Monday, September 19, 2011

Palm Trees, Sunshine and Bickering

This past Thursday my son and I hopped on a plane for a long weekend in sunny Florida, the land of sunshine, palm trees and . . . my ex-husband.

My ex and I are world-class bickerers. If there were an Olympic category for bickering, we would bring home the Gold. We usually get along best with 2,000 miles between us, but somehow I convinced myself we would get along this time.

Should I have known better, especially after the disastrous family vacation to Maryland two years ago? Yes, clearly.

Was I deluding myself thinking that, somehow, we would magically not get on each others nerves? Oh yeah, big time.

Was there bad behavior and sniping? Yep, you betcha.

It started as soon as Evan's dad picked us up at the West Palm Beach airport. Our flight got in late and everyone was hungry, so we went in search of food straight away. Clash number one was about whether to sit indoors or out (he wanted in, I wanted out). Clash number two was over what to have for dinner (he wanted to order his usual for everyone, I wanted to read the menu).

Conflict number three, on the drive home, was over who would sleep where in his one bedroom condo, (I wanted to go to a hotel, Evan's father thought that was a ridiculous waste of money). We eventually agreed Evan and I would share the bedroom and his dad would sleep in the living room. I kept Evan awake all night snoring. He kept me awake all night by clapping loudly to wake me up whenever I snored. Evan's dad was awake half the night, too, since all that snoring and clapping was audible in the living room.

The next morning three cranky people somehow got themselves organized to go to the beach. Ex-hubby and I wrangled over whether or not it was necessary to pack so much stuff for a two hour excursion (I said no, he said yes). Then we argued over how long it would take to drive to the beach. (I said 15 minutes, he said over 30. We got there in twenty).

After a peaceful swim in the turquoise waves we got right back to our favorite sport, arguing over which Pollo Tropical to eat lunch in. By the time we got back to the condo everyone was tired, and nerves were frayed. We argued back and forth while I looked up night fishing excursions for our son, and continued our arguing on the drive to the pier in Lantana.

When we got to the dock we found all the other passengers milling around, waiting. There were only eight, but to make it worth his while to go out the Captain was holding out for ten. As the three of us walked up to the boat the Captain spotted us and asked us "Are all three of you going on the boat?" "Yes." Evan's father said emphatically, while simultaneously I said an equally emphatic "No." The Captain looked quizzically back and forth between us. "One of you is saying yes, the other is saying no. Which is it?"

Without knowing it, the Captain had just hit upon the very dynamic of our relationship and the cause of all our bickering--we disagree on EVERYTHING. Shooting my ex murderous looks I explained to the Captain that only our son was going on the boat. My just son rolled his eyes and made an exasperated noise before stalking away to the other side of the dock. He stayed there, refusing to stand with us, until the boat was ready to leave.

Evan's dad and I watched the boat pull away from the dock in guilty silence. We don't intend to fight so much, somehow it just seems to happen. Evan's dad is fussy and excitable, especially when he gets out of his usual routines, and since he never really got the hang of English he can be very hard to communicate with. I am used to being the head of my household, with no one questioning what I say or how I do things. Both of us are as stubborn as the day is long. Each of us on our own isn't that bad, but put us together and somehow we manage to bring out the worst in each other.

By mutual agreement we called a truce for the rest of the evening. When we picked Evan up again at 10:30 that night we apologized to him for our behavior. Evan just shook his head and rolled his eyes. "It's fine." He muttered. "You two are like a couple of kids. It just gets annoying." 

I would like to report that we successfully put the bickering on hold for the rest of the weekend, but small skirmishes broke out here and there. For the most part, though, we managed to put a lid on it before it went too far. We may not agree on much else, but we are of one mind when it comes to wanting to see our son happy.

Our last night Evan took us out for dinner. He told us to order whatever we wanted, he was picking up the check. His father and I were positively glowing with parental pride. After dinner, we walked through City Place and people watched together. Nobody fought, nobody argued. It was a perfect night.

Will Evan's dad and I ever be able to be in the same room together for more than fifteen minutes without getting on each others nerves? I really wouldn't bet on it. But as long as it makes our son happy, we'll give it our best shot.

Evan and his dad sharing a laugh over dinner.

Palm Trees in City Place, West Palm Beach

Juno Beach, where we spent two bicker-free hours swimming
How do you cope with your cantankerous ex for the sake of your kids? Tell me about it in the comments.

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