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Friday, April 23, 2010

THE DADDY OR THE DOG?

Very soon, I may become just another Parent School dropout. Indeed, I see myself as another failed parent statistic in the making. Classes are lots of fun, of course, but I can see some practical problems that may stop my attendance.

Upon leaving class yesterday I found myself smoking a half-pack simply because I could not motivate myself to go home where I knew that I would find mayhem!

Let me acclimatize you. Door opens. Three rush towards me. “He bashed my eye,” screams the eldest (aged 10). Both her eyes look bright and open wide so I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Liar!” retorts the adult (aged 55) of the house. “Look what she’s done to my shirt!” (Sauce stain on shirt).

“Let me tell! Let me tell!” Jumps the little one (aged 5) all excited, bidding for the role of narrator.

Then books, paper, plastic toys suddenly start flying around the house as all three of them chase and fling unbreakables at each other.

“Everyone to their rooms! Now!” My sturdy maternal voice does the trick, but then I remember Aspasia, the psychologist that heads our parent school class. “The type of a relationship a father has with his child is very much up to the mother,” she says.

So I consider where I have gone wrong and how I may have inadvertently sabotaged my husband’s relationship with his own children. Everything I do feels wrong. It feels as though I have tried to be on his side and take a joint stand but internally I often disagree, especially when he hits them every time he looks after them alone. He disagrees that I am as supportive as I should be, but I cannot bring myself to say, “Yes, daddy was right to hit you and call you swine.” Nor do I say the opposite. I try to keep a distance. To leave them space to work it out alone.

At this point I should add that things are not as easy as they seem. My husband has a brilliant excuse for his temper. He has multiple sclerosis. This illness is something that we can not ignore. He walks with a limp and is productive in his work but he constantly lives in fear and his nerves are in tatters. Apparently, anxiety is yet another side affect of this illness. (I have spoken to my eldest daughter about this at length. He does not wish to talk to her about his condition at all and feels that I am mistaken in doing so because she occasionally flings it in his face when she is pissed off with him.)

He is not the man I married but I know that we will be together until death us do part because somewhere in there lurks the man I did marry - my hero, my darling, my sweet, kind, tree man. He tries so hard. He does laundry, washes dishes, does deliveries and that is a big thing for a Greek man from a patriarchal family. I sometimes forget this and take him for granted. 

He loves his children but does not know how to express this love. And I honestly don’t know how to help him or myself.

When we talk he says the problems are in my mind. He keeps pointing out my mistakes. And granted, like everyone else, I do make mistakes. Lots of them. In one of my lowest moments I emptied a salad bowl onto his head…feta cheese, tomato and oil streamed down his neck and an olive protruded from his shirt pocket. He says that is why our eldest daughter squirted sauce on him last night. But that’s a ridiculous notion because I had committed my crime when no witnesses were present. The kids weren’t even in the house!

So, what is it that makes us all at some point want to throw sauce and salad on the man of the house? Am I to blame for his poor relationship with his children? The youngest seems fine, but the eldest keeps saying, “Let’s ditch daddy and buy a dog!”

Would we be better off divorced so that there would be no salad tossing or saucy moments? Should kids be subjected to this environment?

PS For the record. I only threw salad at him once (and he deserved it!). I have never hit him. He has never hit me. He spanks the kids on the bottom. We have on occasion abused the crap out of each other but never in front of the kids.

Our daddy looks as stunned and a tad edgy as the father in this painting by Fernando Botero, "A Family". Botero’s work always makes me grin…and in my life I, too, feel that I should grin and bear it. Unless of course there is a better way. Is there?

13 comments:

Schafner said...

All kidding aside, I really like your writing style.

Also, I think when "divorce" even barely enters the equation, you start heading in that direction really quickly. So don't. Sounds like despite some of the craziness (which happens in all marriages -- even half-way across the world) you two have something really special going on.


(Puts back on Joking Cap)

With all that being said, this sentence stuck out to me:

"It feels as though I have tried to be on his side and take a joint stand but internally I often disagree, especially when he hits them every time he looks after them alone."

If you take away the second part of that sentence, it now looks like this:

"It feels as though I have tried to be on his side and take a joint."

Maybe that's the answer.

Smoke a joint.

I should have been a clinical psychologist.


...

P.S. I finally "said something" on blog per your request. Hope you enjoy.

Purple Cow said...

You should have been a journalist. Oh, the fun you'd have during montage!

A joint, eh? So you feel that maybe I'm smoking the wrong stuff.

Sharon said...

As a woman who did divorce my daughter's father, I can tell you, that wasn't the answer for them. But it sure was the answer for me. (Nothing being suggested for you in that statement.) He sounds like a good man with a bad health situation that's taking a toll on all of you.

Relationships are so doggone complicated. No matter how I've dealt with mine, I've always just traded one set of problems for another. I think the answer is in finding the set of problems that are the best fit.

Smoking a few extras before facing the expected is certainly one way of coping. Cheers!

Robin said...

The truth is that parents have to present a united front or kids will conquer and destroy. They are always looking for an end around...any sign of weakness. Personally, I don't think a spanking on the tush hurts them one bit IF they deserve it. However, I think there are other ways to punish kids. In fact, when the step kis were living with me and my ex, I really didn't even want to spank them b/c they had come out of a physically abusive household with their mom and stepdad, so I got creative. Things like a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar for talking back, standing in the corner for 2-3 minutes for general disobedience, with additional minutes added if the kid acted up in the corner, etc. Eventually, I had enough of these sorts of "punishments" that I made the kid pick their punishment, which was its own punishment b/c they had to choose it. Of course, my ex still spanked them and I never said a word about it. United front. But they hated my punishments MORE. I don't know if it was because of the punishment itself or because of the respect they had for the person issuing the punishment. I do know that in therapy, H-girl one day picked out action figures to represent our family. She, C-Man, and daddy were all about the same size. I was the tallest. They were all mini sized. It was very insightful.

How does this help you? I don't know. Sounds like you are the large action figure. I agree with Schafner that divorce really doesn't sound like a good idea. Maybe you can discuss alternative punishments with your husband? With his failing health, spanking will get harder in the future, so it might be a good idea to start incorporating some other things NOW. Just a thought...

ecelliam said...

I live in the USA, and I keep thinking that Greece, is so exsotic, and Australia a beautiful land, and here I am thanks to you I come down to earth.
I really like the way you write, I think that just the fact that you look at my abstract thinking is wonderful, my life is very differant then what you have,it must be interesting to live as you do, you have so much going on all the time.I live alone, and with a beautiful, smart mid-size dog. I'm going to secand SCHAFNER, and add that instead of Tabbaco, canabis, is a lot better choice. Thank you.

Purple Cow said...

Obviously the people who are suggesting I smoke marijuana as a solution do not have children...I take their comments as the jokes that undoubtedly they were intended to be...

Sharon - I don't want a divorce but my daughter has said to get rid of him and I take it seriously for a kid to say such a thing. Of course her best friend's parents recently got a divorce and I am wondering if maybe her friend's problems with the dad are reflecting onto her relationship. Nor do I think it is a solution for me to be at home all the time as a referee but coming home to such situations all the time makes it not worth the going out.

Robin - This is NOT a discipline problem. Our kids are HIGHLY disciplined. The Eldest who my husband is having problems with is a top-notch student, guitarist, medal-winning chess player, cup-winning athlete in national junior championship athletics events and usually is content to bury her head in a book. We say, "Stop reading we're going to the park." Just last night there were cartoons on TV and she didn't want to join the rest of the family in a TV night cause she was too busy finishing her book. Generally she's a high achiever. She's the girl who wrote the fly poem if you remember. At school we keep getting congratulated about her character...She's generally mature but I get the feeling that my husband relates to her as though they are both 10 years old. He forgets she the kid and he is the adult and not to take it personally when she plays up. I am against spanking. I usually joke her into obedience. When she uses the whiny voice I say..."What hertz is that? How do you do that pitch?" Discussion also works wonders with this particular child. When I'm in a BAD mood I just send her to her room so we can chill out. At my worst, I've also been known to confiscate things. But when things are hopeless I let it go so she can calm down and we can discuss the issue when both of us are calm. But my husband plays right into every trap she lays...and this makes her all the more obnoxious. But that's just my opinion, my husband thinks I'm the one who did this because of course I'm the one she listens to and also the one who criticises his discipline techniques that mainly consist of spanking and inventive name-calling. In a little while this little girl will be a teenager and my husband's health will either be stable or worse and things will not be any easier! And I feel there's little I can do as my intervention will only stand in the way of them finding their own balances, don't you think? So what does the psychologist mean when she says..."Mothers are the ones that determine the relationship fathers have with their kids!" ????? Where is my blind spot?

Sandy, Sisters of Season said...

Hi Mary,

Interesting post . . Divorce is the easy way out . . a good marriage has lots of dents in it. MS is a tough disease to deal with, my husband has a heart condition then on top of that he's been a diabetic since childhood . . I know how hard it can get for you personally, been there many times. This tells me you are a strong individual . . not by choice, but by life. I always was straight up with all my kids regarding their Dad's health situation. It hasn't hurt my kids, its made them much more compassionate, more appreciate of their own health and not to take each other for granted. As a family unit, respect for one another is #1, that's most important. I hear frustration from your oldest, you should be able to talk to her about MS, she then could probably understand (she's extremely bright for her aged, she's ahead of her time)and have more compassion for her Dad. My oldest son has ADHD, believe me, I've had my share of problems over the years. I don't blame myself . . between my husband and I, one of us has to stay sane. I know it's my faith that gets me through it. Hugs and prayers for you Mary, Sandy :O)

Purple Cow said...

Thanks Sandy. Your comment is helpful. Maybe I also feel frustrated with this condition and my daughter may be sensing this. Perhaps we should focus on the illness a little bit more rather than as a side bar. Maybe it's just too painful to focus on where the real problem is - the MS.

George said...

Now if I were a therapist (which of course I am not) the phrase I would pick up on would be '… I could not motivate myself to go home where I knew that I would find mayhem.'

I wonder whether the ‘mayhem’ you don’t want to go home and face (no, I know you did not use the word ‘face’) is more than just the kids and their father. Is there mayhem in your relationship with your husband?

And… ‘my husband has a brilliant excuse for his temper’ Is this what you really feel?

I think I understand what your ‘psychologist’ is saying. But it does not mean that you are to blame for his ‘poor relationship with his children.’. Nor are you responsible for the fact that your husband does not know how to express his love for them. Does he know how to express his love for you? Can you talk to him? About how you feel?

Your write with such insight, warmth, charm and humour… but I detect a feeling of … maybe 'isolation' is too strong a word…‘aloneness’. Like you have to solve all these problems by yourself.

But, as I say, I am not a therapist… so if you don’t want to ‘allow’ this comment, that’s okay.

Keep writing, though... brilliant!!

Sandy, Sisters of Season said...

Mary, it's painful, but you do get through it. Talking about it with him as a family is scary sometimes and it hurts, thats normal. Having a strong understanding about the disease makes a real difference, helping your husband adjust too. Your kids will see him for the strong person he really is, enduring this disease. I'm sure he feels bad sometimes because of it, it puts limitations on him as a father and a husband. Having all of your support, you and the kids will make a happier environment.

Purple Cow said...

Thank you Sandy for your encouragement. I'm gonna hang in there and just keep fighting it.

George - you shock me! You are going to a dangerous place that I'm not quite sure I can handle... The word is not "isolation" or "aloneness" - if you want a word...here it is:

http://australianinathens.blogspot.com/2010/03/estranged-but-not-e-stranged.html

Lemonade Makin' Mama said...

Hey girl,
I always appreciate your comments and questions- just wanted to thank you for them... also, really quick, before I head to bed... I forwarded your India questions to my husband, Adrain. Since you have a "noreply blogger email address" attached to your comment, he will probably leave a comment for you here. Just a head's up, as I can't really answer those questions for you, but I know he'd be happy to! (when he has a minute or two)

Blessings, and take care,
Sasha

George said...

Oh dear... well just gnore me - I may go away.