The Family Tango
My best friend called me today disappointed in her partner. It’s their first Christmas together and he’s decided to work – just like he did on Halloween and then again on Thanksgiving. I could hear the frustration in her voice. She has been here before, but with me. Years and years ago, I was the one calling her and she was the one listening.
Oh, how life comes full circle.
“You’re preaching to the choir,” I told her. And she knew that I understood, which is exactly why she called. She may be a new mom, but she was my wing-man and had seen it all: arguments and tears, countless happy times, and me going and doing what I want rather than wait for him to join along. Don’t get me wrong, I love my partner, but the trials and tribulations of relationships and parenting are many.
Becoming parents is like learning to tango without all the glitz and glamour of Dancing with the Stars. The idea is that two people are supposed to dance in unison with stoic, yet smiling faces as they go back and forth, hand-in-hand. I’m not a choreographer, but I imagine the dance should appear energetic and effortless.
The good part about Dancing is that they show participants practicing and then the finished product. The bad part about parenting is that you practice in real time while not fully realizing that it may take years for two people to be on the same page: for Christmas to be effortless and work to be something that you forgo a few days a year and, even more, the ability to know which battles are worth the fight.
Our first Halloween together was an utter disaster. Rather than decline an invitation to a wedding, we tried to do trick-or-treating and the wedding. We rushed down the block with a baby who didn’t even know why she was dressed like Eeyore, drove far too fast to a wedding we missed, and got lost on the way to a reception we barely made it to.
Never again, we said.
“Your first Christmas together is more about you and she won’t remember if he is there or not,” I said.
This is a cold, hard truth. And, yes, I understand the importance of firsts and also how annoying it is that our image of what holidays are supposed to look like and what they actually are can come crashing down as soon as they arrive.
But the crash doesn’t have to be fatal. It’s the beginning of getting it right so two people can tango; joined hand-in-hand as they dance through a lifetime of back-and-forth of shared sacrifice and learning the curve of what it means to be a family.
How do you make the dance work with your signifcant other? What compromises have you made to keep your family together?
Image via Flickr: eschipul