So, Mel is not bad in certain ways—he is on board with my career life and an active father. However, every time he messes up the schedule and I say, you find a sitter—there is trouble. He has a history of coming up with outrageous plans, so misguided that I can hardly bear to remember them (such as suggesting that we velcro the children to the wall for a couple of hours)! When I'll point out that he has not considered the children's safety nor welfare, he'll whine, you call someone, I don't know anyone. Usually I'm backed into a corner, and have to scramble to clean up Mel's schedule mess.
It never really worked to have Mel arrange childcare. I knew it wouldn't. This was a tactical move in the guerilla domestic warfare. I had bigger fish to fry. Mel's failure to provide a childcare solution generated enough guilt that it would ensure greater success on another front, such as picking up, doing laundry, or kitchen maintenance.
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My first big victory was on the laundry front. I guess Mel got tired of having to run out to the store to buy clean shirts after I quit doing his laundry—so he learned to wash his own clothes. I must confess that he has never learned to fold his clothes or put them away, so he lives out of a pair of laundry baskets—but as long as he keeps them in the basement, it's OK with me.
It is in the kitchen that I have advanced the front furtherest. (It is hard to cut Mel loose to do the grocery shopping because he will typically come home with a jar of pickles, a box of Lucky Charms, and pretzels.) Mel has taken on the dishes with a vengeance. Water flying, plates clashing, silverware sounding, he orchestrates a symphony of near destruction at the sink. He seems to relish the rivulets of water spilling off the plates while he directs the traffic of pots in his quest for order. And, he has gotten positively tyrannical about the brand of dish detergent he will use. I really don't mind having to clean up after Mel does the dishes, because, after all, what's wiping down a counter or two after all that excitement?
This past summer, Mel expanded his repertoire to cooking (and I don't mean grilling). I think he just got sick of meat, meat and more midwestern meat. So he went in search of seafood. Once Mel located a fish store that he liked, he became the seafood chef of your dreams. He regaled us with tips he picked up from the fish monger, as he brought forth steamed clams, soft shelled crab and tuna steak.
There are many things I would not expect Mel to do, or which he failed at so miserably, that I just gave up. Mowing the lawn has remained in my domain. I cannot stand his self-righteous satisfaction at having mowed a patchy lawn littered with tufts of grass. The problem is—he is just too creative for his own good, and he has to go in circles and then squares and finish up with hitting random grassy spots; he will not settle for a series of overlapping rows or grids which would ensure that he hits every blade of grass. I know this is his nature, because we painted a room once—and you should have seen the ceiling!
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Just between you and me, Mel and I have slowly been switching personalities. (I think this is pretty common in marriage.) He has gotten neater and neater over the years. In fact Mel picks up after himself much better than I do. While I grant that I probably used some bullying and scare tactics along the way, I am starting to wonder if, in fact, my victories in the guerilla domestic warfare are mainly due to the Stockholm Effect. What can I say? Basically, if you want a clean house—wash the brain first!