I know there’s going to be a fight before my key’s even in the lock.
Robert, our one-year old, is crying upstairs. I heard him as soon as I got out the car. When Robert cries, he really cries. And Robert cries a lot. I’ve had a long day. I don’t need this. I get a beer from the fridge, slump on the sofa, flick on the telly to drown out the crying.
And then she starts.
“Aren’t you going to see your son? He’s been like this all day. All day! I thought when you got home you might want to help out and give me a break. Please, Bob, I’ve had a whole bloody day of this!”
Here are my options:
I can give her the cold, empty glare. Let her know I think she’s pathetic and I will not demean myself by getting involved in such a petty argument. She’ll have nothing to go on; no ammunition to come back with. I call this The Stonewall. She can’t leave Robert crying. She’ll go to him. Leave me to my TV programme and my beer.
I could rise and go to her. Place my arms around her. “You’ve had a tough day, haven’t you?” I’d say. “Why don’t you go on up and see to Robert and I’ll fix you a nice drink. A large one—gin and tonic, ice and lemon. And then, Bob’s treat, I’ll order us a take-away. No need for you to cook tonight. You need a break, I can see that. You’re tired.” A pat on the bottom to send her on her way. I call this one Mr. Nice Guy.
I’ve got two kids from my first marriage. Two beautiful girls. I love them. I love Robert too, but it’s different. I never wanted another child. She did. We fought about it. She pleaded, she cried. I gave in. I gave her exactly what she asked for.
Third option: I turn to her, I don’t get up, but look her full in the face. I twist my mouth up and wag my head side to side with a high, screechy voice. “Aren’t you going to see your son? He’s been like this all day! I thought when you got home you might want to help out and give me a break. Please, Bob, I’ve had a whole bloody day of this!” Then start laughing, because I can’t help it. This one’s the Puerile Rejoinder. It’s the coup de grace.
But I just turn back to the telly. The door slams and footsteps pound the stairs. Robert’s wailing dies down, then stops altogether. I mute the TV and listen to the muffled sobbing from upstairs, easing back into the sofa and sipping my beer.
These days I always do.