Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Mother of Mass Destruction

Lately, I've been noticing my friend Joan disappearing day by day. This is a woman who is always so full of life and energy that just being around her makes you smile. She seemed more like a kid than like a 40-year-old--and she would have been the first one to say so, beaming as she did. But lately, she'd been sounding, well, like me. Sorta down. Very stressed. Way too grown up, if by grown up you mean all those negative things that responsibility and the weight of the world can do to you.

So, a week or so ago, I pulled her aside and told her I was about to give her a heap of unsolicited advice. And I did. For a couple of hours, I talked to her about the things that she clearly needed to do to start to put her life back in order. (Because, you know, those who can't do...) I talked to her about what I knew were some of her roadblocks. I told her that she had to start thinking about herself and stop focusing on others. I told her that her child, about whom she worries a great deal, needed her to be herself, not to be a depressed shadow thereof. I really gave it to her--gently, but with both barrels. I left nothing out. Most of it was stuff I knew she'd been kicking around in her mind, but I also knew that she'd kept hitting the same roadblocks--and I also knew what she needed to hear to get past them. I felt fabulous when I was done. (Although, I will admit, I keep having this one thought pop into my head: If the Smart & Sassy girls could hear me now, I thought, they'd kick my ass halfway into tomorrow.)

And then, just a few days later, she came to me with a huge grin on her face. "I did it," she said. "I quit my job."

It was only after I'd hugged her and congratulated her and just stood there grinning, knowing without a doubt that she'd made the right choice for her and her family...It was only after she'd gotten into her car and pulled away...It was only after I'd turned to continue on my way that my heart sank and my stomach flipped as I realized: I'd just played a part in the engineering of my own son's worst nightmare.

Because Joan? She's WeeyumWise's mom. And quitting her job means that Weeyum will probably be leaving the campus-based daycare within the next month or two. And N is going to be devastated. Absolutely devastated.

Now, part of my speech to Joan was that it was more important for Weeyum to have a mom who's happy and engaged than to be in daycare with N. And I believe with all my heart that that's true. But it's not more important for N to have Weeyum's mom be happy and engaged than to have Weeyum in daycare with him. N's not going to understand the long-term consequences of the sort of martyrdom that Joan had settled into, with a job that made her miserable and which she didn't strictly need, but which allowed her son to be with my son. And we've promised to keep them connected with weekly playdates, at the very least. But will that happen? I don't know; I'm not particularly good at that kind of thing. And will that make life OK for N? No, it won't. Because N will still have to go into that daycare every day without his friend Weeyum. I shudder to think what's going to happen. I only hope that he's blossomed enough because of Weeyum's friendship that he won't return to sitting in a corner by himself, crying and napping. Because that would be too sad (and, yes, too pathetic). I have hopes that he'll do better than that. But I'm realistic enough to know that there will be repercussions of some kind. And I'm going to have to face them knowing that I played a role in causing the problem in the first place.

Joan's choice is an unequivocal Good Thing. I already have my happy-go-lucky, flighty-yet-grounded friend back, and Weeyum is going to benefit from it. Unfortunately, that comes at a cost...and N is going to pay most of the bill. And that makes me feel more than a little bit guilty, even as I thrill over knowing the happiness it is buying others.

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