If you would have told me eight months ago that an argument with my spouse over a vegetable would have provided tremendous growth and reflection, I would have laughed at you. The thing is silly arguments and disagreements have become the status quo in my household. When you’ve lived with someone for 16 years (damn, that makes me feel old) and have spent 24/7 together since March 12, 2020–not that I’m counting—you’re going to eventually clash on a few topics. Ok, maybe more than a few. It’s all good though, we’re self diagnosed great communicators who can’t communicate with each other. Ironically, we are extremely aligned on most of the important stuff…political views, spirituality, financial habits, and work ethic. But, for some reason we have this bizarre inner translation system that makes us hear unspoken dialogue in so many other areas. Hence, #cucumbergate.
origins of #cucumbergate
Ever since our kids have been in daycare, the prevailing school lunchroom rules have dictated that lunch must consist of a fruit, a vegetable, a protein, a grain and a dairy. This simple yet effective formula ensures proper nutrition, and TBH probably avoids lunchbox envy amongst kids. Another positive byproduct of “the rules” is the creation of a habit. Preparing lunches has become a mindless task, like riding a bike, you don’t need to think about it—you just execute. Kind of like being on auto-pilot.
Here’s what happened on that fateful October morning…hubby was prepping the kids lunches and asked if we were out of cucumber. He couldn’t find it, and to be fair we’ve never really “run out” before because I always buy a ton. But this week was different. I was in the middle of a “green smoothie” challenge and it was using lots of said cucumber every day. I explained that, “no we are not technically out of cukes, but I selfishly set it aside for yet another of my random food challenges.” I also casually mentioned, do we really even need to keep the formula going, who’s even checking? An eye roll later and I picked up on the annoyance. I offered to donate my cucumber portion to the cause and hit up the grocery store later. Long story short, some back and forth snipping at each other led to the silent treatment with a side of resentment. But basically the jist of it is, I broke the auto-pilot feature.
What happens when auto-pilot breaks? What do you do when the teacher stops analyzing lunchbox contents and you can put anything you want in there? How do you decide? Would you let the kids tell you what they want? Mine would ask for 100 percent goldfish crackers and 100 percent chicken noodle soup, respectively. What do you do when nobody’s watching?!
I can tell you what not to do…
- Don’t try to figure this out at 7:00 a.m. on a busy work day
- Don’t have this discussion before coffee
- Don’t start questioning lunchbox composition like you’re on Top Chef when it’s the end of the week and you’re practically out of fresh produce
- Don’t take a stance on Fruits v Veggies like it’s the damn election campaign
Of course this advice comes after I did all those things.
Turns out #cucumbergate is just a metaphor for our ongoing communication challenges.
After a few hours passed, Mike and I revisited and deconstructed the conversation. Why did a cucumber cause so much angst? Now, bear with me here…I’m a big fan of existential dialogue so this is simply our takeaway...it’s not about the damn cucumber. In this example the cucumber represented the constant. Our kids have had cucumber in their lunchbox almost every single day since they could eat solid foods. The absence of cucumber represented change. Just another way in which the world keeps shifting beneath us. Things changing without advance notice has become the new norm. Earlier in the school year, when our kids were sent back to remote learning for two weeks with only a day’s notice, I wrote my blog post Feelings Don’t Fail Me Now to share how I processed my emotions about this sudden change. Many of my readers reached out to share their own struggles with all of the change happening around us (nobody mentioned it manifested in a cucumber argument though).
I’m glad we went back to analyze the cuke convo because it allowed us to identify the real culprit…change. The fact is, change is uncomfortable and on this even hubby and I are aligned. We’re both struggling with change. And we also better understand some of our guardrails for effective communication. For example, as important as not discussing heavy topics before coffee…you don’t tackle weighty stuff after your football team loses! So, for now, I will be avoiding any further veggie conflicts!
What silly arguments have you had? Did you ever conduct a postmortem on your conflict to understand if there was more to the disagreement?