Monthly Archives: December 2016

When people are just bad parents

One thing I strive for in my parenting is being tolerant and understanding of other people’s parenting. There is a mom who I socialize with semi regularly. Her daughter is close in age to Gus and such a wild child. I think her kiddo and Gus are fairly similar, all things considered, but parented very differently. I’ve watched her with her daughter- what she does and doesn’t do. I think she’s a great parent. I think about the implications I fear of having a boy who is wild and the implications I know she fears of having a girl she tamed. We parent differently but both kids are doing just fine.

We just had friends come and stay with us for a week. These friends are some of our best friends from our twenties (Hereby mom 1 and mom 2) and they have two kids, kid 1 is 4.5 and kid 2 is 18 months. After a week of them in our 1142 sq ft house I am saying what I try so hard not to say: They are bad parents.

I tried to keep an open mind about it. I dreaded the visit and then hoped that I was expecting the worst and it wouldn’t be. Mom 1 does all the parenting while mom 2 does nothing. Mom 2 spends 14 of 16 waking hours sitting on the couch playing games on her phone. The only interaction she has with kid 1 is to yell at her and tell her she is doing something wrong with such fantastic parenting lines as “If you don’t shape up I’m going to return all your presents” which, don’t get me wrong, is the kind of thing that sometimes comes out of someone’s mouth out of frustration but these kinds of threats seem to be her parenting philosophy. She does a lot of praising of kid 2 but only in front of kid 1 so kid 1 notices that she doesn’t get praised. Kid 1 is not able to deal with her feelings or emotions at all and anytime she expresses a strong emotion, good or bad, mom 2 is upset with her. Mom 2 consistently threatens kid 1 with punishments and does not follow through. She “jokes” with her constantly because she believes kid 1 needs to “toughen up”.

Mom 1 tries. She really does. Kid 1 favors mom 2 so mom 1 clearly has a stronger bond with kid 2 who does not speak so doesn’t do much wrong (besides hitting and biting people non stop with little consequence. Mom 2 “fixed kid 1’s biting as an infant when mom 2 bit kid 1 back…) I feel for mom 1 because she does try and I can see it is so hard when she is the only one trying. But she honestly has no idea what to do. She talked to her counselor about it and her counselor suggested they watch some episodes of Super Nanny. Kid 1 doesn’t eat anything. She doesn’t eat anything because the food struggles are the only attention she gets. Mom 1 sits next to her, forcing her to eat a number of bites with promises of cookies, and reminds her that there are staving children in the world who would love to have that food. Whenever she does try to make her do anything she does not follow through with it and whenever kid 1 explodes (often) mom 1 tries to talk to her but doesn’t force the issue. In the week they spent with us I never once heard kid 1 use a feeling word to describe what is going on with her.

Kid 1 gets no praise and little to no attention. When kid 2 naps moms either nap or play on their phones leaving kid 1 to do whatever. They pride themselves on how independent she is – the entire time they were here she followed Lesley and I around. Yes, she can play by herself but she doesn’t want to – she just knows you won’t play with her. She repeatedly asks her parents to play with her – play is never offered to her. Moms never made her pick up after herself so she basically tore our entire house apart multiple times a day every day as we tried to put it back together. They do not care at all about what she does, as long as it doesn’t bother them.

In addition to their less than stellar parenting mom 2 is very mean to mom 1. She is not helpful at all, criticizes her when she tries to parent, and undermines any decision she makes. Their relationship dynamic is uncomfortable to be around.

After a week they left and we took stock of our lives. That’s where the benefit of the visit came in. We feel more confident than ever in our parenting and while it is a lot of work to parent Gus the way we do we are sure it is the right path for us. It also made our relationship look awesome so that’s cool. We got to see some of the things we fight most about (phone use, household helpfulness) played out on a jumbo tron. It gave both of us a better understanding of what the other sees (intensified times 1000) and a desire to make our own shit better. Those things are great.

I’m not sure what to do about our friends. We will likely see them this summer (we will not stay with them but we haven’t told them that yet) but we don’t want them back to visit. If they came back to visit they would not be welcome to stay with us. It would likely be 3 years or so before they came back to visit and how would we tell them no then, after all this time? I did mention mom 2’s behavior to mom 1 at one point when I saw an opening. She said she noticed it too but that it is unlike her and she doesn’t know what is going on. We have known them for 10 years and while the behavior was worse than I expected it was not unlike mom 2. I should also note they had a great time – they saw nothing wrong with the visit.

So here I am trying to figure out if I navigate this now or at some point in the future. I would hope to never navigate it at all. If we lived close to one another I would slowly let the friendship go without any big conversation but unfortunately, that is harder to do here. So that’s where I end after this visit – trying to figure out how to not rock the boat but also never have to experience that again.

And now, Gus pictures:




Lurking.

I keep thinking of things to write and come up at a loss. This space is strange now. So many folks who I know and follow here are working on ttc number 2 (or 3!) and write about that and that’s not where we are at. It’s odd when the group is your peers and you are not a peer in the same way anymore.

I want to write about Gus but what to do I say? He is so fun but I feel like trying to explain it in words cheapens it. In the last couple of weeks he his speech has changed. He has become much more conversational. He’s communicating complex ideas. The other day he was singing a song, I don’t remember which one but something he sings often, and he stopped and said, “I don’t really understand the rest of this song.” It’s something so hard to describe but it has been a notable shift.

So much of our life is day to day without any big news of events to report. I thought I would be sad to reach this point of less concrete milestones and while there is some sadness to that there is so much joy in other places that it is okay. He’s fun and smart and a good kid. We like him. We’ll keep him.

He does have challenging moments, don’t get me wrong. We struggle a bit with his behavior sometimes – we’re not always on the same page and react in the moment. The other day I told him if he didn’t nap he’d spend the rest of the day in his room alone. Clearly that isn’t true. I took that as a sign that what we were doing wasn’t working and I packed us up to leave a play. Children are really freaking amazing in that they are forgiving souls. I can be mad and frustrated and he gives me big whole body hugs and kisses that would surely be criticized by the internet were I famous. It’s a sad and wonderful fact. Wonderful because I am a good parent and he forgives my mistakes – sad because if I weren’t he would still be forgiving because that’s what kids do. We’re starting a parenting class for two year olds in January. I’m super excited and hope it helps me be a better parent.

Nothing else in life is too exciting so I never write. I never know quite what to say to sum up life with our sweet boy. Yet I don’t want to abandon this space. I come on here and quickly browse other’s posts once a week or so. I’m here, lurking. Most of you know me other places and see our lives there and I like that. Maybe this space feels distant because so many of you are not people on the internet but my for real friends. Maybe I’ll continue to stay at this distance  – updating every now and then and reading along so I know when everyone is knocked up. I’m not sure. Maybe my big mouth just ran out of things to say.