Have you ever asked someone for their opinion and then realized you didn't actually want it?
I do this to Paul sometimes when we're making plans.
me: "Where should we go out to eat tonight?"
paul: "Wherever you want, hon."
me: "I don't care. You decide."
paul: "OK, how 'bout Chinese?"
me: "hmmm, we had Chinese the last time. Maybe we should try something different?"
paul: "We could go get some seafood on Maine Avenue."
me: "I don't know, with traffic at this time of night, it will take us forever to get there. How 'bout that little Indian place around the corner?"
paul: "OK, Indian it is."
I'm good at making plans. Schedules, goals, charts, checklists: these are the fibers of my being. Those who know me well know my motto, "I can be spontaneous with 24 hours notice." Sometimes, though, I want to give other people in my family an opportunity to make plans. Occasionally I want a break from being the master scheduler. I also want to make sure everyone has a chance to share ideas for our outings. With one teenager and one teenager-in-training in the house, family outings don't hold the appeal they once did. I figure if I let them choose where we should go, they might not complain (as much) about spending the day with their (ugh) parents.
So I broach the subject at the dinner table where they are trapped into being my captive audience. "I'd like each of you to think of one activity that we can do together this month," I tell them. I already have a list of potential suggestions in mind (bike rides, family tennis, a movie, apple picking...) but I wait for my family members to brainstorm these ideas without my help.
"I want to dance to a polka band," Paul says.
"I want to go to a baseball playoff game," Jack says.
"I want to see Zoe," Katherine says.
OK, clearly they need my help. A polka band? Did I not mention the teenagers in the house? Can you think of anything more embarrassing for a teenage boy than going polka dancing with his father? A playoff game? Do you have any idea how expensive those tickets will be? Plus, the game is on a school night. And Zoe lives two hours away. Coordinating a visit with her means coordinating the weekend schedules of nine people in two different families trying to find an activity-free window of availability.
But, I asked. If I shoot down all their ideas and convince them to go on a family bike ride, what's the point of asking?
So, first, the polka band. Yesterday we found an Oktoberfest Fall Festival-- a beer garden for the adults, brats and funnel cakes for the kids. And, a live German band playing, you guessed it, the polka. Jack was so distracted by the grown men wandering around in lederhosen, he didn't even notice his dad tapping his foot and swaying, yes, even dancing, to the music.
Polka band, check.
Next up, tickets to this week's Nationals game. I got some! Tickets for the first home game of the playoff series are out of the question unless I win the lottery by Wednesday. But if --BIG IF--they need to play the fourth game, I have secured tickets. Yes, I can think all the reasons why we shouldn't go--I spent more on four tickets than I did on a week's worth of groceries; we'll be out late on a school night; we can't even make plans because the game might not happen. Instead I'm thinking of all the reasons we should go--The Nationals haven't been in the playoffs since 1981 when they were the Montreal Expos. More important, going to the game is important to Jack. After all, I asked him what he wanted to do. I didn't give him any parameters about making an affordable, easy, predictable choice. So, in his honor, I'm being spontaneous, slightly irresponsible and taking a risk--it's so unlike me. Now I'm crossing my fingers that on Thursday night I can say,
Nationals tickets, check.
Katherine's request was the most difficult. As expected, trying to coordinate the busy weekend schedules of everyone proved very tricky indeed. The good news: we've got a visit on the calendar. The bad news: we couldn't squeeze it into October's schedule. Katherine will get her visit with Zoe, but in the meantime she chose a different idea. We are looking forward to visiting our favorite pumpkin patch soon.
Visiting Zoe: rain-check.
Pumpkin Patch: soon-to-be-check.
As for me, I don't know if we'll squeeze in a family bike ride, a tennis match or a movie this month. That's OK. I can still look at my list of things to do and say:
Make my family happy: check.