Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Raw Truth

For the past couple of days I put a yellow lined note pad in the hands of my beautiful bride and asked her to compile a list of the things about me that annoy and/or irritate her…No limits, no restrictions.

The general consensus from those who knew what I was doing was, “You should have your head examined.” At the same time I’ve had numerous comments indicating your eagerness to see said list. Well today my friend is your lucky day…I think.

Before the big unveiling let me tell you, I first thought this would simply be an amusing idea, another way for her to express some thoughts to me. What I found later was that doing this required trust, understanding, some nerve, and above all else, the willingness to hear the raw truth. Sounds easy enough right? I thought so too. Putting the pen and paper in front of her certainly was; waiting for the responses was the challenge.

I suppose it’s worth noting that I don’t have any deep dark secrets hidden from Lisa, so I wasn’t concerned about being confronted on some major issue. No, where the worry came in was in what she’d come up with in regards to the “little things” that can nag at someone over sixteen years of marriage. The things she found cute or amusing when we first started dating, and now years later bug the crap out of her. If you’ve been in any relationship long enough you can probably relate to this.

You may be wondering, “So why the big build up to a list that was originally meant to entertain us?” Well…because one of her responses stopped me dead in my tracks. It was one of the ones that make you re-evaluate your priorities and suddenly shift gears. When it was all said and done the list she handed me had on it a mere thirteen items, not bad I thought, but number thirteen was decidedly different from all the others. It didn’t have the jocularity that the others did. It had, as I referred to earlier, the raw truth.

This is the one I chose to camp on today. As you will see in a bit, it simply could not be lumped together with the others. To intertwine it along with humor and frivolity just wouldn’t be right.

This was what it said, “He needs to spend more time with his boys. Helping them with homework, with Bible verses and just engaging them, and less time on the computer,” Her footnote continued, “OK you asked me for this, and this isn’t only me who is saying or thinking this…so sorry”

As you can imagine, I was completely devastated. My mind went numb and I felt small…very, very small. I looked up at her and as our eyes met I could see both the pain and the relief in her expression. It was obvious that she had wanted to tell me this a hundred times before, but for a multitude of reasons hadn’t. Maybe she was afraid of how I would react. Would I become angry or would I recoil in denial? Perhaps this would drive a wedge in between us and prevent me from ever asking her to be open and honest again?

So there we sat in a long silence as I absorbed the words that were written on the page before me. The God’s honest truth is I don’t recall the exact words I first said, but I can tell you the emotion I conveyed was, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t blow a gasket, nor did I slump into a heap of despair. This was one of life’s little reality checks for me and it had been placed in my hands to deal with accordingly.

I spent the better part of yesterday with our oldest boy looking for a model airplane that we could build together. (Our youngest son was at his grandma’s house, Psycho Mom, spending a couple of his spring break days with her.) As we drove from store to store looking for just the right one, I kept seeing the words from that notepad in my head. We talked and laughed about several things yesterday, like we’ve done on many other occasions, but it was decidedly different this time. This wasn’t simply a quick trip to the store to buy the first plane we saw, it was a time where we, to coin a cliché, spent “quality time” together. I swear I could see a spark in his eyes that was a little bit brighter than other times.

From reading this you may wonder if I spend any time with the kids at all. Please put your minds at ease and know that I definitely do, but as was pointed out to me, perhaps it hasn’t been as focused as should be lately. That’s going to change and I really want to thank Lisa for being willing to bring this to my attention.

I think you have a pretty good idea why this particular issue just wouldn’t fit in with the other “irritations” on her list. I’ll post those twelve another day for you all to enjoy, but for today this will have to stand-alone. Not my characteristic silliness I know, but I promised I would talk about whatever she wrote down and this was far and away more important than anything else.


Travis said...

This is the kind of thing that separates a man from a guy. Men can be...and should be...guys. But there comes a time in a guy's life when he needs to stand up and be a man.

Sandi McBride said...

Good for Lisa. Good for you. And it will be exceptionally good for your boys.

the teach said...

Great Jeff, the experiment has worked! She told you the most important thing she could tell you and you responded like the man I knew you were! :D

Rhea said...

I'm impressed, Jeff. We all make mistakes or don't do things the best we can...but what separates the boys from the men and the girls from the women is the ability to learn from our mistakes and change.

You obviously love your children, and I'm glad you're going to be spending more time with them.

Thanks for sharing the raw truth, it makes for a stand out post. :o)

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Very well done. Sometimes we can't see the forest for all those blasted trees. Best regards to Lisa. Have a great day. :)

buffalodickdy said...

My boys are grown, if I was distracted from them, it was work or my own after hour activities like bowling, or golf. I spent alot of time with them, teaching them fishing, hunting, sports, and school activities also. Do not be too hard on yourself- their peers, teachers, mom, and others will spend time with them too... Time to yourself, doing what you enjoy, can benefit the ones around you- in your attitude, and gained knowledge. I gotta hand it to you- asking a woman to list your faults is pretty ballsy.. Sorta like sharpening Jack The Rippers knives for him....

Jeff B said...

Travis- Not to sound full of myself, but this definitely marks one of those time. Thanks.

Sandi- Amen. and it is already turning out that way.

Teach- Certainly not the way I would have pictured this unfolding, but I couldn't have asked for a better way of illuminating the truth.

Rhea- Thank you. We do spend a good amount of time together now and I'm looking forward to growing deeper in my role as a father. It sure would be nice if we were handed instruction manuals at the begining of parenthood.

Sandee- Everytime my wife whacks me up-beside the head (figurativily) with something like this it just makes me love and respect her even more than I already do.

Buffalo- I'm not feeling I should be beating myself up, rather refocusing some of my energy where it can be of better use. I hear what you're saying though, we have to strike a balance between having our own life and nurturing our family too. I think what it comes down to is that the scales were just a bit too heavy on the Jeff side and not enough on the kids side.

I love the Jack the Ripper analogy!

Dana said...

Wow Jeff! Good for Lisa for writing down something that I'm sure was quite difficult for her, and good for you for listening rather than trying to be "right."

I've seen issues much like this in my own home not handled at all as well by either party.

Roger said...

Jeff what would Kirk do?

Bina said...

Thanks for stopping by!

I've only read a few posts (between my 5 year old declaring she is still a little girl and likes me to wash her hair and my husband needing help with outlook) I don't have a lot of time tonight.

But love the pictures of "guess what this is" and you know, I think it's a great idea to have your wife write down those things. My husband and I do things like that and when we go on long trips, I make a list first and we ask each other stuff; simple things like what's your favorite food right now, your favorite song, movie, etc.

And hey, she was honest and nice about it, too!

katherine. said...

I think you are very blessed to have Miz Lisa....

there are times I get caught up in the day to day details and need to hit the "restart" button and pay attention to what is important.

a rather insightful post to be sure...

CrystalChick said...

My list for my hubby would be very short too. And I'd like to think he would be pretty kind as well, we're 24+ years married but it really is a strong friendship too. However, on his list, I am sure my computer time would be #1 or #2. lol He does not blog or use the computer other than for an occasional email or to look something up, so we probably do have different ideas on it.
Partly, I do agree with 'buffalo' in that you shouldn't be hard on yourself about it and having some time to do what you enjoy is important and benefits those around you too. I haven't been coming by here too long, but it seems you are a wonderful father and husband, so maybe it's just about finding a little more balance. I could say that for myself as well. I enjoy the computer alot, but there are days I need to get other things done first! Like paperwork for an upcoming craft show that I haven't even started.
Lessons learned all around!

Mel said...

Good for you for handing her the tablet.
And good for her for exercising honesty.

Good for everyone, actually.
This is what separates the men from the boys, yaknow.

(((((( Jeff ))))))))

Bless your heart.
And bless Lisa's.....she's a keeper.

nitebyrd said...

Jeff, I think you're amazing for not getting defensive and upset. You let your heart and mind smack down your ego. You know that you'll have life-long benefits from being able to do this.

Bond said...

How this hit home for me. I look back and see all the time Matt and I spent together and there were definitely periods of time when it could have been more focused...

and now...he is 900 miles away...about to turn 21 years old...and I miss him to death...

Lisa is one smart lady...and you, Sir are an incredible Travis said you reaction to #13 showed that loud and clear.

Akelamalu said...

It's strange how suddenly one little remark can make such a difference. You took it on board though and I applaud you for it. :)

Ron said...

Bravo to both you and Lisa!

It's wonderful that she was able to be gently honest with you...and also wonderful that you were able to be gently honest with yourself.

It sounds like the two of you have a really loving and caring relationship (and family).

YEAAA!! I'm happy for you guys!!!

GOOD stuff here!

Thank you, buddy...for this wonderful and honest slice of life.

We enjoy EVERYTHING you share!

Leighann said...

Communication is key

The truth hurts

Never a more fitting situation than this one huh?

Sometimes it takes others to help us realize it's time to slow down and refocus.

Jeni said...

First off, I do admire your courage in giving Lisa the pad and pen and telling her to write her comments down there. And secondly, I also admire your actions for taking the bull by the horns and trying to make the corrections you've started to do. Great job there Jeff and I'm betting you will keep that in the back of your mind from here on out, won't you?

Jules~ said...

Jeff, I am so impressed. That was a huge brave thing for you to do and you showed real character in your follow thru. Even more so the bravery in sharing with us in blog land.
I know you don't share to look for consolated pats on the back(even though it is very nice). I get from your writing that you share to simply be honest. I appreciate that.
And I completely understand. Gosh how many times God has tapped me on the back for that very same sort of thing..."Are you talking to them or at them?" Then I must rearrange and shuffle my deck of priorities.

Lady in red said...

I imagine that there are millions of parents not just fathers who get so involved in their own lives that they forget to spend quality time with their children. I am just as guilty as the next person. every now and then my youngest (now 12) will make a comment that reminds me that I am not giving them me. I feed, clothe and do all the other things for them I even give them time but I don't always give them me.
we used to have our quality time during the many car journeys we made each week for soccer matches and training etc. But that is rare now.

Well done you for taking the news like a man and doing something about it.

San said...

Such honest, courageous words, Jeff. From you. And from your wife. How beautiful that you saw that enlivened sparkle in your son's eyes.

I'm about to add you to my blogroll. Right now. I've been forgetting. Now, before I forget again...

Jeff B said...

Dana- It takes everything I've got not to jump right into "Fix It" mode. Just listing and understanding are very powerful things in a marraige.

Roger- I think of Jean Luk Picard sayin, "Engage number one."

Bina- I hope you'll continue to come by. It's always nice to meet new people.

Katherine- I am blessed indeed. Anyone who can put up with my shinanigans and still love me deeply as she does is an incredible woman.

Crystalchick- Achieving that balance can be tricky. Generally I do a pretty good job of keeping my priorities in line, but occasionally I need a reminder when things tilt too far in one direction.

Mel- Honesty with each other is one of the keys to our marraige. No big secrets and no silly head games here.

Nitebyrd- There were times when this wouldn't have been my first reaction, but fortunately I've been able to learn a few thing along this thing called life.

Bond- thank you for those kind words. I think even the greatest father in the world would be able to look back on his childs life and say, "I wish I would have_____"
I'd be willing to bet Matt is pretty happy with his old man.

Jeff B said...

Akelamalu- Like the phrase, "Good things come in little packages" so can good awarenesses com in little phrases.

Ron- I sometimes wonder about posting things like this, but I try to be very upfront and open with who I am. I appreciate you and all the others who have commented here. Loving and listening is a gift my mom sharred with me all throughout my life.

Leighann- Both spot on statements! I may not always like what others say when they're telling me something I might have ignored, but I'm always glad they did later.

Jeni- I'm thinking this notepad idea would be a good thing to do more often. When the truth is sitting there for us to look at it can only give us oppertunities to grow.

Jules- I enjoy an atta boy as much as anyone, and I try to remain vigilant in my efforts to not make that a motivation. As you point out, God knows my heart and if I start down that path He is quick to hand me a big slice of humble pie.

L I Red- Your statement about "Not giving them me" is a brilliant one. It's so easy to give them what they need, (i.e. clothes, meals, shelter) but to give them what they want (our heart) requires our foucus. Thank you for sharring that powerful truth.

San- My family is the love of my life, without them this is just an existence.

Matt-Man said...

Ouch...I have been there Jeff. But it all works out and I am sure you can step it up. Cheers!!

Sherry said...

WOW! I am impressed. It worked out for all of you. Congrats.

See, I would be terrified to see what my hubby would tell me. I'm not brave enough... yet!

Odat said...

You're a good man Charlie Brown.

That was a Wow moment....and even more "wower" that you shared it....but I'm glad you did. It shows what a great father and husband you really are.

the teach said...

Jeff, stop by my blog for an award I have for you! :)

Doc said...

You have a great lady there Jeff!

Leann said...

think how nice it would be if all wives were asked to be honest,and the guy would really liston to them.and change things before it was too late.

your the frist guy I have heard of who had the guts to addmit there maybe a problem and want to hear about it.

your wife and your family are blessed.your boys will remember the time you put into them.they wont remeber the toys or the pay check you brought home.but they will remember what you put into their life.

I always say "what you put into a childs life is what you get out.put nothing in get nothing out."its the same with a wife to.they need you just as much as they did when you were just dating.only now they need you more.

good job dude you may keep your loved ones.but some out there will lose thiers cause they are too proud to change or even liston.

getting married does not mean you stop being a gental man,it just means you have to keep doing what you know is right,even if ya dont feel like it.

if we were all more like Jesus life would be easyer to live.and relationship,s would be much better.

jennifer said...

This is so much like what Hubby and I went through this weekend, except it was the lady of the house on the computer too much. I didn't handle it as well as you. He hurt me terribly and only because I allowed him to. Because he was right. I've tried this week to be better. I really understand.


Jeff B said...

Matt- I'm on it. Just the peaks and valleys of parenthood.

Sherry- It's a scary, but wonderful exercise to do. Just have an open mind if you try it.

Odat- I'm just following a good example I was given growing up. Thanks

Teach- I'll stop by.

Doc- She is awesome!

Leann- "And two will become one flesh." We may have different interests and see things in a unique way, but I am committed to being one with her in this union.

Jennifer- All we can do is let the past be just that...the past. Learn from it and move forward. Hope all is well with the two of you.

Desert Songbird said...

Good that you took the comment to heart. Some fathers would just blow it off.

Anndi said...

I've been away from the computer and visiting blogs lately... real life gets in the way. As it should.