Chaos: The gift that keeps giving


A long, long time ago, when my husband was just my coworker, we were sitting across from each other in a restaurant and he said to me, “Do you know what I don’t understand? Why isn’t there more chaos? I mean, why do people follow rules and do what they’re supposed to do, like stop at red lights?”

I was confounded. From my point-of-view, there was plenty of chaos in the world and plenty to be afraid of. People running red lights were the least of it. The Boogie Man was and is absolutely real. I knew it because there were stories about him in the paper every single day. I had even written some of them.

I thought that perhaps our different perspectives were the result of my then-coworker being a guy and me not being one, and also of our upbringings. I came from a dysfunctional family, and I warned him early when we started dating: If it was chaos he wanted, he had come to the right place.

That was 12 years ago, or something like that. Nowadays, by 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, there is enough chaos in our home to overstimulate a statue. The 8-year-old boy is on the computer watching YouTube videos and making noises that sound like a dying moose. (Don’t ask.) The 5-year-old girl is in the next room singing a song that she made up while watercolor painting. It will take three trips down two flights of stairs to gather up and start the laundry that needs to be done. One of us needs to go to work at one of our second jobs, and no one has had breakfast yet.

Choosing a Father’s Day card for your husband gets harder and harder when you’ve been married awhile, until you realize that you don’t have to choose one with a sickeningly mushy message about how he is the love of your life. He knows that already. You have vowed to love, honor and cherish him for eternity. This year, my husband’s Father’s Day card uses metaphors and puns to compare him to several different kinds of fish. I think he’ll like it because he’s both a fisherman and an English teacher.

I’m not the easiest wife in the world because I insist on clinging to the notion that marriage should involve a certain amount of equality in the division of labor. Older women tell me this is nonsense and that I should just be glad that my husband doesn’t spend his evenings in a bar with other women the way that all those guys on “Mad Men” do. I’ll admit I see their point. When I look at what’s out there in terms of men, well, there are some great guys and good fathers, but there are a lot of bad ones, too.

All I know is that whenever my husband leaves the house, several things happen within the first hour that he is gone. The toilet backs up. The smoke alarm goes off. Something breaks. Just this morning, the 5-year-old accidentally locked us all out of the downstairs bathroom. It’s not one of those problems I would have an easy time fixing, but I didn’t scream about it because I knew that as soon as he came home, my husband could and would remedy the situation without much fanfare. I may be a witch of a nag who expects a man to babysit his own children a lot and even do laundry on a semi-regular basis, but I could not raise these kids without him. He is the only person on the planet who would go through this with me. I know that much is true.


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