Scorekeeping

My husband left the ironing board out. He didn’t leave it tucked into the corner or off to the side where you might not notice it right away. He left it smack in the middle of the room near the door so that you’d crash into it when you entered, banging the bony part of your hip. I know because I did this three mornings in a row and have the bruises to prove it.

Now first, yes, my husband irons. What, I don’t know—shirts, maybe? I don’t know because I don’t own anything that requires ironing. This is on principle. I like things that are easy and ironing is the opposite of easy. It’s more of a quaint, labor-intensive activity that technology should have eliminated the need for by now, like churning butter or sending a passenger pigeon instead of a text.

Second, I’m sure if I did own something that needed ironing, my husband would do it for me. He’s that kind of guy. The point, though, is that I don’t need him to do my ironing. I need him to put the freaking ironing board away.

After three days of the metal behemoth obstructing my path, I upped the ante and left the dishes in the sink. We’d had leftovers for dinner, but my rationale was that I’d cooked the food we were eating (days ago) AND I warmed it up in the microwave. So, husband, clearly I’ve already done a lot of work and thus you owe me and should do the dishes.

Also, you left the ironing board out.

See what I did there? It’s called scorekeeping. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m really good at it. Naturally, when I keep score, I usually win. Except there is no winning. Especially as a mom. I guarantee your list will always be longer, no matter how amazing your partner is. There are the million microscopic needs we are filling all day long that are unseen and un-understood.

There is only losing, because scorekeeping leads to resentment, which leads to fights, which leads to more score keeping, etc. The better option (stay with me here) is grace. Grace is giving someone something that they don’t deserve. See: doing the dishes left in the sink even though you also cooked dinner, wiped down the counter AND fed the cat. Also: putting the ironing board away even when you’re not the one who left it out. Grace, however, does not come naturally to me. Silently seething with resentment is more my thing.

So seethe I did. Then, on day three of Ironing Board-Gate, I had a dream. A nightmare, really. I dreamed that my husband got a big, fancy new job. He was named President of something. (A company? The country? The details were fuzzy.) With this fancy new job came a new car, new wardrobe of expensive ties, and a team of handlers who buzzed around him in dark suits and sunglasses talking into their ear pieces. At some point these handlers summoned me to a hotel suite to meet with my husband. It a beautiful room. It was immaculately clean, fully stocked with all my favorite drinks and snacks, and smelled like a spa. Basically, it was the opposite of our real house. I thought, “I could get used to this.”

It turned out that I was not there to get used to my new life of luxury. Instead the handlers sat me down and told me that along with everything else, my husband was getting a new wife. One who was more “suitable” for his new position. I wasn’t good enough.

Now, if this happened in real life I’d just tell my husband what a shit he was being, remind his handlers what time school pickup was that afternoon, and then go treat myself to a nap in the fancy hotel bed. In the dream, though, I was devastated. All our happy moments together flashed before my eyes and the pain of losing him felt so real that when I woke up I was panting and crying. It wasn’t until I felt him roll over next to me that I realized it wasn’t real.

The truth is, I would be devastated if I lost him. I’d wander around the house wishing he has there to leave the ironing board out. I would wish for the opportunity to cook dinner and then help him with the dishes.

When I woke up the next morning I headed straight for the ironing board. I was determined to fulfill my middle-of-the-night pledge to offer my husband more grace. I pulled the little lever that looked like it would make it fold. Nothing happened. I pushed on the top of it. Still nothing. I flipped it upside down and yanked and pressed on every part of it, swearing under my breath. It creaked and groaned and still it did not budge. I started to sweat, and my cursing grew louder as I wrestled with the unyielding metal.

“Hey, what’s going on?”  My husband appeared in the doorway.

“I’m trying to put the damn ironing board away,” I said, kicking it and stubbing my toe.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to do that.” I watched as he folded the ironing board in one fluid motion and deposited it in the closet.

“Thanks,” I said. “I have to tell you about this crazy dream I had last night…”

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