We made a decision this week.
Parents have to do that. Make decisions. From the moment your child breaks forth into the world, with wails and flails and celebration, you are looking up information, filling out forms, viewing everything through over-alert, keen-to-do-right, protective parent eyes. Even before your little person or people arrive you begin the process. I know I read whole slabs of literature on birth options, and I’m not even that zealous on this point. I have friends who probably could be awarded honorary doctorates for their commitment to making the ‘right choice’ in this area.
Parenting is one of the least predictable parts of life, and yet— perhaps because of this— it requires so much planning.
So. many. decisions.
I’m tempted to discuss the details of our most recent decision here, and I’m sure I will in time, but for now I need to reign in my overly-open-page voice and, for the sake of my family and myself, let things settle for a while. Enough to say, we had to make a decision about one of our kids. I think it is a good one, Dr M is even more convinced. We have the support of our families, and several friends we trust. But, why then do I still feel so unsettled? Tired. Ready to cry if I see something that reminds me of the other road we could have taken, even as I’ve spent hours cataloguing the pro’s of the one we are on.
If parents are semi-professional decision makers, we are also veterans of what I’ll call ‘decision fallout.’ That feeling just after the choice has been made….
With all this fresh in my mind I thought I’d share some thoughts from within the post-decision making atmosphere, in the hope it helps some other strung out decision-making parent out there. You are not alone.
There is no perfect decision
As Dr M’s beautiful, faithful Nan told us from her hospital bed in one of our last conversations together, her elegant white head sage-like, there is no dress rehearsal for life. If there was, we wouldn’t be human, we’d be omnipotent. We can only make the best analysis of the situation we are in, from where we stand. In that moment. In our own limited, no doubt biased, human skin.
But, in saying this, we can still do our best with what we have, which, as parents is unique insight into our little person’s life. An insight none else has, no matter how much they might like to –or we might be tempted to— think they do.
Life might not be a dress-rehearsal, but we parents do get a unique behind the scenes look on our child’s life. Noone (other than God) knows them better than we do. With this in mind, we can only ask, how do we love them best, here and now, with the aim of helping them flourish now and into the future. The answer to the question might not be perfect, but if it is done with the engaged effort of head, heart, and if you are a believer, prayer, then that is all that can be offered.
Decision making is tiring
It’s okay to feel a little shaky in the making. My nervous system throughout this process has been a curious mixture of fear and excitement, an internal buzz that keeps me awake at night, and greets me in the morning.
There is an inevitable gap left after a decision has been made, where it can feel a little like you have jumped off a cliff and are waiting to land. Fears jump into this gap and threaten to obscure the view beyond. What we can know is that not all our fears are factual. In these moments it’s good to cling to our parachute, and trust that where we are now will pass. We will find ground, in time.
Support means a lot
Decisions inevitably require unveiling. Explanation. There comes a time when we have to share our news with others, and not everyone is going to agree with our choices. This is inevitable. Knowing myself as I do, I’m certain to find myself backpeddling in my explanations, overly worried what others may think (even if they aren’t really thinking what I think they are thinking), eager to cover my tracks. This is partly my personality, I like to play by the rules, find approval. What others think matters to me. I guess what I’m saying here is more for the decision-receiver rather than the decision-maker. If a friend or family member has something to tell you, do your best, within reason, to be supportive.
The Long view will look different
It’s something both my mum and Dr M’s mum said to me. From the perspective of age, these things look quite different. If what matters is loving our kids where they are, and helping them be what they can be, even if this looks a little different right now, it’s okay. The long view is more like a vista than a corner.
God is a good parent. His parameters are at once free and firm.
He allows us to make our choices, he wants us to grow, but we can know at one and the same time, that nothing is outside his good shepherding. No matter where we go, he securely holds us.
If I’ve learnt anything about life, it’s that it is unpredictable. The turn we obsess over may be far less important than the curve we never see coming. While this sounds terrifying, it also allows a certain release. If we can’t control everything, we can afford to release the reins a little, and give over to the giver. Do our best, abandon the rest. Easier said than done, or I would’t be sitting here writing this post. But it’s true. And when uncertainty trembles, truth anchors.
This is not our only family decision right now. We are in the midst of making some more big decisions about what to do next year, where we will live, what values our family will give itself over to in the foreseeable future. More on that in this space to come. For now, all you decision-makers out there, unite.
If not now, someday soon the view will change, and we will no longer be wondering if we did it all right, we will be simply living.