Friday, February 10, 2012

Jumping the Gun

So I finally did it.  The totally weird thing I've been wanting to do for months now.

I asked another mom if they had guns in the house before agreeing to a playdate.

I know this is a weird thing to do because no one has ever asked me if we have guns in our house.

But I wanted to know, making this item #7,792 of things I worry about that my husband doesn't.  I want to know so much about the homes my children are being invited to.  Especially when I am working and our sitter is there for spontaneous playground-hatched plans.  But where you you draw the line?  Nice to meet you!  A playdate? Yes, that would be lovely.  Do you have any pets?  Teenagers?  Creepy step-uncles staying for a few weeks?  Prescription drugs lying around?  You can't ask all these things.

But I decided you can ask some.

In the rural part of the US where my parents live, it is safe to assume that most of the homes on the street have a rack of rifles in their basements or garages.  And one hopes that in hunting homes, the family has clear, hard rules about gun safety, and respect for guns is instilled from the youngest age.  But in our preppy little town you can assume - well, that's just it.  You can't assume anything.   When I was mulling this issue with a friend's nanny I said, "You just don't know who has a gun in their house".  Without missing a beat she responded,  "Well, we do."

It's a strange new world for me, the social dynamics of meeting new parents, new classmates, new playmates.  Our first playdate this year kind of threw me - it happened so fast, I hadn't asked questions, and there were some surprises at pick up time.  Nothing major, but I realized I had been too cavalier about letting my son walk off the playground with a parent I didn't know.  And when a father, who seems like the nicest dad ever, asked if my daughter could come over to their house after school, I was shocked by the feeling of dread, and then shame that followed, for feeling not ready to send her off with a dad instead of a mom.

How do you navigate school relationships?  What kind of rules do you follow for playdates?  And how do you talk about them with other parents?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Going Grey

There are certain lines you never forget.  Sentences so hard, meaningful, profound or just so plain true (or not true!) that they come to punctuate your decision-making, anecdotes and advice.  As I've engaged in the complex issues of working parenthood, whether they were my own dilemmas or somebody else's, there have been a few zingers that stopped me in my tracks, and then set me down a better path.

I am so grateful for them.  For the comments, and for the friends and family who made them.  My personal board of directors who have always bravely told me what I needed to hear, whether or not it matched what I wanted.

One of my favorites was advice to 'stop looking at everything in black and white, and learn to live comfortably in the shades of grey'.

It's the Either/Or ultimatum that gives oxygen to working mom guilt.  When you program yourself to believe that there are only good outcomes or bad outcomes, right decisions or wrong decisions, you are sunk as a parent, working or not.  Rationally, I always understood this.  It's sometimes harder to shake the mindset.  

Tonight my husband and I both had funny stories to share from this week about no longer being the hot young thing in certain contexts.  We laughed about the grey - and I remembered this line.  Grey - whether it is years of experience, or an ambiguously defined set of rules - is something I can embrace.  Finding and enjoying the grey - the good enough, the not so bad, the win-some-lose-some-who-cares-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things, has been priceless advice.

What advice made a difference to you?  Have you passed it on?