Sorta Crunchy's post on the Highly Sensitive parent is making the rounds this week. Did you read it? Are you Highly Sensitive, too? I skimmed it and quickly realized I'm not. In fact, it's safe to say I am the Highly Insensitive Parent. I am the queen of throwing a disgusting diaper in the kitchen trash because "we're about to take it out anyway," then allowing it to fester a few hours before I actually take out the trash. Also? I love to hear kids playing. The squealing, the pounding on the floors, the sound of a bucket of toys upturned in another room - productive, cooperative play is the sound of success. It never bothers me. I read about the experience of Highly Sensitive parents, and I just could not relate.
Even so, it changed me.
As she described her life, I saw my husband. My artistic, emotionally in-tune husband finds beauty and joy in the tiniest details of life - the lighting of a room, a certain chord, a descriptive phrase, the after notes of a good beer. He lives in the little things. They define the way he sees the world. Until this week, I'd never once thought about how his love for details might make him more susceptible to the stress of chaos with children. Honestly, I don't think I'd ever really considered our home through his eyes at all. The trash stacked in the corner, the ever-revolving stack of dishes and laundry, the trail of toys down the hallway ... of course he experiences them differently. Why hadn't I ever thought of that?
The thing is, if you'd asked us both to describe our ideal home, my husband and I would have used the same language. I want my home to be functioning and cozy, a haven of comfort for my little tribe. My ideal is The Burrows - loud and comfortable and nurturing to everyone who shows up.
And I think I am creating a space to that end. If you walked into my home right now, you would see a space that is useful, but not very cute. The kitchen table is beat up, and there's no picture on the big blank wall behind it. The kids' beds are nests of mismatched blankets, stuffed animals and the little projects they want to keep private. A folded towel doubles as a bath mat in the bathrooms. And I'm still using my wedding dishes from almost 15 years ago, chipped and dated as they are. But my kids have all they need - all the clothes, all the love, all the space to play, all the books they can read.
My husband would have also said he wanted a functional and cozy home. Only, his description of cozy would include throw pillows and candles. It would include a reading corner and matching bath mats. A place where kids play and grow and have fun together, only a little more quietly.
Neither of us is wrong. His image and mine are both good, both nurturing and functional. We aren't wrong, we're just different. We need different things out of our living space. Only, until now, our differences have been a friction point between us. My husband is more likely to get overwhelmed and declare we live in chaos. Then I take offense, pointing out the ways our home is functional. All along we've been having two different conversations. He's been saying, "I need a physical place that is calm and soothing," and I've been saying, "Look at how nurturing our home is!"
But my husband is part of my tribe too. If our home is comfortable and functional for everyone except him, it is neither truly comfortable or functional. Since reading that article, I've paid more attention to the stacked trash and the trail of toys. We've also been talking about how we could create a truly soothing space for him. We are working on ways to incorporate what he needs into the larger vision for our home. This week I have had the privilege of seeing the world, for just a bit, through my husband's eyes. And I'm learning to be a little less Highly Insensitive.
Thanks, Sorta Crunchy.