A guy at Gail’s work has been married for over 20 years. A couple of years
after he got married, his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; since then,
she’s needed constant care. He’s hired a nurse to care for her while he’s at
work, and he does it the rest of the time. He hasn’t been on a vacation in 20
years, and has no social life to speak of. Gail once told me that because of
his devotion to his wife, he’s a wonderful man; she actually referred to
him as an “angel”. But it occurred to me — what choice did he have? His only
real alternatives are to put her in a home of some kind, or leave her.
Either way, what are people going to say then? “He dumped her in a home so he
could go off on a vacation? What a selfish bastard.” So if he gives up
everything to care for his wife, he’s an angel, but if he doesn’t, he’s a
What if he’s neither? What if he’s just a regular guy?
My wife does a lot of volunteering. She is the chair of the school council for
Ryan and Nicholas’ school (this is Ryan’s fourth year of school; Gail’s been
chair or co-chair of the council for three of them), and she’s on the YMCA School
Age Child Care parent committee (though they only meet a couple of times a year).
Both of us also volunteer a half-day a month in our kids classrooms, and we have
since Ryan was in JK. Ryan’s in grade two now, and his teacher doesn’t take
volunteers (she says she’s too much of a perfectionist, wanting to do everything
herself and I can understand that), but Nicky’s JK teacher does.
This year, Gail has become a Beaver leader. Last week,
we were talking about the fact that Ryan is in his last year of Beavers; next
year, Ryan will be a Wolf Cub, and Nicky will start Beavers. I asked Gail if
she’d move up to be a Cub
leader with Ryan, or stay with Beavers. She said “Maybe I’ll stay with Beavers,
and you can be a Cub leader”. I have no idea if she was serious or not, but I
have no interest in being a Cub (or Beaver) leader. I like the program, Ryan
seems to enjoy it and I think Nicholas will too, but I simply have no interest
in being a leader.
Here’s where the relation to the previous story comes in. Does the fact that
I don’t want to volunteer for Beavers make me a bad parent? It seems that if I
volunteer, I’m a great guy who gives up his own time to help children. If I
don’t, I don’t care about children — and that’s just not the case. It’s not
like I want to dump my kid at Beavers so I can go drinking, or so I can have an
hour’s peace without the little brat around, nothing like that. I just don’t
think I’d be a very good leader. I also think it’s important to have the kids do
something without us around. If Ryan goes to extra-curricular events at the
school, Gail is always there, since she’s usually the one organizing
them. She knows more teachers at his school than he does. We’re on a first-name
basis with the YMCA people who run the child care program. Now, Gail’s going to
be at every Beaver meeting and event. I suppose we’re not in the pool with him
at swimming lessons every Saturday, but that’s about it.
Now that I think about it, though, I was considering volunteering to coach
his baseball team next summer, because I love baseball. So maybe it is selfish