“Daddy, you’re home!” says my 9-year-old son with a hug before I can get in the house.
“Tell Daddy what kind of day you had,” says my wife with a kiss before I can shut the door.
“I had a bad day, Daddy.”
“He’s not listening to me, Mike.”
“I argued, too, Daddy.”
“Mike, his arguing is getting out of control.”
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” the kid says.
“You’ve been saying sorry all day,” says my wife. “I told you to clean your room. You said okay. Then you kept playing. How many times did I tell you to stop playing to clean your room?”
“No. Three times.”
“See, Mike, everything’s an argument.”
“No,” the kid says.
“You just said ‘once,’ then you said ‘twice.’ I asked you to clean your room three times, did I not?”
“So you just argued with me for no reason because now you agree that I told you three times.”
“But I thought it was once and then I thought it was twice and now I know it was three times.”
“Mike, do you wanna say something about this? This is the way it’s been all day.”
“No it wasn’t,” the kid says.
“Go to your room,” my wife says to the kid.
“I’m sorry, Mommy.”
“Go to your room,” my wife repeats, setting my dinner on the table.
“How was your day at work? Better than my day here?”
“Mommy?” our kid calls from his room. “Can I tell you something?”
“Come here,” she says.
“I’m sorry for being bad today.”
“You can’t treat me like this,” she tells him. “You don’t treat Daddy like this, do you? Daddy, does he treat you like this?”
“Yes,” my son says matter-of-factly.
“You don’t treat Daddy like this,” my wife says to our son. “Now you’re gonna argue about that?”
“But you’re arguing.”
“Sorry, Mommy,” the kid says, leaving the first silence in the room since I got home.
“Is dinner good, Mike?”
“I helped make it, Daddy.”
“So you didn’t tell me how your day was,” my wife says to me.
“Hey, Daddy,” my kid cuts in, “Joey came over to play today.”
“They got along really well,” my wife says. “Oh, tell Daddy about the joke you guys made up.”
“Oh, yeah. Mommy asked us what was next to the Salton Sea and we said the Salton D.”
“You know, Salton C, like the letter C,” my wife says. “That’s good, right?”
I don’t answer my wife’s question. I don’t say a word. I sit in silence and finish my dinner.
My wife accuses me of not listening to her and our son. After a long day of not being heard, she’d hoped, she says, that I’d at least listen to her.
“I heard everything you said,” I finally assure her. “Every word, every sentence, every event. Go on. Continue. I’m just listening.”
“If you were listening,” my wife tells me, “then what’d we say?”
“How can you accuse me of not listening?” I ask. I’m hurt. “You saw me listening. You saw me giving eye contact. You saw my facial expressions as I listened. Yet you want me to prove myself.”
Yup, they want me to prove that I was listening.
“I’m a good listener,” I say, and then I pause. “It’s my memory that’s no good.”