Blessing #1: Respect

The shit hit the fan around December of 2012. Olive, our third child, had been born the previous month. Ren was dreading the holidays for all the commotion that was going to descend on our home. We were living with my mom at the time, hoping to actually stay permanently, inherit the family home, and raise our kids there. It seemed, on paper, like a good idea. My mom is great with kids. This was our third child in three years, and with my insane work schedule, we could have definitely used the help. And it was a beautiful neighborhood – one of the best – in the San Francisco Bay Area.
But the gift came with strings attached. This was still my mother ‘s home as well and, as such, was party-central during the holidays, which meant lots of family with kids stuffed in bedrooms and lots of chaos.
In spite of this, I still couldn’t quite understand why Ren was so anxious, so scared of the holidays. No one was expecting anything of her. In fact, our little newborn wouldn’t lack any arms to hold her if Ren needed a break. But part of the reason I couldn’t understand, too, was because my mom was this 16-hour-work-day-for-decades-while-raising-a-family-practically-on-her-own kind of woman. Surely Ren, like my mom, could handle something as benign as the Holidays.
I look back now and realize how unreasonable that was. After your wife has just brought life into the world, you give her anything she damn well wants. A massage? Of course. Hours upon hours of sleep? Ought to be expected! A pony? Sure. But to pile on top of my ignorance, i went to work almost a week or two after she gave birth and, unfortunately, to make ends meet, so did my mom. So Ren, my dear wife, was left trying to handle three children, all under three on her own, within weeks of her having given birth.
I knew it was difficult. I had no illusions that I had the easier part to play in this season of life. But life was life. She didn’t want to move out of the area, but we could never afford a house – or even a decent rental – on one salary in the Bay Area…. not with a third child and certainly not in the neighborhood we were in. But day care was so astronomically expensive – and for three! – that Ren would probably not be able to find a job that could even cover the cost of it. We were stuck. This was life.
But the status quo came to a screeching halt one day when she and I sat down with her therapist, and I found out that, in addition to Ren having a calloused, insensitive husband, she also had severe depression. And it was so bad, in fact, that she had contemplated, quite vividly, of killing herself. She just lacked the motivation to do it.
I think our marriage, when we look back, will be defined by that moment. That was the dividing line. That was the separation between the first four or five years of our marriage and what would be the rest of our lives. We thought that when we argued, or when she was having a bad day, or when the kids were acting out, it was just us dealing with it. We didn’t realize there was also this monster in the room, this depression, (“Fred” we affectionately call him) making everything ten times more difficult.
And this was where the first lesson – really the first gift – God gave me in all of this descended from Heaven. I began to realize that for the previous four years, Ren had been battling with this monster without the help of meds, without a husband who really understood, and with children tugging at her every day. And while I could have told you I loved Ren before that day, it was at that moment that I began to truly respect her, look up to her, and admire her. All those times she seemed so down over everything, all those days she was at the end of her rope, all the phone calls to come home early from work, all the tension that seemed to erode our marriage got put into this larger perspective and I went from seeing her as this dear, but weak and often overreacting woman who needed to learn how to grow up to seeing her as a tenacious, courageous person who, even when she was drowning, pressed on because she was devoted to her children and husband. The shift was really cataclysmic. I had no clue, and now my eyes were opened.

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