Sunday, January 12, 2014

Uncle Dad

It was Katherine's weekend with Bryan.

When he picked her up, he was in a mood - I didn't know why, only that he was impatient and abrupt.

When he brought her home to me, he was impatient and abrupt again.  He snapped at me, snapped at her.  He said "She didn't finish her math homework," and I said, "Umm, okay, how come?" and he launched into how maybe if she had to do homework on the weekends then she was too overscheduled and there was too much homework and....he was yelling as he got into his car so I'm not really sure what the gist of his argument was.

My daughter has an Uncle Dad.  He's a babysitter in a pinch, but he is pretty hands off when it comes to actual parenting.

He doesn't do homework, bedtime, nutrition, teeth brushing.  He doesn't remind her to wear her retainer, or make her do any chores (he no longer invites me to his apartment and I'm 99.9% certain that is because it is a sty).  He is resentful that she has gymnastics on his night (for the record, she has it three times a week, and two of those nights are my night, so it's not like he got the shaft).  He sends her to playdates as often as he can, often overnight, so that he ends up having her at his place on average two nights per month.

Two nights per month, and he acts like she's the center of his life.

She's not overscheduled.  She does three hours of activities per week, and it's all for one thing, that thing that she loves the most, that she begs to do, that she's proud of.  And her school doesn't have as much homework as many.  But it overwhelms Bryan, not Katherine.  She's fine with it (great, actually) and it's he who is struggling.

So, tonight when she came home - early, I might add - I said cheerfully, "Okay, you know the rules.  You've got to get your homework done, so instead of hanging out together you need to do that."  I swallowed down the ugly feelings about that - I missed her and was looking forward to time together - and coached her through story problems (well at least I got that).  At bedtime, I said, "Did you wear your retainer this weekend?"  Um, no.  "Did you read?" (School requirement.)  Um, no.

She and I had a short conversation about cultivating her own responsibility, whether she's with me or someone else.  I reminded her why I thought that teeth brushing, and retainers, and homework, were all important, and I also reminded her that she doesn't like doing homework on a Sunday night at the last minute, but that whether she did it at Dad's or not, she'd have to get it done.  She agreed, and said, "Well, I guess I learned my lesson the hard way, because tonight I wished I was already done."


I wish I gave my daughter a father who was engaged in his child's life, who saw his responsibilities as joys.  I wish I wasn't the one who had to be the heavy all the time, giving up fun time together because ALL of the teaching of discipline etc. falls to me.

But I'm so grateful that I get so much time with my daughter, that I have the tools that it takes to teach her, that I find joy in it.


Does your child have an Uncle Dad?  How do you honor their relationship, while still teaching your child lessons about how to behave?  How damaging is it to have households with totally different rules and expectations?

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