Sunday, May 21, 2006

Progress... perhaps?

First of all, I want to thank everyone for your support of my last post. I have to admit, I expected a much different reaction, and had actually debated on whether or not to go into as much detail as I did. I kinda thought y'all would tell me to quit playing around with this stuff and leave it all in my lawyer's hands, including any contact as well as custody and visitation issues considering all the crap he told her. And I figured y'all would think I was crazy for being willing to let the events of last weekend go like I did. Well, I guess I didn't let them go exactly, but I certainly didn't deal with them in the way I expected everyone to think I should. That's what I get for ASS-U-MEing, uh? Anyway, I was just floored to read all of the supportive comments about how I did choose to handle it. It really made me feel like maybe, just maybe I'm doing something right, y'know?

And about the vacation idea, well, I'm taking everyone's concerns into consideration and I plan on getting some feedback from Em's counselor before anything is decided. But knowing us the way I do, I honestly think it could work out just great. Like I said though, nothing is decided and we've still got plenty of time before anything needs to be. So for right now, I'll just leave that one as a we'll see what happens.

So, on to the positive progress of this week. Em went to hang out with Bub Wednesday evening and about an hour after dropping her off I get a call from Bub asking me to come to where they are. Apparently they had had an "incident" and she asked to come home as I told her she could do anytime she felt uncomfortable. Of course I went right away. The story is that she had asked him to take a walk, which was just a guise to steer him towards the Dollar General store a few blocks away, knowing that super-fun-nice-daddy would buy her stuff and spoil her rotten, which he did, of course. Then she asked to go to play miniature golf, also located in the same shopping center, and of course, he obliged. So they went and started playing and she was feeling cocky and full of herself, thinking she could do no wrong as daddy's temper problem has miraculously been fixed, right? Well, she was being her typical self, world revolving solely around her, and not in the mood for anything short of complete fun and total catering to her wishes. Now, from what I could gather, it started off with Em mindlessly swinging her golf club without regard to her surroundings, something that Bub would typically have no tolerance for whatsoever. At first he tried to let it go, fearful of "being his old self" with her and wanting to remain as lenient as possible. As I've mentioned, he absolutely recognizes the need for some changes after I took such drastic measures. And even if he doesn't fully understand the hell he put us through, he realizes he has his own issues that must be dealt with in order to save his relationship with Em. Anyway, he tried to let it go, but by the 2nd or 3rd time she "accidentally" hit him with her club, he asked her to stop. Not sure how he asked her exactly, but I can imagine. Anyway, I'm sure she blew him off and proceeded to continue the behavior, hitting him with her club a few more times and generally not paying attention to her surroundings or thinking that she even needed to. Now, I don't believe that she was doing this intentionally, cause she knows better, but I do believe that she didn't take his request to stop seriously and simply didn't give it another thought or even attempt to not do it anymore. Like I said, world revolving solely around her. Well, he finally had enough and took her aside to thoroughly get on to her and make her understand what she was doing and that she needed to stop right away in typical Bub fashion. By this time, the fact that he was already annoyed was obvious, but she had chosen to ignore and avoid it even though she was feeling the tension of his likely regression to his "old self", in the hopes that it would just go away and he would prove his newfound ability to put up with anything now that he's "all fixed". Well, it didn't work. The tension erupted and each felt the other reacted inappropriately, and after some discussion, Em felt that the conversation was going nowhere other than that suffocating bad place that has unfortunately been the norm of her young life thus far. Anyway, Bub called me, which is big in of itself, knowing that it is his nature to handle things "his way". So the fact that he didn't just override her wishes to call me so I could take her home is something that I'm giving him credit for. As I've stated, he truly wants to work on his issues and find out what it is about himself that caused these feelings, and hopefully change the dynamic of all of our relationships. Which is great for me cause I'll always have to deal with him on some level, so I say, the easier he makes it, the better! And I'm excited for Em to be able to finally have a daddy she can relate to and hopefully have a healthy and satisfying relationship with. Anyway, I showed up and we all sat down to talk. I sort of played the role of mediator, trying to explain the feelings we get when he starts in on us, and how it just shuts us down and puts up our defenses. I also touched upon the fact that he tends to just go on and on (the lectures), especially when he doesn't feel like his concerns are being sufficiently heard and addressed. He is of the mind that problems be addressed right here and now, and not set aside until all conflict is resolved, meaning we see the error of our ways and have apologized sufficiently and clearly know to never do it again, ever. So I acknowledged his "style" but then offered that this style simply doesn't work for everyone, especially an 8 year old with an 8 year old's notoriously short attention span. He had problems with the fact that while he was trying to "talk" to her, she became restless and agitated, and clearly tired of discussing it. Uh, duh! She's 8 you dumb-ass! But he perceives this as disrespect, which only helps to irritate him further, which, in turn, stirs up even more apprehensive feelings in Em and shuts her down even more or provokes inappropriate attitude and sassy backtalk, which she feels justified in because daddy made her angry. See what I mean about her not taking personal responsibility? She's of the mind that she only behaves inappropriately when someone makes her or provokes her anger, and when they do, her reaction is justified cause they "made me". Gee, wonder where she gets that from? No really, I'm sure this is quite the norm for most kids, but good lord, how do you teach the concept of personal responsibility to a child, especially one this focused on placing blame on anyone but herself? Anyway, it was like this big cycle, and each of them was only triggering the other further, and nothing was getting resolved. So I offered the suggestion that when a problem arises, instead of the typical never ending lecture, that he set a timer for 15 minutes in which they both participate in an open exchange to air their issues. And if he feels that the problem needs further discussion after the time has expired, then he has to be willing to put it aside and re-address it later, but with yet another 15 minute time limit. Yes, that's right, I actually gave him some parenting tips! And not only that, but he listened and agreed to try it!! Remember that little revelation I had? Hell yeah baby, I'm actually embracing it! Anyway, I tried to explain to him that while he feels that a problem must be addressed and resolved right away, other's don't necessarily share his opinion and may require a totally different approach. (Not bad for speaking my mind, huh?) Personally, I need time to calm down and collect my thoughts when something like this occurs, and I believe that Em works much in the same way. In the heat of the moment it is difficult to view things from a different perspective, and with our defenses up, we're not always open to dealing with the issue at hand in a productive manner. I also acknowledged that Em was most likely contributing to the problem with her typical 8 year old self centered attitude and the fact that she has almost no ability to take responsibility for her own actions. To her, she wasn't doing anything wrong to begin with. Then, when daddy started being his old self, regardless of anything she might have done, that alone negated anything else that happened. So she needed some time to get into a more receptive frame of mind, and quite frankly, I don't blame her. But I gotta tell ya, it bothered the CRAP out of him that he couldn't just fix the problem right then and there, and the idea of letting it go was like a foreign language to him. He just doesn't work that way and cannot understand the mindset of people who do. He honestly expects that if he treats Em like an adult and speaks to her like an adult, that she should, in turn, behave as an adult and be able to follow adult concepts. So losing interest and becoming restless only irritates him further, and there goes the cycle again. Anyway, he got upset, like actually crying upset, probably due to frustration and fear about not being able to understand and fix it and what that might mean for his relationship with Em. This, of course, upset Em terribly, who then decided that she didn't want to go home afterall. She wanted to continue her evening with daddy because she was feeling bad about herself for making him cry and thought that she could make it all better by hugging him and making him happy. He perceived this as remorse for her previous bad behavior, but I knew better and I told him so. This was about her, and feeling bad about herself for "making" daddy cry, not because she was sorry for anything she had done, which is what he assumed. So I said that we need to go on home, and while Bub agreed, he didn't want to be the one to say it because he didn't want her to think that he didn't want to be with her. But he also said that he couldn't just pretend that nothing had happened and let it go, so if she went with him, they would have to delve deeper into the problem because that's just the way he works. She was adamant about going with him, but continuing to ignore the issue and concentrating on making daddy feel better so she could feel better. So I suggested that since it was now so late that we all get some dinner together, which would give her a chance to spend more time with Bub and feel better about the situation, and then we could drop him off afterwards and that would be then end to their evening together. To which she agreed as long as she got to sit next to daddy and give him plenty of hugs. No problem. This also forced Bub to have to let it go for now, which is something he is gonna have to learn to do. The point is, the issues they were having go so much deeper than simple behavior problems, and thus cannot be "fixed" in one marathon lecture, much as he thinks they should be able to. So we went to Subway and ate some dinner, and everyone was able to let it go and get into better moods. Whew! Later, after we dropped him off, I found out that Em was upset with me for not taking her side in everything and I tried to explain to her that daddy was honestly trying and that she needed to have some patience because this is all so new to him. I explained that I wasn't there to take sides, rather I was trying to help each of them to understand the other and possibly get them to view things from a different perspective. And that even though daddy may not have reacted appropriately, she still needed to understand that she is not above reproach. She was absolutely nuttin' up and needed getting on to, but now we have this wonderful opportunity to teach daddy a new way to handle these situations and we get to tell him how we really feel because he's open to hearing it now. And I realize that his newfound openness may prove to be short lived, but for now, at least, I plan on taking full advantage of the opportunities as they arise. Anyway, I also tried to make her understand that no matter how wronged she might feel, she must still always speak to us in an appropriate and respectful manner, as with any adult. This is a hard one for her, cause like I said, if she feels justified, she has not a problem in the world with spewing forth some hostile and pent up venom, with no regard to whom it's being unleashed upon. But the point is, it's really only counter-productive and will only get her into even more trouble if she allows it to continue. I'm diligently trying to put everything to her in the terms of personal choice. As in, she can choose to not do as she's told, but in doing so, she also chooses the clearly stated consequence of that behavior. As you can guess, it hasn't seemed to sink in thus far. To her, things are done to her, which in turn, warrants an inappropriate reaction. But we're working on it, slowly but surely, we're working on it.

Now, I've promised myself that my next post be about typical, day to day life stuff cause quite frankly, I'm sick to death of thinking about this shit! I want to get back to some nice, uneventful normalcy again. Anyone remember the chronicles of Whiskers? Ahhhhh, those were the days! Sure, they may have been shrouded in deep dark denial, but at least I wasn't constantly wrapped up in such uncomfortable anxiety and neuroses all the time! Plus, I have so much boring normal stuff to yap about from piercing ears to first bras and schoolyard crushes to best friends... wow, I just realized that I seriously need to get a life and stop living vicariously through Em's third grade daytime drama. Now that's just sad! But still, it's the excitement going on right now, so by golly, that's what I'm gonna talk about... next time! Ooooooh, betcha just can't wait, huh? ;D


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like progress to me.

If it's any consolation, my (just turned) nine year old firmly believes that nothing is ever her fault either. "It's not my fault" - from everything to hitting her sister "she deserved it" through to forgetting to write down her spelling words at school.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Even if Bub has a history of over-supervising her behaviour and lecturing to the point that she loses interest - that does not mean he isn't justified in correcting inappropriate behaviour. If they are going to spend time together, he has to parent, too.

But you can't expect her to understand that. She will think ANY parenting from him is a return to the "old dad", because she can't see when he is justified in telling her to stop doing something and when he's going overboard. And she's going to come crying to you every time he says something that doesn't agree with her.

This is going to be very, very difficult, because you can't be expected to start mediating every time there is a falling out between them. He has to parent, and she has to listen. And Bub and you (not her) must decide exactly what the rules are for her and come to some sort of understanding as to what the proper parenting response is. Maybe Bub will be the one to have to change his "method" more (scale it down) - but perhaps, as you've discovered, you must step up and not allow yourself to be bullied by her.

I'm not saying "meet in the middle", but perhaps Bub should scale it down 70% and you step it up 30% (from how you used to do it when you lived together) to create a rule/consequence system that is about the same in both households.

I don't know how you can explain this to a child who thinks she has a right to behave any way she likes and then get support from you because "dad was bad". Dad can be right, and still go overboard in his response. It's the overboard part you have a problem with, not the normal parenting part.

Boy, this is tough, isn't it.

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Sandy said...

You and Em have some serious work to do. Looks like you are on your way though. As you have observed, it will not be easy. You will see progress and then you will get hit in the face with a major setback. Think in terms of baby steps. Two forward and one backward. I think you and the couselor will eventually make it work. It might take a bit longer for Bub but I think he may get it as well.
You are awesome! I love you,
hugs and more hugs.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous jilly said...

Oh yes, there's progress alright ... particularly the part about you giving Bub parenting tips! yahoo!

As for Emily ... yes, she's such a typical 8 year old; at times self-centred and even, may I say bratty? She's a smart little cookie though and I can see her trying to push boundaries and using the current situation to her advantage, which, in itself is a learning experience, no matter how frustrating it may be for those in charge. Tis true that she must be put in her place at times and be taught to behave and show respect, but the manner in which that is to be handled is a delicate issue considering the past family history. You're doing an admirable job thus far and I'm glad you have a counsellor to guide you in this difficult (yet profoundly rewarding) journey.

8:28 PM  

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