Thomas and I come from very different families. One of the more marked differences is how we communicate (that would be his does, mine does not) and this leads to confusion. His family thinks, speculates and wonders aloud, without any intention of communal notice. My family says very little, so when something is said, it is immediately dissected for nuance, passive-agressive tendencies and hidden agendas. For instance, Thomas’ mother may enjoy aloud an imagined future life in the country side of Pennsylvania. My mother tells me, “Your mother-in-law told me she’s moving to another state.” I say to Thomas, “Why didn’t you tell me your mother is moving?” To which, he replies, “Huh? No, she’s not. Where did THAT come from?” Hilarity ensues.
Another issue arises as I look for what his family is REALLY saying, where he takes what my family says at face value. The addendum to this quagmire is the need to translate for your in-laws. In my family, if one says, “I’m going to put on a sweater”, it means, “I’m cold and have been for quite some time. Clearly, you don’t care or you would have insulate this house years ago. Why don’t you love me?” or “I wear sweaters and have mentioned the addition of one to my current attire so that in future, you will purchase me a sweater at Christmas or another gift-giving holiday.” In Thomas’ family, it just means you’re putting on a sweater.
This line of ridiculous thought has lead to what Thomas and I refer to as choosing the form of your destructor. Remember in Ghostbusters when Gozer the Gozerian tells the Ghostbusters to choose the form of their destructor? And Ray thinks of the Stay Puft marmallow man? When Thomas mentioned that the air in our house was dry and he often woke up with a sore throat, my father heard, “I am MISERABLE. Life in a house with dry air isn’t worth living. If I could buy a humidifier I would, but I can’t so I’m telling you. I am making you responsible for the air quality of my home.” He was asked how things were and he chose the form of his destructor. And the destructor was a humidifier, which arrived and was assembled in our home the very next day. (The kicker being we had a humidifier in our bedroom, but we are too lazy to fill it.)
With my family when asked how one is, like Ray, one must try to think of nothing.
How are you?
Fine. Absolutely fine. I could not want, need or desire anything, now or later.
This doesn’t always work, but at least you’ve done all you can do.
With a baby, this has taken on a whole new dimension. Adam doesn’t sleep through the night. He was sleeping about three or three and a half hours at a stretch, but over the past two weeks, he’s decided that two hours are plenty. I had no expectation of leisurely snooze-fests or really, ever feeling rested again so keep in mind, I am not complaining. But it’s one of those questions all new parents are asked, “Is the baby sleeping through the night?” and I see no reason not to answer honestly. After all, it does explain why I’m dopey (somewhat).
My family takes my reply and intreprets, erroneously, that I am miserable, exhausted and ready to dump my baby under a bush and walk away. No level of denial will change their minds; in fact, the more one talks about it, the more there is to dissect, again erroneously. The intentions are good and from a loving place, however misguided.
All I can do is smile, say nothing and hope Adam picks up his mode of communication from the other side of the family.