choices

by humanmama on April 30, 2010

Parenting is a lesson (that should be italics: a lesson) on choice. Every day. Every minute it’s another choice. What to do, what not to do, what’s safe, smart, the “right thing.” There are so many choices it’s insane; it would literally drive you mad just to think about them all at once. As with all things, if you just take it one step at a time, there’s a sliiiight possibility that you’ll come out all right on the other side. Although, that’s a really, really long time away.

If you visit the cereal aisle of the grocery store, you’ll know about too much choice. It’s insanity. I know some people who, nearing their 30’s (or 60’s, unfortunately, for a few), have a sort-of mental breakdown about what they “should do” with their lives. There are just too many choices. It’s not like the olden days (NOT to be confused with the “good old days.”) where if you were a woman you had about two options. Even not that long ago, 10 years maybe, in college, one of my best friend Dana’s grandpa used to ask us what we were planning to do with the rest of our lives. “Whaddya gonna be?” he’d ask. He’d look us up and down, all us girls who were best friends. “A teacher, or a nurse?” When he met my friend Jenny for the first time, kind-of a hippie with long hair and a tiny nose piercing, he said “You gonna be a hairdresser?”

Nowdays there are so many choices it’s hard to choose. It’s hard to know where to begin. And that’s really a lot like parenting. Okay, okay, I know. I relate everything to being a parent. But it’s what I know. So, yep, it’s just like the cereal aisle over here: what to do? I’m sitting downstairs after work, wondering if I should bring Helena something to eat. Nearly every night when she’s being put to bed she very forlornly asks for something to eat as if we starve her on a regular basis. Tonight she woke up at 10pm when I got home from work with a bad dream, and when I calmed her down she said “Mommy,” (this is in a very, very sad, small voice) “what would happen if you brought me something to eat?” That’s because usually I tell her we’ll get mice in her room if she eats in there. So normally I say, “I’ll see what I can do” and leave the room, and don’t return, and she falls asleep. But here I am, thinking “but it’s late…I wonder if she’s really hungry…” Parenting is: always wondering if they’ll talk about this in therapy in 30 years.

Something really wonderful happened the other day that made me want to write about choice. We were having our friends over, Ms. Jody our neighbor and her 3 boys.The kids were playing in the yard when we heard her 3-year-old Max cry out. We both looked over to see him sitting on the ground under the swingset, freshly fallen on his tush, crying “I was tryyying to doooo what Sullivan is doiiinnnng,” and we both looked to see his older brother standing on the swing, swinging, instead of swinging on his rear end. I noticed that Jody had the slightest second of hesitation, thought just for a moment, and then picked Max up and put him back on the swing. Standing.

Now, that’s what being a parent is all about. Let me revise. Parenting is: choosing between what’s safe, and what makes you feel like you’re flying.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dana April 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Love it. And love the Woody reference. I was just telling someone about that…
I totally get the line about "wondering if they'll talk about this in therapy in 30 years." My prayer somedays is "Lord, help me not to mess them up too bad."

That's a great last line — and soooo true!

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Jessica May 1, 2010 at 8:04 am

I don't know a single parent who couldn't relate to this post. Constant choice (both as parents as just as adults), constant wondering what the short and long-term effects will be, and having that moment of choosing flight over safety and just KNOWING it was the right choice. Well-written!

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