According to Japan, Spouse is the Head of Household. Since I consider myself to be the holder of that title and have worked diligently for the last 5 years to assume 100% of the previously shared role, this statement has galvanized me into self-analysis regarding this seemingly benign issue. After having left the work force 6 years ago, is my own identity still so closely tied to titles that an alien registration card leaves me sputtering with indignation? Why should I be mad about this statement? No decisions are made based on that information so why should I care? I’m not in competition with Spouse- he’s the better half of this union- that’s not the issue. It’s simple, I see the HOH role as mine.
The HOH role did not come easy to me because of my character defaults. For that reason, it’s advantageous our offspring have two parents since Spouse and I are opposites: Felix and Oscar, Handsome and Homely, All American and “There’s a Girl that Lives Next Door?,” Patient and Commandant.
You can imagine the dichotomy sets up a certain dynamic in our house. Example: Offspring #1 was about 11 months old and I’d enrolled him in swimming lessons. I envisioned him swimming laps around Kurt Cobain’s apple bobbing Nirvana album cover baby. We got to class and Offspring was not getting near the pool. Wouldn’t even put a toe in. The class started. My dream started to evaporate. I’d paid for 6 lessons and at this rate, he wouldn’t be in the water until lesson number 4. Impatient to hurry things along, I picked him up and dropped him in the pool. Not my best parenting day. I’m sure he’ll remember all details of his first swim lesson under hypnosis some day.
I didn’t really feel welcome at the next swimming lesson so spouse volunteered. Spouse sat on the edge of the pool with Offspring #1 in his lap. Spouse stuck his hand in the water and stirred. Offspring followed. Spouse put a foot in and kicked. Offspring followed. You see where this was headed. In 5 minutes they were both in. Spouse, offspring, and all the other moms and babies happily sang and splashed to the “Wheels on the bus.”
Then there was the time that Offspring #2 needed a test where at the age of 8 months her arms and legs were strapped to an x-ray table. Ear piercing, gut wrenching screaming ensued. To whom did she reach upon her release? Dad. The nurses were not impressed with my Armani suit and Prada shoes just aghast that an 8 month old wanted Dad, not mom. This pattern continued until I left work and my children got to know my more sensitive side.
Fast forward to Japan. My mother’s 70th birthday party had been set for a Saturday in Texas. As is the norm for large family functions, the timing was bad. School had started the Wednesday before and we were set to move the Tuesday after. When Offspring #2 learned that I was flying to Texas the weekend sandwiched in between she started to shake.
“Who’s going to take care of us?” she asked as if Spouse was just another one of her siblings.
“Dad” The obvious answer.
“Dad doesn’t know how to take care of us.” Didn’t she remember hearing the story of Spouse changing all Offspring #1’s diapers the first week after he was born?
“Of course he does.” He’s a veterinarian. They can take care of animals or children. As he said when they were small- “Until they can talk, it’s all veterinary medicine.”
“Sometimes he forgets to feed us.”
Offspring #2 jumps in to defend his father, “He DOES feed us ‘Anybody want a peanut butter spoon’” he mimicked.
Offspring #2 was determined to get her brother’s support,” We’ll have to spend the whole weekend in the office, then he’ll make us exercise.” Heaven forbid. A weekend of studying and exercise. Hell on Earth. That made Offspring #1 pause.
“I believe you’re old enough to a) tell him if you’re hungry, b) make yourself something to eat and c) you need to be in shape for cross-country.” 4 blue eyes look back at me, two are tear filled, two are rolling.
Should I stay? This was a terrible weekend to leave. Should I say my flight was cancelled? My mother would never know the truth. I have 2 other sisters who are very entertaining- she might not know I wasn’t there.
Oh but they needed me….Finally.
Recognizing that offspring #2 was concerned with her entree in to middle school, her fresh move 7,000 miles away, and her need to have complete order in her life, I left her what her father- of whom she is a female version- would need- an agenda. She and I reviewed the agenda which was then forwarded to Spouse and his secretary for cross check and coordination. A meal and back up plan were included in case I missed a flight, therefore the move. Offspring #2 approved the agenda.
I boarded the plane, settled in to my middle seat and as I tried to prepare for the next 12 hours I realized it was completely quiet. I had my Kindle, snacks, drinks, headphones, movies and I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s headphones, DVD player, suitcase, lost gum, batteries or any of the other moving related things that had been on my mind for the last 60 days.
Then I realized I was glad not to be the “Head of Household.” I felt very Japanese in being able to enjoy the moment of handing over the “Head of Household” reigns to the person with whom I had and always will share that role. All would be fine while I was gone. HOH was on duty.