Day Eighty-Three: The five most foolish things I’ve heard from parents in custody cases

Source: Dr John Bullas (Flickr)

Source: Dr John Bullas (Flickr)

I’ve worked as secretary for a psychologist for a few years now. One of his areas of specialty is Family Law cases–specifically when children are alienated from one parent. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t. I know that these people are going through tough times and everyone is their enemy, but hell, I just get paid to make the appointments, take your money, and smile politely when you walk in the door.

(Note: I am not a psychologist. These views are entirely based on my own observations and experience. Although they are based on things that actual people have told me, I am not referring to any specific individuals; rather, I’m noting the things I hear all too often from many cases.)

 

The magistrate said there was no evidence of the abuse that was alleged, so there should be no reason my kids can’t see me.

No reason except that they don’t want to. It’s not fair, and it sucks, but one proclamation isn’t going to suddenly reverse years of negative thinking. You might be a great guy who’s been shafted by a vengeful ex; your kids probably know less than half the story (and heard most of it from your ex). It’s going to take time to change their attitudes towards you. So, hey, welcome to therapy!

 

My child was petrified of coming; he/she cried all the way here.

Since the only reason they know about it is because you told them, it can be safely assumed that their fear stems directly from yours. If you told them that they’re being forced by a judge to go to an unfamiliar (but perfectly pleasant, I might add) place where they’ll be forced (again) to see their estranged father/mother, then I can totally understand why they bawled their eyes out or refused to get in the car. If you told them that they were going along to have a chat to a nice man about how they’re feeling, things might have gone a little better. No sensible psychologist would dump an alienated parent and child into the same room together at the first session; the psychologist probably told you that when you came along for your individual session. It’s telling that most of the Orders I read have to specifically prohibit the parents from talking about Court Orders or matters with their children.

 

They said we’d only need three sessions/ Why is this taking so long?

I can’t claim to know what happened in your family unit to make your children not want to spend time with you, but I can make a pretty solid bet that it didn’t happen over the course of three isolated one-hour sessions. So why would you expect that it can be reversed in that period? Therapy is an individual experience, and depending on the client, progress can be achieved in two sessions, twenty sessions, or (sadly, sometimes) never. In these types of cases, it’s usually between twenty and never. (Also, while we’re on the topic, don’t listen to what your lawyer suggests about the frequency and length of therapy. They have no idea.)

 

I’m just going to email/call my ex and tell them straight up to cut the crap/stop lying/give me my kids.

Remember how you’re in a Court case? Do you remember why you had to go to Court? It’s probably because you couldn’t work things out just between the two of you, so needed to involve lawyers and judges and Court Orders. Contacting your ex informally and giving them a piece of your mind is akin to pogo-ing onto the thin ice that everyone else is very delicately skating over. If you don’t want to give your ex another piece of evidence of your “abusive nature” to wave in Court, then keep things cool and cordial. Speak to them only when you have to, or not at all. Everything else can be handled by your lawyers. You’re paying them enough.

 

Can I talk to the psychologist about fees? I just can’t afford this after the legal stuff. I can’t even afford a cup of coffee!

One of my favourites, this one was said to me by a man who was carrying a thermos of coffee that he’d brought from home. “You poor man!” I should have said, rushing to wrap him in a warm blanket. “It’s OK; we’ll just give you some free counselling, shall we?” No, what I really wanted to say was, “Gee, I’ll bet those starving kids in Africa would weep to hear it, sir.” (What I actually did was smile apologetically and advise that I can’t do anything about the fees.) I get it. You’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to lawyers and been dragged through the Court system for six years with no real outcome or progress. Unlike a lawyer though, the psychologist isn’t billing hours for every single moment that he’s even thinking about your case. He’s trying to work stuff out, so you don’t have to go back to Court.

 

 

There’s nothing like watching broken families to put you right off marriage and children. In the end, though, it comes down to whatever is going to be the least damaging for the kids. And if that means suffering through instant coffee brought from home, then so be it.

 

TB

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Day Fifty-One: Mother or Woman (please circle one)

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I’ve had Kanye’s ‘Bound 2’ in my head for the better part of an hour, which got me thinking about the video clip. If you’ve seen the clip, you understand that once seen, it cannot be unseen, and it will play blow-by-blow in your head every time you hear or think of the song. I’m not that hot on the song. I think it’s a bit choppy, if I’m honest. But this is an opinion that I formed before I saw the video. As on Youtube commenter said, the song was actually being quite well received before the clip was released. Actually, what I think he said was, “Y’all just hatin on dis coz da video. Y’all were lappin dis shit up b4 da vid came out, now y’all hatin Kanye.” Wise words from a noble keyboard warrior.

I’ll start this off by saying that I don’t particularly like the video. It’s not that I’m offended in any way by its content, it just kind of bores me. Switching between glamour fan-assisted shots of Kim Kardashian and ones of Kanye standing up doing that arm thing that rappers do is not my idea of an engaging video. It needed more explosions. Or dancing. What everyone seems to be up-in-arms about is Kim’s apparent nakedness, and her penchant for ‘riding’ her man and his motorbike.

To get an idea of what the masses think, you need look no further than the Youtube comments. Actually, if you’re just looking for a way to spend an hour shaking your head and laughing, try the same thing. There are plenty of haters who lament the passing of Kanye’s glory days as a musician– “lollll sooo shit. Kanye lost it!”–and those who dislike Mr West’s attire– “nice plaid shirt, faggooooot!”–but there are just as many sage commenters who express concern about how Kanye and Kim’s baby daughter, North, is going to react to the clip when she’s old enough to watch it. Some of my favourite examples are below:

Christina Whorton

This has got to be one of the most disgusting and trashy things I have ever seen…. If I was her kid I would be so excited to grow up and see this is what my mom and dad did….NOT!!!

I don’t know about you, but if my dad was a world-famous rapper, and he and my mum appeared in a video clip together when I was a baby, I’d think it was the sickest. I mean, by the time little North gets to watch this clip, her parents will probably be old and boring. “Jesus, Mom,” she’ll say. “I didn’t know you and Dad had feelings for one another!”

Mella Jahovic

When they’re kid grows up and sees her mom naked with her dad on a motorcycle and singing so terribly…… I have a feeling that child won’t be able to go in public anymore….

You’re right, Mella. When they are kid grows up, she probably won’t be able to go anywhere in public–because her parents are super famous and she’ll get hounded by papparazzi. I wouldn’t worry too much. By then, she’ll be well into the business of appearing in public for a living, and won’t want to go begging just because she’s embarrassed by an old video.

Empress Say What

Kanye should get some tips from jay Z and beyonce in Drunk in Love video cuz Kim just looks & acts like a Hoe in this video compared to Queen B. Jay knows how to show off his woman in a sexy but tasteful way!!!! Kanye has NO CLUE!!!! Shameful!!

First things first, Drunk in Love is Beyonce’s video; if anything, she is the one showing Jay Z off. Second, if you’ve seen DIL, you’ll know that Queen B does some gyrating and sexy eyes of her own. She’s not naked, but she’s pretty close. To be fair to Empress, Beyonce doesn’t get all up on Jay like Kim does on Kanye, but some insightful commenters have pointed out that this demonstrates a lack of chemistry. (I don’t agree. Couples have different ways of expressing their affection, especially publicly. K&K are just those kids on the train who are trying to eat each other’s faces.)

Compare these to a comment on Beyonce’s video:

Sassy Browne

its cool that she did this video with her husband..the song shows that they are having fun while being parents and moguls!! way to go B…keep the fire burning!!

Perhaps Kim and Kanye’s fire just burned a little too hot? I still think it’s just hatred of Kim, completely unrelated to the video, that makes people trash her for showing off a sexy side. (Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Kardashian fan. I think people should actually be able to do something before they become famous, but hell do they make some money.) The most offensive comments, to me, were the ones I saw on the very first day I watched the video.

“Gross,” some people had written (I paraphrase, but this is pretty spot on). “I can’t believe he would put the mother of his child on a motorcycle naked, like a whore.”

“She’s just had a child. She ought to be ashamed.”

“These people are new parents. So trashy and inappropriate.”

You know what? If I’m feeling confident enough a couple of months after giving birth to strip off and make a sexy appearance in my boyfriend’s rap video (he totally has one in the works), then I’m going to go for it. If my boyfriend is so attracted to me after pregnancy has wreaked havoc on my body that he wants to simulate sex with me on a motorcycle then I welcome the opportunity. Of course, I’d rather actual sex on a stationary surface, but I wouldn’t complain.

This idea that women who’ve had children are supposed to become matronly, sexless paragons of virtue is offensive and ignorant. Guess what? Your parents had sex. They’re probably still having sex. Unless one is deceased. Then they’re probably not having sex. (You should be concerned if they are.) “He should have more respect for her than that,” wrote one outraged fan. If being respected has suddenly altered its meaning to ‘being treated as a saint without a vagina’, then I don’t want none of that. Having a child doesn’t make you any less of a woman (in fact, I’d argue that it makes you even more of a woman, since that’s like what we’re made for and stuff), and–I hope–doesn’t make the father of your child suddenly too ‘respectful’ to treat you as a sexual being anymore.

OK, when I have a baby I’m probably not going to jump on a motorcycle with my hair blowing in a physically impossible direction while my bare breasts are silhouetted against a desert landscape, but I reserve the right to one day be a mother and a sexy bitch. Like Beyonce. Remember how she also had a baby?

The video is tacky, and some of the lyrics are somewhat unromantic, but this is their way of advertising their love. They’re parents, yes, but they were a man and a woman before all that. Don’t make me draw you a diagram.

Besides, soon enough, this will all blow over, when some other pop star releases an even more sexually-suggestive video; they’re Bound 2, right?

 

Sorry…

 

TB

Day Thirty-Three: There’s no such thing as a good parent

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My day at work today got me thinking about my admiration for people who manage to parent their children not-badly. I say not-badly, rather than well, because I don’t think the same criteria apply to everyone, and sometimes we’re too quick to call people out as bad parents, rather than appreciating that their particular strategies are working for them.

If you’re reading this and going “Whoa, how did I miss days twenty-eight to thirty-two?”, first thanks for paying such close attention, and second you should know that I had a week where work and sleep seemed to bleed into one another, like some sort of bad Inception parody. I’m not even exaggerating (and we know how I love to exaggerate). This was some hardcore working and sleeping. It’s not that I wasn’t thinking of highly witty and thought-provoking shit to post, it’s just that I had zero minutes in which to write said posts. If anyone has mastered the brain-to-print technology, I’ll fall at their feet.

 

As a young, childless, almost-professional, I am firmly in the group of people who think about having kids one day, but mostly just think about work and sex and fun. We’re a great group, always chatting dreamily about our future plans, and usually judging the shit out of people who don’t meet our astronomical standards.

I can admit this freely, because I’ve found myself doing the old ‘instant judge’ on mothers and fathers that I see in my daily travels.

“Ugh”, I think, as I watch a young woman wrestle with a pram for her newborn while a shreiking toddler-from-hell clings to her leg. “When I have kids, I’m going to space them more than a few years apart so that never happens.”

Oh, yes, good plan. I’m sure nobody’s ever fallen accidently pregnant shortly after giving birth to one child, and ended up with two say, I don’t know, 14 months apart. Right, Mum? As I constant clarify with my brothers, I was an accident but not a mistake. As much as you want to plan these things, sometimes fate just takes a big fertile dump on you, and you make the best of it. In my mum’s case, it was the only way she was going to get a girl.

 

“If you’re good until the end of the shopping trip, Mummy will get you a lolly,” the woman beside me at the supermarket offers the red-faced tantrum-terrorist occupying her trolley.

“How terrible, bribing a child with treats to make them behave,” I think, shovelling health foods into my own trolley. “My future angels will never be coerced into silence with sugary snacks.”

So, I like to think that the last part is still true. I’m still firmly on the track of “my children will never know what McDonald’s or sugar are”, but in reality a bribe is sometimes the only way to prevent a full-on meltdown. I’m sure that normally my sweet cherubs will accept a reasonable explanation for why tearing boxes off supermarket shelves is not appropriate behaviour, and will subsequently curb such behaviour permanently, but in the midst of an all-out scream war, I know that I will likely not be appealing to reason. The time limit is tight. Judgey arseholes like myself will probably be looking at me wondering why I can’t just be better at parenting so my kid doesn’t scream. In that instance, “shut up and you can go on the merry-go-round outside the shop” is probably the best deal I could strike.

 

“Your kid is jumping up and down and calling you a pig. Are you seriously going to just stand there and take that?”

As it turns out, yes. If you knew the child, or had seen them on more than the one occasion you’re seeing them on now, you would know that much of their acting out is attention-seeking, and scolding them for their actions is playing into their hand. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve watched kids run around apparently imitating a fire alarm and screaming “Mummyyyy!” at top volume, only to slowly become frustrated and sullen when they don’t get a response. These terrors morph into quiet little angels when you don’t feed them after midnight pay attention to their nonsense. I’ve seen equal numbers whose faces light up with evil satisfaction when their parent yells at them (in a similar air-raid style) to behave. Obviously there’s a fine line with this one. If your kid is drawing on the walls in my office or destroying furniture, I expect you to restrain them. If their attention-seeking behaviour has escalated this far, you’re probably ignoring them too often.

 

“But Dad, I hate playing soccer.”

“No you don’t. You always said you loved it. I’m not going to let you just quit.”

If there’s one thing that everyone loves, it’s being told what they like. I think most of this comes down to parents who want to provide ‘the best opportunities’ without really giving any thought as to whether their child enjoys those opportunities. To be fair, Mum was right when she told my brother that he’d regret quitting guitar lessons at 13–but she didn’t force him to keep doing them. There has been many a lamentation of “imagine how good I’d be by now if I never quit”, which makes her quietly smug. But in some cases, it really is just a parent living vicariously through their offspring. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are going to be enrolled in multiple activities–sporting and cultural–but only so they are exposed to the opportunity. If they genuinely hate it and want to try something else (within reason, since I assume I won’t have the cash to fund entry into the Young Chanel Enthusiasts Club), then I will swallow my protests and let them move on. Nobody likes a stage mother, right?

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“I had a dream!” – a dream to torment my children with my ambitions.

 

While it’s very easy to say that some parents are inherently bad–like the ones who physically and/or emotionally abuse their children, or are neglectful–deciding what makes a ‘good’ parent is a lot harder. If your child is fed and clothed, and you give it a decent amount of affection and support, then I’d say you’re already in the ‘not bad’ category. As much as I sit and dream about all the ways my kids are going to have the best lives ever, I’m not going to aspire to a particular method or say ‘never’ about a parenting strategy. I’d certainly like to avoid having two kids under five and using food bribes, but who knows what kind of crazy shit I’ll be thinking when I’m running on pure hormones and broken sleep? Parenting is hard to perfect, but there are a lot of wonderful people out there who have thrived because–or in spite of–the individual parenting they received.

 

Having said this, I am absolutely adamant that my foetuses will be subjected to in-utero Mozart and quantum physics lectures–because I’m going to have perfect pregnancies.

 

TB