Indignity Vol. 2, No. 28: Corking up your feelings.
ASK THE SOPHIST DEP'T.
Can I Escape My Winery Getaway?
Dear The Sophist,
My daughter has a soccer game Sunday (not a special one like a playoff, just a regular ol' rec game). It's my ex's week, so she's scheduled to take her. Work calls her Friday and says she has to take a shift that will prevent her from getting our daughter to her game. Meanwhile, my fiancée and I have a lunch-and-winery date set up for Sunday—again, nothing special (like a concert that's only happening once or an event we pre-bought tickets for), just a nice little Sunday.
My ex calls and says she's already checked with her mom and her three closest friends, but no one can get our daughter to her soccer game at this late hour. Is my obligation to my daughter or to my fiancée here?
Relegated to Duty
Dear Weekend Worrier,
The Sophist appreciates the neutral and fact-driven way you have described this situation without blaming your ex-wife for it—to the extent of removing your ex entirely from the final question, so it is framed as a matter of your daughter's weekend plans versus your fianceé's. So The Sophist will start by saying the part you scrupulously left for someone else to say: your ex should not have dumped this problem on you.
Checked with a whole three friends, did she? The last The Sophist heard, soccer teams had more than four players on a side. How far into the season is this, that your ex is not able to find someone else on the team who could give your child a ride? What is your former mother-in-law so busy doing that she can't help out her own granddaughter? Why hasn't your ex set about organizing her workplace so the boss can't yank people around at the last minute? It takes a village to hang a well-meaning dad out to dry.
There. Now that you're validated, it's time for The Sophist to tell you to go ahead and do what you were going to do, which is to abandon the winery date and go to your daughter's soccer game. In addition to leaving your ex-wife out of the question, The Sophist notes—decisively!—that you left yourself out of it too. You did not describe this as a choice between your daughter's schedule and your own, but one between daughter and fiancée. Daughter wins, because you want daughter to win.
Whatever friction and anticipatory remorse you're currently imagining would rear up that much uglier when you're day-drunk at a winery brunch with the girlfriend who made you skip your child's soccer game. The winery option will be around forever; that's why they put wineries in Viagra ads. Childhood, meanwhile, is ticking away even faster than you can imagine.
The Sophist's household basketball player lost two years of rec league to the pandemic, and parents were discouraged from going to the gym in year three. The Sophist got to see the tail end of one game when it ran past pickup time, and noticed the young player patiently but glumly cutting to properly spaced spots on the floor where his flustered teammates never looked to pass. A quick chat on the walk home about not letting the game plan keep you from meeting the other players where they are, and the next week he came bouncing out of the gym incandescent with success.
Seize the moment while you still can. Go stand uncomfortably on the sideline, bored and a little anxious, with no wine to take the edge off and with the relentless chill of the damp spring ground creeping up through your shoes. Let the most socially adept parent strike up a conversation with you, so you feel like a real member of the community. Cheer and clap and file away a constructive observation or two for your daughter, a funny and inclusive anecdote about your daughter's performance for your ex, and a more arch and bemused anecdote about the whole scene for your fiancée.
Recount the last of those as you open the wine a few hours later, to go with the Sunday dinner you've cooked for two. You are planning to spend the rest of your life with this person, after all. But this Sunday afternoon goes to the person who'll remember it even after you're gone.
Bring some orange slices,
Dear The Sophist,
Someone accidentally cross-posted a question about a family problem in the baseball chat. I went ahead and gave them an answer. Would it be OK to use their question in an advice column, too? I haven't gotten a letter in a while, and I do think the advice was valid.
As long as they're willing to give permission, The Sophist says: fair!