When Good People Make Bad Decisions

For millennia, good people have been making bad decisions: Eve did it when she took a bite of the apple; Juliet did it when she married Romeo; Amelia Erhart did it on her final flight. It happens.

A week ago, I learned that Rugged Bear, a local children’s retailer, was going out of business. Ironically, my husband was the one who informed me of their upcoming liquidation sale.

We don’t buy our kids brand-name clothes very often. So far, we have been blessed with abundant, high-quality hand-me-downs and nearby consignment shops. Our kids’ clothing needs wont for nothing. They have a surplus in most categories and half the time, outgrow items before they even show wear.

So it was that I wandered into Rugged Bear on an unsuspecting Sunday, two days after their liquidation sale began and four days after my husband informed me that he’d been rewarded an unexpected bonus.

Shrewd decision making and rational choices have never been attributes I have pinned to myself. An hour later, I left the store with a bag full of final-sale items and a receipt full of superfluous things.

Granted, not all items purchased were frivolous, I did manage to make some good choices. But, when I was in the thick of the shopping frenzy, in the midst of a wealthy suburb, I admit that I was suckered in to selecting some things that I might otherwise not have. I got lured in by the  commentary of fellow shoppers. Here are the sorts of things I heard: “Where am I going to buy boys formal wear now that Rugged Bear’s going out of business?” “Ooo, look at this winter gear, it’s 80% off!” “I was just in here yesterday and already half the stuff”s gone.” DH is convinced these were all seeds, planted by the liquidator on behalf of Rugged Bear.

I got home and my hard-working husband was none too pleased that act one—prior to actually receiving the bonus check—involved buying deeply discounted children’s items from a store that heavily inflated the cost of their goods to begin with. In his words, getting 80% off of something that was 150% more than I might spend otherwise was not really a deal.

But that’s not quite how our discussion went. Just as I am not blessed with making sound decisions, DH is not blessed with having a laid-back disposition. Oh no, on the contrary, much like the impending outcome at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, DH had a meltdown.

It was perhaps one of our first major disagreements in ten years but it was of epic proportions. Of course it didn’t help that his fast-paced job had recently kicked into over-drive, nor that he was about to start a work week that might see him logging as many as 100 hours. But, it also didn’t help that I didn’t touch in with him first. Something we’ve grown accustomed to doing whenever it comes to making major purchases.

I think marriage may be one of the biggest decisions a person can make in life because with it often comes a series of other mind-boggling, life-altering, major decisions like having kids, giving up a career, combining finances, managing a household, working through issues and making mature, rational decisions on a daily basis.

First, you have to learn how to combine your lifestyles and then (if you’ve chosen the parent path) you have to figure out how to jointly raise your kids. Things you thought you saw eye-to-eye on before become points of departure. Freedoms you once enjoyed become luxuries you seldom participate in. The I becomes the we. Mine, ours.

For me, the greatest challenge has probably been giving up my job. And I’m surprised to admit it. I have never climbed the corporate ladder, never been on a major career track, I just landed good jobs and had decent success doing them. For the non-profit world, I earned a respectable salary and felt good about my place in the world. Yet I also longed, someday, to have the choice to stay home with kids. To have the luxury to be able to put my working life on hold and revel in being there when  I thought my kids would need me most.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the loss of financial freedom would be my cross to bear.

The feeling that any and all financial decisions need to be joint decisions; the idea that whimsical spending impacts far more than just my bottom-line; the concept that I am accountable to others and not just myself. These are hard for me and sometimes seem grossly unfair. I hate that I can’t treat DH to something because he’s the main one providing our household income. I don’t like seeking approval or permission to do things. It feels somehow suffocating. Somewhat belittling.

So a week has passed and the incident should be water under the bridge. DH and I have addressed it, talked about it, apologized for it and moved on except that I haven’t exactly moved on. Somehow this impasse, this lapse in judgment, this occasion of erroneous spending has been like Pandora’s Box. The lid has been lifted, the evils escaped. Perhaps my one remaining comfort is that Hope remains, right?

The Truth About Parenting…

Sometimes, it boredcan be really boring…OK, so perhaps this just pertains to the early years, from 0-3 but believe me, for all of the rabble-rousing, raucous times your young charges may cause and suck you in to, there are also large swaths of time spent numbing the mind.

Here you sit, a parent with a good education, probably a higher education and very possibly even a graduate degree (or two). Maybe you’re even lucky enough to have opted out of the work force, of a decent paying job, of financial independence, of a system that provided performance reviews every 6-12 months. Now what?

Welcome to parenthood.

You came home from the hospital, overwhelmed by the tasks before you (for which there is no prior job training). You have to figure out the needs of your constituents, except they speak a completely foreign dialect and there will be no Babel fish coming to your aid. You have to completely alter your sleep cycle, eating habits, home decor and daily routine.

For the first year, you desperately look for parenting outlets, classes, playgroups, anything that affords some modicum of a social network. Your days are intermittently spent at ground level, trying to stimulate and attract the attention of your wee charge, or trying to get back in touch with the unique individual you once were, just a short time ago.

By year-two, your groundlinghas mobilized. Watch out world! there’s no need for that Exersaucer anymore. Now everything below waist level has to be rearranged or safe-guarded to accommodate exploring hands, curious eyes and wandering toddler. But at least life is starting to get more interesting. Play gets a bit more interactive, you might even share a few words between you; behold, a conversation evolves!

I don’t claim to be a vaudeville act or anything but I do like to think I’m at least capable of carrying on an intellectual conversation, possibly even about a current event.  Children, on the other hand, expect you to be constant entertainment. And, unless you actually masterminded Legos, patented Mr. Potato Head or work in Mattel’s play lab, you’re probably not cut out for the job.

You may be required to play Uncle Wiggly (for the 4th time this week); to build yet another wooden block zoo for the bucket of escaped dinosaurs; to stealthy fit 200 minuscule plastic beads onto a ridiculously small peg board and iron them together into a coaster. And when all of that is done, they’ll ask for more.

Sure, there are many fabulous, memorable and blog-worthy moments of parenting but I also want to be honest, to take the sheen off and say it like it is. Now, please excuse me, I think I’m being beckoned back to the train table to play the vivacious role of windmill.

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