"How long can that possibly take? And why do you need the whole living room floor?"
I looked up in response to my husband's question. I was sorting ski clothes for an upcoming ski trip. My sons' ski stuff had to be sorted according to size, convenience and wearability. The living room floor was strewn with gloves, turtlenecks and thermal underwear, and I had been going at it for over an hour.
I stared at him in disbelief. You would think that after all these years he would neither comment nor criticize my completion of a detested task that he had neither the patience nor the organization to tackle himself. He sat there, remote in hand, watching football, his usual Sunday afternoon stance.
"It takes time to pack for a trip," I said, in a superior tone. "Not that you would know, since you never have to be the one to do it. And what's the big hurry, do you have a big Twister game planned or something?"
He sighed, sorry for having said anything.
"It just seems like you go to so much trouble. They're kids. They don't need all of the stuff you bring them when we go skiing. When I was a kid, I would go skiing in a t-shirt, jeans and a Members' Only jacket." He smiled, as if he made some kind of a point, not realizing it was quite lame.
"Hah," I said, as I continued folding clothes. "You must have been the last member."
"That was a good one."
I get lucky with certain one liners, because he doesn't remember movie lines, and didn't know I stole it from "Shallow Hal."
He sat forward, and lowered the volume. Uh-oh, he was getting serious.
"But Mary, seriously, it's like when you pack for the beach. Juice, snacks, footballs, shovels, buckets, boogie boards, chairs, towels. When I was a kid, I had my Birdwells and zinc oxide for my nose. That's it. We made our own fun, and when we were hungry, we were out of luck, or we had to go home. You make them so dependent on ... stuff."
He looked truly harangued now. This bothered him, obviously. Like my reading of People magazine. My love for takeout coffee. The fact that I leave the bathroom fan on for white noise when I go to bed. My playing online Scrabble on my iPhone. My distaste for Good -N- Plenty. No reason, these things just irritate him, much like my overpacking.
"I just like them to be prepared," I said. "Is there anything wrong with a mother who just wants her sons to be warm and dry and comfortable? To not get hungry, and to have fun? To have things at their disposal so that they can learn to be self-sufficient? I think it teaches them preparedness." I stared, ready for further battle.
"Noooo," he said slowly, as if talking to a misbehaving puppy. "It teaches them to be wimps."
"Being warm and dry and fed and happy is wimpy? Since when? Does that make you a wimp? You're warm, dry, fed and happy."
He raised his finger. "I am a grown man. I have paid my dues. I have suffered and thus earned my right to be comfortable."
I was confused. "But when we go skiing, they always need something, no matter how much I bring."
"That's because you're there," he said. "They know you will give them another hat if they lose the first one. They know you've packed three sets of gloves for each of them. They know that if they want to stop skiing, you will take them into the lodge and get them get hot chocolate. They know you will coddle them. So they play into it."
He wasn't done.
"When I took them on a boys' trip to Vermont," he said, "they skiied all day without stopping. When they whined for food, we ignored them. When one lost his glove, we made him ski back and find it. When they complained about being cold, we told them to suck it up. They got the point real quick. Because the mothers weren't there to coddle them. You would have been amazed."
He was done. His posture was relaxed, as if he had reached closure on his thoughts.
I didn't argue. I love when he takes them on boy vacations, and I get to have time to myself. I try not to worry, because I actually sort of get what he's saying. The boys do whine more when I am around. Because I'm their Mom. And Moms bring that out in boys. And that's OK. I don't know what goes on during those boy only Vermont trips, and I don't want to know. All I know is, they always have a blast. So he must be doing something right.
I stood up, and began packing ski bags.
"Oh, honey?" my husband said. "Don't forget to pack their iPod touches."
"Ohhh," I said. "Doesn't that qualify as something that makes them comfortable?"
"No," he said. "They play them while I drive. Thus, they leave me alone. That makes ME comfortable."