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Monday, June 4, 2012

Guilt Trips

Food, love, career, and mothers, the four major guilt groups. ~ Cathy Guisewite

Adam and I just returned from a fantastic weekend in Washington, D.C. 

Adam had a conference there and I'd never been, so since we just celebrated our 10th anniversary, I thought it appropriate to turn the trip into an opportunity for a little vacation.  I'll post more about our trip later this week.

Unfortunately, I left Toronto on Friday with a heavy heart.  Not because we were leaving the girls - we've done that before and I know they have a wonderful time with their grandparents and I feel parents do deserve breaks here and there - no, I was feeling guilty for a few other reasons.

Tuesday

Little A's room at daycare had prepared a show for the parents.  It was scheduled for 5pm, with parents asked to arrive at 4:45pm.  Adam couldn't go because he was at a conference in Waterloo that day.  I was stuck at home waiting for the a/c repairman, who it had taken weeks to schedule a visit with to repair our broken a/c unit.  The window went to 5pm, but Adam reassured me that it was unlikely the guy would show up right at the end of the day.  So I told Little A and her teachers that I would *probably* be able to make the show.

At 4:25pm I assumed the guy got delayed and I was going to have to re-book the appointment.  I knew Adam would be concerned that the repairs would be put off, but I was relieved that I could make Little A's show.  A few seconds later, however, the doorbell rang and the guy was standing on my doorstep.  My heart sank and I told him I had to leave.   He told me I couldn't, that he'd already had a look at our unit and there was serious work to be done.  "Will it take more than 20 minutes?" I asked, thinking perhaps I could still make it to the school for 5pm.  "You can't leave!" He snapped at me.

Once it set in that I was going to miss the show, I was overcome with guilt and sorrow.  I sat at my desk and sobbed.  I know it was such a little thing, but it was a big deal to Little A and I knew she was not going to understand why I missed the show.  I felt like I had really let her down.

At 5:15pm I told the repairman that I now HAD to leave to pick up the girls.  All of a sudden his demeanor COMPLETELY changed.  "Oh why didn't you say you had to pick up your kids?  If I'd known that was where you had to go, I would have left immediately and rescheduled the repairs.  As it is I'm going to have to come back because I believe you need a new coil." He told me.  That's when I realized his hostility was likely due to the fact that I was dressed in my usual yoga pants and tank top attire, and he assumed I was just some rich, spoiled housewife wanting to get to the gym.  Perhaps I AM all those things too, but I was actually just wanting to see my daughter's show!  Sigh.

I raced to the school as fast as I could.  When I got to Little A's classroom, one of her teachers grabbed me and Little A - who immediately starting asking why I missed the show - and pulled us aside.  She quickly explained that Little A had indeed been distraught when I didn't show up, but that she and Little A could now give me a private performance.  I watched, with a lump in my throat as she and her teacher sang "This little light of mine" and did a whole set of corresponding actions and dance moves using pretend flashlights the kids had fashioned out of paper towel rolls.  It was very touching and it satisfied Little A's desire for me to see this performance the class had spent so much effort practicing.  Thank goodness for her awesome teacher!!

Wednesday

Since we switched Big A to the daycare at her school, we felt a duty to try and help her maintain her friendship with G, her best friend from the old daycare.  They had such a special bond, and Adam and I both place a lot of value on loyalty and friendship, perhaps because we both have friendships from our childhood that we still deeply cherish.

Right from the beginning we sensed G's parents were far less motivated to encourage the relationship once the girls no longer saw each other.  They rarely crossed paths since they attend different schools, but we live relatively close by, so Adam and I felt it shouldn't be too difficult to get them together regularly.  Little A and G's younger sister also bonded at the old daycare so I even suggested a double playdate once, but their parents were not in favour of that, claiming that their younger daughter wasn't ready for it.

I eventually began to get irritated by G's parents because they seemed to go from lacking motivation to encourage the friendship between the girls, to simply being rude and thoughtless.  They failed to RSVP to party invitations and didn't always return my email requests to set up playdates.

I know, the writing was on the wall and the message was clear.  But I felt that we at least deserved a little common courtesy.  A few "we're too busy" responses would have gotten the message across in what I think is a more polite way.  So when they failed to RSVP for Big A's birthday party and then didn't follow up my email saying it was a shame G didn't attend, did they want to set up a playdate for the girls, I boiled over.  I told Adam I was done with them and if Big A requests a playdate with G (which she still does, although much less often - she actually didn't even notice G was not at her party), we'll just say they're too busy.  But then Big A wrote a letter for G and implored us to mail it, so we did.  Wednesday I received an email from G's mom saying, "G asked me to thank Big A for the letter."  That was it.  No apology for missing the party.  No explanation for ignoring my follow-up email.

I boiled over and did something I almost never do: I initiated a confrontation.  I replied to her email with this note:

We have sensed for quite a while that you guys are not interested in encouraging the girls' friendship, but we have tried to do so for Big A's sake. We are not going to continue any longer at this point, but would appreciate an explanation. If Big A did something, or if we offended you in some way, we would like to know.
The next day I got this reply from her:

That's a fair assumption. Life is really busy (I'm sure you can relate). G does not ask to see Big A, not because she doesn't like her, but because she's 6 and wants to see the kids she sees every day.  Big A is a lovely girl and I'm sure she has many friends. Who knows, their paths may cross again in the future and the girls can determine their relationship then.
 
We only wish you all the best and apologize for any offence we may have caused.
 
At face value - just as we sensed from day 1 - they simply don't see encouraging the friendship to continue as a priority.  If you read between the lines (isn't there always subtext with women?) there may be more to it, like they can't stand any of us.   As Adam pointed out, they may have found it weird or even creepy from the beginning that we wanted to go to great lengths to allow the preschool friendship to flourish.  I think there's definitely some animosity here because the "I'm sure she has many friends" line seems a bit condescending to me.  Big A does indeed have TONS of friends, but I didn't realize that someone can have TOO MANY friends.
 
The whole thing upset me greatly after I processed it, because I realized that had they NOT disliked us before I sent the note, they most certainly did now.  So in my efforts to protect Big A's feelings, what I had actually done was most likely permanently close the door on her friendship with G.
 
I should have let sleeping dogs like, so-to-speak, and just butted out.  More mom-guilt to struggle with!
 
Thursday
 
Adam and I were getting the girls ready to take over to my in-laws.  Our plane to D.C. was early on Friday so they were sleeping over at their grandparents' house.  We fed them dinner and then Adam had given Little A a bath while Big A and I were busy downstairs.  While waiting for Big A to come up for her bath, Adam and Little A were playing.  Little A ran into her room and fell, knocking her head on the corner of her wooden stool.  I heard the bang from the kitchen.
 
It wasn't so much the bang as Adam's panic-filled request for ice that got me freaked out.  Big A and I rushed upstairs to find Little A sobbing.  When Adam released her from his embrace, I noticed her hair was matted with blood on one side.  I moved her hair aside and found a gash on her head.  Initially we thought we might have to take her to the ER for stitches, but a close examination revealed it was a relatively shallow wound.  I am so thankful Adam and I have a lot of first aid training because of our fitness background!  I cleaned up the wound and applied pressure and ice for 30 minutes.  The bleeding stopped quickly but it was in a place that made it difficult to bandage and it was raw and open.  It was in this condition that I had to say goodbye to the girls and Adam drove them to my in-laws.  I was naseous and shaking as they left.  It was shallow, but should we take her to the ER anyways? I wondered?
 
My in-laws examined the wound and confirmed that it didn't warrant stitches and reassured us that she'd be just fine.  And she was.  By the time we returned from D.C. yesterday, there was no evidence of the cut.  But I still worried about her the entire time we were away.
 
Is it possible to avoid guilt trips when you are a parent?  I'm not so sure...