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: