Four Weeks in the New House

Things have gotten better and better as we’ve gone, which is a real relief. Everything is in the house, finally, and the boxes are starting to dissipate. The endless fan repair is complete and I have a pool key. Mom and I are improving, as a team. It’s good. So what have I learned?

  • It’s easy to take everything as a precedent early on. Resist the temptation. When we went awhile without her putting a dish in the dishwasher, I extrapolated that as a pattern of behavior and started to get really angry about it. But it hasn’t continued.
  • Not everything has to be a big deal to address. You can just say “hey, I was wondering if we could chat about x— I’m wondering if you’d be open to ____…” That feels like a big deal in my head, but in practice, not terrible.
  • This one’s a new lesson, but don’t assume things are a bigger deal than they are. Last night, I found a cleaning caddy with water in it, under the sink. “Oh great,” I thought, “the sink is leaking and it’s going to be a whole thing…” But when I thought about it, only the bottoms of things in the caddy were wet or water damaged, and if something was dripping on them from above, that wouldn’t be the case. It’s possible that something spilled into the caddy before it was put under the sink, and it just didn’t get noticed until last night.
  • Sometimes, how you address something has a lot to do with how big a deal it becomes. I have this grater. It’s part of a mandoline, but the mandoline is a pain to haul out and clean for small jobs, so I just use the grater part. For the second time, now, I’ve handed it to a relative who wanted to help in the kitchen with a block of cheese, and 45 minutes later found them only partway through the block of cheese and cursing the grater. And in both cases (don’t ask me how this is possible) they were using the grater in ways that were not intended. It’s a fairly straightforward grater design— raised bumps. You drag the cheese perpendicular to the bumps and out the bottom comes shreds of cheese. Both relatives dragged the cheese parallel to the bumps. When it was mom, last night, and she said that the grater was awful, I said “well you’re doing it wrong.” I’m normally smarter than that. She showed me how she had a mound of cheese shreds to prove she wasn’t grating it wrong and spent another 15 minutes (60 minutes in all) finishing grating slightly fewer than 8 ounces of cheese— a job I could have done in 2 minutes total by implementing my technique. I’d tell you that you can grate cheese by rubbing it against a pointy rock, too, given infinite time, but there are techniques that optimize the experience. Regardless, there are people to whom it never pays to say “oh, you’re doing it wrong,” and she’s one of them. They just get defensive. I’ll either grate the cheese myself going forward, or have her keep one of her graters (which I hate) so that she can do it her way. The thing I did right in this was to give her a 2-minute  task and not get mad at her when it took her 58 minutes more than it takes me. I handed her the cheese and grater and headed out to walk the dog. The delay didn’t make me impatient or hold up dinner.

4 thoughts on “Four Weeks in the New House

  1. So much is dependent on communication techniques. Instead of “That’s wrong” use “Let’s try another way and see if…………..”. Instead of “you should ………………………..”, use “I have a suggestion that you might want to consider. There are obviously many variations on the above but the goal is to avoid a confrontation because nobody really wins due to pride getting in the way. Another concept that I have used when in a frustrating situation is to ask myself “If I do nothing (or if I let this go), will my future life be impacted?” Invariably the answer is no (i.e. the stress was over an insignificant issue). 🙂

    • Very true. It was no sooner out of my mouth when I realized that it was the wrong way to say it. But there are blessings, even in that. I’m a chronic overthinker, and for once, I just said what I was thinking without vetting it. And it was tactless of me and made things uncomfortable for the aforementioned 15 minutes, but it wasn’t the end of the world, and we went on to have a pretty pleasant evening.

  2. It’s good that things are getting better. It’s never easy when you are adapting to living together and it’s natural to sometimes blurt out the wrong thing- but if you can realize why it doesn’t work and move on, I think it’s all good.

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