Monday, May 2, 2011

In which my sister is completely, totally right about child rearing and her boyfriend with the fifth-grade son is wrong, wrong, wrong

My friend Anita always warned me never to say, "MY kid would never do something like that" because if I ever did have kids, they would 1. not only do Something Like That but 2. do it ten times worse. She also implied that those without children should not be in the business of judging the parenting skills of those who do have children, but mes amis, that is the main hobby of people who do not have children. To judge the parenting of the bad parents. You do not have to be a parent to know bad parenting when you see it.

NB: My friends are all excellent parents with delightful children. There is no reason to criticize their parenting. I judge and criticize the parenting of strangers only.

Back to our regular programming.

Sometimes, there is vindication. My sister, Jenny, found herself dating the wrong guy for a while.

Sigh. My sister. Pretty, warm, outgoing, liked by everyone who meets her. Deserves better than she has dated and that's all I'll say about that, although I will also say that Jen, I am sorry I told mom and dad that you were living with that guy 15 years ago. I thought they knew! I had no idea you had constructed an elaborate web of deceit, including separate phone lines back in the day when separate phone lines meant something. You know - when the phone was actually attached to the house.

These days, someone could be living in a crack house and you would never know because any time you would call, you would get the person's cellphone or her smartypants phone and not the house phone, answered in your friend's/daughter's absence by the nearest crackhead, maybe Duane, maybe Ginny, who would slur, in between puffs of the crack pipe, "She's not here, dude." And then never give her the message. And you would wonder what the heck is going on over there because every time you call, you get a different stoned person. But that wouldn't happen because you would be calling on a cellphone.

Back to Jenny. Who is not a crackhead. Who is violently anti-crackhead and against abortion but would be just fine with shooting druggie mothers who are delivered of sick, addicted babies who show up on my sister's ward in the hospital.

Jen was dating this guy, Brad, who was a very nice guy but I didn't think was worthy of her, as I have thought of most of the guys she has dated. She deserves greatness! But dating Brad she was and I have to say that he treated her very well. He was a nice, responsible guy. Sweet. Just no spark. But her life. Not mine.

He proposed after they had been dating for about a year. I have to give him major points for style. Brad was the fire chief and took the fire truck to Jenny's apartment building. He got on the ladder and extended it to her fifth-floor apartment. Or maybe extended the ladder first. Whatever. Holding a dozen roses in one hand, he knocked on her window with the other.

As his entire crew watched, he handed the roses to my sister. Then pulled a ring out of his pocket. Asked her to marry him.

She said she would think about it.


But she was right to do so because they had had a lot of conflict over one particular issue.

Brad's son, Billy. Which is not his real name: nobody is named "Billy" any more. Sad, really. If you call a three-year-old boy "Teddy" instead of "Edward," his mother will snap at you that his name is EDWARD. She is absolutely correct, of course. He is her kid. She named him. She gets to decide what he is called. It is presumptuous to re-name someone else. I get that. But wow. All these little little kids with huge names. I like nicknames. Sue me. I never had one - well, except for the nickname my grandparents used - so I was always envious of the kids who did have nicknames. I wanted to be Lizzie or Steph, not The Gold Digger. I suppose I could have started calling myself "Goldie," but it's not really Done to give yourself a nickname, is it?

Brad was a widower, so he did have that going for him. Ex-wives do tend to muck up the works - definitely the finances. And an ex-wife where there is a kid involved - well, now there is a lifetime connection that can never be severed. If you are getting involved with a man with a kid, it might be better for him to be a widower, at least for logistics, although it's sure not better for the kid.

Brad's wife had been dead for several years. His way of coping with being a widowed dad was to indulge Billy, who was about ten, in everything. Who wants to fight with his kid when the kid doesn't have a mother?

But my sister saw that this was going to be a problem. When Brad was promoted to chief, they had a big ceremony at the station. Jen was at Brad's helping him and Billy get ready. Billy came out in jeans and tennies. My sister told him to go back and put on nice church clothes - there would be photos and this was a big deal for his dad.

Billy refused and Brad backed him up.

Billy would eat almost nothing but broccoli. Which is so bizarre I can't even begin to fathom it, but such was the case. My sister, who has some awareness of good nutrition and a balanced diet, would try to get Billy to try other foods, maintaining that man does not live on broccoli alone.

Billy refused.

Brad backed him up.

Billy was the reason for their fights. Brad told Jenny that she had no idea what she was talking about. That she knew nothing, nothing! about raising children and especially about ten year old boys.

My sister informed him that she had a masters degree in neonatal nursing and that her coursework included classes in child psychology and other aspects of child health and rearing. She noted that she had been babysitting since she was 11 and that many of her charges had been young boys. She might have noted that she had more experience with ten year old boys than Brad did.

Brad was not interested.

Fine, she said. Fine. If you don't believe me, then at least talk to a counselor about the issues you have with Billy.

By some miracle - maybe it was when Jen told Brad she had to think about marrying him - Brad did go see a counselor.

Who - vindicated! so sweet! - told Brad that every single thing my sister had told him about Billy was correct and that Brad was doing it wrong.

Oh those are such sweet, sweet words.

But she told him no anyhow because she didn't want to spend the next eight years arguing about Billy.

Smart girl.