Generally it is assumed that doing right is more difficult than doing wrong, that taking the road more travelled is a sign of sloth and thus of sin. Taking the easy way out is always a pejorative accusation, is it not? The high road, the good fight, slow and steady, the Force is strong within you (okay, maybe not that one) - these common phrases remind us that the right thing to do takes gumption and effort. The first two little pigs and the city mouse slacked off and, well, died, so to save yourself you must have to strive and plan and endure. But what if sometimes the easy way is the right way?
This past weekend we visited my in-laws again. It's at least 4 and often more hours' drive each way, plus a lot of commotion, excitement (a 40th birthday party for us, a rambunctious cousin for our daughter), and copious food, most of which is very different from what we eat at home. On Monday the Short Person decided she would rather go back to bed than to preschool. Barring that, she no longer wanted to ride to preschool in her stroller but would rather take her trike. Right-o, off she went. Had a great time, as always, and pick-up was business as usual. We pointed out Papa's office as we walked by, and that was fine.
Then we met The Man Himself, coming back from lunch with a few colleagues.
There was hugging, there was giggling, my husband looked like the greatest, most beloved father on Earth, particularly as we needed three goodbye hugs before he had to just leave or he'd never get back to his desk. Oh, the tears.
The weepy one and I made it approximately 30 meters more before the whole going home thing ground to a complete halt. There was me with a schoolbag in one hand and a trike in the other plus a purse made heavy with frozen beef bones and some whipping cream (because what else would I have in there?) trying to coax a burned-out Papa-bereft toddler to move. She just stood, with arms stretched towards me, and cried "Mommy carry you!" repeatedly. She needed food and rest and was seeking physical comfort, but I couldn't carry her and all that stuff. I tried walking ahead a bit to see if she'd follow but it only raised the alarm tones in the crying. "Come!" I said, "We'll watch the trucks go under the bridge". No. More crying. "C'mon, I'll push you on your trike." No. "Do you want a hug?" Yes, but it didn't stem the tide. After probably 15 minutes of total stalemate I went back and made camp, right there on the footpath. I offered her the cream to drink but she wasn't interested. The crying settled in to a mantra-like drone. Eye and physical contact were rejected.
What to do? I know no one in the immediate vicinity to whom I could go and ask for help. People were riding past on their bikes, but what would I ask of them? Please take my purse to my house, here's my address and my wallet and keys are inside!? My best option was to leave the trike, simply forfeit it to free up a hand and end the crisis. Then I remembered: sometimes the easy way out is the right way to go.
I reached past those thawing soup bones, pulled out my mobile phone and called my husband. I'm sorry, I said, but you're going to have to help me here. We were only a stone's throw from his office; I only wanted him to take the school bag and maybe the trike and just bring them home after work. Instead he came - and his being there broke the spell right away - and he pushed a mostly-happy kid the whole way home on her trike. Following, I tried to determine which percentages of my mood were made up by gratitude, embarrassment, shame and relief. It was so easy. I couldn't do it but I knew someone who could, so I hung up my All-Knowing Mommy cape and let him.
We have not progressed on our list of questions for our potential agency. We have reached out to friends who have friends who have adopted, and look forward to talking to people who know both the game and the field, but so far we haven't heard from anyone. In the mean time I can't seem to shake the idea of giving our agency fee to a family preservation charity and getting pregnant, or looking into domestic adoption or fostering and giving the money to another family who would adopt internationally but for the cost.
Getting pregnant sounds so seductive, but creating another child still doesn't sit right with me. I've sort of half-consciously assessed my health status and what I'd need to do before undertaking another gestation, but it feels illicit. It's too easy.
So is this the right way, or just the easy way? Could my conscience live with this if we did choose to go through with it? The phrases 'if not us then who?' and 'best interests of the child' and Margaret Mead's "thoughtful, committed citizens" play unending ping-pong in my head. Friends have generously reassured us that it is not up to us to save the world, (as if adopting were something more than our selfish desire to build our family as we rather randomly choose) but I keep hearing Mahatma Ghandi: "Be the change you want to see in the world" and I keep. coming. back. to what about the children? Ghandi purportedly also said that love is the prerogative of the brave, while C.S. Lewis defined love as "a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained". The Hague Convention clearly and fairly says that family preservation, local and national placement are greater goods of descending magnitude, with international adoption at the bottom of the list. That would suggest that supporting those options by getting out of the adoption queue and doubling down for the alternatives is a greater act of love than persevering with the plan we've held so dear for so long.
Here's the series of stacked questions with which I wrestle before getting out of bed, before falling asleep, and countless times between: Is it right to take the easy out here? If I can't answer my nagging doubts about this agency, should I give the baton to someone with a clearer path ahead? Would I be bravely loving a child or children and contributing to their ultimate good by donating our agency fee, or would I just be trying to buy myself a procreation concession?