What Happens When a Child Calls a Parent by their First Name?


calvin
apololgies to Mr. Watterson for the unauthorized use of Calvin.

(Please forgive me for the use of ‘their’ as a neuter third-person singular. I just can’t fight it anymore.)

Referring to  parents by their first names. It always shocked me as a teen when I heard peers do it, and though it turned into more disturbance than shock as I grew older, I have to admit that it still sends me some sort of an unsettling signal when I hear it. I have to wonder: Do they call their parents by their first names when they are talking to them, or just about them?

There was a time when my daughter would do it with me. It was away for her to express anger. I didn’t put up with it. I’d walk away. As far as I was concerned,  it was a conversation ender. She doesn’t do it anymore. However, she does still get angry with me. Go figure.

“They may already know too much about their mother and father–nothing being more factual than divorce, where so much has to be explained and worked through intelligently (though they have tried to stay equable). I’ve noticed this is often the time when children begin calling their parents by their first names, becoming little ironists after their parents’ faults. What could be lonelier for a parent than to be criticized by his child on a first-name basis?”

― Richard Ford, The Sportswriter

Personal Stuff: Divorce + Fatherhood = The Worst, Most Painful Irony of My Life


I am sure that it is not an uncommon situation that I am in: I have two wonderful children, and an absolutely horrible ex-marriage. If I want to deal with my kids, I have to deal with this mess. Easy choice, but man, sometimes…

I’m not saying that the former wife is a horrible person, that she is x, y, or z (the variables standing for any number of derogatory adjectives or nouns that are used by divorced people all over the world to describe the other cohort in the crime of their coupling). I am willing to assert, though, that she is the ne plus ultra of the, hmmmm, how to put this, the epitome of the difficult former spouse; if in the afterlife she is to be judged by her co-parenting skills, let’s just say that it’s going to be a tough trip through Purgatory.

Nor am I saying that I’m some perfect or even good former spouse and co-parent. I wish I were made of tougher stuff. I wish that I could always do the right thing, that I could let every insult, every attack, every pointless (except for the point of hurting me) act of revenge for G-d knows what misdeed (the misdeed of wanting a divorce?), I wish I could let them all slip by. I have thinner skin than I would like to have. I don’t know how to make it thicker. (Maybe Sean Sphincter and I should attend a class on obtaining some tougher emotional armor.)

Were there no kids? I’d be gone. I’d fly away. I’d head back to Charleston without looking over my shoulder, and there would be no sequel. But there are the children, and they are the greatest thing in the world that has ever happened to me. I feel a glow in their presence. I love doing things for them. Watching them stirs such strong feelings that even when I worry about them, even when I am mad at them, even when they are purposely difficult, there is not a part of me that doesn’t want to protect them, to love them, to make the world a better place for them. I do not know if I would ever have had this depth of feeling for anything were I never to have had children.

I wish more of my time weren’t occupied by the strife. But here I am, slipping down the backslope of my life, having to force myself not to answer hostile texts, steeling myself not to strike back at things perpetrated out of pure vindictiveness, working to keep my mind on other, more pleasant things, and most difficult of all, trying to construct a view of my life that isn’t so filled with this regret at the painful paradox of being a dad thanks to the biggest mistake in my life; all this, in order that I might just let myself be filled with the wonder and the privilege it that it is to be that dad.

It’s Over: Summer, Our Disappearing Childhoods, and Yes, I’m Feeling Pissed About It


Yup, folks, summer is over. Don’t start giving me your lip about it not being the “official” end of summer,  about it not being Labor Day yet, or the even stupider nonsense about the equinox. The bare naked and ugly truth is that summer is kaput,  morto, D-E-A-D. The kids are back in school, marking the real end to the carefree feeling that accompanies the wonderful warm months. Time is now lunches and buses and report cards and social complexities and teachers of both the competent and incompetent variety,  not to mention that biggest waste of children’s time known as homework. (Of course, every teacher thinks her homework assignments are useful and important, but whatever–I’ll be targeting those maroons shortly. Also, since I’m taking detours, the weather isn’t correlated with arthritis[1,2,3]* and sugar doesn’t make your children hyperactive[4], but I don’t bother arguing these  anymore because, well, because people also vote for Donald Trump and deny global warming and I’ve got other Twinkies to fry.) First idiot that says something saccharine about the changing of the seasons and oh snow so pretty gets salted and sold to cannibals.

This year’s summer was ridiculously short. Embarrassingly short. I felt ashamed telling my kids that they had to go back to school, and no, they were in no mood to start up again with their respective academic purgatories, junior high and high school.  Students in Massachusetts didn’t get out until June 26, which should have been cause for the pillorying of the both the Superintendent and the members of the School Committee, but all we like sheep have gone apathetic, and we’ll probably settle for a week at the fourth of July in a few decades. And students will still get a better education in a dozen other countries.

This used to be called copyright violation, stealing, etc. It is now known as "re-purposing." My apologies to Mr. Groenig.
This used to be called copyright violation, stealing, etc. It is now known as “re-purposing.” My apologies to Mr. Groenig, but not to the editors who have basically given free license to this practice.

 

*The third article is much more interesting and nuanced, and it does correlate physical activity and season, which may be a confounder in these studies.

1.Gorin A, et al;  Rheumatoid arthritis patients show weather sensitivity in daily life, but the relationship is not clinically significant;PainVolume 81, Issues 1–2, 1 May 1999, Pages 173–177

2. Dorleijn D, et al; Associations between weather conditions and clinical symptoms in patients with hip osteoarthritis: A 2-year cohort study; PainVolume 155, Issue 4, April 2014, Pages 808–813

3. Feinglass J, Lee J, Dunlop D, Song J, Semanik P, Chang RW. The Effects of Daily Weather on Accelerometer-measured Physical Activity among Adults with Arthritis. Journal of physical activity & health. 2011;8(7):934-943.

4. Wolraich ML, Wilson DB, White J. The Effect of Sugar on Behavior or Cognition in Children: A Meta-analysis. JAMA.1995;274(20):1617-1621

Lazy Sunday–The Week in Pictures


Mille torbidi pensieri mi s’aggiran per la testa se mi salvo in tal tempesta è un prodigio in verità

 

My son pitched 3 innings yesterday and had 6 Ks. I missed it! I was working on  a project long overdue. I’m trying to learn a computer language at the same time so that I don’t have to look for as much outside help next time. That is, assuming that there is a next time.

I’m a bit too verklemmt for any real thinking. So, instead of working on less than a thousand words that I will struggle over, I will dispense the value of 8,000 words. Time-saver.

 

18 cents at the Hanscom Air Force Base Commissary
18 cents at the Hanscom Air Force Base Commissary

 

 

Because children don't already have enough incentive to consume sugary drinks
Because children don’t already have enough incentive to consume sugary drinks
I'm living at the Air Force Inn, Hanscom AFB. It's kind of small. I share it with my cats, Zoot and Dingo. I named them that because I cannot tell them apart.
I’m living at the Air Force Inn, Hanscom AFB. It’s kind of small. I share it with my cats, Zoot and Dingo. I named them that because I cannot tell them apart.
Remember I had to retain the  lawyer? This is where I sent the check from. It's near where I work.
Remember I had to retain the lawyer? This is where I sent the check from. It’s near where I work.
Marmota momax
Marmota momax
Broken guitar I'm going to take apart, and a craft my son made when he was younger. There is a place near our house called Whimsy, where kids can do various types of art, and when he was little there were a lot of birthday parties there. We have a lot of painted dolphins, my son's equivalent of Kandinsky's rider.
Broken guitar I’m going to take apart, and a craft my son made when he was younger. There is a place near our house called Whimsy, where kids can do various types of art, and when he was little there were a lot of birthday parties there. We have a lot of painted dolphins, my son’s equivalent of Kandinsky’s rider.
A very worried patient of mine from last week, prior to undergoing her ovariohysterectomy.
A very worried patient of mine from last week, prior to undergoing her ovariohysterectomy.
Do not consume
Do not consume

La Bruja Continues A Costly–Emotionally and $$–War of Attrition


 

not cute
“Bless you, fair shrew.”        Twelfth Night, Act I, scene iii

 

 

Aren’t we done with this shit?

My friend’s cousin is from the Caribbean,and when she heard stories about the ex she just started referring to her as La Bruja. It wasn’t as if she said, I will call her La Bruja! or, She is really a bruja. Rather, the next time she referred to her it just came out in passing, as in, Is La Bruja watching the kids? There was no question as to who it was.  I rather prefer it to saying her name–one, because I have, alas, grown to dislike her name, and secondly, it seems more descriptive than derogatory.  I never say it around the children. By this point, I’d rather have nothing to do with her and not to have to refer to her at all.

But the need for punishing me in any way possible goes on, no matter the collateral damage.

Today I had to retain a Parent Coordinator–one is specified in our divorce agreement for the purpose of settling disputes concerning the children (there goes my son’s summer camp). You see: last year the kids were with their mother and her family in MA for Thanksgiving. This year, of course, was Dad’s family’s year– they were supposed to be in Chicago (which they look forward to) with my mom, sisters, etc.(whom they love immensely–my nephew is my daughter’s favorite cousin), but the edit that I put in the divorce agreement (the years were reversed )somehow got deleted before the final version. I should have looked closer, but the other edits were in and I must have overlooked it.  A purposeful trick, I’m sure, especially as La Bruja flat-out lied to me, saying the kids were in Chicago last year, as if that couldn’t be verified, as if the children don’t know. Anyway,  she refuses to do the right thing.

My remedy is going to the Parent Coordinator, at $275/hour, and the war of attrition continues. I would rather spend this money on my kid’s summer camp, but I cannot take away my 79 year-old mom’s time with her grandchildren.

Or can I ? What is this about? I hope it’s not about winning, but about the children. Is it about not letting someone get away with a purposely nasty act? Not letting a precedent get set that this won’t be tolerated? Shouldn’t I just suck it up (again!) so that my son can go to camp? Why should he suffer (additionally) for our idiocy (mind you of course, I’m responsible for only 49% of the idiocy)?

The Birthday Party, part 4


DRAFT

 

In spite of being separated for over 2.5 years, being divorced all summer, and the on-spot observation that both my ex-wife and I are better human beings when not in each other’s presence, my daughter wanted to have dinner with both of us. She is 11. I get it. When she took a long time on her birthday wish before blowing out the candles, I could only guess at what she was thinking. She has not held back for a moment on letting us know at every moment what she is thinking and feeling (including reconstructing the former version of the family). She does not wear her heart on her sleeve, but displays it on a large dirigible that is constantly circling overhead.

When she is angry, it’s not much fun, but at other times, when she is feeling generous, compassionate, kind and loving–which is quite often, actually–she is a contagious source of happiness.

So, in a way, even though she can be volatile, doesn’t worry me. I know what she is thinking. I know what she is feeling. And because I know these things, I can (usually) work with what I have with some sort of solid footing. She wants her mom and me–and her brother–together with her on her birthday. I can do that. I can behave, be sociable, and suppress the gunpowder when the ex either intentionally or unintentionally goes to light the fuse, which is easily ignited around here.

My son, on the other hand, is a cipher. In these past 2.5 years of separation and wrangling, he has only said one sentence about the divorce, in an aside to his sister. I have no idea what he is thinking. I do not whether he is angry, sad, OK with it, or–using his most commonly used adjective these days–annoyed.

I made it through the dinner. The ex-little woman made it through dinner (didn’t bat 1.000, but was close). I’m not in the unbiased position to judge my own behavior.

from extension.missouri.edu
from extension.missouri.edu

The Birthday Party, Part 2: But I digress. .


 

 

So now my daughter is in fifth grade, and her birthday is almost upon us, but she has been worrying for at least a month about what we are going to do.

 

nixon birthday

This is tough. No dad wants to disappoint his children, even if when disappointment is inevitable, and even when the disappointment is good for them to boot. (No dear, we are not renting 2 stretch limos for you and your friends, and taking all of you on a whirlwind trip to Disney). Life lessons, you know. (Not that my daughter asked for that, but ya know, expectations higher than reality. Thank goodness we don’t live in Westchester County.)

Moreover, even though I’m divorced and have been living apart from my ex for over 2.5 years, this is yet another occasion where my ex’s and I  embarrassingly pitiful ineptitude  at co-parenting  will become obvious in exquisite detail to not only my children, but (alas) to anyone who ventures within shouting distance (the normal range of her communication) of my ex. Regrettably, she does not have a whispering distance,or even a discreet distance (example: my great embarrassment, with her screaming at me from across the lobby at the Middlesex County Courthouse, not to chastise me for one of my many defects, but just to relay her latest counteroffer; me, walking over,  trying to explain how the other hapless souls there were probably not all that interested in our divorce–except for the parts about Scarlett Johannson being an excellent step-mom–and that even if the others present were  somehow so bored with their own lives as to be interested in our very mundane fights, I did not feel like updating the small percentage of MA who had, impossibly, not heard my ex’s opinion of me, our marriage, our divorce, and my afore-alluded-to shortcomings as a parent, human being, etc. Meanwhile, the lawyers charge while we wait for the judge who is downstairs at, of all things,  a party, welcoming some other very average human being to the bench. So while they eat sheet cake–wait, do judges eat sheet cake, or do they get something nicer, the least he could have done was brought us up a slice, seeing as while he stuffs his cake-hole, we pay the lawyers, his little rush party costing us collectively over $1o a minute,  all the more annoying because nobody really seems to give a shit, the whole idea of containing cost is foreign to these right honourable  gentlefolk. . .)

And like most things, this party discussion will in all likelihood come down to a manner of money. My ex does not let a conversation go by without finding a way to dun me for some expense, from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, from the petty to the vengeful (Yes, I did get the house in the divorce, but you should pay for the diseased tree removal because the tree was here while you lived here and if I amortize the benefit you received from its shade, and besides that I would really like to not have to spend all the money if I can get you to shell out something).

Anyway, we weren’t going to spend a  (relative) ton of money on the birthday party this year, most of our disposable income having gone to supporting our legal system (like our health system, the best in the world!). In the end, the ex caves to the kid, and I am left with a few bad choices, the least evil of which is contributing to a birthday party I cannot afford and which even has my daughter a bit nervous due to the social complications.

SO….

Indoor water park, here we come. Or rather, there they go. After last year’s birthday fiasco, I will send my money, but not myself. I will celebrate my daughter’s birthday with her in a less populated venue, with fewer guests and fewer complications, the week before.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

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