“Let’s take a quick trip this weekend,” my husband eagerly suggests on a Thursday evening, eyes alight with the possibility. “We’ll pack up the kids and get a hotel somewhere overnight. They’ll love it.”
He’s right. They would love it. And so would I – the allure of a mini-getaway is strong, especially while under the influence of my husband’s contagious enthusiasm. But then my brain kicks into its normal, logical gear, and I think about how much time it would take to pack everyone’s things, how much we’d need to lug along with us, even for an overnight.
I think about the cost of a weekend trip. Of gas, and a hotel room – it’s not cheap for six people, because we’re usually forced to get a suite – and feeding everyone, and admission to whatever attractions we visit, and the inevitable souvenirs; no matter how cheap they are (and souvenirs are never cheap), buying four at a time adds up. We’ve just paid for car repairs, and there are other spendy occasions in the near future.
I think about what would be left undone while we were away – all the things I normally take care of over the course of a weekend that would be awaiting me when we returned, like a mountain of laundry and a grocery list a mile long.
“We shouldn’t,” I say, and itemize my most reasonable objections out loud. My husband agrees, grudgingly. He understands, but I’ve snuffed out his excitement like a candle flame. And I hate it.
We’re opposites, he and I, and I get the good fortune (snort) of being the wet blanket. The fun-sucker. The practical, level-headed one, always thinking of the downside, the consequences, the aftereffects. One of the reasons I fell in love with the man was his spontaneous, adventurous nature, because he made me less cautious and encouraged me to loosen up and have fun. Like the time we went camping “for a couple of nights” and ended up ditching our obligations for an entire week to stay at the campsite longer.
But we were kids then, barely out of high school, without kids of our own, or bills to be paid, untethered to the shackles of domestic life. Now, while the tendency toward spontaneity may still be present, the ability to indulge it isn’t – at least, not in the way we used to.
Unfortunately, I’m always the one who ends up pointing this out. I don’t relish my position as the family hard-ass. It’s no fun to feel like a perpetual Debbie Downer, endlessly blowing the whistle of “this is unsafe” and “this isn’t practical” and “we can’t afford it.” I’ve tried to lighten up, but it seems that every time I do, something happens to reinforce why I was being cautious in the first place.
It’s hard to force myself to do something against my better judgment, because my judgment is always pretty damn good, and the scenario turns out just like I worried it would. This doesn’t help matters when you’re trying to be less uptight. So as much as I hate being the wet blanket, here I always am. Wet blanketing all over the place.
I never fear that my husband will leave me for someone younger, or more attractive, or better in bed. I fear that he’ll fall in love with someone more fun than I am, someone who gobbles up his impulsive plans with equal fervor. Sometimes I confide this to him, moved to tears by the soul-crushing weight of my stupid sense of responsibility. I wish I were a different kind of person, I tell him. I wish I had no problem letting go, and could ignore the burden of preventing consequence. To this, he always smiles, brushes a thumb across my crying eyes, and says the same thing: “If you were a different kind of person, we wouldn’t work as well as we do.”
And it’s true, when I think about it. We balance each other out. If we were both like him, or both like me, we’d never challenge one another to be different. I save our family (and our finances) from the consequences of his half-baked plans; he encourages me to venture out of my overly-practical comfort zone, which – if I were left to my own devices – would probably get smaller with each passing year.
So we’ll continue down this path, me being the realist and he being the one with the big ideas. It isn’t always the most fun, but it works for us.
I think maybe I’ll surprise him with a family weekend trip sometime. Of course, I’ll secretly stash away spending money in advance, make reservations when they’re the cheapest, and pre-arrange everything I can possibly pre-arrange … but it’s still spontaneous if I don’t tell him about all that preparation, right?