MY wife stood up, said “I can’t take this any more”, and walked out the door. I was left sitting in Costa with our son, his little friend from school and that friend’s dad. Myself and Other Dad shared a knowing glance and got back to talking about tracksuit quality.
Welcome to the Anxiety Gap.
My wife couldn’t take being separated from our six-year-old, Freda, who was part of the Patrick’s Day Parade in Cork, with her dance class. So, she headed off into the crowd’s on Patrick’s Street, against the direction of the parade, to make sure Freda hadn’t been abducted by something you’d read about in a tabloid paper. Let’s just say I felt this was over the top.
My wife had been anxious all week coming up to Patrick’s Day and she wasn’t the only one. When we dropped them at the meeting point on Anglesea Street, the moms stayed put and subconsciously formed a semi-circular shell around the kids, to keep them safe from marauding gangs of high-school marching bands and majorettes. The dads idled outside this semi-circle, worrying that if we didn’t go soon we wouldn’t get a good vantage point for the parade, but keeping that worry to ourselves because you don’t want to be telling an anxious mother what to do.
I can kind of see where my wife was coming from. It would be Freda’s first time walking around town without a parent or relation, and it didn’t help she’d be doing this in front of a 20ft, fire-breathing monster. However, the woman who runs the dance class had other girls minding them, she’d been doing this for years, and once Freda got going on the parade, the crowd-control barriers would funnel her around Cork city centre to the end.
This was enough to persuade my wife to watch the parade go by from the comfort of a café, until she couldn’t take any more. We caught up with her again at the end of the parade, where she was hugging Freda to death.
It was only later we got talking about it. My wife said she had been struggling to sleep all week, worrying about Patrick’s Day. She actually took to the bed for two hours the the following day. There was a time when that would have been called ‘her nerves’, but we’re all modern now, so I reckon she’s just been browsing too many scare stories on Facebook.
Joking aside, the Anxiety Gap is probably the key thing that parents have in their armoury. You want one partner to do the worrying, and it’s usually the woman. I’m a fairly anxious person myself, but sometimes even I can see that my attitude towards the kids is somewhere between relaxed and ‘we can always get another one’.
The good news for my kids’ safety is that my wife is well down the other end of the scale. (I gave them cancer this week by making ham sandwiches for lunch five days in a row.)
The Anxiety Gap means that we have to find a balance in the middle, or otherwise this whole relationship thing would be a bigger mess than Brexit.
I worry less about the kids, because I know my wife is all over that side of things, and therefore tend to let them off a bit. She, in turn, worries less about things, safe in the knowledge that if anything does go wrong (touch wood) at least she’ll have someone to blame. (Me.) It takes a bit of negotiation, but both of us agree that this Anxiety Gap thing works out well for everyone concerned.
Now, if you don’t mind, I must go off and see how the kids feel about eating cheese sandwiches for lunch.