Disappointment. It happens.
Yesterday, I decided that today, I would take my children to see Frozen, the latest and greatest Disney flick, in a real, genuine, actual, bona fide, honest-to-goodness, authentic, unadulterated movie theater. As I’m sure you guessed, the redundancy is intentional–I just want you to know this is a big deal for us. We seldom see first-run movies on the big screen because I’m cheap. If I’m going to lay out the big bucks on entertainment, we are doing something interactive, and not just sitting on our butts, smacking over-priced popcorn and watching. Regardless of the size of the screen and the sound system, we can do that at home. And the plot of the movie is NOT going to change between now and when it is readily available for home-viewing.
But I figured, hey, it’s the last day of 2013, I have a little Christmas money left over, and because we so seldom go to movies, it’s a big treat for us. And of course, we have granny-care!
That’s what I was thinking.
Then, my phone rang around 10 pm. It was Deborah, our care-giver. She was at the nursing home where she works almost full-time. “About tomorrow morning, I may be late or I might not be able to make it in at all.” She went on to say that another clients of hers had been found walking about her neighborhood in her nightgown, alone and confused. A neighbor took her home and called a family member. That family member called Deborah and asked her to sit with the woman until they could get there—sometime in the morning, and so, now as her shift was ending at the nursing home, she would be going over to this lady’s house.
Okay, so, we don’t have granny-care. We aren’t going to a movie. Not today.
This is the sort of thing that happens, and in all fairness, it’s the first time Deborah has ever called me in the middle of the night with a change of plans, and yes, she called. Up until we hired her, we had a series of care-givers who just didn’t show up. No phone call. No text. No message delivered by passenger pigeon. They were just absent. It was extremely stressful not being able to make plans from day-to-day.
Besides, confused, elderly woman wondering the streets alone versus my desire to take my kids to a movie? Hmmm…of course, I’d say the other client’s situation takes priority. What kind of cruel being wouldn’t?
Still, it’s disappointing.
On one hand, disappointment is a part of life. Get used to it. People who don’t expect occasional disappointment are going to be, um, well disappointed—a lot. And as a parent, it’s my job to make sure my kids know this. You aren’t always going to get what you want, and when you don’t, it’s really not that big of a deal. Get over it.
And on the other hand, repeated disappointment can be very defeating. Why have hope if it’s going to be shattered? Why look forward to something if you suspect that it just won’t happen? Why trust people if they always let you down? See? A lot of ickiness can result from disappointment when it is constant. I believe it’s also my job to shelter my children from that.
This is one of the harder parts of living in a sandwich household. Disappointment happens more frequently than it probably should AND the needs of the elderly grandparent are to blame. I suppose we could just as easily be cancelling our plans due to a flat tire or tickets being sold out or horrific traffic. All those things happen, too, but if I had to guess, I’d say 90% of the disappointing change-of-plans in our household are the direct result of granny-care. (I could be wrong about the 90%. I’ve never kept track. If I did and I discovered that it was indeed that high, it would breed resentment in me. I’m just going by what it feels like to me—at this moment.)
Of course, when I announce that we are not going to the movie today, I won’t say, “Because we don’t have granny-care! That’s why we never get to do anything fun!” I’ve felt that before, but no, I would never say that aloud to my children. Still, they are pretty bright. Even when I put on a calm voice to explain that Miss Deborah had to go take care of a lady who needed her a little more than Grandma needs her today, I think they will know that we would be going to a movie today, but can’t because we need to stay with Grandma.
Yeah, that was my bad call—I told them about the movie last night. I was using it as leverage in that way I suspect most parents do from time-to-time. I told them that if they were good, we would go. Why? Because Deborah is so reliable! I would have never, ever, ever made a promise while using the services of previous care-givers because I knew that someone else’s problem—be it childcare or transportation or personal dilemma du jour—could and would result in me not being able to deliver. That’s just the way it is when you have to rely on other people.
“My sister’s husband’s friend’s cousin’s car got towed last night and I was the only one who could take him to the impound lot.” Ah, yes! Someone six degrees removed from me parked illegally and that is why I couldn’t go to the grocery store today. Seriously, THAT is the kind of crap that would happen before we hired Deborah. Oh, how I wish I were making this stuff up!
In a care-giving situation, there is seldom a contingency or Plan B. If Plan A fails, it’s over. I remember reading that in an article a friend gave me when my mother-in-law first came to live with us. Sadly, I don’t remember the title or the author’s name, but it was written by a woman who was a social worker and became care-giver to her husband after a brain injury left him immobile and altered his personality. I remember reading about how every outing was carefully orchestrated and if anything fell-through, the outing had to be cancelled. She likened it to building a house of cards. Each card in the deck had to be accounted for and carefully placed because if they weren’t, the house would collapse. I nodded as I read that paragraph.
Much of the article, however, didn’t really apply to my situation. Caring for a spouse is different from caring for an in-law. Still, I could relate all she was saying about how you lose the flexibility to just change plans without cancelling them entirely, and with that comes disappointment.
So, what about today’s disappointment? What’s the up-side?
Well, for starters, it’s temporary. I’ll take them to see Frozen tomorrow. Maybe that will become our New Year’s Day tradition—a movie—before or after we eat our collard greens and hoppin’ john. I have a friend who eats filet mignon every New Year’s Day because “If you can afford just one good streak per year, you can’t be too bad off.” Amen, brother! Perhaps I can say the same about the movie.
Secondly, I am filled with this deep and abiding appreciation for Deborah. She’s been taking care of my mother-in-law three days a week without fail since July and this is the very first time she has cancelled on us. Wow. Since previous care-givers seldom went an entire week, I’d say she is a keeper!
And finally, I’m not good at staying home. When I am forced to do so, it challenges me. A little challenge is always a good thing.