Well I might as well mention that I am a huge tramp. I have two kids, each with their own dear-old-dad. Actually, I am quite a prude, not that it means anything to any of the right-winged-republican-christian-fundamentalist-hate-helping the environment-and-caring-for-sick-people (god will save them, if they just believe!) individuals that reside within a fifty-mile radius around me. Nope, I would be classified as a tramp.
Anyways, my eldest just left with her father, leaving her little sister home, feeling left out. No dear-old-dad coming for her (long story). My eldest goes back and forth about whether or not she even wants to visit her father, not that he gives her any choice. That’s a lot coming from a man that didn’t seem to know she existed (unless it could help him get to me) until she was seven years old and he suddenly found himself with a wife (what a strange coincidence).
“Mom, I want to go to my best friend’s birthday party instead of my dad’s house.”
“Can’t he just take you?” I naively ask.
He refuses, she cries and misses the party. I learned a while back to just stay out of it. After all, then I would just be interfering with his parental rights.
“I’m her father and she’s my daughter, and it’s my right!” he rants.
“Gee, she needs money for X”, I suggest.
“Well, that’s not my responsibility,” he spits back. Then he informs me that I should give him gas money to bring her back early (so I can take her to her soccer game, it after all, interferes with his nap time) and that I should have scheduled her soccer games more conveniently for him. I am not making this stuff up. It’s just to inane.
When did we decide that shipping kids back and forth was the way to go? What will our kids say in fifty years? Two houses, two sets of clothes (can’t share), two sets of rules, two ways of living. Kids learn to play one parent off of the other. A couple of months ago, my eldest was writing stuff about sex on her myspace account (I set it up for her and monitor it—she could have done it herself, but then, how would I have gotten the password?! I firmly believe that knowledge is power and I want to know what my child is thinking. Now we get to be friends on myspace and facebook. How sweet.). Her father was very upset. Gasp, our fourteen year old was thinking about sex. Gasp. Whatever will we do. Maybe he could start with not leaving her home alone all day. I mean, really, he only has her for four days a month. Can’t he spend that time with her? I suggested long ago that she should go over there on his days off. No, he was certain that wouldn’t work. So, he goes to work and leaves her home alone. Or he goes hunting. Or fishing. Or target practicing with his bow and arrow. “Can’t you take her with you?” Apparently not. So, she’s an hour from the place she stays the rest of her month (dare I call it her home?), from all of her friends, everyone she know. To just sit in his trailer (god, yes, he lives in a trailer) with his rottweiler and wait for his return. What does she do? Goes on the computer. I say to him, take the cord to the computer with you when you leave. Duh! Well, I left out the “duh” when I said it to him. I am a bitch, but I usually reserve that for those that I really love.
So, in fifty years, I imagine we’ll have a bunch of confused adults. What about real parental responsibility? What about our societal responsibility to raise healthy, mentally stable people? I can’t believe that I have to send her there. Their last place was this broken-down old trailer, with no electricity to her bedroom (I believe a mouse had chewed it), rusty water, that was in the middle of a literal dump. Like rusty cars and junk in the yard. Now, let me just admit that this is fairly common in rural areas. My neighbors live in a junk yard. I mean a real junk yard. Their kids play with the junk. cars, washers (often pronounced warshers), tires, old parts, so forth. Their parents have a house with broken out windows. You can’t walk through the house because the floor is covered with garbage, clothes, pop cans, dishes, whatever. The kids bring in an old trailer and run an extension cord from the house to their trailer. One guy, I went to high school with him, said to me one day how he could have bought the trailer for $1800, but why, when he could get the one for $300. Sure, I am certain that it won’t make any difference. Right. In their defense, they gut the things and put in new floors and so forth. But really, it doesn’t really make a difference. It’s still a ratty old trailer in the middle of a dump without running water or electricity (unless you count that extension cord). One neighbor doesn’t have heat either. They literally bathe in the creek (we pronounce this crick, you visit Oil Creek—a local river—but swim in the crick—a small stream).
Is this good parenting on my part? Sending her there? They did move. But still. It’s not that much better. Word to viewers: don’t have sex with rednecks, even if you are a dumb seventeen year old girl, because you might spawn their offspring. No matter how many years of college you attend (five full time, three part time) or how many degrees you earn (one Bachelor’s and soon one Master’s) you will never escape the redneck. Interestingly enough, the original meaning of redneck shouldn’t send shivers up our spines. They were just a bunch of good ol’ boys looking out for their fellow workers. Billy Ray Cyrus told me this on the History channel. But I digress. . . .
I am contemplating escaping to Amsterdam/Paris/Catalonia/Kenya/the moon to get her away from dear-old-dad. What a horrible person I am. I am sure he has great qualities! But please, please, understand, that he DID NOT LOOK LIKE THAT WHEN I KNEW HIM. He might have been a little shaggy. But now. . .he’s overweight, with baggy khaki-colored long shorts (you know, like to his knees, making him look much shorter than he actually is), an over-sized T-shirt with a deer on it (meant to hide his beer belly), a baseball cap with camo patterns (is he hiding a balding scalp?), a beard and a mustache framing his face around his glasses (or at least I think there’s a face in there). I assume.
Oddly enough, my youngest’s dad looked more like a super model. Well, actually, his brother, my youngest’s only uncle, (almost a look –alike) is a model. She doesn’t understand why her dad doesn’t want her. Can I dare mention to her that I think that she is better off? Maybe her uncle could. . .he hates his brother. Something about my youngest’s dad being evil, or something. I don’t believe in evil, but he was awfully cruel. . . .
So she sits here feeling sorry for herself for not having her dad pick her up. But are two parents really important? Will her life be somehow incomplete because a guy that I had sex with nine and a half years ago does not see her? She has male role models in her life, much better than he could ever dream of being. For example, she has my father, grandfather, step-grandfather, my cousins and uncles, and she has her uncle. They all spend time with her. For heaven sakes, her uncle comes all the way from Japan just to visit her—okay, so he’s visiting others too. But the point is: what’s her dad got to do with it? When we (everyone that knows him) all agree that he would just traumatize her.
Are two parent households really better? What’s wrong with my household? I would do anything for my kids, I structure my life in way that I believe is best for them (I figure that I can always do those great, fun things after they are grown). I know a heck of a lot of children from two-parent households that aren’t feed, clothed (well), or sheltered. What about the households made up of two dads or two moms, or the aunt and uncle, or the grandparents (we have a large number of those around here), or great-grandmas, or foster parents and so forth? Are they really lesser? They are the majority. Two parent households are on the decline. But were they really ever the main household type? Really? Moms used to die all of the time in childbirth. Fathers were killed in battle. Think of all the other types of families that created. Mom and uncle. Dad and the neighbor lady. Coupledom has always been strange. Think about the once-common but weird-to-us age gaps (I am sure it was perfectly normal for the forty year old and the thirteen year old).
We have romanticized two parent families in a way that we romanticize white wedding gowns. My grandmother never wore a white wedding gown. Why? Because it wasn’t the trend. Just like women shaving their legs. That certainly wasn’t even possible for most of history. Think about it. We get these ideas in our heads and tell ourselves that they are normal. Where does this leave my daughter? If people didn’t rub it in her face, she’d never have know that he was supposed to be there. Other cultures have all kinds of family structures. One wife and multiple husbands (it make sense in environments that are particularly harsh, only one child to use limited resources), one husband and multiple wives (less potential husbands due to war and lots of women without the benefit of a male protector), families that the wives can kick the husband out if he doesn’t please her, families that fathers take on “female” roles, and on and on. Gender roles make sense in certain times and places. But they will not always serve us. Great kids come from all kinds of families. And every once in a while, a two-parent family produces an awful kid. It happens. We live with it, through it. We survive. But we’d do it a whole lot better if people would stop judging kids and families by whether or not the two sex partners that produced them are still together.
Besides what a strange way of picking a co-parent. Some one you want to have sex with today. . . but that's another blog.