Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When Honesty Isn't the Best Policy

It looks as though I barely missed shooting myself in the foot. The problem? Telling the truth.

Let me start by saying that I am honest. I'd say scrupulously honest, although that leaves me open to the kind of scrutiny that if I was ever a politician, I'd be afraid of. (Senator, do you recall telling your friend her haircut looked cute, when the truth was, you hated it?) But anyhow, as honest as a person can be. I get bugged by movies or tv shows that use a character lying as a plot device, and you spend the next two hours of the movie saying, Well if you had just told the truth maybe he would have been mad but you wouldn't have gotten into all this trouble! (An aside: DH felt similarly when we saw Miss Saigon, and the sum total of his reaction was, "If she hadn't been a prostitute none of this would have happened!" So does that make him scrupulously against prostitution? Let's hope!)

Honesty. Yes. I'm a big fan. There's really nothing to be gained by lying about something and so, so much to lose. If there is any behavior or action that a person does that they end up needing to lie about to cover up, then don't do that action in the first place! That's where the problem is! But how about when honesty isn't the best policy?

In my ethics class, this topic was brought up with this example: You're in Nazi Germany and hiding Jews. A Nazi official asks you if you know where any Jews are hiding. Do you tell the truth? Does the value of honesty outweigh the value of the human life you are protecting with your lie? Mine is not such a moral dilemma. Telling the truth in my case does not jeopardize lives. It might, however, stop me from going on a vacation.

DH has a cool opportunity to potentially teach Flash to animators in exotic Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There's a studio in Los Angeles who has a 3-year contract with the Malaysian government to bring American Flash animators to KL for 3-6 weeks at a time, to teach in a school they are setting up together. The studio would pay a salary plus all of DH's travel expenses, a per diem, and provide an apartment. Naturally, my first thought was, how the heck can I get in on this?

Well, it's both easier and more difficult than I could hope. The company encourages animators to bring their whole family - in fact, they want to do everything they can to make this a fun experience so that animators will want to come back more than once over the three year period. So it's a matter of a plane ticket for me, and we are good to go! Except for one thing: what do I do with my kids??

And that's where being a little less honest might have come in handy. Because, as it turns out, once I started chronicling real life in our household, I might have turned off potential babysitters. Dang me and my scrupulousness! Within about 15 minutes of DH applying for the job, I was mentally going over my options to get the heck out of the country, and as much as I hated to admit it, I knew that it would be really hard to sugar-coat what a babysitter would have to deal with.

So within about 24 hours of first hearing about the job (three weeks ago or so), DH got a call and had a phone interview, which went really well. The note that the interviewer left for the CEO who was to do the second interview said "Available after baby born in June. Call immediately!" All of the details that the interviewer gave DH sounded as good as we had first thought, and DH was even more excited about the opportunity, now that it looked like it was really going to happen. My daydreaming kicked into high gear, and I wished it wasn't too late to go out to a bookstore and pick up a tour guide.

By the next day, though, reality set in, and along with it, depression. It happened when I was standing in the kitchen listening to someone whine about something, and I had the thought "No one wants to do this! No one wants my life!" I recognize the level of melodrama here is dangerously high, of course I'm emoting for two right now. But I literally started crying when I realized that I couldn't even bring myself to so much as ask someone to watch my kids for 10 days or so. Sure, people like my kids, but do they like them that much? I'm not so sure.

At the risk of truly embarrassing myself with just how ugly I can get when I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'm going to insert a quote from a diatribe I wrote just for myself when I was in the depths of despair. I know this won't reflect particularly well on me, but it's a true indication of how I was feeling that day (dang honesty again!):

I called Ryan this afternoon and told him that this just isn't going to work out for me to go, and gave him the reasons why. He was surprised by the about-face, since the last time I had talked to him I was totally gung-ho about making this possible for me. But then came the usual line, "Your time will come." I hate hearing that. Yes, I know that most moms my age don't go to Malaysia for 2 weeks when they have 4 kids. I know that my own mom didn't have family to watch us kids, and the only time she got to go on vacations without us, she had to farm us out to neighbors. And now she gets to travel and do all sorts of things, and one day so will I. But, you know what? It sucks to be me right now. I don't actually care about 18 years from now when the child I haven't even had yet is 18. From what older people tell me, life only gets harder, but you know what? It's plenty hard right now and I don't want to hear about the fact that two decades from now I might actually be able to do what I want with my time. It's not a comfort.

Yikes. That is painful to re-read. Sorry about that.

Anyhow, within a couple of days I was not quite so suicidal and able to think a little more rationally (really - I'm not this emotional when I'm not pregnant, I'm really not!) probably due to a couple of nights of getting enough sleep, I revisited the idea. And started to try to come up with some way to get this to work. Amazingly, I came up with some ideas.

DH's oldest sister, while probably the most willing, has recently started a new job and has moved and I figured needs to concentrate on her own life. I considered offering to fly my brother and his wife out (if they could get the time off work) but it's the same week that my mom is going to be in Maryland to visit them specifically. So I thought I could ask DH's other sister, who is also responsible and seems to like my kids enough, and see if she could get time off work to babysit for some amount of the time, and maybe my mom could split the time with her.

I asked my mom first, the day that we got the second phone interview and the CEO told us to start getting our passports. No, actually, I called and talked to my dad and he said that my mom would be happy to watch the kids. I said, "Are you sure mom wants you volunteering her for something like this?" And he said something like, Well, no, probably not in so many words, but that he still thinks she'd do it. I talked to her the next day, and with some amount of trepidation, she said yes. Trepidation due to knowing exactly what she was in for, because I so meticulously documented every minute detail of life with my three boys. She said she was worried about bedtime specifically, it seems so hard from what I describe. No, I said, bedtime's a breeze, it's dinner you should be worried about. Doh! What a stupid thing to say!! I'm trying to recruit her, not scare her off! Honesty again rears it's ugly head.

She sounded a little more willing when I said she'd be splitting the time hopefully, and that I was only going to be gone 10 or so days, as she thought I would be gone the entire three weeks that DH is going. It's always hard to read my mom, as she's a quiet person, not like others in my family that have no problem speaking their mind, frequently to their detriment. So I think she's willing, she says she'll do it, but I'd say she seems nervous and apprehensive about it.

Dh's sister was receptive to the idea, although is also just starting a new job, and so offered to watch the kids with my mother-in-law, which seems like an ideal situation, because the kids can be intensive enough to require tag-teaming, and as much as I love my mother-in-law, I didn't know if she could handle it solo. (I think she feels the same way.) But she is super-enthusiastic, and very, very willing to come and do whatever we need as long as we need her.

The big difference? My mother-in-law doesn't read my blog. While she is more familiar on a day-to-day basis since she's around my kids more, she still only sees them under abnormal circumstances. My mom is making her judgement based on real life, things that I wrote myself about our family. So any trepidation on her part is due to my honesty.

One thought, though, that should be a comfort to my mother - the reason that it is harder for me than it will be for her is that I have to worry about setting a precedent in every single situation I deal with. My mom doesn't. Want to give the kids a handful of cookies 5 minutes before dinner? Sure, go ahead - you only have to deal with the ramifications of that for 5 days. I'd have kids asking for cookies every day until they leave for college. That's what it means to spoil grandchildren - do the things that make kids happy/quiet/think you're great, because if I did that, I'd have to live with the consequences. Eat in front of the tv? Skip bath night just this once? Go ahead, grandma, make it easy on yourself - this should go much better for you than it does for me!

If I had known that a foreign vacation was a possibility, could I have fabricated what life was really like in order to lull my mother into a false sense of security, thereby enabling me to get some free babysitting out of her? Nah, she's smart enough to know that life with little kids isn't perfect. And I've probably whined enough in the past that it wouldn't have done any good to lie at this point. So I can walk away knowing that my integrity is intact, and even with knowing the truth, my kids' grandparents love them (or me) enough to give me this opportunity, regardless of how hard my kids can be. But maybe I'll temper my honesty a little bit in the future, just in case!

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