My paper airplane wasn’t even that great in the first place

by | Jul 7, 2009 | Julie | 12 comments

The other day Henry came downstairs with a drawing, wanting it to be made into a paper airplane. He looked at me and said, “Where’s Dave?” (The children call Dave by his first name; we honestly have no idea why.) When he couldn’t find Dave he grudgingly allowed me to make the paper airplane. An hour later, I was talking with Dave when Henry came to us with another drawing to be made into a paper airplane, which he handed to Dave.

First Dave turned the drawing in a different direction than I had, and it seemed like that was going to be so much better than the way I had done it. I was supremely annoyed. How dare Dave make such a simple change and do it so much better than I had? No wonder Henry had been looking for him in the first place. And then Dave folded this way and that, around and around, and pretty soon it became clear that he wasn’t totally sure what he was doing. That my airplane was better. And I was really psyched.

What is my problem? I’m glad at least that I had the forethought not to say anything out loud (well, until I blogged about it…ha). Am I the only one who is bizarrely competitive with the one person who I should be trying to get on my team?

There are twelve different directions I can go with this way of thinking. Dave and I have a very fifties set-up going on here, where he works at a regular job, and a grueling desk job at that, and I stay home with the three children. We both have so many things on our to-do lists that when something else gets added — like last week when Eli broke a window — I feel like throwing up. We both spend our days vascillating wildly between extreme dissatisfaction and mild unrest, with short bursts of joy in between. It’s stressful just as it is. I feel like I’m constantly on the precipice, and if one thing goes wrong, everything devolves into chaos. And, frequently, several things go wrong.

Dave and I should be together, a united front, and yet the state of modern marriage is such that we’re all stressed out, and the only person we can take it out on is each other. And so we do, and I am suddenly ready to lord my superior paper airplane skills over him, which is especially dumb considering Dave scores something like 1 Billion on the universal How Handy Are You? quiz and so my momentary win in the paper airplane contest doesn’t really count at all.

I’ll tell you this: it’s hard having so many people in your house all the time. It’s extremely irritating to close the bathroom door and have it pop right back open again so that two little people can follow you in to chat. And you spend the whole time saying, “I need privacy!” and they don’t leave. Then you finish and one of them says, “I have to go to the bathroom. You leave and shut the door. All the way. I need privacy.” Anyway. That’s a bit of a tangent. It’s hard, is what I’m saying. Being a grownup. Getting time in your own darn head to sort it all out.

So this is the mantra for today: appreciate our differences and use them to our advantage. Together we’re way more useful than separate, and so that is how it should be.


  1. Clog

    Believe me women have been trying to hide in the bathroom for ages….put a lock on the door. I remember one time your father and I had a “tomato growing contest”. We each had a few plants that we attended. I composted, weeded, watered. You Dad did absolutely nothing save putting the plants in the ground. Well, you can guess who had the best tomatoes….a little parable there somewhere.
    I also remember Aunt S and I sitting on the toilet while Nana took a bath….poor woman trying to get a few minutes peace and there we were in her face (bath).

  2. Elizabeth

    I’m glad to know that it’s not just me! Thank you for your honesty. Sometimes I read blogs that seem to be all about the FUN! other families are having and I think, “What’s wrong with us? Why aren’t we beaming as we fondle vegetables at the farmer’s market? Why aren’t we running through public fountains as a family?” I think it’s because that’s the ONLY side of parenting that some people are willing to show: the cute and cloying. I think that’s why people respond so well to your blog: you are honest. You write about the sweet and wonderful moments of parenting, but you write about the annoying and infuriating and maddening ones, too.

  3. Christina

    A little off topic- but I thought of you today Julie as I was reading Ayelet Waldman’s new book “Bad Mother” as she had an essay on Dodgeball, similar to the post you had written earlier this year. It’s an enjoyable read- I’m not on the same page as she is with everything but I have been enjoying her essays and her humor- I think you would like it too. She is honest and thoughtful as you are in your writing.

  4. Julie

    Elizabeth, you’re not running through fountains? What’s the deal? EVERYONE is running through fountains. Sheesh.

    Mom, I love the image of you and Aunt Sandra bugging Nana in her bath.

    Christina, I kind of want to read that, but I saw a reading on TV of hers, and she was so whiney and a little obnoxious and it turned me off a bit.

  5. Christina

    Oh interesting. I could see that a bit. She name drops at times and some of her points are totally opposite to what I think/believe. But it is thought provoking and very funny in parts. Erik and I were actually discussing one of her points tonight: that to be deemed good fathers, men just basically have to show up (in the delivery room, to the playground, to sports games, etc). But to deemed a “good” mother there is a much more complex accounting process. This came out because he took Nora swimming and he was saying how he gets such positive feedback and lots of proffered help from people (esp women) when they see him out alone with his child. I was saying how as a mother no one beams at me for taking Nora to the pool or the playground or wherever else- and people don’t usually jump up to help me when I’m trying to do something and she’s running in the opposite direction.
    I always enjoy any book nowadays that makes me think more critically about my life! It’s not worth buying- but see if you can get it from the library.

  6. Clog

    I just took the doggies for a walk and my neighbor (a writer with 4 boys ages 10-1) passed me, went to the store and got a newspaper and coffee and then came home and hide on a side road with classical music playing and was enjoying his coffee and newspaper. Everyone is hiding from their kids!

  7. Julie

    Christina, Dave and I also talk about the opposite issue: that no one makes a big deal out of a man “sacrificing” or “balancing” because he’s going to work. But I will check that book out, definitely. It sounds like a worthy read (from the library).

    Mom, that sounds like heaven. I am in the car alone maybe three times a year.

  8. Lisa

    Just this morning I think I literally had steam come out of my ears Bugs Bunny style as I tried in vain to get through 3 bites of my yoghurt without 2 little seagulls swooping in chirping “can i have a bite, can I have a bite?” I seriously considered going into the bathroom to finish my breakfast, but then I remembered that the bathroom isn’t safe either…..maybe I will try the car next time.

  9. Julie

    Oh god Lisa, that happens to me all the time. But it’s usually after I ask if they want to eat anything, and they emphatically say no. Grr.

  10. Corinne

    Ahh yes. People always told “oh Corinne, you’ll be such a good mother”, when I was able to handle a few hours keeping their children entertained. Now I have to stop myself from screaming “Leave me the F*** alone”. [at least I have frineds here who feel the same way] Perhaps a good reason why we are having just the one. That and my husabnd said he doesn’t want to be a widower with two kids. Even now my daughter is pressing random keys on the keyboard [sorry if I miss an error]. I just need somespace!
    In regards to your other point on being a team: I was arguing with my teammate that he should try and walk up the stairs even more carefully as not to wake up Zuzu. A sore point because I am the one to soothe her back to sleep 9 times out of 10. But I also have recently told him to wrap the dirty diapers better; no, don’t use that, use this; no,no,no these clothes. When in reality for aguy who has never spent a lot of time with kids, let alone babies, and becoming a father at 40, he is very attuned to her needs and parenting in general. He seems to just not be able to read my mind and navigate in my controlling ways.

  11. Julie

    Yeah, you know, I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re doing. How could they? How can you possibly be prepared for raising another HUMAN BEING (or three)? It’s a little crazy. But we all are supposed to know what we’re doing, and it leads to weird power issues with couples, I think, because we don’t know what we’re doing, but we do know enough to know, for instance, that if you stomp it might wake the baby. But Dave knows things like that sometimes Eli needs to wrestle, and I still don’t know that.

  12. Corinne

    I used to think I knew how to raise a child, gathering information etc. Then I left the hospital and realized this is MY child, how do I raise MY child. I made this human, now I have to do something and hopefully that matches the other parent enough to have a peaceful home. There just is no real preparation for the gamut of emotion/hormones and the some of the practicalities of parenthood.


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