Messy Marriage

Posted on July 31, 2012. Filed under: Couples, Family, Home, Parenting, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

My son has been married to a sweet gal for 7 years, although she’s nice, her mother is a different story.  Within a year of the wedding, her mom moved in.  A couple of years later, the mother-in-law took custody of one of her other grand-kids, that little girl currently lives with them as well (her parents are nowhere to be found).  They have two kids of their own and now, reluctantly, he has also taken on parenting the niece.  He doesn’t feel he ever has alone time with his children and feels obligated to include the niece.  I need to point out my son is the only one working in the house and they are financially strapped.  His wife says she can’t find a job, although she is a credentialed nurses assistant.  The mother-in-law has a bad back, but is not on disability, so I wonder about that.  I told him to kick the mom out, but that would mean the girl would have to go too.   I hate to see him struggle, what should I do?

Mom in the middle

Dear Middle Mom,

Good gravy Miss Mavey, there sure plenty of lumps in this batch!  The good news, with a little whisking, I think we can get this smoothed out.

I totally get that this situation seems incredibly overwhelming — for those in it, it must feel like there’s no way out.  Luckily, I’m sitting some distance away on another pew, which gives me the chance to see this a little differently.

I hate to sound like a preacher, but I’m a firm believer in that old saying “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”.  (For those out there who aren’t big fans of God, you can insert “universe”.)

With that said, your son is going to have to man on up!  Especially since this is a girl we’re talking about.  Girls need father figures, whether it’s their own biological one or otherwise.

Remember:  just because some dude showed up and donated a few of his genes at the right time of one month, doesn’t always guarantee he will show up with his big boy jeans on and do the right thing for the rest of that child’s life.

It’s been proven, girls with positive male figures have a greater chance of doing better in life.  They have more self-worth, score higher in certain school subjects, are most likely to excel at a sport, and list goes on.  If that doesn’t get his attention, then mention what can happen without one: teenage pregnancy, ending up in an abusive relationship, even becoming a stripper.  Not that stripping is illegal or anything, but you know what I’m saying.   I have yet to meet anyone who would proudly announce their daughter works at Cheetah’s!  Or niece for that matter!

It’s simple — it’s NOT that little girls fault, but it could be your sons, if he doesn’t handle this properly.  Right or wrong, he’s been placed in her life as much as she’s been placed in his.  Honestly, it sounds like she’s got an angel looking out for her, without your son and daughter-in-law, she could end up in a foster home, if anything were ever happened to grandma.

As for his much-needed one on one time with his own children, he needs to plan dates.  Mark off time on the calendar to spend with each separately – that could be going to the park or just getting ice cream.  It doesn’t have to be an entire day and doesn’t need to cost anything.  Side note to all of us: you can’t put a price on time well spent.  However, there’s a catch — he must also makes dates with the niece.  Whether he likes it or not, his kids are watching and taking it all in…he’s not only showing the niece she’s important, but also showing his kids what a real man is.  A real man steps up and takes responsibility.

For example, my dad died when I was in the 6th grade.  Although my mom, Norma Jean, never remarried, I was blessed with a fantastic brother-in-law who always made sure he was around when it was time to learn how to drive, who made sure I still went snow skiing, taught me how to check the air in my tires, etc., you get my point.  Although I have 2 brothers, it was my sister’s husband who stepped up to the plate.  Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize what he was doing at the time, but looking back, it’s super clear.  He never announced his actions, never said “since your dad can’t be around”, he just did them, those little things that a dad would have done, had he been there.  An important point to your son, I remember all of those nice things.

On to the mother-in-law.  I hear your frustration, but I’m not sure the best answer is to kick the mother-in-law out and it certainly isn’t what the niece needs.  He’s going have to sit his wife and her mother down with all the bills and explain he needs some financial help.   Basically, one of them needs to get a job.  It doesn’t matter which one, it just needs to happen to keep the family afloat.  This is pretty darn simple: you can’t keep rowing down the river with 6 people and only 1 oar.  Bottom line – one gets a job, the other can stay home and take care of the kids.  OR, they could both get part time jobs and split the child rearing, either way, he needs a life-preserver and fast!  If some of the financial burden is lifted off  your son, I think it will offer much smoother sailing.

I commend your son for taking on of this extended family.  Despite what we envision for our children, today, families take on many different forms.  There’s no set of rules as to what a home needs to look like.  It’s what ever you make it.  I truly believe if more families watched out for each other, our country wouldn’t be running the huge moral deficit it is right now.

Take pride in the way you raised your son, he’s clearly been putting up with more than most husbands would be willing to.  I really believe there is a special place in heaven for him, at the least there will be special place in his niece’s heart if he handles this opportunity correctly.

Ps.  While I am skeptical of most government handouts, I believe there are those who truly need financial help, and it sounds like this little girl does.  I am not well versed on this subject, but I think it’s worth a call to the local Social Security office.  Since neither the girl’s father nor mother are able to contribute, there may be some assistant available to her.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Rugrat Resume Rhetoric

Posted on March 6, 2012. Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

I can hardly believe that I’m being counseled to create a resume for my kids while they’re still in elementary and middle school!  I think I wrote my first resume my senior year in college.  Those who’ve walked in my shoes tell me that kids need to be competitive from a very early age if they’re going to get into a good high school.  My question is, what extra-curricular activities can young kids do to fill a resume?  Should I be worried my kids aren’t standout stars at school?

Ignorance was bliss

Dear Bliss-less,

Way back in the colonial period when I went to high school, all you had to do was show up.  We only had one option in my small town, so there wasn’t any discussion and certainly no resumes!  Thank the Lord, as I’m not sure what school I would have landed given my only two skills: fire baton twirling and clogging.  Can you imagine the medical releases my mom, Norma Jean, would have had to sign off on those?

So I was as surprised as you are sister when our oldest, Betsy, hit middle school and folks started talking about “resume building”!  What resume?  What building?  At that point she couldn’t even load the dishwasher without guidance, what in the world could she possibly put on a piece of paper that would make her stand out at age 11?   I quickly realized I’d have to harken back to my creative writing class days to turn her limited abilities into talents.

Betsy’s hair styling became: “has an eye for details and exhibits extreme patience on long format projects”.  At the time she had a MySpace account, which was quickly turned into: “creative director of child friendly web page”.  And my personal best — begging for the latest pair of designer jeans translated to: “has strong negotiating skills and shows promise as a litigator”.

During this ridiculous exercise, I started wondering…how many other parents are feeling the way I feel?  Is it possible I have the only child who hasn’t saved all of her allowance in order to buy pet food for the local animal shelter?  Had I missed my mark as a mother by letting my daughter blow her hard-earned cash on candy and music CD’s?

Putting my years of watching Magnum PI  to work, I started sniffing around other parents to see what “talents” they were listing for their children.  Cocktail parties offered the best bragging opportunity, where it was common to hear the following:  “my child is a concert pianist”, “my kid speaks 3 languages”, “my daughter started her own clothing line and is donating all the funds to the children of Africa”.

I think my favorite was the parent who was hanging their hat on their son’s bagpipe playing proficiency!  Talk about hot air!  Really?  You’ve been making your child play the bagpipes???  A skill that’s only utilized in our society for funerals and Scottish weddings?  Good gravy!

Had I really been that remise as a parent?  Not focusing every waking moment on some random craft that would somehow, someday get Betsy into a high school somewhere that would lead her to an ivy league college?  That’s when I decided to just be blatantly honest with the other parents about who my child was.  A novel concept these days, I know!

I remember the first time I told someone if NASA was recruiting based on MySpace pages alone, Bets would be their first call. Although I had braced for a backlash, the other parent laughed out loud and admitted they were in the same boat!  A boat that was apparently on a course to nowhere – with no life vests, just a dingy for a mom.  After all, that was what other mothers and fathers had led us to believe.

Despite their best efforts to look like their child was on course and they were at the helm of their kids ship, I quickly started learning that most parents were lying about their child’s actual GPS location.

Here’s the reality, the majority of moms and dads in this country are just like you and me.  Instead of a ship, we’re in rowboats.  Nonetheless, we are doing the best we can sailing those small vessels trying to keep our sons/daughters on track.  Why isn’t that enough?  Why is there this ridiculous pressure to make our kids row harder and grow up faster?

Once I was honest about where Betsy really was in life —  a normal  tweener, others started being candid back.  That’s when I learned, there were more parents like me than the piano playing, bagpipe blowhards that had been commanding all the attention at these get-togethers.

With that said, unfortunately, in this day and age, your child does need some type of resume, but it’s not the kind you and I have to submit for a job.  Think of it as tool, versus an actual resume on linen paper.

Here’s why: most of these high schools will ask for recommendation letters – when you ask your friends or one of your childs teachers to write one, 9 times out of 10 they will ask for a bio on your child.  This is to help them draft an informative letter, basically, the more they know about your kid, the better the letter will be.

The goal is to make your child look like they care and are an active participant at his or her school, not valedictorian…we all know, there can only be 1 of those, so don’t worry.

Schedule a meeting with either the principal or school counselor and ask them what the different schools are looking for, it’s their job to know.  Get their advice on what schools they think your child would do well at.  They can also give you some great tips on how their resume should be crafted.

Anyone who tells you your child must be a rock star or bagpiper, as the case may be, to get into high school is uninformed and unrealistic.  Keep in mind, these private high schools are a business at the end of the day and need you as much as you need them.  They need your money to keep the doors open and to keep donations from alumni coming in.  I truly believe schools are always looking for good kids, not perfect kids.

Take a deep breath, you’re child is going to be fine.  You are a parent who cares, which is truly half the battle.

Ps.  If you need financial aid, they can help you with that information as well.  Most all private schools offer some sort of scholarship to students who can’t afford tuition, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Links

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...