Monday, June 11, 2012

If You Keep Asking I'm Going to Stop Answering

I have been thinking a lot about boundaries lately. It came up when I was overwhelmed by some of the negativity on the forums regarding the school issues in our city. I would see someone post something false or really distorted and I felt a need to respond. I felt compelled. I felt crummy. It was a pretty quick descent from being part of the conversation to being weighed down by other people's anger and frustration and negativity. I became angry and frustrated and negative. I started to be part of the problem as well.

I keep thinking if I explain it, and explain it again, and keep explaining it, eventually the other party will understand. But then I remembered something that happened before each of my sons was born. 

Sometime during my first pregnancy, we (meaning my husband and I) had to decide how who we wanted to include in our birth experience. We have always been a tight knit duo. We had not lived close to either of our families since we had gotten married almost six years before. We had planned on it just being the two of us in the hospital in Santiago, Chile. But then the company sent all the Americans home and we found ourselves staying with my parents while we waited for our belongings to make the slow boat trip back from Chile. 

At some point near the end of the pregnancy, my mom asked if she could be there for the birth. There were a lot of reasons I wanted it to be just my husband and I, and she was one of the reasons. I did not want her in the room with me. I wanted this experience, this starting of my own family, to be just about us, just about my husband and I and our new son. But you can't say all that so I simply left it with we want it to just be us for the birth. She did come to the hospital and hang out during the early parts of labor, but she left when it was time to push. (I had made sure to alert the nurse to the fact that I didn't want my mom in the room for the pushing because I did not know if she would leave. Thankfully she did leave when the nurse made it clear it was time to go.)

When I was pregnant with my second son, she asked again if she could be in the delivery room when he was born. I had to explain again that I just wanted it to be me and my husband not to mention the fact that she had the all important job of watching my eldest while we were in the hospital. She asked a few more times and I explained a few more times. 

When I was pregnant with my third, she asked again. I was surprised that she was still asking, that she was still making me explain that I wanted it to just be my husband and I. She reminded me that this was probably her last chance to see one of her grandbabies be born. She asked again and I explained again. 

She likes to tell me that she has a right to ask, that it is okay to ask for what you want. And I will agree that she can ask but here's the thing I figured out from this experience - just because she is asking doesn't mean I have to answer. If someone keeps asking the same question over and over again waiting for a different answer, it's okay for me to remove myself from the conversation. And honestly if you keep asking the same question over and over, even if you change the wording and reasons, I am probably going stop giving you an opportunity to ask the question. 

Because when someone keeps asking, I'm beginning to realize it is because they don't like my answer. When someone keeps making the same argument over and over, it is probably because they want me to change my mind and cannot accept agreeing to disagree. 

So as I found myself sinking deeper into a funk about this whole schools thing, I finally remembered to apply an important life lesson I learned - just because you're talking, doesn't mean I have to listen and respond. People have the right to free speech and I have to right to remove myself from the debate. 

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