Decision-making & Sausages

I once tried to write a poem about how I am always on the fence. At school we did the Myers-Briggs personality tests as part of some careers advice thing. I was borderline. My star sign is borderline. My Chinese year of birth is borderline. I am borderline between generation X and generation Y. In the poem, I related it back to a photo of me at about 15 standing in a doorway and to memories of my Dad’s frustrations (with us kids) around doors being left open and people sitting/standing in doorways.

The poem didn’t work. But today, as I brought in the washing, I was thinking about the flying conundrum and the chicken conundrum and the belief conundrum and I realised that it’s all related.

When I did a semester of Philosophy at Uni, I sucked at it. I had a friend – let’s call her Erin – who was brilliant. The tutor would tell us some philosopher’s take on a particular aspect of ethics or something and I would sit there nodding, seeing all the validity of his argument and being very convinced by it. Moments later Erin’s hand would shoot up and she would pick it apart, logically and definitively. And I would sit there nodding, seeing exactly what she was getting at.

I’m not slow to understand things but I have never been quick at seeing the problems with an argument, at working through the web of logic. If you be positive about this character trait, you could say that I am empathetic, maybe even a good listener. However, it makes being definite about things really hard because I can understand two opposing view-points very well.

When the realisation hit me that I simply don’t like how meat chickens are raised, I determined that we couldn’t eat chicken anymore. I am the chief shopper and cook so I have the power to make those decisions. But over the last several weeks I have recognised that both my children love chicken, indeed it is the only meat my daughter eats willingly. Recently we were in a Food Court for lunch and my son literally ordered half a chook. He didn’t waste a skerrick either. He savoured every morsel of that meat. So, despite my resolution (which I would keep for myself – I do have anecdotal evidence of previous resolutions kept), I find it hard to deny my kids.

Perhaps being a mother is no place for absolute decisions. I have come to think that being a parent starts out with great ideals and dreams: “My child will never watch more than 30 minutes of TV a day”; “My child will eat only organic vegetables”; “I never want to yell at my child”. But as reality kicks in (read: lack of sleep, financial stress, convenience, too many chores to get done, etc etc) it becomes a case of simply figuring stuff out, muddling through, making decisions as they arise. When Mums express guilt about certain behaviours, I always try to say “You can only do what works for your family.” And I really think that’s true. Decisions are largely about making life livable. It might seem crazy to let your daughter fall asleep in your bed every night and then to have to move her while she sleeps. But if it gets her to bed at a decent hour without any stress, then why not?

I read a great line somewhere that said “Laws are like sausages. You never want to watch either one being made.” Maybe decisions are the same. Life pushes us along at quite a pace and we have to make decisions quicker than we might like. Our children demand answers of us and we have to think on the spot. And so a decision (like a sausage) gets pushed out onto the conveyor belt. We don’t have a lot of time to inspect the exact contents. We just have to go for a general unity of flavour.

It’s only later, when we hear what other people did in similar situations, that we start to wish the quality control officer had been closer to hand.

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