On the walk to the multi-purpose room for Back to School Night, Paul grumbled about what a waste of his time this was going to be. When the school administrators asked the parents several times for financial donations, he became even grumpier. By the time he and Janine got to their son's classroom, he was done.
Janine took a seat at their son's desk. Paul found a chair along the wall at the far end of the room. Ms. Scott talked about her plan for the 2nd graders for about 45 minutes, which turned out to be about 42 minutes too long for Paul. Afterwards, he outlined to Janine the many ways the presentation could have been significantly shorter.
During Ms. Scott's presentation, Paul clicked away on his Blackberry to pass the time. Janine struggled to stay focused on Ms. Scott while out of the corner of her eye she could see that Paul had checked out. She was pissed.
They walked home in silence. When they got back to the house, they went in opposite directions. She went to the kitchen; he headed back to the den.
The next night Janine didn't even bother reminding Paul about their daughter's Back to School night and went by her self. Once again, feeling alone in her marriage, she talked to herself all night about the many ways she doesn't have the partner she wants and needs.
Can you relate to either Paul or Janine? If so, what can you do?
A starting place would be to practice voicing your feelings to your partner in a clear, constructive, appropriate manner.
For Paul, this does not mean grumbling at the school all night. It means telling Janine how he feels before leaving the house. It could sound like this: "Hey, honey. I hate going to these things and really don't want to go tonight." Enough said. Feeling expressed.
Even though Paul feels that way, it doesn't mean he has to act on it. He's a dad, and part of his dad responsibility is to support his wife and his son. On Monday night, what that looked like was going to Back to School Night and not being a pill about it.
For Janine, expressing feelings appropriately does not mean evil eye glares in the classroom, silence on the walk home, or dismissing Paul's attendance at the next Back to School Night. For her, it might sound like this: "Paul, it really hurts me that you can't give up an evening for our son without griping all night about it."
Few parents, dads or moms, would choose Back to School night over one of their favorite activities. Paul wanted to stay at home watching Brett Favre play for the first time as a Minnesota Viking on Monday Night Football. Janine would have much preferred to finish the phone call with her sister. But parenting duty beckoned -- both of them.
Keep these 3 things in mind:
Many of us do not share with our partner how we're feeling in a very constructive way.
Not knowing how to resolve the problem that's causing the feeling often keeps us silent.
Feelings need to be voiced, no matter whether we know how to resolve them or not.
So on your next Back to School Night, don't focus on the marriage problem you don't know how to solve and just practice telling your partner how you feel about it. Then head back to school together. Sometimes parenting isn't very fun, but much of the time it's more enjoyable and easier when done honestly, and together.
What's your best or worst Back to School Night story? Share your story in the comments below.