The pressure of making the ‘right’ choice

OPINION Danielle Galvin

A few weeks ago, I found myself at a crossroads when it came to an important decision regarding my preschool-aged daughter.

It was a tough call about whether she was ready for the next step in her schooling life or whether she’d benefit from another year as she approaches primary school.

I couldn’t believe that I was already considering this when she’s not even four years old.

It was one of those decisions in life when you can’t possibly know which is the right way to go, a decision that’s not black and white.

For a good few weeks I agonised over it, tossing and turning at night as I weighed up the options in my head, imagining what sort of a person she’d be in 12 months time, in two years time.

I sought advice and guidance from close friends and family, eager for some help coming to a conclusion.

There were a few pieces of advice or words of wisdom that ultimately helped me, and they’ve given me some new arsenal in this parenting gig.

The first was to make a decision and not look back.

With the benefit of hindsight, I’ve often found myself being critical of what I did as a first-time mum, the “bad habits” I created in those early days when it was basically a game of survival.

It’s easy to do now, but it’s not constructive. When we become parents, the first-born children are the ones we make the most mistakes with, in my view. They’re the ones who teach us how to be parents.

We have to learn on the job.

The second thing that stuck with me during this process was a close friend’s rather astute remark that this was the biggest decision we’ve had to make to date.

He was right. It won’t be the last.

I found comfort in that this was the first time we found ourselves at a sliding doors moment for our child, and we struggled with that.

We know when our children are young, we make decisions for them everyday.

From what they will wear, what they’ll have for dinner, whether they’ll get a chance to ride their bikes on the street.

As they get older, we make fewer decisions for them. Our job changes, adapts to become more of a guiding, mentoring role. We just hope they make the best decisions each day.

Occasionally, we get hit with a big one. Whether that’s what school to go to, or a decision on their behalf.

And we agonise and lose sleep over it, but ultimately, we have to trust that we make the decision based on what we know today. And that’s got to be enough.

Lastly, someone said to me you probably won’t know either way, whether you made the right call.

Again, I found comfort in that.

I often hear parents in middle-age and beyond reflecting on their time as parents of teens or toddlers through a microscopic lens, recalling a situation they handled badly or a decision they regret, perhaps they could have done it differently.

It got me thinking about the nature of parenthood – the everyday decisions we make for our kids, to the ones that will help shape the lives they lead and the people they become.

That sure is a lot of pressure.