I began thinking about all of this again mid-week when I was awakened in the middle of a dream by my four-year-old, who was ready to start his day pretending to be a policeman when I was ready to sleep for another couple of hours (“Sorry, mom…”). I related to my husband that I had been dreaming about our kids, who were on a youth group retreat/service project/camping trip, and were returning later that day. In my dream, my niece, who is visiting from Florida, told me that she had not enjoyed the camp experience. When I awoke, I was immediately worried about whether it was true, and how I would comfort her when I went to pick her up in a few hours.
My husband then began relating the dream he had been having when he was awakened. In his dream, he was dodging a spacecraft that was flying too low, trying desperately to restart their engine. He said he could feel the heat from the aircraft as it zoomed overhead. As he was running to get out of its way (that’s why he was kicking me while I slept), news broke that aliens had been spotted, and had likely been the cause of this airplane’s misfortune. He was frustrated at being awakened, as he had hoped to resolve the alien invasion in the next several minutes of sleepy oblivion.
As we shrugged off sleep, we were relieved to discover that no aliens had ventured into our airspace overnight, and my niece had a wonderful time at camp, made many friends, and wished she could stay longer. But starting my day that way reminded me of the significant differences between my brain and that of my husband, even while we are sleeping.
I’ll admit that sometimes our differences frustrate me, especially when I expect Steve’s brain to work like mine. As he builds a pint-sized bowling alley for little Noah’s new dime-store bowling pins and marble (“ball,”) I lament that he isn’t cleaning the bathroom or organizing his “junk” in the bedroom. However, when I try to understand and respect his CONTEXT, I recognize that he is a genius at fixing and making things because he can imagine so many different ways to repair something or make it work, and he is a great storyteller and fictional writer because his brain is always weaving creative tales, whether he is awake or asleep.
The more we can divide tasks so that each person does what they’re best at, the better (and more productive) our relationship is. I try to do the more detail-oriented organizational tasks, while he does the fixing. I manage the finances, he makes sure our kids engage in lots of active and creative play. While it still is not a perfect system, we continue to make progress at making the most of our personal strengths, managing our differences in mostly positive ways.
The next challenge I need to resolve is what to do when neither of us can claim “cleaning the bathroom” as a personal strength or top priority. Maybe that’s best left to those aliens or kids at camp…