Thursday, 29 October 2015

15 things I have learned in 15 years of marriage

Fifteen years ago this month, I got married.

He wasn’t my first love and he wasn’t the first man I ever fantasised about marrying. Because I’m the girl that fantasised about being a Mrs Somebody ever since I knew that was a thing. And I still have random pages, from decades ago, of doodles with Tania ‘surname’ signed in curly, girly writing with the ‘I’s dotted with love hearts.

But as it turned out, and luckily for me, he was the only man who ever actually asked ME to marry to him. And, obviously, I accepted. And we lived happily ever after.

Except not really.

Because over fifteen years ‘happy’ comes in waves and marriage looks a lot less like a fairytale romance and a lot more like real life and real life looks a lot like hard work.

But then nothing good comes easy… or for free.

I was raised by a single mum so I had no real life experience in marriage. The closest married role models I had were my grandparents, the one uncle that stayed married and my friend’s parents… and not all of their unions were what you would call ‘wedded bliss’.

So I’m sure you’ll understand that my pre-married life was not awash with any useful advice. Other than to find a ‘good man’ and marry him. Of course, a ‘good man’ is hard to define and so for years I didn’t understand that I had, in fact, found one. Years and years.

My husband is a good man. He’s a good husband and he’s a great father. He is more than I could have ever hoped for in a life partner and our marriage, surprisingly, is one of the good ones. 

But everything I know about marriage, I learnt on the job… and the hard way.

1. Wedded Bliss is not real
Even on the actual wedding night, we were too tired to bliss out and our definition of bliss changes as we grow. Sometimes it looks like time all by yourself because you feel so secure in your relationship. Other times it looks like a Sunday afternoon laying by the pool together while the boys jump in repeatedly trying to one-up each other. During ratings season it looks like sitting on the couch together drinking wine and watching zombie heads explode or gratuitous scenes of sex and violence in Westeros.

2. Growing old together is a blessing
I watch my husband’s health like a hawk. I need him around and healthy for at least another decade. Parenting is a tough gig and though I’m confident that I could, I have no interest or desire to do it on my own. I’m also too lazy to have to find another man. All that having to look your best and shaving is just so exhausting.

3. Passion is neither everything nor everlasting.

4. Your marriage must have room for your friends.
Always. There has to be another port in the storm for each of you. Someone who knows you, loves you and understands what’s important – but doesn’t want to root you.

5. You can go to bed angry
And still be ok the next morning. Sometimes all you both actually needed was some sleep. Being tired makes everything a million times worse and sometimes grown-ups are just like toddlers and really just need a nap. Adulting is so tiring!

6. A man is not an island
Unless they are an orphan or a migrant or in the witness protection program. But in my case, my man came with a family. Which is good for babysitting but not so good when shit goes down. Especially if it goes down in both extended families at the same time. That's when having a wine business comes in handy. Faaaaaark.

7. You can’t ever change your partner but you can teach them
All it takes are three words 1. Actions 2. Consequences 3. Consistency. Remember, grown-ups can be just like toddlers!

8. Play to each other’s strengths – not their weaknesses

9. Learn the art of compromise
This one was a tough one for me but it became much easier once I jumped in the deep end of compromise and became a mum. Now I’m compromising all over the place. Bastards. What about me?

10. Use Portfolios
Share the load without resentment.

In our house we have what look like figurative portfolios which makes our expectations of each other very clear.

Me – school, clothes, inside, social, shopping, cooking
Him – kids sport, cars, outside, bills, rubbish, maintenance
Shared – parenting
Outsourced – nowhere near enough…

11. Two toilets
The key to a happy marriage is not having to book in toilet time. Especially when your partner takes so fucking looooooong.

12. Don’t sweat the small stuff… most of the time
So he never puts the shopping away. Or makes the bed. He also never mistreats me. Or gives me reason to feel unloved. The small things he doesn't do will never outweigh the enormous things he doesn't do.

13. Babies will not fix a marriage in trouble
But they can make you love your partner more. So much more.

14. Familiarity does not always breed contempt
Listen up. This is a big one. I am a different woman today than I was fifteen years ago. My priorities are totally different. As are my opinions, intolerances, acceptances and boobs. Growing alongside someone in a safe and secure environment helps all the good emotions develop and as you grow, so does your love. It may look different - 'cause it's all wrapped up in someone else's 'stuff' - but that's the magic of togetherness. My love for him has changed. It's deepened and grown and the more familiar he is to me, the more I love him. 

15. We're all in the same boat
It may look like your friends are doing the whole 'life' thing better than you are. Maybe they are but they're probably not. Everyone has their challenges and every relationship has their ups. And downs. Some stuff I know we don't do anywhere near as well as our friends do. Some stuff I know we do far better. Sometimes I feel like we're happier than anyone we know and sometimes I feel like everyone else is living a fairytale and we're in a nightmare. 

That's the thing about these long-term relationships. You get to experience ALL the emotions in them. Love, jealousy, boredom, temptation, commitment, fear, grief, joy, exhaustion, elation, confusion and adoration. 

And my most favourite - gratefulness

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Dear Mother of All Boys

Dear Mother of All Boys,

I see you there, with your tired eyes and heart bursting with love. You are a mix of exhaustion and gratitude and pride. Just like all other mothers but something about having all boys, sets you apart. Just a bit. There’s something about only having sons that changes the mother experience. I know this because many of my friends are mothers of all boys. I know this especially, because so am I.

It’s not something that is easy to put a finger on but there is certainly something special about having a family full of sons. From what I can tell, the dynamic is different than in the families of only daughters or those with both sons and daughters. And the perspective definitely is. Years of managing testosterone will do that a woman.

People will say ridiculous things to you. “I don’t know how you cope! Boys are so… boisterous/loud/energetic/difficult. You’ve got your hands full! You need a daughter” They will dress it up as if they are sharing knowledge, but they don’t know anything because those people are almost definitely not mothers of all boys.

If they were they would understand having all sons does not mean that the family is incomplete without a daughter.

They would understand that yes, the days are loud in a house of all boys. The volume level can reach insane, shut-the-fuck-up heights from playing and cheering to all-out arguing but that only makes the quiet time so much more precious.

They would understand that the very same boys that try to actually physically destroy each other for such heinous acts as touching each other’s stuff, changing the tv channel in the middle of a show or teasing each other for missing a goal will also spend hours side by side watching a movie or playing PS4. Often in the same day.

There are a lot of balls in your life when you’re a mother of all boys. There are quite literally balls everywhere. In our household we have basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, tennis balls, bouncing balls, cricket balls, petanque balls, billiard balls, ping pong balls, marbles, ball-bearings and testes. Yes, I mention testes because in our house one can not mention ‘balls’ without a snigger, smirk or all out guffaw from the boys. Balls=testicles. All day. Every day.

The washing line is full of jocks and socks and there are grass stains on all the pants knees. We go through fifteen litres of milk a week and a box of band-aids every month. Grazes, cuts, burns, splinters and blisters all feature heavily around these parts. And just for the record… boys do cry. Big rolling tears, often mixed with sweat that drop onto mum’s shirt as she holds her crying son to her bosom. “Oh my God! Mum said ‘bosom’! Bahahahaha… that is SO wrong Mum.” Boobs=hilarious. All day. Every day.

Farts are extremely popular. Smelling them, doing them, pretending you didn’t do them and making fake fart noises using ANYTHING are also hilarious. Interestingly, flushing the toilet is not popular at all. Probably because most of the wee doesn’t make it into the actual bowl anyway. There is piss on the floor. Constantly.

Mothers of sons and daughters will look upon you with a mix of pity and admiration as they can only imagine that your job must be twice or thrice as hard as hers is in your family of boys because her boy is possibly the troublesome one in her household. But for many reasons boys with only brothers seem to level each other out rather than egg each other on. Except for when they are actually egging each other on… that shit happens constantly and it NEVER ends well.

The competition is relentless in a family of all boys. There has to be a ‘first’ for everything. First to the car, in the shower, to leave the table, ready for school, in the pool, to the end of the street, to finish a game. And when they’re not competing they’re daring each other to jump, to taste or to climb. Often these dares or competitions end in a fight or tears or both but then it’s forgotten. Boys don’t hold grudges… for long.

There are no real mood-swings. Yet. There are only two moods. On and off. And despite what many may think about boys communicating, there’s A LOT of chatter. Sometimes too much… just like in other families.

My boys are messy and smelly even though I’ve taught them to put their stuff away and they shower every day. They have massive feet and sinewy legs and I can see their ribcage even though they eat constantly. They seem to be endlessly moving but when they stop I can still see the babies they were. They can’t help but gravitate to either one of their parents when we sit on the couch at night together and they are most comfortable resting their head on our shoulder or wrapping their long, skinny legs around ours. Boys may be boisterous but they’re affectionate too and there’s nothing sweeter than seeing a boy that isn’t afraid to cuddle their mum and dad especially after a tough a game of contact sport.

Having all boys seems to reduce the risk of subconsciously stereotyping. There are no gender specific behaviours in our household because there is only one gender [Mum doesn’t count. She is genderless. She is just MUM] So the boys cook and clean and pick flowers and go clothes shopping and listen to music and dance. There is no ‘daddy’s little girl’ or ‘princess’ or ‘mummy’s boy’ or ‘little man of the house’. There are just sons and brothers.

And there’s something about watching brothers together that warms my heart. Of course I know plenty of sisters who are close with their brother [I’m one of them!] but maybe it’s because I feel so strongly about MY brother that I’m so happy that both my sons have a brother too.

Dear Mother of All Boys, I want you to know that I LOVE my all-boy family. They teach me so many things all the time and I’m positive that being immersed in a world of testosterone and male energy has made me a better woman. It’s tiring and exhausting and there’s piss all over the bathroom floor but it’s also complete and chockablock full of gorgeous boyish love.

Plus, I save a fortune on hand-me-downs.