As soon as I stepped into the house from a business trip, I heard a moan from a heap at the corner of our sink-and-swim sofa. Shit. I thought to myself.
“Dad was not like this a second ago. He was ok before you came home.” Mr. Monk, my 9-year-old, informed me with mischievous glee.
“So he’s like a little kid? Now that his mommy’s home and all of a sudden he’s feeling a lot sicker because he wants his mommy’s attention?” I babytalked (which I seldom did to my kids even when they were real babies).
I wish I had kept my mouth shut. To this, The Husband launched into an indignant speech about how
1. He’s so sick the whole time I was gone. READ: It’s my fault.
2. There is no medicine in the house. READ: It’s my fault.
3. His throat really hurts. READ: It’s my fault.
4. There is no lemon. READ: It’s my fault.
5. His co-workers said, “Oh, your wife is going to take care of you.” To which he replied, “She doesn’t care. She never takes care of me.” READ: The Passive Aggressive meter was shot so I could not read the score on it.
Sometimes I am convinced that if I were one of those submissive wives, everybody involved including myself would have been a lot happier. So maybe those crazy people do have a point? My natural, confrontation-averse inclination would have led me to simply ignore his tirade. Let’s move on. But my years of immersion in women’s lib made it hard to not stand my ground and make some sort of comment. Eventually I bit my tongue. I bit my tongue because Mr. Monk was watching our interaction like a hawk with bated breath, and I simply could not do that to him. So I swallowed the sharp comebacks that were swarming inside my head.
What do I have to do to take care of a grown man who’s suffering from symptoms of a common cold?
I am genuinely sorry that The Husband is sick. But I am stumped. “What do you want me to do to take care of you so I won’t be accused of not caring?” Ok. In hind sight, that’s really not the best way of making a conciliatory move… You can take the sharp words out of a bitch’s mouth, but you can’t change a bitch’s tone of voice.
“Forget about it!” He ended our conversation abruptly like a petulant child sans door slamming. I had to stifle a laugh (and made a mental note to watch The Man Cold on YouTube again and also to, of course, blog about this)
Why is it that when he is sick, he commits the error that men (e.g. he) like to accuse women (e.g. me) of: I am not going to tell you what I want because it would devalue the things you do for me if I have to ask for them.
This has been how it feels like this past week: I am held hostage by “care police”. At every cough and every moan, I made sure to remember to ask, with exaggerated worry in my voice so my good intention is obvious, “Are you ok?”
When the kids are sick, I give them cold medicine, and tell them to stay in bed. I offer ice cream or some other treat. That is it. Sometimes the kids get mad at me when the medicine is not working. “Make it go away!” “Why won’t you give me something that works?” “It does not work. I am still feeling ______!” At that point, I figure they are either hungry or tired so I either feed them or tell them to go to bed, or both.
Now that I think of it, “You don’t care!” seems to be a common accusation. I have only myself to blame since I never do these things that TV/movie parents do – Sitting by the bed and singing them a lullaby. Putting my hand on their foreheads and looking into their faces with concern. Bringing them breakfast in bed on a tray with a red rose in a vase. Maybe I should watch politicians’ campaign videos: most of them got that “I care so much about you RIGHT AT THIS SECOND because the camera is rolling” look down, and practice in front of the bathroom mirror my “I do care” face. Apparently the “I do care” face speaks more volumes than the calm “I just cleaned up your puke without a complaint for the Nth time” face.
By the 4th day of violent coughing, the frequent complaint of “It’s not getting better!”, and the occasional hint at “I am so sick and you are not doing anything about it!”, I suggested that The Husband seek out professional help (instead of waiting for me to perform a medical miracle).
I called him from work on Monday. “Did you call a doctor yet?”
Today I prodded again. “You should call a doctor.” No response.
Seriously? WWFRGS? (What would Feminist Ryan Gosling say?)
In the holy name of keeping a stable home for my children, because it is *MY* job to maintain a happy family environment, I extended an olive branch. “Would you like me to call the doctor? If I call the doctor and make an appointment for you, would you go?”
And he was happy(ier).
I want a wife.