This afternoon after school, my 14 year old son and I engaged in a semi political discussion. I’m not sure how it started, but it veered from poverty to food stamps to Obamacare. I questioned him on some of his more immature assumptions about being poor, pushed him on some other issues, and tried to explain the good and the bad and the ugly about the ACA. I tried to explain Medicaid vs. Medicare, and drew an example from my own life when I couldn’t buy health insurance because I was pregnant (those pesky pre-existing conditions, dontcha know), even though we could afford it, so had to ironically turn to state assistance instead to get me through the pregnancy. We talked about healthcare costs, and how hospitals charge some patients different prices according to their insurance status.
His comment was something along the lines of, “This makes no sense.”
It was at this moment when my husband came home and found us engaged in higher level thinking. (This was quite exciting for him, of course, as at that time of the evening he usually finds his family engaged in a stupor of technology while his wife naps on the couch.) He asked what we were talking about, joined in the conversation, and re-iterated what I was trying to explain to my son about healthcare. About 2 minutes in, my son turned to me and said, “Dad makes a lot more sense than you do, mom. He explained it WAY better than you did.”
He’s not wrong, of course, so at that point, I bowed out of the conversation, took up my usual position on the couch, and slept for a while, and then announced that I was too tired to cook dinner. My husband offered to go get some Chinese take-out, and when I wholeheartedly endorsed that plan, he said to my kid, “Come with me, son, and we can continue this conversation”. Shockingly, my teenager enthusiastically agreed, and they returned an hour later, egg rolls in hand, STILL discussing how health insurance isn’t really insurance, it’s more like a financing plan.
With my mouth full of sweet and sour chicken, I told them we had to talk about something else because talking about healthcare for THREE HOURS wasn’t good for anybody.
But as I watched my husband animatedly converse with his son about complex economic ideas, I realized that he and I used to have conversations like this all the time. It was one of the things that attracted me most to my husband, his ability to boil complex things down into simple terms and then discuss them at a level I could understand and then dissect with him. When we were engaged, I lived with my parents on the opposite side of the country from my intended, and so we stayed connected through daily long distance phone calls. This was, of course, back in a time when such phone calls weren’t free. At our wedding, my father joked that paying for the wedding was cheaper than paying for the phone bill.
So at some point, marathon conversations about the state of the world were the norm for our relationship.
These days, however, I’m just too tired to be smart.
Also, I feel that these days we just don’t have time to sit for hours and converse. The demands of daily life, work, house, kids, etc make it difficult to have such marathon conversations. You can’t stay up until 2am talking about whether or not Thomas Jefferson impacted the world more with his ideology or his actions when you have to get a teenager up for seminary 3 hours later. You can’t discuss the nature of truth while looking things up in the OED for 2 hours when the dog needs to be walked and the groceries need to be put away and the 9 year old has to have her homework supervised so she can get it done before 8:00 because she also has to shower before bed and you want her in bed by 8:00 because last night she went to bed at 10:00 because nobody supervised her homework and she dawdled and cried and moaned and took over an hour to slog through her assignments and then was a bear to wake up the next morning but she also tends to dawdle in the shower and if you don’t watch out she’ll be in there for 45 minutes singing a Hamilton/Moana mashup.
Life, man. It’s exhausting.
I’m really glad that my husband can explain complex world things to my son in a way that makes my 14 year old feel both smart and engaged. I’m glad that my husband cares enough about the world be as well informed and thoughtful as he is, and glad that my son can come to him with these questions and get them answered in a thorough way (maybe overly so? Seriously, THREE HOURS on the ACA. I’m not even sure Congress took that long to write the dang thing). But I find these days that sometimes I’m just too tired to keep up.
I clearly need to take more naps.
Do you find that your conversation in your marriage sometimes lacks depth? Do you make time for thoughtful conversation in your marriage? If so, how? And do you own an OED and obsess over it? Because that’s conversational gold, FYI.