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.

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The First Man to Betray Me

“You are just like your father.”

Those are chilling words for me to hear. I wish to be nothing like him. He wasn’t the picture perfect father. In fact, he was barely a father to me for several years.

Growing up, he was decent. He was kind; he cared for me. We did things, such as go to theme parks or the beach. He’d listen to stories I had to tell. Generally, he was an awesome father.

But then he started getting into things. Things that involved being away from my mother and I. For example, he was really into acting at the local theater. He’d audition and take roles in any play he could. He’d spend hours a night there, rehearsing, then hours on the weekends hanging out with his theater buddies.

He no longer had time for me. I was pushed out of his life as easily as throwing away a bag of trash. My mother got pushed further away because he had found “love” with a new woman. It became a huge affair and he decided he no longer wanted to be married to my mother or live in the same house as me. He moved out.

At first, things were oookay. He’d pick me up on the weekends. We would have fun at parks and beaches, just like when we lived together. It quickly stops though when his new girlfriend expressed her displeasure for being left home alone. We’d invite her along, but she’d have some excuse: it’s too hot, doesn’t like sand, just got her hair done. It was always something. So my weekends with my dad consisted of me sitting on his sofa, watching TV while he doted on her.

After a few years with having her claws dug deep into him, he became the shell of the man I once knew. My step mother always had a problem with me, mainly because I wasn’t her daughter and she didn’t like my mother.  She took to lying to my dad about things I did or didn’t do, and he never once listened to my side of things.

Things all came to head when I got pregnant at the age of nineteen. She decided it made my father look like a bad parent, therefore it made her look bad. It was always about reputation about them. I was living with them at the time because I was giving my mother time with her new husband, but after I got pregnant, my step mother kicked me out of her house. Then proceeded to tell my dad I walked out on my own.

Of course, at that time, I knew it would be pointless to plead my case with my father. I did try, a bit, but in the end, he sided with her and pushed me out of his life for good. I did not see or hear from him in seven years. He did not and would not meet his grandson. His wife didn’t care therefore he did not.

I did hear from him last year, months before his passing, because he was dying of cancer. He told me his wife wanted to ask me to sign over all my grandfather’s money I was set to inherit upon my dad’s death to her. I laughed at him, but told him I would consider it because he was dying and I wasn’t going to be the one to hurt him in his final months. I didn’t really consider it. I didn’t feel the woman deserved to gain my family’s money, especially when she voiced her distaste for my grandfather to everyone, including my grandfather.

I was there when the doctors pulled the plug on my father. Not really to be there for him, but more for confirmation. I watched him die. I did cry, a bit, simply because I knew now there was no chance of fixing our relationship. I also cried because he never apologized for his treatment to me over the years. I cried because he was the first man who failed me.

After he was gone, I walked out of the hospital and out of my step mother’s life for good. I changed my email address and my phone number. I made sure she had no way of contacting me. I figured she could see what it was like for me those seven years.

Sometimes I wished he was the father he was when I was younger. Before he met my step mother. Before my step mother turned crazy and forced her craziness onto him. Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different growing up. He did a few nice things through my life — okay, more like two things — like taking me on that not-so fun vacation and buying me my first car. But… two decades of hurt doesn’t seem to change my feelings.

When I try to remember him, I do picture him as the father he was rather than the one he became. That was the man I loved. Not the “new, improved” version.