Cou­ple dis­agree on whether or not kids are in their fu­ture

CAROLYN HAX

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Tropical Sunday - BY PATTY KHULY khu­[email protected]­south.net BY CAROLYN HAX [email protected]­post.com

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.

— Anony­mous

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.

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