Here's what's going on, in a nutshell (a big, misshapen nutshell). Alex and my brother-in-law, Chip, planned a hunting trip for next weekend. Deer season opens in Arkansas this weekend. Let's don't get into a big thing about whether or not it's right to kill Bambi, because I'm conflicted enough. Deer populations can get out of control quickly, I understand, and I know that the Game & Fish Commission does a very good job in setting limits to counterbalance what's going on with individual species' and interspecies ecosystems...but the fact is, those deer, they still look like large, big-eyed, velvetey dogs to me. I would starve to death as a survivalist, yes. And yes, I am a big fat hypocrite because I eat all kinds of animals. And I even pick up deer bones from the butcher for the dogs every fall...
ANYWAY. The current state of strife in our marriage is not over next weekend's planned trip. Not at ALL. I'm very happy for my husband to be getting out into the woods with a buddy and doing he-man stuff and all that. My issue is over THIS weekend. Alex has gotten so excited about going hunting, that now he can't wait until next weekend. Just. CAN'T. Has to go THIS weekend. Alone. Which is the sticking point over which I lose my mind. The topic of hunting has come up before, and I've never been against him doing it--he's a crack shot, he's patient, he can--this is the part that's nearly unbelievable to me--be very quiet for long periods of time. Just not at home. He loves the outdoors. It calms, soothes, and renews him to spend time outside doing "guy" stuff. This is FINE with me. MORE than fine, because he's more pleasant to be around when he gets back, like we all are when we've gotten a "getaway."
It's the ALONE part that is killing me. In every conversation we've ever had about him going hunting, the single stipulation that I've requested is that he not go alone. I know that lots of people DO hunt alone. I don't really care. I also know how very many things can go wrong, and my mind can create scenarios ranging from a slip and fall/concussion to a fall out of a tree stand, to getting accidentally shot by another hunter (this happens way more often than I'm comfortable with), to a mountain-lion attack, to dropping his rifle out of the tree-stand and having it land so that it shoots him in the face, to a life-threatening asthma attack, to getting shot by a dog.
My point is, say something happens, and, well...there he'd be. Injured, unconscious...who knows, he could get crazy and eat a poisonous mushroom. And not only would I not know where he is (not within several miles, anyway), I wouldn't even know anything had HAPPENED to him until, oh, what would be a reasonable time to start worrying--an hour after he's supposed to be home? Two hours? And say something happens and somehow I DO know, or he's able to call for help--how long will it take them to reach him? This hunting trip is not happening close to home, either. He'll have to drive an hour and a half, and then walk another half-hour or so to get to the stand.
I'm unhappy because he always told me he would never go hunting alone, and now he plans to do just that. But more than that, I'm unhappy because I know the sickening feeling of worrying over something you have no control over, and waiting for the clock to crawl those minutes along so that you can STOP worrying. It sucks.
He's unhappy because this is something he really wants to do, but at the same time, he doesn't want me to be unhappy with him. And he doesn't want his good time sullied by thinking that he's making me miserable. In his mind, he's feeling like I think he needs a "chaperone," which is not at all the case. He feels like I don't trust his skill and/or caution with guns, or his ability to get around in the wilderness. This is also not the case. The man has a compass in his brain. You could drop him, blindfolded, anywhere in the world, spin him around three times, and he'd tell you precisely what direction he was facing within half a second.
If I'm being totally honest, I have to admit that I'm also a little upset because, when there's something my husband wants to do, well, he can just make his plans, take off, and do it. He has a built-in, automatic child-care system that he doesn't have to question or even, honestly, consider. Whereas, if I want to take off and do something (say, the flickr meetup at Two Rivers Park tomorrow), I have to plan for my daughter and my pets and all the thousand little details that go along with those things. I also might, possibly, have had something in mind that I would have liked to have done as a family at some point during a three-day weekend, aside from sitting around waiting for my husband to get done having fun.
Also, maybe a mother just thinks differently? My most favorite thing to do in all the world is to get on a horse and go trail-riding in the woods. Some of my fondest memories are of doing this alone. Granted, I always wore protective gear, and I never went without leaving word of my route and an estimate of the time I'd be gone with someone, but I did sometimes go alone. Trail-riding sounds tame, but when you're talking about a live animal, anything can happen, especially out in the woods where there are wild animals and other spooky things--and I HAVE had a horse once wind up at home without me, having dumped me into a gully at a dead run after being spooked by a wild pig. In that case, someone came to my rescue on a 4-wheeler, and found me within 15 minutes or so of my being unseated. My point is, STUFF HAPPENS, even when you're careful and know what you're doing, and now that I have a child, I would NEVER just saddle up and head out into the deep woods all by myself. I can ride all kinds of horses, and my best horse is 16 years old and the best-trained animal under the sun, but still...I just. wouldn't. do it.
So, we're at a marital stalemate. If Alex goes hunting alone, I will be unhappy, for the myriad of reasons you're already sick of hearing. Also, some of the joy will be sucked out of it for HIM, because he'll know that I'm unhappy. On the other hand, if he DOESN'T go, he will be miserable and feel horribly deprived, and I'll feel bad for keeping him from doing something that he really wants to do.
Right now, he's planning on setting things up tomorrow afternoon, then hunting on Sunday and Monday mornings. That's potentially our entire holiday weekend spent on hunting and unhappiness...and then he gets to go again next weekend, so there's that part of me thinking, "Seriously? You can't wait ONE WEEK?" But in my heart of hearts, I WANT him to get out and do things that lift him up. He needs that. We all need that. I would just prefer that, in the event he gets shot by a dog, he can get help as quickly as possible, instead of bleeding to death on a carpet of lovely autumn leaves.
I'd also maybe like to be asked if there's anything I'd like to do during a three-day holiday instead of being told after the decision had already been made, that, um...I won't be doing anything.
NO DISRESPECTING OF THE HUSBAND IN THE COMMENTS. Not only does he read here, but I'm not mad at him. Not really. Just bummed over the fact that we can't seem to find a happy medium here.
UPDATED to add that the tempest is now at nice, manageable, teapot proportions. A livable compromise has been reached. There will be the "setup" trip Saturday, and then hunting on Sunday morning, during which regular "I am not dead" text messages will be sent. Bella and I will go up to the lake house (which is near the site) around lunchtime to join Alex, and then he'll go back out that afternoon while we hang out and take pictures up there. Unless he gets a deer in the morning, then we all just come right on back and try to cram the thing in the basement freezer, I guess. I don't think anyone's thought that far ahead, frankly. Then Monday, the fam gets to go to the ZOO together! (Kyran, wanna come?) Or something equally family-friendly that will make Bella happy.
So now Alex is happily puttering around packing his knives, flashlights, and pee-bottles, and washing all his hunting clothes in special scent-masking detergent, then hanging them outside to air. Sooooooo sneaky, are the deer hunters. And I'm able to concentrate on my Saturday RealMental.org post, as well as try to think of something suitable for the Times blog (why is that one SO hard for me?).
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