Back Seat Parents: Go Away

I have this person in my life. A friend, I guess you can call her. I have known her for a long time. We have been through a lot in the past. For the most part, she is a decent person. I just hate how she tells me to parent my children.

I am a single mother. I don’t know what help is. I understand she is a mother as well. By defintion, she is a single mother as well because she is not married. However, her children’s fathers are involved in their lives. She lives with one. The other takes their son a few nights a week. She gets help. She can go out. If I want to go out, I have to track down a trustworthy person, begged them to take a few hours out of their lives to watch my kids, and pay them. Sometimes I think it would be nice to just dump my kids on a live-in boyfriend and skip out to drink with friends.

I’m not saying I want that. My kids are my life. I do everything for them and if they can’t be involved, I don’t do it. I can go out drinking again in 15 years or whenever.

I’m just saying, our parenting is different.¬†She is a lot more tough on her kids. A lot more screaming is done in her house. A lot more that it gives me a headache. I try very hard not to raise my voice at my kids. It doesn’t always work out like that because I might find them drawing on the wall or spilling all the sugar on the floor and my anger could get the best of me. I try very hard though to count to ten, remove myself from the situation, calm down, and once we are calm to talk to them. Nor do I spank my kids. I feel like that doesn’t teach them anything other than to fear me, and I don’t want that because I am a single mother. I need and want them to come to me. I need and want them to trust me.

When I am around my friend and my kids have done something wrong, she feels the need to punish them. I don’t know how many times she has tried to send my son to sit in the corner while I was trying to deal with him. I do not do this at home. He has no idea what sitting in a corner is about. I don’t even get it. Yes, it’s a time out. Our time outs are a little more different than that, but my friend feels the need to inject herself into our family situation and make me use her choice of punishment. While I will give my son a time out, it does not consist of sitting in a corner, staring at a wall of nothingness. He will be seated at a table, with a notebook, writing out whatever I tell him — either an apology or an explanation of why he was wrong. I cannot guarantee he will be thinking about what he has done wrong if he has to sit in a corner, but if I have him write about it, it will be on his mind and I feel he will learn from it.

Sitting in a corner might work for her children, but not for mine.

A few weeks ago my son got into trouble at school. While it was a big deal, it also wasn’t a big deal. He didn’t know what he had done wrong was wrong because he is eight years old and doesn’t understand everything in life yet. He wasn’t punished at school because I had dealt with it at home and the teacher and principal had felt that was enough. Because my son was remorseful and apologized at school. I know the chances of him doing the same thing again are extremely low and that’s enough for me.

However, I mentioned it to my friend. She felt the need to “advise” me to ground my son to his room. For a whole weekend. No TV, video games, books, interaction with humans, or toys. That’s a little extreme in my books. I did ground him from video games for the weekend, but he was allowed to watch TV with his sister and play with his toys. I also spoke to him at great lengths about the issue and why he shouldn’t do it again. I was not cruel. I was not angry. I wasn’t even mad at him. He didn’t understand and I understood that. I used it as a learning tool. Taught him what was wrong and why he shouldn’t do it. I felt like that was enough for him because by the end of the weekend, when he had to meet with his teacher, principal and I at school, he understood he did wrong, apologized, and as I said, was extremely remorseful about it.

Apparently that wasn’t enough for my friend and she let me know… a lot.

I have expressed my annoyances about it to her. I have asked her to stop. She is not my children’s parent. She is not me. She doesn’t even live with me. I don’t know why she has to inject herself into that position. She has said it’s because I am a single mother and she is only trying to help. But I never asked for it. I don’t need it.

Yes, being a single mother is not an easy thing, but so far… I think I am doing alright. My children are fed. They get washed (maybe not as often as I like since my daughter has this unreasonable fear of water). They are clothed. They have more toys than they can play with in a day. They are loved. And they are normal. Neither of them are hurting others, expect maybe each other when they fight. They are respectful to others. They even say their please and thank yous without prompt.

So while I am a single mother, I am doing my best. I don’t know how to get her off this back seat parenting since asking obviously doesn’t work. I don’t back seat her two children, even though I really want to sometimes. My solution for the time being is to avoid her as much as possible. Limit the amount of time she sees them. Can’t parent them if they aren’t near you.

Maybe she’ll realize I don’t need it or want it. Or she’ll finally realize I haven’t totally screwed up my kids. Or maybe she’ll forever be like this.


The Not-So Happy Family of Wanderers

I haven’t taken many vacations throughout my adult life. Little things would stand in my way, such as lack of money. I did manage to take one this year over my son’s spring break, but it was two days only and we barely did anything other than visit the Children’s Museum. (Which was great fun!)

The longest, probably most planned out trip I took in my “adult” life was one week after I graduated high school. My father packed myself, step sister, her son, my step mom, and himself into an RV to drive down to Texas. They had it planned out to the exact minute of every day. Which in my mind, didn’t sound to exciting because I thought schedules were for losers. I could appreciate things that needed to be scheduled, like tours they had planned, but to plan when to eat, when to leave each morning, when to go to bed, and when to pee seemed a bit extreme.

Of course, their carefully laid out schedule was shot directly in the heart the first day. Our RV broke down. Not only broke down, it started on fire. In some teeny tiny little no-man lands of a town. I think the population there were 50 people… and about 45 people showed up to put out the fire.

So we never made it to the first camping site. Instead, we were holed up in the town’s only hotel that probably never saw tourists before. I’m fairly certain it was the hotel men brought their mistresses too or kids came to drink and get high. I mean, the town wasn’t even on the map!

It took two days to fix the RV. Two days of my father’s schedule down the drain. Once we had the RV back and set out again, my stepmother poured over it, in hopes of recovering some of the things we were missing. In the end, she threw up her hands and said forget it and stuck to whatever was left on the schedule.

We managed to arrive in Texas without another hitch. However, the first day there, the schedule was again stomped on because both my father and his wife overslept. Right through breakfast hour and the first activity they had planned.

After that day, things went rather smoothly. They decided to use the schedule as a guideline, rather than something set in stone. We were finally able to relax and have some fun.

On the way back home, they had other things scheduled in other states. That schedule was burned too when the RV caught on fire for a second time, in the country area of Tennessee. No towns nearby. No cars passing by. Nada!

My stepsister and I were forced to walk miles down the road, hoping to find a town… a person… some form of life. We did manage to find one, and the town even had a towing company who we sent back down the road to rescue our family. We decided to take naps on the small town’s benches.

We didn’t get to do any of the planned activities for the ride back home. It took 2 days for them to fix the RV because, being a small town, they didn’t have the correct part for us and had to send someone 100 miles away to get it.

We never had a scheduled-filled vacation again after that. It was all about winging it. Which was a lot easier, in my mind!

This post was in response to the Daily Prompt: The Happy Wanderer.