One of N's friend's moms emailed and later called me tonight, asking if N would like to join her and her son at a restaurant for a back-to-school lunch tomorrow.
Sounds like fun, right? Except N doesn't do well with last-minute plans. And he's not comfortable in restaurants. Especially since he doesn't eat much in the way of 'unusual' foods. (It's a Japanese restaurant of the Benihana type.)
So he said he only wanted to go if I could go. And I can't go, because I have to work tomorrow. Oh, let's not even go THERE. (Nutshell: My one-year anniversary at work was today. It's a great job, and since I have to work, it's where I want to work. But I don't WANT to have to work, and when it comes down to my kid needing me and me not being able to be there, well...Guilt and resentment. A fine combination, no?)
Despite the three paragraphs just spent on it, the story above isn't going anywhere, really. I emailed the mom back and declined, explaining briefly that N was a little anxious about a lunch date, but we should definitely get the boys together to play soon, maybe go bowling, something like that. The end.
The problem with these situations is that there are a lot of ways to handle them. The problem with these situations is that none of those ways is necessarily THE way. And the simultaneous problem and blessing in my life is that my husband, with his own way of thinking about things, doesn't always agree with my way, the road I choose. Nor I his.
Which is the literary way of saying that we fought about this decision. I could hedge and say we discussed it--there were no raised voices, and there was certainly no name-calling, because that's just not anything we DO, so it could be called a discussion. But it was a fight. What I call a fight, at least--where we disagree and never do find a common ground, and despite an ultimate agreement to disagree there's resentment in the air, if only for a short while. (And then, within an hour, we're on to something else--talking about politics, analyzing So You Think You Can Dance, laughing at the dog. Our marriage isn't perfect, but it's fine. For some reason, whenever I talk about this sort of thing, I feel the need to make that point. Otherwise, I always worry that it looks from the outside like we're on the edge of complete implosion, when really, we're mostly on the edge of giggling.)
We could all discuss the relative merits of choice--of letting kids have a choice, of when choices should be given, when they're not appropriate--until the cows come home (and have babies, and those babies come home, and so on). And, for a while there, it looked like that's exactly what Baroy and I would end up doing. Instead, I threw up my hand and said, "When the ball's in my court, I do what I do. And I'm not going to second-guess my instincts by wondering what YOU would like me to do."
Which, in retrospect...I think I would hate hearing if the tables where turned. But I also think it's true; I think it's the only way to actually make sure-footed decisions. When *I'm* the one with the ultimate decision-making ability, that is. But when he's the one? I know it would drive me nuts to think he was doing the wrong thing, only to have him basically say, "Tough noogies. It's my choice. Live with it."
I remember when people talked about marriage being all about compromise, and god, no matter how closely I listened, I had no IDEA what that really meant. It's like that whole "yeah, childbirth hurts" thing that is simply NOT POSSIBLE TO FATHOM until you find yourself so fully and completely terrified by the weight of the pain--having never known before that pain could, indeed, be heavy--that you can't even draw in a breath. Marriage and compromise are the same thing: There are times--and, for me, they've all been since I became a mother--when the mere idea of compromise becomes something breath-stealingly, absolutely massively heavy. When it's painful. When, as is too often the case with me when talking about Em and N, it's impossible.
But that doesn't mean I can't see Baroy's side. That's what's so painful. Because if he's right, then I'm wrong. And if I'm wrong, my kid has been, at best, slighted, not given the chance to grow and stretch. And if I'm wrong, my kid has been, at worst, stifled, not given the chance to grow and stretch.
And so while I stood my ground tonight, and while I stand it most nights like this one, I also have to consider the other choices, and what those roads not taken could have, might have, meant to me, to Baroy, to our son. My mind wanders down those roads, some of which are dark and lonely and scary, and I realize that maybe this is, in the end, where he'll wind up. Maybe this is, in the end, where I'll have led him. Or maybe, with my help, he'll find the clearing. Or maybe, it'll be his dad's help that gets him there, despite me. Maybe.
It's enough to paralyze a person, it is. Enough with the choices. Bring on the certainties.