Dad in­sists on tak­ing gru­el­ing 13-hour road trip with tod­dler in­stead of fly­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - THEATER - Carolyn Hax Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@wash­post.com. Get her column de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post.

Hi, Carolyn: My hus­band and I will be trav­el­ing to at­tend my mom’s wed­ding. It’s ei­ther a 13hour drive (now that we have a child, it would prob­a­bly ac­tu­ally eat up an en­tire day) or a 11/2hour flight, plus brief trans­porta­tion at each end. My hus­band hates to fly — mostly be­cause he is fru­gal and dis­likes be­ing shuf­fled around by air­lines, but he also has slight con­fine­ment anx­i­ety. He has a pre­scrip­tion for this when he ab­so­lutely has to fly, and it works well.

Mean­while, I en­joy fly­ing, don’t mind pay­ing for the con­ve­nience and se­ri­ously do NOT want to sign on for a grue­some road trip with a tod­dler who is pretty well­be­haved on a plane.

This dif­fer­ence be­tween us makes it hard to plan not only this trip, but also hy­po­thet­i­cal fu­ture travel. I pro­posed that I fly with the tod­dler, which would give me more time to spend with fam­ily, and that he drive, if that’s his pref­er­ence. It in­fu­ri­ated him that I would con­sider “aban­don­ing” him to drive alone. He seems to think the only an­swer is that we both do the road trip thing, which I do not think makes sense.

What do we do in this case, and when this in­evitably comes up again?

Spouse

Spouse: Why just deal with stub­born­ness and anx­i­ety when you can have a bound­ary is­sue, too?

You have my sym­pa­thies. It’s one thing to have a part­ner who is ir­ra­tional on a par­tic­u­lar is­sue — we all have our stuff, af­ter all — but an­other for a “fu­ri­ous” part­ner to ex­pect ev­ery­one to live in ser­vice of that ir­ra­tional­ity.

You do have two ad­van­tages, though — time and dis­tance. As in, this isn’t a prob­lem of cul­ture or perception, like de­cid­ing whether gen­der roles are ap­pro­pri­ate or how much one de­fers to Grandma. This hinges on how long it takes you to travel how far. Use­ful sim­plic­ity.

That means you can ac­tu­ally quan­tify what he’s ask­ing of you and draw the line where you think he’s ask­ing too much.

Let’s say a drive is seven hours, where fly­ing in­stead would in­volve 30 min­utes to the air­port, a 90-minute cush­ion for park­ing and se­cu­rity, a one-hour flight and an­other hour on the ground at your desti­na­tion — so, four hours. Call it five to be gen­er­ous and al­low for de­lays and other has­sles of air travel.

That means the cost of in­dulging your hus­band is two or three hours. Are you okay with that, yes or no? You de­cide for your­self, of course, but that doesn’t sound too aw­ful to me.

Now take the trip you’re con­tem­plat­ing. The flight and ground trans­porta­tion look to be about a four-hour com­mit­ment, com­pared with a 13-hour drive, which pegs your in­dulge-thes­pouse cost at nine hours. In a car with a tod­dler. In­stead of with fam­ily.

Again — you de­cide what’s right for you, but if I were do­ing that I’d want a pre­scrip­tion as­sist of my own.

So do the math, fig­ure out what your pain limit is for ex­tra driv­ing, then explain it as such to your hus­band. Make it clear — you will gladly ac­com­mo­date him up to X hours, and af­ter that you hope he will ac­com­mo­date you by ei­ther trav­el­ing sep­a­rately as you sug­gest, or adopt­ing your pain limit as his “ab­so­lutely has to fly” thresh­old.

You can’t make him agree to this, of course. You can, how­ever, stick to your own limit by not agree­ing to grue­some car trips, even fly­ing solo against his wishes if you must. While it isn’t ideal, it’s a valid re­sponse to ac­cu­sa­tions of “aban­don­ing him,” which are con­trol­ling and highly ma­nip­u­la­tive.

If that’s his de­fault and not just a flight-anx­i­ety-spe­cific bit of emo­tional slum­ming (his air­line re­sis­tance screams “con­trol is­sues”), then make sure good mar­riage coun­sel­ing comes next. Do that alone, too, if you must. Dear Carolyn: My hus­band and I are de­cid­ing whether to have kids. We live in an ex­pen­sive city far away from any fam­ily. No one has vis­ited us in the four years we’ve lived here.

I can’t imag­ine rais­ing kids with no sup­port sys­tem, it scares me! My job is highly spe­cial­ized, so I don’t re­ally get to choose where I live, and we prob­a­bly will never live any­where near our fam­i­lies. How do I move past the fear of rais­ing chil­dren with­out the vil­lage?

Far Away

Far Away: You re­mind your­self that you’re hu­man: What you don’t have, you scrounge, im­pro­vise or make.

There’s noth­ing that says you have to have kids, of course. It might just not be for you.

But if you want to be a par­ent, then do what count­less oth­ers have done who, like you, have re­lo­cated for bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties — or who em­i­grated, or out­lived their fam­i­lies, or cut ties af­ter years of dysfunction. You dis­card pre­con­cep­tions and de­velop a net­work of friends, paid care­givers, drop-in cen­ters, schools and what­ever else you need. You study your em­ploy­ers’ leave poli­cies. And you trust the re­source­ful­ness that made you a spe­cial­ized, big-city as­set to serve you here, or in what­ever chal­lenge you take on next.

Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.

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