Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Choice

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.

Except.

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.

9 comments:

kristenspina said...

You're thinking about this too much. But that's part of what I love about you. (by the way, if my son had shown similar hesitation, I would have done the same. And can I just add, odd choice for a place to take two schoolage boys for a special lunch...)

Anonymous said...

I am not going to answer the deep part of your post - not the philosophical ponderings, just the day to day existence stuff.

My kids don't have the easiest time socially, it is hard work. So, I try to set them up for things which will work, where they can succeed. If it were my kids, (well the one you know best anyway) I would listen to him. I _know_ in a Japanese restaurant he would eat white rice... and plain chicken if they would make it for him. He would NEED my support in such a strange place, otherwise he would withdraw totally. I am lucky he wouldn't explode, but he certainly wouldn't succeed in any social away, and that is if the other mother was nice. If she were strict and forced food? upset crying child.

Why set him up for that failure?
Amy from list

Niksmom said...

I'm so glad Kristen said what she did about the restaurant choice; I got hung up on that detail!

Sounds like familiar stuff to me...my husband and I "argue" the same way. Someetimes, only once in a while, I wish we would explode and get it over with sooner. But I'm rather fond of the fairly even keep we maintain, too.

In the end, it doesn't matter which of you is "right" or "wrong" (and I would posit that you might BOTH be a bit of each at the same time). What matters is that you both have your children's best interests at heart and trust yourselves enough to stand your ground or yield in a ny given moment and know your child will be fine. Really.

Meg said...

In this case, you are definitely right. It was not a situation in which N would feel comfortable and there was very little to gain from him going to lunch with this friend. In other arenas, however, sometimes we have to hold our breath and let Dad decide. It is not fair to him or to the kid if we always follow our instincts and never his. A strong benefit (IMHO) of having a dad is that they tend to be more willing to let a kid try. Of course that doesn't mean we want our kids in danger, just that sometimes our way is not the best way. I have to sometimes just let it go (but when I really believe I am right, I will not back down). Soon enough N will be going to lunch with his friends and not want you along.

Tamar said...

Your post brings me back to so many nights when I didn't get enough sleep because Dan and I stayed up so late talking, arguing, spinning worst case scenarios. In the first months after D's dx, we didn't exactly see eye to eye on treatment options. He wanted to include ABA in the mix. I didn't. He felt like we weren't doing enough. I felt like any more, and the kid might explode from overload. We both felt strongly. Our child's future was at stake. Sleepless nights.

It's hard, and I have no easy answers. Just that I know for myself some decisions are more important than others. And sometimes I may disagree w/ a choice Dan wants, but I can let it go because I don't think it'll do irrevocable harm if we do it and it turns out to be less than optimal. Other times he can persuade me he's right -- and indeed he is. Still other times, there's NO WAY ON EARTH that I'll allow that particular option for my kid. And I will let him know that, in no uncertain terms. What's different about our situation: I'm home, I'm the one making it all happen. Ultimately, therefore, I'm the final arbiter. We try for equality, but, like it or not, I'm just a hair more equal than he is.

FWIW, I would have made the same call re. the lunch date. If N isn't ready, if it's too far outside his comfort zone, it could have backfired and taught him to never try that again. At some point, he will be ready for something like that, and he'll let you know.

(BTW, I'm so very glad you and yours and your house are safe and fire-free!)

TC said...

Thanks for all the supportive comments!

As for the restaurant...It IS a strange choice if your kid is N, who only would eat the white rice and plainly cooked chicken, just like Amy said, and was probably mostly worried that he wouldn't know how to order that for himself. (The mom in question is SUPER nice, though, and she would have DEFINITELY taken care of it for him, but I couldn't get him to admit that was the problem in the first place, so...) It's not a strange choice if that's your kid's favorite restaurant, though!

I did see the mom this morning at dropoff, and she was VERY understanding, and we talked about trying to do an afternoon playdate soon, and I think all will be well.

In the end, ignoring all the overthinking mishegas ;-), I'm just glad that there's at least one kid in his class who likes him enough to say, "We're going to lunch? Can we invite N to come?" That's cool; I like that.

Ambre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

I over think everything. And I'm totally on your side. I find myself turning down some "dates" because I can't handle certain situations, let alone my kids in those situations. It's hard because I think it limits my friendships. But ultimately I need to take care of myself and my family. And the friends that understand--and work with--my limitations are the ones I need to invest in the most.

po said...

It's beyond difficult, knowing where the line is between "beyond his abilities" and "within his abilities if not perfectly comfortable," mostly since that line shifts without warning. I consistently err on the side of caution, and that's probably not a good thing.

Hope they have a great playdate!!