When my husband and I met, our lives were both complicated, and as we fell in love and began our life together, things got even harder. Some weekends, as we dealt with the drama and stress of picking up the youngest child, racing across town to pick up the oldest, and rush off to whatever fun thing we HAD. TO. DO. that day, we would spend hours never even looking at one another. Our attention was laser focused on the high-needs four year old, or locked onto our smartphones. In the midst of relationship drama with an ex, whatever silly story was on Facebook, or simple text messages with friends and family, we could distract ourselves from the current situation with practiced ease.
It hurt. Watching Joey look up after 30 minutes and curse himself for wasting precious time with a son he didn’t see enough of. Watching either child be told to wait a minute while we just finished this game, or this chapter, or finish typing this message. Watching Sunday night as he realized the apartment was empty, the guilt in his eyes as he realized another weekend was gone and he wasted time on nonsense.
One such day, I really got frustrated. After trying to keep the youngster occupied and the older one amused while I watched their father grab his phone in frustration after only having it out of his hands for moments, I lost all my patience. I put my hand over the screen, and tried to be calm.
I wanted to throw the phone away. I wanted to tell him he was hurting himself, that he was robbing his children of his presence in their life, that his wife needed him more than Facebook ever could. There was any number of things my heart ached to say and at the same time a frustrated scream would have accomplished as much.
Instead, I looked at him and I said shakily “Be here.”
He put his phone away like a switch had been hit. I knew he was mad at me. I know how much it sucks getting called on your bad habits, and it’s even worse to be called on your guilty vices. Whatever his reason, he put the phone away and he looked at his kids and began to plan the day with them, talking to the little one about nonsense, and football and guy stuff with the big one. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember there was a change that started that day which has been present every day after.
It’s not easy. Today was rainy and cold and miserable, and in this tiny apartment, there’s not really room to play and be comfortable without the doors and windows open with the freedom of summer. We spent the day napping and being lazy, playing computer games and a difficult bout of Monopoly. Being here was harder today than most days, because here wasn’t a very fun place to be. I think that, along with a couple other things, is a hallmark of really trying, though. We pulled together, put our phones away, and played and chatted and made plans for next weekend and connected in ways we cannot do with our electronics in hand. Even when it’s challenging, BE HERE.