The choice

I’m writing from the waiting room of a hospital in Long Island. I thought, however, that about this time,  I’d be tweeting from a first grade classroom in Brooklyn.

This morning Nate is going in for surgery of the icky variety, a hopeful remedy to sleep apnea that involves the scraping away of various tonsils and adenoids and other things I’d rather not think about. Originally he said he’d take a taxi here. It was no big deal. I’d pick him up tomorrow. Whatever. Who cares. La la la lala.

You know. Men.

At first I agreed. This morning is Thalia’s last full day of school, which begins with a breakfast party and a parenting showing of a project she’s been working hard on for weeks. I couldn’t imagine missing such a special occasion at school for her. Despite my admission that I don’t in fact “do it all.”  I believe I have yet to miss a single recital, parent breakfast, exhibition, class gallery show or  grade-wide performance. Certainly not a last day of school.

But it struck me last night, that Nate needed me. Even if he said he didn’t. (Even if he’ll be pissed that I’m writing about this at all.) And I knew that Thalia didn’t need me. Even if she said she did.

It’s the first time that I’ve had to choose between my partner and my child in some semi-significant way.

I didn’t sleep well.

This morning I woke up around 5 (yippee), and soon after explained to my girls how important it was for Daddy to wake up with someone to look after him. I promised that I’d be sure to see the project at school, even if it required a note to the teacher and a special private tour.

Of course it’s hard to bear the idea of my daughter as the only one in the class without a parent there to beam over her work and let her pose proudly for photos next to it. I can only hope the proverbial village of parents jumps in, as I know they will.  But it was worse to think of Nate, waking up disoriented, in pain, all alone. 30 miles from home, no less.

So now, I wait, having just sent him off, disoriented, in the hopefully capable hands of men in green scrubs

Something about seeing those scrubs bring the tears. I was okay with the nurses’ silly polka dot couture. But That particular shade of green, that’s the color of people in movies who stand over an unconscious body, asking, “scalpel?”

I’ll feel better when I get the message in a few hours that all is well and Nate is recovering. I’ll feel better when I know that he can just squeak out enough words to make fun of the images of Catholic saints around the hospital there to watch over his Secular Humanist soul. And he can be completely annoyed that I am anxious and emotional. Or really, that I’m writing about this at all.

I see now that even if I had been at Thalia’s show, I wouldn’t have really been there.




49 thoughts on “The choice”

  1. We parents can be real assholes to each other, but when push comes to shove, we love on the kids. She’ll get loads of attention and she’ll have a good foundation for how to support a partner or friend when she grows up.

    Speedy recovery.

  2. Someday Thalia will understand. Making the hard choice, is just that, hard. For what it’s worth, I think you made the right one. I hope Nate recovers quickly. Hugs to you today.

  3. good luck. my hubz did this 2 years ago. the recovery is awful (just being honest). you did the right thing. no matter how tough he tries to act, this is the time he’ll actually need your help. and when he thinks he’s feeling better in a few days and tries to eat something other than jello or room temp soup – STOP HIM! trust me 🙂

  4. You’ve done the right thing. I agree with Amanda that you’ve taught your daughters a valuable lesson about nurturing your adult relationships. This is strengthening for your marriage, and your girls.

    Best wishes to your husband for a speedy recovery.

  5. Those are tough choices to make.

    I wonder how you would have felt if the roles were reversed? If it was you in the hospital and your husband having to decide?

    I know personally, I had to go into the hospital twice during my second pregnancy due to possible early labour scares and I insisted on being left there alone, feeling that it was more important for my partner to be caring for and comforting our son than being with me. That said, he was 2 years old at the time and not a school-aged kid.

    But I think if I had to go back to the hospital today, for something non-life threatening, I’d rather have my partner go to the kids’ school event (especially since I’d be missing it). I hope that he would agree and also respect my wishes, although I can’t guarantee that he would.

    1. I’m lucky to also have parents in the area who could be in the hospital for me should I need it. Nate doesn’t have that choice. He’s got me.

      That’s why I’m here. (Thank goodness for good, free wifi.) I’m clearly more of a pussy than you because I don’t want to be alone in a hospital that’s an hour from home.

    2. Possible early labor vs. actual real live surgery with anesthesia? I mean, as long as we’re playing the comparison game, let’s at least compare apples to oranges. If you were heading off to a c-section, would he have made the same choice, or would you have found a sitter, even if it meant missing a school program?

      See how silly it is to play this game? It’s nice that you feel you made the right choice. It’s nice that Liz realized she made the right choice for her family. Can’t that just be the result?

      I’ll admit though that I just miss the days like when I was in school — when there were only one or two things a parent was expected to attend at school, not the monthly array that has developed. And during the earlier times fewer families had two parents working, too!

      1. I’m not questioning whether Liz made the right choice for herself or for her family and I’m not playing a game. I’m just having a conversation. Her post made me think about what I would do in that situation and what I would want my partner to do in that situation and I was just curious how she would feel if the roles were reversed. Just a discussion. Just a sharing of thoughts. Nothing more, really.

  6. My surgery is in a few weeks. No adenoids, just tonsils. I’ve noted the advice. We scheduled things so that I will be dropped off alone, A will go bring the girls to daycare, then come to be there for me. Its what I wanted and how the schedule worked out. I knew I didn’t want him going in to the office while I was in surgery. I wanted to have him there when I woke up. I think you made the right choice. Even if he doesn’t realize it. I agree with others, its good for our kids to know that we make our partners a priority. Just like it is good for siblings to know that sometimes it isn’t their turn.

    1. Good for you. I couldn’t imagine waking up after surgery and not seeing my beautiful wife’s face. This kind of support is a big part of why we get married in the first place, no? (And I imagine this becomes ever more important as we age.) Best to you and your husband.

  7. Today Thalia learned that when you’re a grownup, and the person you love needs help, you go to them. Way to show your daughter what a loving adult relationship looks like.

  8. (Yay for free wifi, and also electricity! Heh.)

    I’m so sorry you had to skip Thalia’s school event — I would have hated to do that, too — but I’m sure she’ll remember it as “the day Mom took care of Dad in the hospital because they love each other,” not “the day I was the only kid at school who didn’t have a parent to look at my project because my silly mother is somehow not physically capable of being in two places at once.”

    As That Mom Who Not Only Attends bit Volunteers at Every Single School Event Without Fail (sadly, NOT because I’m any sort of supermom, but out of my burning desire to keep people from accidentally killing my child with cookies), I should also note that I’m sure Thalia will not, in fact, be the only kid whose parents didn’t make it. Lots of parents don’t make it to every important school event, for lots of different, sometimes very good, reasons. As a repeat unofficial parent stand-in for those kids whose parents didn’t make it to the class presentation or the talent show, I have yet to see a child have a breakdown over it.

    I hope the procedure goes well, and solves Nate’s sleep problems!

  9. Good thoughts all around, Liz.

    (In the department of not keeping it together, I remembered to take a picture of my kid on her last day of school today, but we forgot to write a thank you note to her teacher. Guess that’ll have to go in the mail…)

  10. Thinking of you both, hoping for a speedy recovery for Nate, and knowing Thalia knows your love and support, last day of school party or no.

  11. Thinking of you. My husband has sleep apnea, so I truly hope this surgery corrects Nate’s. It’s tough making decisions sometimes, but I’m sure she will remember all the times you were there. AND she will see how much you love her Daddy by being there for him as well.

  12. As important as modeling good parenting is for our children it is equally important that we show them how to behave in a loving, supportive adult partnership. You have done her a huge favor in letting her know that this how to behave when another adult needs us. Wishing him a speedy recovery.

  13. Glad you could be there when your husband needs you, and I’m sure your daughter understands. You can’t be everywhere and you need to go where you’re needed most. Wishing your husband a speedy recovery.

  14. For what it’s worth, it’s also good to remember that although kids seem to have the most amazing memories, they really don’t. 🙂 There’s really only a 50/50 shot that Thalia will even remember this day, while Nate will never forget.
    (Then again, you did write it down for all posterity…)
    P.S.–I’ve read your blog for over year, and this is the first time I’ve commented. Doing some serious self-analysis to determine why this would make me write for the first time. 🙂 Maybe b/c our kids get a ton of support, and we generally get a ton of support for supporting our kids…our husbands are often left to fend for themselves.

  15. Oh man, we went through this. My husband had his tonsils out and his deviated septum worked on and the recovery was hell on wheels. My husband doesn’t cry very often but he did a few times while lying in bed. I hope Nate has a speedy/better recovery.

    And that is a hard choice but your last line says it all.

  16. Just wanted to wish you and the hubs a speedy recovery. My hubs had this done in Oct and it was intense to say the least. Although he did better than I expected it was really hard for him and he is a teacher so he missed over three weeks worth of work. Good luck being a mommy to one more as he recovers. My hubs lived on KFC mashed potatoes.

    1. I did tell Nate that Michael Pollan would forgive him for two weeks if he ate the non-organic popsicles, ha.

      1. You can make freezer pops your self with (organic) juice and water. You don’t need anything fancy, you can put them in a Dixie cup and peel the paper back (or if you have them on a Popsicle stick). Good luck.

        I would also recommend a bell or cell phone by his recuperation spot for those other trying to be in two places spots — men can get a little cranky if they think they’re being ignored. I found it worked well to use the daughter as the servant child… “Please take this to daddy and see if he needs anything else. Please be gentle and do not jump on the bed though.” : – ) He also liked Greek yogurt with a bit of honey or jam/jelly mixed in .

        1. Fortunately in a NYC apartment he can say LIIIIIIIZ and I’ll hear it from pretty much anywhere.

          Actually he can whisper it and I’ll still hear it. Bad for sex, good for cranky guys with post-op pain.

          Thanks for the tips!

  17. You’re doing what feels gut-right, but also modeling for your girls that you’re going to be present for the greatest need…I know I’d miss an important healthy family member milestone for another in pain.

    Balance. You work to maintain it. That’s a theme of your blog, and your life. Good on ya, sister.

    1. You are all making me feel a lot better about this. Thank you so much for perspectives I hadn’t considered.

  18. I’m realizing from this post/comments that the older my kids get the better my husband and I are at taking care of each other (again). It gives me pause as we’re on the fence about another little one. Because we’re apparently considering our children before having them now. I’m also realizing I’m not going to go into too much detail about recovery when I tell the him there might be a surgery option after they stop making him wear this crazy ass mask. Happy weekend!

    1. Oh God the mask. He’s avoiding the mask–thus, the surgery. Wishing him the best with it. It sucks in every way.

    1. Having two (or more) people you love is not the worst thing in the world. In a way, I’m really fortunate to get to make those choices. Even if it’s hard.

  19. Hi Liz,
    What a moving post. Having just undergone major sugery myself
    I would say I thoroughly agree with your decision. This week I missed my
    son’s moving up ceremony to first grade (big thing for him, and my whole family). While lying in a hospital bed with my mom fortunately nearby, I thought of him and how I too, have always had front row seats to each of his events. I was discharged yesterday and was so anxious to hear about the ceremony. My son though was clearly more concerned with me and ‘my guts’ and thank goodness I was safe and better and back home. I would have hated to be in a hospital recovery or in a patient room without either my mom or my husband. I was lucky to have had that choice. Especially since my mom lives so far away from us. Your husband had you and your daughter most most probably understands your choices in this one particular instance. What’s one morning of a parent absence on the last day of school relative to the recovery of your child’s other favorite person in the world (dad who is key in her life)? I think a child over 5 gets it….of course this depends on a degree of factors though. And hopefully the parents that did make it, gloated profusely over your daughter’s work. Hopefully! You’ll make it up to her…..

    1. Thanks for sharing that Milbert. And yes, there was some minor grandmotherly gloating later in the day, complete with iPhone photos.

      I hope you’re doing okay now!

  20. I had no kids when my husband had his surgery (removing some mass from his tongue), so it was easy to ignore his pride and bravery and be there for him. And yes, it meant so much to him.

    As much as we love and support our kids, I don’t think school project comes before health. I would make same decision myself.

    I wish your husband speedy recovery and good, peacefull sleep to yourself. There is project waiting for you in next school year. And knowing you from your writing, you will be there.


  21. Hi Liz,

    The thing is, Thalia won’t remember that you weren’t there with her, but Nate will remember that you were there with him. A good choice you made, I think.

    I hope he has a speedy recovery 🙂


  22. I haven’t read other comments or looked elsewhere, but I’m assuming and hoping very much that everything went well. So.

    You taught your girls a good lesson today. You love them VERY MUCH, but they are not the center of the universe. Surgery is a BIG DEAL. Families are there for each other. They would probably, almost certainly, understand, even now. And if not now, in a few more years when they’re older.

  23. Don’t feel bad. Pretty soon your daughter would have too grow up and have fun on her own. Though this may not be the time that she understands the situation, she will soon understand how important the choice you made was and how important that her daddy needed someone to comfort him. She would have also asked if she could come and support her daddy then.

  24. Having been through the entire Sleep Apnea surgical protocol with my husband (who at the start was my boyfriend of 2 months), I can say for certain that you made the best choice for you and your family. Now that you’re 36+ hours into it, I’m guessing you know that.

    I could write a book with all I’ve learned about airway surgery, recovery, post-op nutrition, pain management, etc. For my husband, the UPPP surgery is the hardest recovery pain-wise, what with his throat scraped totally raw and all that jazz. You don’t know me from Adam, but if there’s anything you’re questioning, you can feel free to drop me a line.

    From Atlanta, I’m wishing Nate an easy recovery with no more apnea & wishing you patience, rest (it’s so hard to “sleep” next to someone with OSA), and the ability to be gentle with yourself over the choice you had to make. Thalia will understand because she’s got parents who are raising her to understand.

  25. I hear you! I so recognize what’s going on in your head around this. I am impressed you even slept till 5! I would probably have been in pondering grand central mood around 2:30AM! So I think you did all the right things, and I hope Nate will have a great time recovering, being pampered by his sweet family. Wishing you all a wonderful time this summer.

  26. I sort of recently had a similar situation where my husband had knee surgery. Our little guy is only 2 so he went to daycare as usual and I took my husband to surgery and brought him home. The way I kinda see it is that my husband is truly my best friend, and I will always be there for him (through sickness and through health), and my husband was right by my own side last year when I had sinus surgery.

    I think our son needs to know that my husband and I love and support each other. After all, we’ve been a couple much longer than the kid has been around. Just because our own relationship is older doesn’t mean it’s less important than the relationship we have with our child.

  27. Am I the only one who thinks we make way too big a deal over every school event, such as moving up a grade or even last day of school? My parents worked and were not always there. It did not matter in the long run because most parents did not make a big deal back then. I’m sure the culture has changed but it’s silly debate. I would want my husband there if possible if I had surgery and I would want to be there. Surgeries are always a major deal.

    1. I agree completely that surgery is always a big deal. But I also remember my parents never missing a recital or a soccer game. It’s all important; sometimes we just have to prioritize. And I love the commenters here who pointed out that our children learn from those prioritizations. It’s something I hadn’t considered.

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