner" like you were talking about! I love that distinction. Really something to work on. Thanks for such a great post!

Dawn said...

Sarah, the best parenting book I ever read was called Make Room For Daddy. That was the book that started molding the opinion that doing things differently is not a bad thing. It is one of the only parenting books I recommend to every new mom. It is a what not how type of book. :)

Poetic Soul said...

This was a great post, made me think