A letter to my son’s friends…

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is not just the hard choices you have to make when dealing with your children, but the consequences of those choices on the people in your child’s life.

As I have stated before, my oldest child D, got into some trouble last year and in a bid to seek an alternative to either seeing D on the street or in prison, we sent D to live with his bio-mother and stepdad out of state.  It was understood before D went that he was going to be facing boot-camp-esque discipline as stepdad was former Army.  This would be tougher and stricter than anything I had been able to accomplish on my own or was even honestly really comfortable with.  But the choices D had made did not leave us with a lot of other places to turn.

This week D put out a request on social media to talk to some friends, no family.  That typically means that whatever the issue is, it’s being viewed as being “caused by” family.  After D’s call went out, I received several private contacts from his friends sharing with me what was apparently going on in D’s life.  D also shared with his grandfather, who has often been a good point of contact for D to hear from.  According to what D was stating, the punishments for doing “stupid stuff or making [him – i.e. stepdad] repeat himself” were more physical than D was used to.  And he didn’t like it and was thinking of running away.

Now…  was there a part of me that wanted to fly down to his mother’s place, bundle up my child and rescue him back to our place?  Absolutely.

Are we doing that?  Absolutely not….and here’s why.

While I understand the frustrations and concerns of D’s friends, there are several fundamental problems with the situation.

1.)  D lies…and exaggerates, a LOT.  He also knows, having grown up around kids in the system via my work in social services, what the hot-button key words and situations are that will get him attention.

2.) D does not like to not have control.  He is very willing to manipulate to get the outcome he wants which usually includes getting someone to get him a “get out of jail free” card.  He does not have control at the moment and does not want to toe the line to get it back.

3.) D admitted that the reason for the punishments is because he does “stupid stuff.”  Without trying minimize what may be happening, the easy answer is – don’t do stupid stuff.

4.)  If we did go down and rescue him, what would that teach him?  That he can always count on getting pulled out of any difficult spots he finds himself in?  I would rather he learn how to deal with it here than on the street.  Getting punched in the arm for mouthing off may not be fun, but it beats getting shot.

5.)  Why would I bring D back here just to have to put him out on the streets again?  He won’t participate in transitional living programs and because of his past thefts and drug use is not allowed to stay with us or the rest of the family for now.  As bad as things may be, he has a roof over his head and he’s getting three square meals a day.

I don’t like it.  The idea of anyone other than myself laying hands on my child for whatever reason is abhorrent.  And I absolutely do not believe that you can beat a child into obedience.  But at 17 and a half, D has got to learn that being rude, disrespectful and not following the rules have serious consequences.  Much more serious ones than just being grounded or having your i-phone taken away.  Life can be harsh and while I hope for and am working towards a better way, we also have to be realistic about the world we currently find ourselves in.  I don’t want to see D behind bars… or dead on the streets, although both may happen.  But if that’s the case they will be HIS choices.  Not mine… and not anybody else’s.

But as his friends, I know the guilt and the anger that they have in their hearts towards my decision.  What they see is a peer being hurt.  Someone they care about and want to “fix.”  And that breaks my heart for them.  The knowledge that they cannot “fix” this, that this is something D has to work out.  Not having the power to do anything to make it right and frustration at those they see as having power but not using it.  Spider-man’s maxim: “With great power comes great responsibility” is as true for parenting as it is for crime-fighting.  That doesn’t make it any easier to follow… especially when it means you have to let those you love sink or swim to avoid dragging you all down.  And to allow them the room to live and grow.

So, while I know several of you are mad at me, I want to say thank you.  Thank you for being D’s friend.  Thank you for caring.  I know you are doing the best you know how and doing what you think is right.  I still love you.  This is D’s life.  We cannot control him or fix him.  We can only love him.  And you are doing that right.

Love,

D’s dad

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Joint Parenting

How do we nurture the lives in our care?  My youngest is a precocious almost 2-yr old going on 35 and already has not only a routine for her days but also a strict regimen of who is allowed to do what.   In the mornings, mommy is the cuddle person, the “please sir may I have some more [milk]?” person, the only one allowed to dress her and get her ready to go.  In the evenings it’s my turn for cuddles, playing the part of a responsive jungle gym and watching music videos online.

We have joked about this to our friends and family, even as it has at times driven us nuts.

Trying to balance Boo’s desires with the reality of a dual working parent household has at times proven stressful and frustrating.  When we are running late in the mornings (like this morning) and we have not prepared for the morning the night before, something we’re still trying to figure out how to do, chasing down and wrestling the toddler into her jacket can feel more like child abuse than good parenting.  There is also the delegation of duty issues.  Who’s responsible for what at various times of the day can also feel like one person taking more and more of the work load, especially if we as parents have fallen into the trap of allowing Boo to dictate who gets to do what with/to her which, let’s face it, we have at times.  We’re only human.

Fortunately we are working on correcting this, but like most things with parenting that I have discovered, what’s easy in theory is a whole ‘nuther ball-game in practice.  And that leads to other questions and feelings that don’t have easy answers, especially when you as parents come at the whole parenting process differently.  Talking about how to parent a child is important and something every successful couple who has kids needs to do, but in some cases, you discover the differences in the practice, not ahead of time.  No matter how similar your upbringings may be, there will simply be things out of left field that you don’t agree on at least at first.  Such as, how many warnings and what kind does a 2-yr old get?

I don’t know about you but that’s not the kind of thing that I was ever really prepared to converse about, you just knew…it’s three times right?  Teaching her limits and that there are consequences to negative behavior may not be much fun but it beats having a spoiled brat growing up.  The trick is to do it in such a way that she understands and can link behavior to outcome and that doesn’t drive N or me nuts as the other parent does it.  Nurturing the lives in our hands becomes much easier when we also nurture our partner as we realize that the hands holding our little ones is part hers and part mine.

It’s weird.  After having been a single parent for so long and/or the custodial parent it’s really hard to share parenting duties fully in a way I can only imagine non-blended families do.  I am trying, but I know I have control issues with N sometimes.  Plus I also have a big bag of passive aggressive I sometimes break out when I’m feeling mulish.  I’m not proud of it, but I do it.  Knowing that however compels some sort of action on my part.  I need to set a good example for Boo so she sees her mother the same way I do, as a person worthy of love, respect and when necessary, able to deliver a whippin’.    Hopefully I can keep working on that and get better at it.  She’s lived with me for four years so far, so I must be doing something right.