20 years ago, my nextdoor neighbor asked me in her ever-chirping voice, “What are you doing Thursday?” Unknowingly, I plunged headlong into the quicksand.
“Nothing on Thursday,” imagining she was going to ask if I wanted to go to a movie or something.
Even more cheerfully, she responded, “Oh, good! Doug and I have concert tickets. I need you to watch boy #1 and boy #2 at 6 pm.” She was expert at this, so smooth. It was over before I even realized she needed a babysitter!
Now, I’m stumbling, tripping over my tongue. What can I say? She already checked on my availability and I just told her I have nothing on my calendar. Damn. I agreed to babysit and, in fairness, she watched mine once in a while when I asked. It wasn’t the actual time spent watching her sons that rubbed me the wrong way; it was the way she finagled the whole thing. Bait and switch.
It wasn’t familiarity that made her comfortable with this kind of ask. When her family originally moved onto the extended cul-de-sac, she took a stroll with the one son she had at that time. Down the street, a neighbor was out front; they introduced themselves and chatted. When the chirpy mom found out this woman was a teacher, her response was, “Great! We’re going out to eat tonight! We’ll bring our son down later.” Fortunately, the teacher neighbor doesn’t take shit from anyone and clearly established that she was not a babysitter.
It was the third such exchange between the neighbor mom and I, playing out as above, when I realized it was happening again, but not before I’d committed my typical blunder. Walked right into it and left myself open. I vented to my husband and questioned another friend on the street who was mom to a preschooler and a newborn, both boys. That’s right. Three stay-at-home moms with six little boys among us. Bless our neighbors.
Now, a challenge. I knew I had to fnd a different way to handle this. I wanted to interrupt her ploy so she couldn’t hijack my ability to decide for myself. And then it came. Olden days landline phone rings. We have a little chat, and then she asks, “Are you busy Friday?”
My new strategy is unveiled, wait for it, I replied, “Why? What’s going on?”
There it was. After a time or two of receiving this response, she stopped “asking” in that way. I probably took an inordinate amount of pleasure in hijacking her hijack.
Currently, I need to consider a new no. Adjusting to chronic illness and pain requires that I say “no” after I’ve said yes. (to be continued this weekend)
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