Couple disagree on whether or not kids are in their future
Dear Carolyn: My partner wants a baby and I don’t, and because we are same-sex there would be some dif iculty involved in having one.
After many frustrating conversations, we have decided we will not have one. I see this as nothing more than sticking to our default state of childlessness, but my partner clearly thinks I have gotten my way and feels owed something in return.
I suggested adopting a new pet and that provoked anger, snide remarks, and tears.
What else can one person provide to make up for not having a child? Even if I sound glib about it here, I actually do feel guilty about this on a daily basis.
— Baby Substitute
You can’t provide a substitute for a child. You didn’t choose a different thing, you chose a different life.
And the fact that you stuck to the same thing you already had doesn’t mean your partner did as well. Your partner’s “default state” was childlessness, technically, but that state included plans for future parenthood. So that default really was parenthood-tobe, which is not the same as your childlessness.
Your decision lopped off your partner’s expected life path. You came to it mutually, yes, but in areas where there is no compromise, just either-or, even a mutual decision means one of you 100 percent gets your way. You did here. This is not just something your partner “thinks.”
Understanding that, and saying so out loud, and being sensitive to it hereafter — enough to imagine yourself in your partner’s position before you start making suggestions — are three things you can provide to help make up for your partner’s loss.
Feeling guilty is not the same thing; that’s just feeling as if you did something wrong. Your decision was no more wrong than it would have been had your partner’s druthers prevailed.
Your question sounds glib not because you’re not trying, but because your response to your partner so utterly lacks empathy. Look again: You say our default.” When it comes to feelings, assuming “my” means “our” is a potentially relationship-ending mistake, and your whole letter comes down to, “I’m not grieving, so why are you sad?”
Your partner is grieving. Respond to those needs accordingly.
Dear Carolyn: My sister keeps her two daughters, ages 10 and 8, in car seats. The law in her state says to stop at age 8. Whenever I hint the kids should just ride in the car with seatbelts, she goes ballistic on me. Thoughts? I think she’s infantilizing them.
Maybe so. But infantilizing your (apparently infantile) sister is a delightfully ironic nonsolution.
Plus, seats are but a tiny battle that also happens to be self-winning, since they’ll soon outgrow the seats.
Overprotected kids need adults who notice and reward their competence — that’s the war. Just be that adult for them.