Wednesday, April 28, 2010


A few years ago, Beth and I were driving home from some family outing, and Landslide came on the radio.
 I also like this version (by the Smashing Pumpkins), but there's something soul-tugging about the gravelly original.  Not as big a fan of the Dixie Chicks, but the song's a classic no matter who sings it, right?

In any case, I remember reading an article in the past about Stevie Nicks' thoughts on this song, and that she wrote it to help herself cope during a difficult time.  As expected,  "Landslide" is a song about inexorable change and how one copes with it.  Beth reflected on the following lines:

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older too...

Do spouses change together?  What happens if they do not?

(Beth in a typically supportive role of one of our kids, this time Claire)

I'm sure the parents who follow this blog, and especially the mothers, might ponder the direction of their lives since having children.  Before kids, we celebrated the Golden Age of the lazy Saturday mornings, rising at 10, coffee and newspaper, casual walks through Harvard Square, watching/playing Chess with other wanderers, movie nights, date nights, talking with Beth about life, our careers, vacations and exploring the world, unfettered...

Fast-forward to now, when our personhoods have been subsumed by our roles as parents.  Do any of us sleep late?  Do our conversations not revolve around our children, their activities, our chores, keeping the house off the condemned list, and how tired we are?  Planning anything requires a Master's degree in scheduling; taking off for the weekend doesn't "just happen."

I think the Landslide conversation happened about 6 years ago.  Simmering in the background were thoughts about a teaching career put on hold for another teaching career (and what a worthwhile one it is), with Charlotte at the semi-frustrating intransigent toddler stage.  My wife the mother has subsumed the teacher in order to guide our wonderful children to be the best people they can be, to see them through their struggles and triumphs.

Me?  I took the easy road of job and career, seeing to the struggles and triumphs of other families' kids, returning every night to the triplet dramas of dinnertime, bathtime, and bedtime.  I'm the flashy hero, the 6 PM Clown, the Carnival of piggy-back rides and hide-and-seek, and Psycho-games-of-tag-around-the-house, whose children run to him with hugs and a 21-gun salute.  Beth is the glue, the strength, the solidity of our lives (who recently realized that by leaving the children with me that she receives similar adulation on her return.  "I'm starting to like you better," said my pain-in-the-butt Claire the other day), and I love her for that, along with all of the other things.

Soon after the Landslide conversation, Beth prepared her resume and herself to interview for a new teaching position.  "Well, I've been afraid of changing/ 'Cause I've built my life around you."  I suppose I can't fully understand making the choice to put myself on hold for so long, nor the apprehension of turning back to myself after a time.  In the end, she chose to stay home, and we agreed to add Claire to our family..and then Corinne.  I feel some guilt over her having to make that choice as she builds her life around me and our kids, but man...who better to do it?  Could I?

"And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills/ 'Til the landslide brought me down."  Do we see ourselves in the landscape our our lives, and if we yell loudly enough about things we cannot control, does it all crash down?  Does it matter if the issues in question are things we can control?

Take time with your spouse.  Find out what's important, what's frustrating.  I see parents every day, some coping, some divorced.  The Momathalon can be all-consuming.  Raising kids while failing to recognize both your partner's role in your life, and the sacrifices that he/she makes sounds like the raw materials for "Sauteed Crappy Marriage," where everyone suffers until the whole thing blows up...or you start adding the right ingredients.

So..when your wife says, "Aargh, the kids are driving me nuts," say "I know- they're nuts."  If she needs help with the sleep routine, offer to help, don't complain about how you "have to go to work in the morning."  If you're doing the (fill-in-the-blank) routine wrong, and she tells you, ask her how she does it.  Don't be an ass (I have played the ass once in a blue moon..or more frequently...).

If your husband would rather do chores in the morning, before the full day at the office, so be it.  If he needs help with the outside work from time to time, and that's not your area, ask how you can help.

You both have full-time jobs, and if one of you feels that the other has no clue about the difficulties the other faces, you'll lose your partner/best friend over time without even knowing it.

Oh if you climb a mountain and you turn around
If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring you down, down

(N.B. my marriage is just needs tending, like every marriage!)


  1. What I find most gut-wrenching about this song isn't so much the fact that change is inevitable, but that one must move forward regardless of their own perception of their ability to cope with such change.

    It strikes me that when you search for the lyrics of Landslide (which I did so as not to misquote) that they often omit "I don't know" from the lyrics, which I feel is the real emotion of the song.

    "Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
    Can the child within my heart rise above?
    Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
    Can I handle the seasons of my life?

    Mmmm-mm...I don't know...mmm-mm..."

    How does one ride the storm? How do you invite someone to change along with you?

    Surely you can warn those you love that any prior version of you is merely a reflection that may change at any moment, but how do you prepare them for what changes will come when you yourself are not sure of your ability to change with the tides.

    Certainly it takes a lot of work, not just as a couple but as an individual within that couple...

  2. Nicely said. Maybe because of my own take on things, I have always felt that the tone of the song leaned toward the protagonist having changed already, that "it" was too late, that "I'm getting older."

    In any case, I have always thought this song was a warning for anyone in a relationship about keeping the relationship strong...meaning that it's applicable to anyone.

  3. Brian- Thanks for the shout out! It's true that Beth has the much harder job. I don't know if I could do it either. It seems to me that recognizing that is the first step in keeping your marriage strong. I think I'll go tell my husband how much I appreciate him!


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