Friday, January 22, 2010

The Game of Choice

A third child. I am the youngest of three, so is my husband. We set out in our relationship planning to have a third. We scoffed at the seeming loneliness of only two. Now, though, diapers a distant memory, personal projects finally beginning to take some shape, it seems difficult even to imagine adding a dog let alone a new human being who will eventually talk back.

I know a lot of people who have "accidentally" decided on a third. But there are no such thing as accidents, I'm convinced. Things happen for a reason. I told this to a friend today, pregnant with her third, facing down the many blissful but burdensome duties that make up parenting.

"Plus," I said, laughing, looking down at her adorable baby bump, "it's happening. It will be good..."

She smiled, grateful. "It will," she said. Gold star for her and for her toddler, a sweetie who is in for a big surprise!

The truth is, the reasoning behind a third, planned or no, is always complex. Decisions are not what they once were when we were young and stupid, stuck in the idealism of letting a little folded-paper fortune teller decide our fate: city or country, two kids or three, Jerry or Glenn for a husband.

Talking to a friend the other night, I posited the theory that, "Often, its divorce or a third kid." He thought it was a funny thought, one I should use. So here it is. Like most things I say, I believe them instinctively but have not compiled the necessary research to prove them out. That's why I'm a blogger:) But even real media stories do the same. Malcolm Gladwell does the same. The story is born in the writer's head from their own personal thought file, then has to be proven out...or not. Some theories might just hold true for some. Finding universal truth is the holy grail. Very, very hard.

It is universal, however, that we are forced to decide what to do. I have a lot of people tell me that they don't decide, that things "just happen." I believe in that, to a degree. But unconsciously we are deciding all the time. We are programmed early to figure who we are, who we want to be. Elementary school assignments often ask the basics: Your name, your favorite color and, oh, just a little thing: what you want to be when you grow up. As if you know. My kids' answers are all the range, from web designers to baseball players to Eli's new obsession, a small goal of being President of the United States. For the record, I wouldn't wish that last job on my worst enemy. But I digress.

We are educated early and often to learn how to decide these things. It is crucial in a society that its people be able to determine who they are and what they might best offer to the community at large. If that doesn't happen, chaos ensues, we revert back to monkeys, sitting, pondering, picking nits. Sometimes I think that would be nice.I do that a lot, actually, minus the picking nits though that too has been true a few times in recent years.

But then, after a bit, my puritanical productivity brain kicks in, the one drilled in to me even on the playground, the American Dream drill, and I am back on track, focusing myself again on what I can give to the greater world. It is, after all, at least somewhat, up to me to decide.

Albert Camus said it well. "Life," he said, "is the sum of all your choices." Gold star Mr. Camus. Would that we could foist responsibility onto someone or something else Unfortunately, it's all on us. Where is that damn origami game when you need it??

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