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The Problem With The Royal We: When “We” Don’t See the Problem

Signs – there are always signs, even if you choose to ignore them. The first came when I was pregnant with Child #1. “We‘re pregnant,” my husband announced to soon-to-be grandparents, as he grinned from ear-to-ear. Hmm … we? Twelve weeks in and I hadn’t eaten chicken for about 2 months, I was exhausted every waking minute (and there weren’t many of those), and I could smell even the slightest odors. He displayed none of these symptoms, so where exactly did the we come in?

It struck me as odd. But I chalked up my husband’s inclusionary pronoun usage to his excitement and undying support of everything I had going on in my life. What a guy.

Fast forward: 14 years, 3 children, 9,058 children’s activities and 13,434 we‘s later. 

I’ve just dropped Child #2 at soccer practice and returned home to a child awaiting a piano lesson. If I time this right, 4/5 of us can actually eat a meal together before one of us has to retrieve Child #2 from soccer. I wonder briefly if the benefits of family dinners outweigh my potential heart attack from trying to create them. I forge ahead, my husband arrives, and we sit down to eat. The usual dinner banter ensues.

At one point, Husband #1 (I like to call him this to keep him on his toes) turns to me and says, “Honey, did we call the plumber to take care of the leak in the garage?”

“Yes, honey, we did call the plumber. He was here between my two work meetings, a second trip to the grocery store, and Child #3’s skating lesson,” I say, my voice heavy with sarcasm. Alas, his plate is heavy with dinner, so he is oblivious to my flip response.

“Oh, great,” he responds. “I’m glad we got that taken care of.”

I am shoving food in my mouth at a record pace. I look over at the man who apparently also bore our three children. He is busy putting finishing “touches” on his meal and has barely started to eat when he asks, “What time do we need to get Ethan from practice?”

I haven’t actually tasted anything in years – eaten, yes, tasted, no. The questions over the years play in my mind as I chew faster: Do you think we should take Child #2 to the doctor? Did we get the medical forms completed? Did we call Child #1’s coach? Did we book airfare to the bar mitzvah? Do we need to call about the piano recital? This pronoun problem was getting old and Husband Number #1 was on the precipice.

I contemplate a fondue fork to the eye – mine or his, I don’t care at this point – but I am too busy watching the clock to execute the fantasy. Finally, I put down my fork (not sharp enough) instead and respond, “We need to get him in about 15 minutes.”

I don’t know if it was my emphasis on we or my icy glare that tipped him off. “Honey, is something wrong?”

“Why would WE think that?” I ask.

I watch the light bulb flicker a few times and then go on. Husband #1 may have a pronoun problem, but he doesn’t have a problem with sensing a sudden temperature drop in the room. And then, in the way only my husband can, he reaches for my hand and says the only words that (ironically) can melt the tundra:

“Sweet Pea, would we like some Mitchell’s ice cream tonight?”

Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman is publisher of Your Teen Magazine.

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