Tag Archives: Choices

Madame Leota’s Crystal Ball Says. . .

We are all time travelers: moving into the future second by second.

Which does us absolutely no good at all as far as planning for the future goes because we can’t see the future until it’s the present and then it’s too late to change it into anything but the past.

Ugh. Time travel makes my head hurt.

Anyway, I was reminded about this issue recently when I was discussing with She Who Must Be Sleeping Because It’s Dark After All a course of action regarding our oldest dude.

The actual specifics of the discussion aren’t all that important (well, they’re important to us and certainly important to him. However, for the sake of this bit here, it’s more the results rather than the cause.), but I found myself thinking of Robert Frost.

One of my favorite poets, Robert Frost wrote about “The Road NotRobert Frost, one of America's best poets, extolled the virtue of taking the road less travelled. Taken.” In exactingly precise words of immeasurable beauty, Frost talked about how we often face choices in our lives and we can think of them as forks in the road.

We take one fork, make one choice, and that forever shapes all that is to come. Take the other fork, make the other choice, and that also forever shapes all that is to come.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

So we sat discussing our course of action and because the substance of the discussion, the nature of the choice, was so important to Sarcasmo’s future, I’ve never wished more fervently to be able to see the future.

“Are we making the right choice? Will this work out in the long run? Will this be good for him or hurt him?”

This is something we parents have to think about every single day in almost every single decision. It’s not often such a stark choice, but it is there.

Do I make him eat those zucchini slices or not? If no, am I teaching him that he will get his way when he whines? If yes, will I be teaching him that bigger people can make smaller people do things?

The more I think about it, the more debilitating it becomes until I can enter into a state of analysis paralysis. For those of you not up on your rhyming aphorisms, analysis paralysis means you start thinking about something so much that you never make an actual decision. Which is, in effect, a decision. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

There’s an old saying in project management: There comes a time in the life of every project when you simply have to shoot the engineers and run with it.

Now, that’s not actually encouraging people to kill engineers. The issue is that engineers are never finished. They always see one more thing that can be improved upon. One more thing that needs just a little adjustment.

I like to think it’s something similar in parenting. We don’t know what we’re doing.

We don’t know how our actions today will affect the life of our child tomorrow.

All we can do is make what we think is the right decision and then work for the best outcome. Which is, in and of itself, a significantly frightening thought.

So, now that I’ve spent two days scaring the pants off you, I’ve only got one thing to say. . .

You’re not wearing any pants! Neener Neener Neener!

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Five

There are five days left for you to shop for Christmas presents.

And that’s including you rushing out for gifts on Christmas Eve, when the only things open are gas stations, dollar stores, and that guy standing by his car on the side of the road with his trunk open and a hopeful expression on his face.

Not among the best choices available, dudes.

I’m going to say that, if you’ve not done your shopping by now. . . It’s not too late, but, dude, the fat lady is warming up in the wings.

The thing about giving a good present to your wife or significant other, is that you can’t do it rushed. When you’re rushed, you’re worried and pressured and we all know no one thinks at their best when they’re feeling like a 500-pound gorilla is about to pounce on them from behind and start playing bendy straws with their arms and legs.

It’s just not a good feeling, that pressure.

Which is why I advise you not to rush out and buy something. Instead, take a (very short) wait. Think about anything your wife or S.O. has said to you lately. Remember any wistful looks as you passed by a store window, any meaningful sighs while watching television as a particularly obnoxious ad came on for the fifteenth time in the last hour.

Once you’ve got your gift in mind, still pause and think up  couple of alternatives. You don’t want to panic and blank out when you’re shopping. That’s when you start picturing that silverback mountain gorilla’s hot, wet breath on the back of your neck and you start grabbing at whatever is in reach and you come back with a gold-plated cigarette holder and something that looks like the squalid abomination squatted out by an extinct species of rhino and then bronzed by a drunk Bulgarian sculptor on a two-month bender.

An oddly specific analogy, I realize, but I’m not speaking from personal experience here.*

Now that you’ve got a list, you need to figure out where you can go to actually get the stuff on your list. Make a plan and realize that, by waiting until now, where ever you go to purchase stuff, it’s going to be crowded. There will be many, many people and all of them will be just as intensely focused on getting done their own lists.

Take a breath and be calm. It’s going to be all right.

If you can’t find the first item on your list, then ask around. Maybe there’s another store that stocks it. Be nice when you start asking, though, because if there’s anyone more harassed than a last-minute-shopping dude, it’s the poor retail drones helping them.

If you still can’t find the item, it’s still not time to panic because you wisely listened to the Dude’s Guide and you made a list of a few other things you’d like to buy.

Once you get the item, you’re all set.

All you have to do now is wrap it. Fortunately for most of us, a lot of stores will even wrap the present for you.

So now you’re all set, dudes. Get out there and start shopping.

Me? Oh, I’m done. I was 90 percent finished a couple of days after Thanksgiving. No way I’m going out there now. I’m not that crazy.

Not that I’m saying you dudes are.*

*As far as you can prove.


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The Now You Versus The Future You

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

For Walt Whitman, astonishingly erudite poet of years gone by, it was a sign of intelligence, of passion, of an attempted understanding of the world’s infinite variations.

For most other people? Eh, not so much.

How many times have you had to defend yourself when you suddenly have a different opinion than one you previously held? In a politician, that’s called flip-flopping and it’s considered a bad thing. Not sure I understand that. I mean, if you continue researching a problem, come up with new information, why is it a good thing to hold to an outdated opinion, rather than reassessing what you do based on new information?

And that’s what I wanted to talk about today. How it’s likely that you as a parent are going to run afoul of you decreed as a parent years, months or even days before. And how, really, that’s all right, even though you’re going to have to fight the little dudes and dudettes about it.

There’s two concepts I want to include in this: Present bias and generalization.

Present bias is something we covered over the last couple of days when we talked about procrastination with David McRaney, from You Are Not So Smart. It’s the inability to understand that your desires will change over time. That what you want today is not necessarily what you will want next month.

The now you may see the costs and rewards at stake when it comes time to choose studying for the test instead of going to the club, eating the salad instead of the cupcake, writing the article instead of playing the video game.

The trick is to accept the now you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future you – a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties.

In this case, McRaney was talking about how the people who acknowledge that they will procrastinate and find ways to work around it are better prepared to counter that tendency to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done the day after tomorrow.

In dealing with the little dudes, it comes into how we set the rules. For instance, you might decide that it’s all right for the little dudette to stay up later for a week because there’s a great educational series on Discovery that you want to share with her, as a sort of father-daughter bonding experience. So you guarantee that she’ll be able to do it all week.

However, two days into it, you come down with a cold and decide you both need to hit the hay early, taping the show to watch later. When you promised up late every night, you didn’t conceive that the future you might want to change things.

So even though going to bed early is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, considering the circumstances, your little dudette is not going to be happy about it. Here’s the thing: You can’t beat yourself up about it. She, or any little dudes involved, will be more than happy to give you grief, you don’t need to heap any more on your own shoulders.

It’s important to know that, while you must do everything you can to keep your promises, to make sure that future you does what now you says he will, sometimes life makes other decisions when we’re not looking.

We can’t predict the future, but that doesn’t stop us from assuming that we will always be the same as time goes on. And when you add that to the idea of generalization. . .

Well, that’s a story for tomorrow.

 

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