The Road Not Taken - What's the Difference?

It all started with Robert Frost and The Road Not Taken.

It was an essay question: do you believe the speaker regrets his choice?

I was stumped. The poem doesn't really say. The way the last stanza reads one sees that he could regret his choice, or not, "somewhere ages and ages hence." But right now, at this moment, was it a poem of regret?

My father, seeing my confusion offered his opinion: "I don't think Robert Frost regretted a thing in his life."

Impossible, I thought, to make choices without regrets. But I swore right there and then I would try to life that life too.

Or maybe it all started with ice-cream. As a child, we made a weekly trip to the ice-cream parlour. The choices were overwhelming and I would become paralysed with indecision. "Choose quickly or you're getting a plain vanilla cone," my father would say.

But how could one choose? A favourite I knew or a new flavour to taste? A cone, or a cup? They seem to put more ice cream in a cup, but if I got a cone perhaps my father would allow a sugar cone, my favourite. What were my brothers getting? Would I want to trade licks with them? Was I picking an ice-cream they would trade for? Could I talk my father into two scoops if I got a plain cone?

Eventually the choice would be made, in order to avoid the threat of vanilla. Sometimes there would be short-lived regrets, but there's only so long one can regret an ice-cream choice.

I make two kinds of decisions. There are those that are instictual, visceral, a tug of the heart and I am gone. I have never regretted those choices. Have I thought about how things might be different if I had decided another way? Yes. But regrets? No.

And then there are the cerebral decisions - the ones that are thought out. Pros and cons are weighed. Minutae are intellectualised. These are the decisions that haunt me. The ones wherein I feel no matter what I choose it will be wrong.

It's more than choosing a road, or even a destination. Sometimes they mean choosing a world in which to live.

My son is struggling in school. He comes home from Kindergarten proclaiming himself stupid. He comes home from Kindergarten angry. He comes home from Kindergarten crazed with outside influences of violence and sexuality that we aren't ready to accept.

So we decided he'd come home from Kindergarten no more. Instead he would stay home from Kindergarten and I would homeschool him for the remainder of the term. By the time Grade One was ready to start, we'd know if homeschooling was for us. He'd know if he'd prefer school. We'd know if we had made the right choice.

But the demons whispered in our ears. Had we made the wrong choice? Shouldn't we let him continue the semester? Were we being too judgmental, too quick to protect our child? Or should we protect him? What's wrong with wanting to keep him home?

My husband and I confessed to each other: no matter which decision we make it feels wrong.

His school practically begged to have him back. They agreed to try to make some changes, to be more vigilant of what was happening. And we sent him back to school.

The demons are whispering in my ear again. Is that where he belongs? Can I force him to go when he doesn't want? Do I want my five year old to be a man, to have to accept such responsibilities already? Is he happy? Will this destroy his self-esteem forever?

Perhaps we'll change our minds again. And the demons will return. And this time they will chide me for not knowing my mind, for not taking the reins and making a decision. The demons will offer only threats of future sighs and vanilla, plain cones and I will freeze, like the confections in that ice-cream parlour, unable to pick a road or see my way through.

This post was inspired by the Writing Workshop at Sleep is for The Weak. It is a response to prompt #2: "What demon(s) are you battling with right now?"


  1. That is a tough choice to make. I believe even if right now it seems like it is not the right choice is many ways the experience of going through it all makes it the right choice IYKWIM.

    There is something to learn from everything-good and bad.

  2. Oh what a tough choice for you :(

    It is so hard as parents not to spend the whole time second guessing ourselves, wondering if we have made the right choices or chosen the right approaches.

    I think this needs to be one of your gut decisions. The best choices I have made as a parent have come when I didn't think too hard and let the instinctual pull, the connection between me and my son, make the choices for me. Then it is just about having faith and trusting in ourselves.

    Loving your boy, working hard to make things better for him - that is what will make the big difference to him, regardless of the choice you make I feel.

    Good luck!!

  3. Now that's a seriously tough one. We're fairly lucky in our school but there are still one or two boys who really shouldn't playing Grand Theft Auto at the age of 6.

    Homeschooling sounds like such a huge step, though. How will you assess whether its the right move or not?

  4. Loved your description of the choice in picking an ice cream. That brought back a lot of memories for me. I know that indecision. I like the way you distinguish between the two different types of choice - instinctual and rational, sitting down and making pros and cons list. That is what we're trying to do at the moment with choosing (and I use that word advisedly) a secondary school and whether to move or not. But I try to remember nothing's set in stone - you can reverse decisions with no great harm done. It will work out alright.

  5. I've been in just this position and it is so hard :( I hope you find the right solutions for you all.

  6. @Susie, I know the process of making the decision has made us think a lot more than we usually do about our son's personality and the environment he's in. So I guess that's good thing that has come from this struggle so far.

  7. @Josie,
    I know what you mean. It seems the important decisions are always "gut" ones. It's just that there's so much to consider in this particular case. I think I know what my gut is telling me, but when I make the decision I feel sick to my stomach - so maybe even my gut is confused by this one?

  8. @DadWhoWrites,
    Seriously, grand theft auto? I was upset enough about WWF, Star Wars and Transformers (or High School Musical and Hannah Montana for the girls). I know some of them do play violent video games and one grade up every kid owns a DS.
    This is the problem, we enrolled him in a private Catholic school thinking smaller class sizes and Christian values, but really what we're getting is elitist mentalities from parents who can afford to spoil their children and do.
    The public school is even worse. I think a big part of our problem is we have a sensitive and highly suggestable boy who's immensely popular and exposed to everyone on one hand, and on the other hand we have ourselves - opposed to rampant consumerism and the media exposure of children to sex and violence.
    On top of that, he's possibly ADHD and most likely has dyslexia. And our current curriculim here is useless for dyslexic children. So unless he gets specialised instruction in school (which the private school doesn't offer) he's a victim of the curriculim.
    At home at least I would be able to teach to his abilities and given my lengthy background in literacy instruction I know how to approach his learning style and dyslexia.
    But that said we'll butt heads and I'll get frustrated and this will mean even more responsibility for me at a time when I'm hoping to also do a second post-secondary degree.
    Aghhhhhh! It hurts my head (and my "gut") to think about it.
    Thanks for asking the pertinent questions, though!

  9. @Ella,
    Thanks. Reading your blog has helped us, actually. It seems you're about a year ahead of me in experiences and everytime something comes up I say to my husband "wait, I read about just this on that blog!"

  10. @Deer Lady,
    Thanks. Everytime I have to make a difficult decision I remember the ice-cream parlour. And every time I have to pack for a trip I remember my father's "one suitcase or I decide what goes" policy.
    And you're right. Decisions can be changed. It's just this liminal undecided state I hate!

  11. I have to say it's good to hear you thinking about your son and his needs so much. To be honest, schooling is often a series of choices between imperfect options.

    It must be heartbreaking to have him come home with the (incorrect) assumption that he's "stupid", and facing the bad influences of our culture are also not good.

    That said, I hear one of the biggest determiners of a decent "self-esteem" is parents who love him. He seems to have that in spades.

    I think the school also knows now that some of the parents are watching what happens to their kids, and aren't going to ignore problems in their children's lives.

  12. I wanted to drop buy nad thank you for your comments on my post. I have to say your post hit a nerve with me, regret is such a negative emotion and something that I worked hard on with my counceller after my operation and I have decided to activly not focus on them. I am so with you on if you make the wrong decision you can then evaluate and change it, but it is so hard when it is your children and not you.

    I admire your courage in sending him back to a school that wasnt working, but I also admire your homeschooling. We would do the same I feel in your situation.

    Our boys are far too bright and we will have some issues with the school in the future I fear, but if we can deal with them as sensibly and in such a considered way as you have it will be a great example for your children.

  13. oh such a hard decision, me heart goes out to you. I have no advice except go with your gut. you know you son the best.


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