I don’t like cauliflower rice. I like my cauliflower and rice separately, as they were meant to be—vegetable and grain. Once, following a blog, I made a cauliflower pizza crust for fun. It wasn’t fun when my family didn’t eat it.
On the kitchen floor in the morning, last night’s pizza languishing in the fridge, I hold my toddler son while he cries. He’s not crying about the cauliflower crust, just regular kid stuff: kicks younger sister, gets scolded, goes on mini-rampage through the kitchen, knocks things off the counter, collapses face down on the floor.
I hold him in the spot where he fell.
There are white cauliflower crumbs under the cupboards from last night’s experiment.
My wet-faced son takes a breath. I squeeze him tight. “I love all of you,” I say.
He takes a deeper breath.
Sometimes it’s frustrating to love all of a sticky, angry, 3-year-old.
I might be mentally counting down the days till he’s four (five? six? whenever he can hold a logical conversation), but I won’t make him hurry. Right now he’s not feeling very reasonable. He’s a sad, mad little guy, and I accept him. I can’t change him into a big kid any better than I can turn a vegetable into a pizza dough.
We rock some more, silently. He stands up, “Can I have some oatmeal, Mom?”
“Sure. You don’t want any super fun pizza from last night?”
In the dark of my bedroom, a marriage book wedged between water glasses beside the bed holds a chapter that says most relationship conflict can’t be resolved. It says most conflict comes from fundamental differences in personality, which we’re better off accepting than fighting about because we won’t win.
I can’t decide if I find this news depressing or liberating. Either way, it’s true.
“Come to bed with me?” I ask my husband while I click off the lights in the kitchen and fill a water glass for bed.
“Can I just finish this movie?” he asks.
I glance at the TV. “Sure, babe. See you soon.”
I go to bed alone, read a book, turn off the light. I wrap myself like a grumpy chimichanga in the throw blanket from the end of the bed. The grey blanket is a poor replacement for the person who should be keeping me warm. Wait, should he be? He likes to go to bed late. I like eight hours of sleep. Should we be the same (because obviously, I’m right) or can he just be who he is?
We’ve always been different.
I take my vitamins and read personal growth books. There are Rachel Hollis quotes on our fridge about moving our bodies and showing up for our lives. I like a schedule, especially my 9:30 p.m. bedtime alarm that dings a peaceful chime to remind me it’s time to close my library book and get some sleep.
My husband likes to work more than he likes to read. He’d rather run five miles than talk about relationships. And he does not like a schedule.
Trying to make him appreciate a routine bedtime is like trying to make a toddler reasonable.
He gets up early to get a run in and works long hours. When he comes home at the end of the day, my son greets him.
“Can I just sit down for one minute?”
“OK then . . . you better run!”
And they’re off on a ground-level game of tag that must be hard on 35-year-old knees.
After the kids’ bedtime, when the chores are done and the wine is poured, my tired husband needs a break.
He chooses the sports channel. I choose to be mad about it.
We have some conversations about compromise that lead nowhere. As the book said, this particular conflict is fundamentally unsolvable. We are who we are, and we do not go to bed at the same time.
He says, “I love you and I stay up late. Can that just be OK?”
I nod, slowly. I kiss him goodnight and I mean it. Nothing has changed except for my own perspective. If it’s OK for my toddler to be who he is, why should I hold my partner to an unreasonable standard?
He’s not into an early bedtime like my toddler isn’t into being rational and cauliflower isn’t into being pizza. All I can do is love them as God made them and put the work into being the best version of myself I can be. My book-loving, well-rested, leftover-pizza-eating self.