Will picked up a new skill on our vacation. It came out of nowhere and he’s incredibly talented at it! No, it’s not riding a two-wheeler, which I still have hopes will happen this week. It’s not eating sushi, because if I had a picture of him popping that first california roll into his mouth with glee and then watching the chew slow down and the eyes widen…and then the napkin spit, you’d get that is not going to be his forte yet.
Nope. My boy mastered the guilt trip. Specifically the “I only have one parent and it’s not fair” guilt trip.
One night on the trip, I went to see the Yankees game. It would be our first night apart in 16 nights (but who was counting) and he wasn’t impressed.
“It’s not fair. Riley’s dad is going to the game but she still gets to have her mom here. You’re going and I’m totally alone.” I stared him down. Hugged him without words, kissed his head and left.
Next day, we were at Howe’s Caves (check them out!) and he was going ziplining. “Won’t you please come too.” I declined. It was expensive. I said, “No honey, I have to stay down here and watch our stuff.” He frowned, “If I had a dad, he could watch the stuff and you could come.” I shrugged. I was starting to feel at a loss.
Next up was the hour wait in line to go to the caves. (Note to self, we cannot do Disney.) I was in line with the dads while most of the moms and kids were getting lunch or mining gems while the time passed. I could see him getting a bit agitated but he was holding it together. Then he said, “It’s just not fair that kids with two parents don’t have to wait in line.”
That was sort of it for me. Two weeks of vacation. Solid mom and boy bonding time and that was what I was getting. I did some deep breathing and recognized that it wasn’t the time or the place to get into the discussion so I shrugged and said “Yup, life isn’t always fair,” and let it go.
I was way too exhausted to get into it.
I thought about it quite a bit the next day on my solo drive home from dropping him with my aunt in Ottawa. Is this coming from a place of pain? A place where he’s feeling ripped off? Less than other traditional families? Honestly? I think it’s coming from a smart kid who sees a potential advantage and is going for it.
I need to address it with him when he gets back.
Maybe I’ll tell him that I wish we had a second parent too so I could use the PanAm HOV lanes. Or how that would save me a ton in babysitting money. Or how that second income would allow him to have the snowboard lessons he wanted. Or how that would save me from scrambling to find someone to get him at camp on time the rest of the summer. Or how when I’m about to lose my mind, a second parent could step in and help while I hid with a glass of wine in the bathroom. But I realize that’s fighting guilt trip with guilt trip.
Maybe I’ll tell him that if we had a second parent he would not have been able to sleep with me for the last seven years. Or that at dinner time, I may want to talk to the grown up instead of focusing totally on him. Or that he would be a shared priority for me if I had a partner and not my only, sole focus in my life. This too is not the route I’m planning on going.
Instead, next week, on the eve of his seventh birthday, we’re just going to talk it out like we do most things. And I’m going to remind him that life isn’t “traditional”. It isn’t how it appears in books or tv or in the lineups at tourist attractions. That every situation has positives and negatives. That we are blessed to be together, to have each other and be alive.
And then I’ll tell him that guilt trips will never work on me….the same way mine never worked on my mom.