Daddy’s Little Girl

I thrive on routine. I get overwhelmed with responsibility, and having a piece of paper that says “make school lunch for tomorrow” somehow keeps me from hiding under the couch cushions in lieu of getting things done. Now that I work free-lance as a writer and teacher (yes, in Los Angeles, teachers can be free-lance), I especially need the to-do list; otherwise, Facebook would eat my entire existence.

Our life has another type of routine that is harder to whittle into bullet-points. Every summer my daughter, age 9, flies to the East Coast to stay with her dad. Part of this routine is that she starts counting down the days 3 months in advance, mentioning often, with a squeal of anticipation, “I can’t WAIT to get to my dad’s.” Another part of this routine is that I always ask her to call me when she arrives, and I ask her father the same; they have forgotten every time. When we finally do talk on the phone, she is too distracted by the roller-coaster or the pony or DisneyWorld® to say very much, always ending our abbreviated chat with “So…I’ll talk to you later…?”

Her return is predictable, too. Her flight will always be late or “canceled,” which I suspect means “missed.” Upon arrival, she will not be happy to see me. She will cry a lot. For a few weeks if not months, she will insist how amazing and bigger-better-cooler-funner everything is on the East Coast than here in L.A. Last year, she actually tossed a menu away at a restaurant, thumped her head down onto her folded arms and said, “I don’t even UNDERSTAND California food anymore.”

My role in this routine is to let her cry all she wants, and to listen, and nod politely, and ask a lot of questions. It is also to maintain our household life routine as much as possible. Together with my live-in boyfriend, we do our best to make sure that she can always depend on How Things Work around here. There’s a “daily routine” list and a chore chart on the fridge, which has rewards, including dairy-free frozen yogurt, and the occasional movie night. (I mean, we’re not ALL bullet points. Come on!)

This year was no different. Except it was totally different. Because while my daughter was away, she—my beautiful, hilarious, little girl—started growing up. She wouldn’t let me come in her room the other night when I knocked. The next day, she stomped off and slammed her door. Her chubby little body (always a little chubbier after her summers full of deep-fried Twinkies™… really) is changing along with her attitude; it’s time for a training bra and deodorant.

So I bought her some Secret®, and we’ll get some bras when my last check clears. I even checked out a book from the library called The Girls Body Book. (Total disappointment. More on that another time, but suggestions about any contemporary feminist equivalents appreciated. If there isn’t one, let’s write it?)

Those were unexpected changes, but she still cried big, pre-pre-pubescent tears about her dad. But this was also different, albeit initially familiar.

“I don’t want to grow up!” She wailed. Her sobs were of the hyperventilating variety, causing hiccups and a lot of snot. “I spent more time at my grandma’s than anywhere else, no one pays attention to me anymore, the little kids are so annoying.” And then the kicker. “If I grow up, I won’t be his little girl!”

OH. Darnit.

I am so proud that I have a 9 year old that is self aware. I am devastated that she is figuring things out so soon.

NOTE: this is not a story, in the end, about a doofus dad, although there’s plenty of evidence pointing in that direction.

She isn’t Daddy’s Little Girl any more, not like before. For years, trips to the EC meant endless hours of one-on-one time, and spoil-her-rotten entertainment. But now he is married. He has a career, which takes up a lot of time, but he doesn’t make a lot of money, so there are fewer ponies. His adult siblings have been having babies; there are toddlers and newborn twins to steal the attention. Now that she is older, there seems to be an assumption of independence, which is to say: she feels neglected. And bored.

I think, most importantly though, that she is realizing that he has a life that doesn’t really—really really—include her.

In my mind, the rough time line of her self-discovery would go like this:

▪ Age 0-14: worships Dad.

▪ Age 14: hates mom, moves in with Dad.

▪ Age 17-21: realizes Dad disappoints a lot, and might ask me some hard questions. Moves back to my place, attends art school.

Eve with her daughter▪ Age 30: total and complete understanding and gratitude to the mother (me) for everything she went through. We become best friends again, just like when she was 6.

▪ Age 30-forever: she loves me the most, and loves her father eventually again, with therapy. They have lunch together sometimes; she occasionally slips cash into his bag. He is invited to her wedding; he comes late, with his 5th wife. My boyfriend walks her down the aisle because she finally realizes who really—really really—raised her. Lots of murmurs among guests about how good I look.

But duders, she is only 9! She is way off schedule. I don’t know what to do. I hate that she feels neglected and bored, but I hate it when he spoils her, too. I am suddenly defending this man with “He is doing the best he can!” And I don’t want her to bemoan the inevitable; she will grow up. She IS growing up.

I made a collage out of an affirmation I learned a few years ago: “I love and approve of myself exactly as I am.” It is framed and hangs in her bathroom. I want her to read it every day and understand it and believe it! Truthfully, I want to be in complete control of the kind of woman she turns out to be: strong, smart, powerful, unstoppable, and feminist. I want that affirmation, and my routines, to be enough armor against the effects of a mostly-absent father.

Whether our domestic routine stays consistent or not, I don’t have control over anything. I don’t have control over what happens on the EC. I don’t have control about how much of his 15% legal custody he actually spends with her. I can’t change what they feed her, or what they talk about in front of her…cigarettes, Coca-Cola, creationism, I mean, I DON’T KNOW! Most importantly, I can’t really—really really—control the woman she is becoming, regardless of which coast she’s on. What if she regresses into an arrested-developmental rebel with chest tattoos? What if she moves in with her dad and becomes a drug addict? What if she stays with me and becomes a drug addict? Or a libertarian?

So what’s a mother to do? Does it matter if I’m feminist, American, Caucasian? How is it different for other mothers or future mothers out there? Is it about a second parent, regardless of gender? How does this play out in same-sex parenting scenarios?

There is only one thing I know how to do: stick to the routine. But what happens when the routine gets glitchy?

139 comments for “Daddy’s Little Girl

  1. Themostserene
    August 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Sadly (for me, I like being a little miss know-it-all) I have no real advice or insights about the situation.

    However when I was a teen (all those years ago) the book that got me and my peers through was “Real Gorgeous” by Kaz Cooke. It was funny and disrespectful, and told me early on that my body and self were different, but just as awesome as everyone else’s. I still flick when I need an affirming giggle.

    I think she’s recently done an update, and if it’s available, check it out :)

  2. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Maybe this 9-year-old girl’s update to your timeline won’t be so bad. Your timeline wasn’t a terribly happy one, I think, so having to rejigger it to account for the child’s actual developmental speed could turn out awesome. :)

  3. jemima101
    August 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    The problem here really is that you are still allowing ideas about what is a good mum to inform your relationship with your daughter, you have lots of thoughts about what will or will not be a successful outcome in your eyes, mainly to do, it seems with her relationship with her biological father.
    Here is a radical notion, consider whatever she does a success. Given the control you insist on at the moment I consider chest tattoos a pretty minor rebellion. She may like me be a 40 year old with multiple piercings, tattoos and an amazing sex life. The major thing though is will she be happy? That seems missing totally from your thoughts.

    Give her space to grow and be herself, without lists and demands from you, reading between the lines that is probably what she found so attractive about her father.
    Basically being a good parent is not about control, it is about accepting we cannot mold our children, simply model the behaviors we hope to see in them. If we behave authentically and honestly, exhibit content with the choices we have made and are someone they can approach with problems, then they will hopefully grow into fully rounded human beings.

  4. August 21, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Heartache and heartbreak are part of growing up. I remember learning a lot of hard lessons about life and people and how things work, but they were lessons. What my mother did for me more than anything was keep living her own life and being the person she is. When I finally realized that my assumptions and expectations about life were ridiculous (turns out the world doesn’t actually revolve around me – WHO KNEW), I finally started looking at her again and then at my dad and then at her. I saw whose life I wanted to emulate.

    Role modelling is hard, because in the end you just have to be, not do or say, and you never know when your kid is watching. When I’ve worked with kids around that age (nine is one of my favourite ages, actually, because they’re just in that awfully confusing place between naive childlike enthusiasm and self-aware pre-teen cynicism where they are genuinely convinced that they are the most important people in the universe and so they are right bastards but entertaining as hell – oh god long parenthetical aside), sorry, when I’ve worked with kids around that age I’ve sometimes been able to have cool deep conversations with them about their worries and problems and had them come to awesome constructive solutions, but most of the time it was just a matter of keeping them to the ground rules for ensuring their safety, always being available for a non-judgmental hug or show of support when they needed it, and letting them figure out the rest of it on their own. For me, that age was where I first started realizing I could think my way through problems on my own and that was the start of an amazing period of growth and empowerment, though by no means an easy road.

  5. August 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    As a follow-up, while I totally understand the impulse to want our children to be “strong, smart, powerful, unstoppable, and feminist”, thinking of that from a child’s perspective, it seems unfair. It’s like saying, “I want my child to be perfect”. Well, okay, but does the child want the pressure to be perfect? This seems out of step with an affirmation like, “I love and approve of myself exactly as I am.” Because sometimes, the human condition being what it is, we are weak, foolish, disempowered, derailed, and otherwise flawed. I know you say that you get that you can’t control who she becomes, so maybe it would help to really embrace that and let go of the impulse of who you want your daughter to be and let her just be. If you are disappointed in your daughter, even if you know it is not her fault, I think she will pick up on it.

  6. chava
    August 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Meh.

    Having lived this from the child’s side (just swap the coasts), I found this…understandable, but irritating. I understand exactly how the kid is feeling when she swaps coasts and her whole world goes flooey. Among other things, you’re always–always–missing someone, no matter where you are. Her father may be a jerk, but he’s the only one she’s got and I imagine she loves him. Expecting–nay, hoping–that her relationship with him tanks is just petty. I get it, but it’s still petty.

    Also, she doesn’t owe you gratitude when she’s 30. Seriously. She’s nine, for Christ’s sake, and navigating this kind of emotional minefield is tough. I assure you that she knows you’re upset by her visits (I mean, maybe not, but most divorce kids are), that you judge how she comes back talking, looking (chubby? really??) and feeling.

  7. Diana Prince
    August 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    I love this column! What a great new writer, I hope to hear more from her soon… and I wish my mom had been this thoughtful.

  8. Jenn
    August 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I know American Girl has some issues with the ridiculously priced dolls and all, but their nonfiction books are really good. The Care and Keeping of You is a great book for the younger end of the body changes spectrum. It doesn’t really deal with sex, but this was perfect for my 10-year-old who really needed to process the body changes separately from the other stuff.

    This book talks about how body changes affect things like how often you need to bathe, but it doesn’t give orders. Every section has questions from real kids and the answers are all “it’s totally okay to feel what you’re feeling! Here’s more information!” type things. Think the changes are exciting? Fine! Wish you didn’t have to change? Fine! It’s really, really good, IMO.

  9. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I didn’t read it as hoping the relationship with the father tanks; I read it as acknowledging that, given the father’s unreliability and his decision to move 3000 miles away from his daughter (usually custodial parents are not able to move without the permission of the non-custodial parent), the relationship will probably tank at some point and integrating it into her vision of the future.

    But I am, as you are, influenced by my own experience of my parents’ divorce, so who knows if my perspective is accurate, either.

    All I can say is that I realized in my twenties that it was my mother who had always been there for me no matter what, and we became closer than ever before, so Eve’s timeline is roughly accurate in my experience…except because my father behaved like such a tool, it was sped up.

  10. TMK
    August 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    So what’s a mother to do?

    Relax.

  11. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    The “Disney Dad” scenario is so common that it’s a cliche, even if it’s apparently been literal in Eve’s case. And it seems to be an almost inevitable by-product of the situation in which one parent (usually the father) has custody only a small percentage of the time because he moved far away. (Like EG, I assume that’s what happened here.) But it’s natural for the primary parent to feel a little jealous of that sort of infatuation. I think it’s very sad when a child is deprived of the regular presence of one of her or his divorced parents, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for any parent who moves away, for almost any reason. In fact, I tend to have an extremely and viscerally negative reaction to a parent who chooses to do that. I don’t understand the mindset, at all. Speaking as a woman who also happens to be a divorced father, It was hard enough for me to get used to being even six minutes away from my then-10 year old son, let alone six hours.

    So my take on the situation is similar to EG’s. Although if there’s any truth to the alleged statistic I once heard, which scared me to death at the time — that within a year of moving out, almost 50% of separated or divorced dads see their children very rarely or never — I guess Eve’s daughter’s dad is doing better than the average.

  12. August 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    dinner’s in the oven, so I have a few minutes to respond. Thanks everyone for the feedback so far. Excuse me if I bulk up my responses into 1 post to save time:

    About the timeline: the majority of it is meant as tongue-in-cheek; the point is that I wasn’t expecting animosity or tears about her dad to begin until the teenage years. I always wanted to grow up, I don’t relate to her about this interesting wish. And as for age 30, I certainly don’t actually expect gratitude; I was basing that on my own experience as a daughter, and was –again–kidding. (I also don’t expect her to go to art school, or get married, or for her dad to remarry over and over. I sincerely just want her to be happy. )

    (@5-Chava) About judging my daughter and using “chubby:” childhood obesity is a problem in this country. My daughter does not have my metabolism, and our pediatrician has expressed concern about her weight more than once. We eat healthily, encourage exercise, and don’t have desserts on school nights. Then, each summer, she heads east and–as far as I can ascertain–watches TV and eats pizza and ice cream for 6 weeks straight. Her dad calls me and complains that I sent her with clothes that are too small; believe me, they weren’t too small when she packed her bags at the start of summer. Chubby is an absolutely accurate description, not a judgmental one. This essay was for an adult audience; let me assure you that these thoughts and feelings are kept away from her. That being said, I appreciate your concern. It is a tough line to walk, wanting her to be healthy, and hoping to avoid any pressure about food.

    (@4Jadey) Thanks for your input — I hadn’t really considered that she might feel pressure about my ideals for her as she grows. But, for the record, I’m not making her repeat the affirmation all day or anything. I think I do a very good job at letting her be herself. I know I’m not perfect, though, and feedback is exactly what I want. I think it’s healthy to hear the perspectives of others.

    Book recommendations: Thanks! (and like I said, I’d like to discuss this in a post at greater length another time)

  13. Angeline
    August 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I absolutely loved reading this–so honest, heart felt, and even refreshing. I felt like I was reading about the nine-year-old me, although I wasn’t coast-to-coast parent bound. I think back on how I felt as a little girl, a little fragmented, and a little hijacked in two separate realities with two separate expectations. I think I probably tore my mother’s heart out a couple of times–oh the agony of being 9, 10, 11…
    The 30-year-old me knows my mom is a bad-ass super woman, mountain mover, hero, dedicated feminist, pioneer, intuitive and spiritual woman-i-wanna-be-like. I’m inspired daily by who she is, how she raised me, and how she loved me, really-really-really loved me. And then there’s my step-dad who has given me the most unconditional love a father can, I love that my mom found him. He walked me down the aisle at my wedding (with a couple tears streaming down his face–mine too) and danced with me to Paul Simon’s “father and daughter”.

  14. chava
    August 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    @ DonnaL–
    I understand the rxn re: parents who move far away. It isn’t always the non-custodial parent who moves, though–my mother switched coasts twice, until my father was no longer able, financially, to follow. She got off in the courts pretty much because she was white, attractive & the mother.

    Anyway, I freely admit that my own experiences make me the worst person to talk about this objectively. Anecdotally, the first time I ever saw my father cry was when I got back on the plane to go home. Fun times.

  15. Kabodell
    August 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I have to agree with chava. I too have lived this situation. And if I may, I read chavas post as indicating that kids are far more receptive than they seem, even when they already seem receptive. My very antagonistic parents were careful never to speak poorly about each other to me, but somehow I always knew. That said, some of the moments I appreciate most now that I’m grown are those when one parent defended the other against my somewhat unrealistic childish expectations. In the end I learned to accept both my parents for who they were and not who I wished they could be, and in the process learned to appreciate everyone I encountered for the qualities they have, not the ones I wish they did. So give yourself a break on that count! Now I’m 26, an attorney, married and looking to balance my own career and family, and I understand how lucky I am to have had the difficult but educational (and no longer remotely unique) dynamic of parents who lived far apart, had different perspectives and values, and different languages of their love for me. She’s gonna be fine (which I think you know) and she is lucky to have a mother as thoughtful as you clearly are.

  16. armillaria
    August 21, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I’m only able to talk about this from the perspective of a kid who constantly seemed to be breaking everyone else’s “timelines”- I don’t know why they even kept plotting them out once it was demonstrated how irrational they were. I probably would have been a lot better off if my parents split up when I was a child, instead of trying to “keep it together” for the sake of some misguided ideal. As it is, they’re only splitting up now, but at least I haven’t gotten any mid-night calls telling me my father’s been put on suicide watch for the past couple months.

    It never ceases to disturb me, how profoundly unhealthy it is to center your life around a smaller person who never consented to being in a relationship with you, and then frame your own totally-voluntary sacrifices in the process as something that they are eternally indebted to you for.

  17. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    And had money, I suspect. My mom couldn’t afford to go to court over anything.

  18. T
    August 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    As for books, I’m not sure. But there’s always Scarleteen. It’s geared towards a slightly older audience, but 9 year olds aren’t stupid (I got my period at 9 and I totally remember understanding so many things people thought were going over my head). Plus, there’s a few posts specifically directed at puberty, so maybe that will be a help?

    http://www.scarleteen.com/article/body/not_everything_you_wanted_to_know_about_puberty_but_pretty_darn_close

    There’s also this: http://puberty101.com/girls/

    For what it’s worth, I don’t remember ever reading a puberty book growing up – my Mum had always been pretty open about things, and she answered any questions I had in a pretty laid back way. I suppose my school did have a pretty good sex ed program though, so maybe that helped?

  19. librarygoose
    August 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I always wanted to grow up, I don’t relate to her about this interesting wish.

    I remember being that age and not wanting at all to grow up. I was aware that life was hard and women got treated differently. That did not sound fun. At 9 I was still hopelessly wishing to be a boy, because it was obvious boys were treated better.

  20. Matt
    August 21, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    It never ceases to disturb me, how profoundly unhealthy it is to center your life around a smaller person who never consented to being in a relationship with you, and then frame your own totally-voluntary sacrifices in the process as something that they are eternally indebted to you for.

    @am, this so much this. in any non parent-child relationship the framing by the parents of how things should go wouldn’t even be borderline abusive, just abusive period. So many parents move beyond acceptable limitations like teaching boundaries of the body and mind, not that said parents actually respect those boundaries.

  21. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    any non parent-child relationship the framing by the parents of how things should go wouldn’t even be borderline abusive, just abusive period.

    Totally. I mean, it’s totally reasonable and human to expect adults to create a helpless infant that is completely dependent upon them, feed it, clothe it, stay awake with it, help it develop its talents and interests, find it good schools and help it with its studies without having any hopes or ideas whatsoever of how things might turn out in the long run. That makes perfect sense.

  22. Matt
    August 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Not hopes or ideas. Expectations. Which they often if not always enforce. Religious, academic, sports related, who you can have relationships with.

    Interesting that you say find good schools and help it with its studies as if that was the only possible option.

    I said how things should go, which is distinct from “how things wish they would go”.

    And that’s just regular parents. Not even the jesus freaks and other similar groups.

    Given the number of people who are profoundly unhappy with their upbringing, regardless of conservative or progressive or other such distinctions, its pretty obvious that there is a pervasive problem underlying the vast majority of parenting styles and methods.

    And of course they all FRAME IT as hopes and ideas. They may even perceive it that way. But hey, feel free to dismiss the legitimate lived experiences of millions of people.

  23. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    But hey, feel free to dismiss the legitimate lived experiences of millions of people.

    Many of whom assume they’ll do much better if and when they become parents, and then end up forgiving their own parents when they realize that it isn’t always so easy to be perfect.

  24. Sarah Dalton
    August 21, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Something about this piece felt off to me, but it could be all in my head. Regardless, thank you for sharing your story.

  25. chava
    August 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Many of whom assume they’ll do much better if and when they become parents, and then end up forgiving their own parents when they realize that it isn’t always so easy to be perfect.

    I don’t know. I think there is a difference between forgiving your parents and being OK with their mistakes vis a vis your own parenting.

  26. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Given the number of people who are profoundly unhappy with their upbringing, regardless of conservative or progressive or other such distinctions, its pretty obvious that there is a pervasive problem underlying the vast majority of parenting styles and methods.

    Do you have stats on the number of people who are profoundly unhappy with their upbringing, as opposed to just thinking “Eh, I wouldn’t have done that” vs. those who are pretty good with their upbringing? Because you’re making a major leap to “vast majority of parenting styles and methods.”

    But hey, feel free to dismiss the legitimate lived experiences of millions of people.

    It’s true, disagreeing with you is totes the same thing as dismissing the legitimate lived experiences of millions of people. They all elected you spokesman.

  27. TMK
    August 21, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Many of whom assume they’ll do much better if and when they become parents, and then end up forgiving their own parents when they realize that it isn’t always so easy to be perfect.

    Of course, most if not all love their parents even if they are abusive. Forgiveness, especially when strongly reinforced by what is basically commendmant (you should love your parent no matter what) isn’t saying much.

    But what matters is that “not perfect” means not only not perfect but very far from it. So what if it’s forgiven? The forgiveness often translates to: “Quite bad but it could be worse! And there were good times too!”

  28. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Believe me, I’ve always tried to be and do the opposite of my own father as a parent. I’m not sure I have completely forgiven him for his distance and complete lack of affection towards me. However, I may not have repeated my father’s mistakes, but I’ve made my share of my own, even though everything I did when my son was a child seemed like the right decision at the time. It’s never easy, no matter how noble one’s intentions.

  29. Matt
    August 21, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Except its not necessary to be perfect. Momentary lapses are unavoidable. I am referring to a consistent pattern of behavior.

    And in any case part of that forgiveness is social pressure. Because our society considers family bonds to be effectively inviolate. You are constantly inundated with pressure about how dangerous and emotionally harmful it is to hang on to that anger.

    To express any pain or anger against a parent without a stereotypically acceptable reason is met with shaming and anger and insults. A friend of mine once talked in public about how he didn’t love his parents for reasons that don’t meet the socially accepted standard for valid emotions. The backlash was pretty horrific. Not death threats or anything but a pretty thorough public shunning.

    After all, one wouldn’t want one’s own child to be infected by those beliefs. Regardless of the reality of his actions he was perceived as a trouble maker. And perception is everything when you have authority figures who have no checks on them. Any infraction was treated with extra fall out.

    I was in a fabulous position to understand this since I have certain issues with academic authority which far outclassed his. Yet I could get away with it. I once told a teacher to go fuck herself and she didn’t even spill to the admins yet if he said one thing out of line like: “Leave me alone”, “That’s stupid”, or “I’m not doing that”; he goes straight to the principal.

    We were relatively similar, being nerdy white males of middle or lower middle class. Yet he was a “bad influence” on me even though I was far more of a trouble maker and I have been that way since pre school.

    Speaking out against parents is punished by authority figures as much as coming out as gay or atheist, although among peers its cool, unless the throwdown from the adults is sufficient to make you attack a rebellious child to score points with an adult.

    I was never threatened with military school, although I had to throw an emotional fit of epic proportions for my parents to stop forcing me to be a boy scout. My scout leader and all the other leaders fully expected my parents to agree with them that their behavior was acceptable. I was only saved because I had made clear while living my life that I only cry or get really emotional if its incredibly serious. So I had an unambiguous signal that shit was real as they say.

    The things you get away with as a parent would often see a teacher or baby sitter sent to prison 100%.

    I’m starting to feel like this may be a rather unfortunate derail, its tangentially on topic so its up to the OP. I won’t make another post about it.

  30. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    OK, never mind, Matt’s right; most parents suck.

  31. Matt
    August 21, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    My long post is in mod.

    I’ll respond to EG’s newer post and let my other one do what it does.

    Other people in this very thread have espoused similar if perhaps not nearly as extreme comments that align with my opinion EG. In fact I was quoting another poster with the original post I made.

    If you have really never met anyone who was seriously upset about parental decisions that are considered normal and enforced by social convention than good for you, not everyone is that lucky.

    At least you must admit that there are thousands of examples egregious enough that even mainstream society condemns them. It seems pretty reasonable to me that even if there wasn’t strong evidence that many people have issues, with the track record of the kyriarchy we can extrapolate that there must be at least hundreds of thousands of more subtle and slimy examples of parental abuse, whether its intended that way or not.

  32. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    That was a response to your earlier comment, Matt, not the most recent one.

  33. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Matt, I never said that terrible parents don’t exist. What I said was that having expectations is not what makes parents terrible. Why would anybody have children if they didn’t have expectations for how things would go?

    As for your statements, guess what? “Extreme” counts. A less extreme statement would both be more accurate and less absurd.

    And way to make assumptions about my experiences and those of my friends. Believe me, it is actually possible to be aware of shitty parenting and still disagree with you. I’m not uninformed; I just think you’re wrong.

  34. Matt
    August 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Wow, am I just set to mod by the OP?

    Donna, I am not arguing that no mistakes are allowed. I am talking about a pattern of behavior consistent over the life time of a child and generally following the same issues over that time, as opposed to a new mistake like dealing with say, the adjustment to a child in puberty.

    So if you don’t feel that you abuse your child, perhaps you are not who I am talking about. Not all parents beat their kids, and not all parents impose pressure strong enough to qualify as abusive. Controlling for SES probably the majority, 50-60% of parents, are clear of horribleness even by my quite stringent standards.

    I don’t even advocate criminal consequences necessarily. You could probably solve the majority of the issue with education or support services.

    You probably wouldn’t be able to charge most parents using legal standards even if you really, really wanted to.

    Nevertheless the problem still exists.

  35. Matt
    August 21, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Well I said that expectations, which are enforced are the problem. So I guess we actually agree?

    You made assumptions about me when I was only agreeing with a previous poster and not talking to anyone else. So if assumptions are such a problem for you, wouldn’t that be just a little hypocritical of you?

  36. Q Grrl
    August 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Why focus on the woman you child is going to become when you can’t even honor the girl she already is?

    Back off. She isn’t responsible for the fact that you have no respect for her father (deserved or not). It’s very possible she sees things in him that you never will.

  37. TMK
    August 21, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    Wow, am I just set to mod by the OP?

    No, feministe modding software is basically mischievious sentient AI.

    • August 22, 2012 at 12:18 am

      Matt: Wow, am I just set to mod by the OP?

      TMK: No, feministe modding software is basically mischievious sentient AI.

      For the record, none of the guest bloggers have the necessary admin access to put a commentor into automoderation. That has to be done by one of the regular bloggers or by me as site administrator. I can’t find you in the automoderation list, Matt – so something else is going on.

  38. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    What I said was that having expectations is not what makes parents terrible. Why would anybody have children if they didn’t have expectations for how things would go?

    Well it really depends on the expectations, doesn’t it? If your expectation is “I’m going to help make a little person who will be a person” then awesome, go be a parent. If your expectation is “I’m going to create that football star/ballerina/valedictorian/strong feminist that I never was!” then please don’t procreate.

  39. chava
    August 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Yeah, so, “things I wouldn’t have done, but meh” includes ‘expectations’ (job, college choice, etc) from both parents. Some of those I listened to, and shouldn’t have. But it’s on the level of things I came through just fine. Nobody’s perfect.

    Things I’ve forgiven, but recognize as Very Not Good are a whole other category. The whole ‘nobody’s perfect’ thing doesn’t really cover pointing a loaded gun at your 9 year old.

  40. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Well it really depends on the expectations, doesn’t it?

    Well, exactly. That’s why it’s not “having expectations” that’s the problem. It’s “having expectations that are far too rigid” and/or “reacting poorly when your expectations are not met” and/or “having unrealistic expectations.” There are tons of ways of having expectations that are not inherently harmful.

  41. August 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    If your expectation is “I’m going to create that football star/ballerina/valedictorian/strong feminist that I never was!” then please don’t procreate.

    I don’t know about that – it depends on what that mindset entails in regards to raising your child. If it entails indoctrination, strict training, not respecting the child’s wishes at all, etc. then I agree completely. But merely wanting to raise your kid to be a certain person isn’t bad. I mean, personally, I’d want my (hypothetical) child to be someone who values intellectual achievement, though that’s just a wish of mine. I’d try to push my child to go that direction, but ze refuses and goes another direction (e.g. ze wants to be a professional football player instead of a college professor), then so be it.

  42. Eve
    August 21, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    heya, jumping in here for a minute!

    1. Please be patient while I learn about “moderation” and keeping up with your comments! I have no clue why some are headed into moderation and some are not, but I’ll try to stay on top of it! :)

    2. jemima101: While I understand that some might read my need for routine as an insistence for control, I was trying to explore how much control I DONT have, and striving for peace about it. You know what my “lists and demands” were for her tonight? She had to wipe off the coffee table. After she did that, we listened to Harry Potter on tape, and she drew in her sketchbook. It was a fun night.

    (also, for the record: I have tattoos.)

    3. Qgrrl: “Back off” from… reflecting on and worrying about the most important person in my life? Nothing I’ve written here are actions I’m taking, or expectations I’m expressing to my daughter.

    4. I am very interested in those expressing a strong opinion about the difference between hopes and expectations, and who feel like I am pressuring my daughter to grow up a certain way (and think she owes me for it, no matter what). I can only say that it’s AMAZING how much my perspective changed and, in my opinion, matured after becoming a parent. I put myself in my daughter’s shoes constantly, and my shift away from a self-centered worldview influences everything about how I approach my life with her. I find this to be very, very different from having a set of rigid expectations, which is perhaps not something I could have understood before she came into my life.

  43. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    I can only say that it’s AMAZING how much my perspective changed and, in my opinion, matured after becoming a parent.

    I shouldn’t touch this, but… “Are the perspectives of parents more ‘mature’ than those of non-parents? News at 11!”

  44. August 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

    The Care and Keeping of You is a great book for the younger end of the body changes spectrum. It doesn’t really deal with sex, but this was perfect for my 10-year-old who really needed to process the body changes separately from the other stuff.

    My mom got this for me when I turned 11 and I second the reccommendation. The only quibble I have with it is that it really only covers the BEGINNING of puberty and only covers girls. So, I didn’t know that periods were blood and not the blue fluid from Always commercials, and I was really confused about how sex happened because penises were so floppy. (I also thought condoms were for “boy-periods”) It eventually got sorted out with health class and Scarleteen.com though.

  45. August 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

    I shouldn’t touch this, but… “Are the perspectives of parents more ‘mature’ than those of non-parents? News at 11!”

    Uh, I think the perspectives of parents on parenting , which is what is specifically being discussed here, are more mature than non-parents, yes. I wasn’t aware that this was controversial. Or is dismissing lived experience for theoretical beliefs How Things Are Done, these days?

  46. librarygoose
    August 22, 2012 at 12:01 am

    This makes me think of my mom giving advice to my sister. My sister’s son is pretty close to me as a kid in personality, anxious and stressed by school and new people to a fair extreme. My mom was telling my sister all the things she should/wished she had done with me, “No don’t make him talk to new people,” “Meet with his teachers,” and “Try to get him into Montessori.” It was interesting to watch the lessons get passed along. It made me think how hard I must have been to handle for my mom, there was no one to give her any advice.

  47. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Can I also point out that Eve’s kid is not unhappy because her mother is pressuring her with expectations, but because her father isn’t paying as much attention to her as she is used to in the very few months a year he actually gets to see her? And Eve is asking for advice on how to help her daughter deal with this change in this relationship with her father, which is part of the changes of growing up? The kid is not unhappy because of a chore chart.

  48. Sarah
    August 22, 2012 at 12:11 am

    In your “timeline”, having positive emotions for dad means either being a naive child, or a rebelious teenager. Ofcourse once she grows up, she’ll realise mom was right all along, and be able to come to terms with dad at all either not at all, or if yes, then only by the application of teraphy.

    Wow.

  49. TMK
    August 22, 2012 at 12:11 am

    I shouldn’t touch this, but… “Are the perspectives of parents more ‘mature’ than those of non-parents? News at 11!”

    Her perspective.

  50. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Actually, on that note, Eve, the note that your ex isn’t giving your daughter the attention he once did, I have some experience dealing with paternal rejection, experience that I’d be happy to pass one…but that I don’t really want to go into in detail in a post. If you want to email me, though, I can talk about some of it.

  51. Matt
    August 22, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Way more on topic and less adversarial:

    My 2 cousins are children of divorce as they say, their father had some violence issues. It surprised people because my aunt was the first scholar athlete at her high school, she was pretty self contained and assertive as well. I believe after he lost his job as a cop, which he used to harass people including my mother, that he finally behaved in a manner where she said, fuck that, I’m done.

    The younger of my cousins did indeed go to therapy, she was depressed and listless and such. She didn’t finish highschool but got her GED and now she goes to a community college and works in the library, which everyone was pretty relieved about.

    Both of my cousins still spend time with their dad. They probably even love him, they are often ambivalent about this topic so you can’t really say for sure. They also understand why their mother had to get a divorce.

    Its definitely important to prepare for the chance that your daughter is going to love her father as long as she lives and even forgive him for whatever he did to warrant divorce.

    To analogize to another type of father, its kinda like Catholics and their church with all its corruption and scandal and crime. It doesn’t matter what the church does, they will almost always love it. As an atheist you look at the church and its like, why don’t these people understand how awful the church is and that it doesn’t deserve their love?

  52. August 22, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Just wanted to chime in to say that I loved this post, and I appreciate the honesty and complexity here. I know it’s significantly easier to just tell Eve to “back off” or “relax,” but I’d appreciate it if commenters would take a break from acting like knee-jerk critics and instead actually engage maturely instead of just trying to “take issue” with any post that goes up on this site. Writing a personal and insightful post like this takes a lot of work and it’s brave, and addressing what Eve actually wrote (instead of nitpicking or projecting your own issues onto the post) might lead to a really interesting conversation.

  53. TMK
    August 22, 2012 at 1:03 am

    I know it’s significantly easier to just tell Eve to “back off” or “relax,” but I’d appreciate it if commenters would take a break from acting like knee-jerk critics

    That wasn’t knee-jerk, i was trying to say something that was said later explicitly – that there is a lot in this post about what she wants her daughter to be, and that’s not really good approach, without sounding authoritative.

    Besides, if we talked about what she wrote apart from the book question, it would be utter flamewar.

    But anyway, if you think the post is insightful, why don’t you write why do you think so?

  54. TMK
    August 22, 2012 at 1:03 am

    See, and now i got into moderation, and i have absolutely no goddamn idea why! :D

  55. DonnaL
    August 22, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Unfortunately, I know more than one woman who was, consciously or or otherwise, and to a greater or lesser extent, rejected by her father at about that age or a little older. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it was usually around puberty, perhaps because he couldn’t cope with a daughter who wasn’t a little girl anymore, and wasn’t able to show her the same kind of affection. One became severely anorexic in her early teens, and although it may be overly simplistic to interpret that as an attempt not to grow up, I imagine that there was a connection.

  56. August 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Speaking to the OP’s concerns, I think you need to give the dad a heads up. Chances are he doesn’t realize that his daughter feels replaced, and if she esteems him as much as you say, he may need to have a heart-to-heart with her. Since you’re aware, you should help with it as a co-parent and recommend it. Even if you don’t agree with his style of parenting, the feelings of estrangement may result in a more routine way of living on the EC other than non-stop DisneyWorld. Just a thought.

    Parents have the most difficult jobs in figuring out what is within their control and what isn’t. As a child of a parent, I know this from experience — as I’m sure many others do. But sometimes the smallest reassurances or recognition help kids learn something new about parents and themselves.

  57. Zippa
    August 22, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I don’t have any comments for you other than on the books, but you might try:

    The Little Black Book for Girlz / St Stephen’s Community House

    Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships / Ruth Bell

    You are Among Friends: Advice for the Little Sisters I Never Had / Lindsey J Markel

    The last one might be a little tricky to get, I’m not sure, but it’s possibly the best-suited for the situation as I’m reading it. Good luck!

  58. Athenia
    August 22, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I think you gotta keep doin’ what you’re doing—that’s the only thing you can control.

    You can’t really control how she feels about her father and this is something she’ll have to make peace with/figure it out on her own.

    His failure though isn’t your victory–it’s just his failure and his alone.

  59. DouglasG
    August 22, 2012 at 9:39 am

    An interesting read, and I like the questions at the end quite a bit.

    As far as how same-sex parenting works out, there’s certainly opportunity for increased competitiveness between halves of particular former couples. Even when they are mainly rejected, gender roles can be useful to some if they provide a frame of reference for deciding how things will be done. Being a bit of a question asker myself, I feel particularly for such couples when one of the two then enters an opposite-sex relationship. That can raise a big bunch of new questions.

    After the libertarian question, I shall add one more – what if the daughter goes to live with her father and the arrangement works brilliantly? That could prove to be scary/painful.

    I’m glad the timeline was tongue in cheek. It read like a compromise between rational prediction and wish fulfillment, while feeling as if it came from the Prodigal Son’s Elder Brother, who displayed a strong sense of injury when the PS, who had by any reasonable standard forfeited any right to his father’s regard, was restored to favour. Being willing to resort to a hypothetical patriarchal walk down the aisle (presumably in an attempt to sting) hinted at real bitterness that isn’t there earlier. At least that’s what I inferred; I could certainly be wrong, or perhaps, with fuller knowledge, might agree that stronger bitterness would be entirely justified. What would a similar timeline look like written from different perspectives?

  60. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Yeah, I want to add support for Eve, who’s negotiating tough waters here. There’s nothing wrong with not esteeming your ex (nothing you say suggests you’re dissing him in front of the kid and honestly, I think the expectation that parents never, ever say anything negative about each other in front of the kids is bizarrely unrealistic), and it must be really, really hard to hear your daughter talk about how great things are at her father’s year after year; no wonder you have fantasies about taking pride of place in your daughter’s affections in the future. I think that’s normal and fine. And it was clear to me that it was a joke, what with the “lots of murmurs from the guests about how good you look.”

    My mother went through similar worries with me. When my father left, I was a teenager, and I crashed and flamed out in a major way; I went from being a straight-A student to failing, I went from being a nerdy girl to wearing ripped fishnet stockings and lycra skirts and heavy eyeliner and staying out late drinking, I started announcing that I didn’t want to go to college, I was just going to tend bar (there’s nothing wrong with tending bar, on the one hand; on the other hand, my best friend’s grandmother tended bar her whole life and things did not turn out well). She was frantic, in large part because of realizing how little control she had. It’s really, really hard, and it’s terrifying, and I’m so sorry for what your daughter is feeling and how hard it is for you.

  61. Lyndsay
    August 22, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I’m curious if her dad has any idea how his daughter feels. She seems quite open with her emotions with you but maybe not with him?

    Part of this just sounds like growing pains. It reminds me of myself. I cried somewhat regularly as a kid. Years later I didn’t understand why but I guess I was just emotional and not good with change. I think I was lucky to have a mom who did exactly what you did. The good news is she’s comfortable opening up to you and being honest.

  62. TMK
    August 22, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I think the expectation that parents never, ever say anything negative about each other in front of the kids is bizarrely unrealistic

    No, it’s not unrealistic at all. What’s so hard in shutting up instead of commenting on your ex behaviour, uninvited?

    I certainly expect my friends not to diss my significant others – especially people i’m in love with – in my presence unless i ask them for opinion, and it’s pretty standart expectation. Are kids preferences less important?

  63. robotile
    August 22, 2012 at 10:13 am

    DAne,

    My mom got this for me when I turned 11 and I second the reccommendation. The only quibble I have with it is that it really only covers the BEGINNING of puberty and only covers girls. So, I didn’t know that periods were blood and not the blue fluid from Always commercials, and I was really confused about how sex happened because penises were so floppy. (I also thought condoms were for “boy-periods”) It eventually got sorted out with health class and Scarleteen.com though.

    Ha! I wonder if this book actually did such a good job explaining puberty to kids then. Also, can someone please explain it to me? I’m a 31 year old woman and I’m still freaked out by puberty. If it wasn’t the way most natural things happen, it would sound like some creepy scifi dystopian change.

  64. robotile
    August 22, 2012 at 10:24 am

    TMK, I think backing up the other parent is actually one of the key parts about being a good parent. My SO’s parents constantly undermined one another and insulted each other in front of him, whereas mine, no matter how much they may have privately disagreed, always presented a united front. It seems like the discord made him feel really rudderless and anxious as a kid–especially because his mom had a mood disorder and was constantly bad-mouthing dad to the kids. Even when the mean things are true (in this case they were, dad was mostly absentee), it definitely makes the kids confused.

  65. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 10:27 am

    No, it’s not unrealistic at all. What’s so hard in shutting up instead of commenting on your ex behaviour, uninvited?

    I certainly expect my friends not to diss my significant others – especially people i’m in love with – in my presence unless i ask them for opinion, and it’s pretty standart expectation. Are kids preferences less important?

    Do you live with your friends? Do your friends have emotionally fraught and intense histories with your significant others? No? Then the situation isn’t at all analogous, is it?

    The idea that you can live with somebody 24/7, have intense feelings about somebody who was and is a major part of your life, and yet never, ever, ever let those feelings show is completely unrealistic. It may be ideal, but unless the parents in question are automatons, it’s unrealistic, and as I don’t find the prospect of automaton parents to be particularly appealing, I’m willing to accept a certain amount of letting feelings show.

    It is particularly unrealistic if one parent has done another wrong, in which case it’s perfectly easy for the one who has not been wronged to be all “la la la, let’s just all get along.” It’s significantly less easy for the parent who’s wondering what the fuck just happened and how the person they thought they knew and loved turned into a jerk.

  66. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

    TMK, I think backing up the other parent is actually one of the key parts about being a good parent. My SO’s parents constantly undermined one another and insulted each other in front of him, whereas mine, no matter how much they may have privately disagreed, always presented a united front….Even when the mean things are true (in this case they were, dad was mostly absentee), it definitely makes the kids confused.

    Could we please acknowledge that most of life is not lived at either extreme? The choice is not “always a united front” or “constantly undermining and badmouthing each other.” It’s often “yes, I started crying because your father yelled at me” or “yes, your mother is being completely unreasonable about this” or “yes, you’re right, your father is being thoughtless and selfish, and he’s done that before.”

    And it definitely made your SO feel confused. That doesn’t mean it’s going to do the same thing to every kid in every situation. Personally, if my mother had consistently refused to validate my very accurate perceptions of my father’s tool-like behavior, I would have been even angrier than I was, as a teenager.

  67. Jane
    August 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I can say that speaking positively about my kid’s father when we were splitting up was extremely difficult. It was very important to me that I do that, and that I do whatever I could to support his relationship with his dad because I grew up with (separated) parents who spoke negatively of one another all the time, and I think that is pretty harmful. We now have a much more collaborative, friendly co-parenting relationship so I’m glad that we made that effort.

  68. Jane
    August 22, 2012 at 10:35 am

    EG – I can understand that (re: being angry if your mother refused to validate your perceptions of your father’s behaviour). I think it can become harmful when it’s consistently less about the child’s perceptions and more about the parent’s.

    I needed my anger and sadness over my father’s tool-like behaviour validated too – I just didn’t need to be the one dealing with my mother’s feelings on top of that (as a young kid).

  69. Lauren
    August 22, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I think the expectation that parents never, ever say anything negative about each other in front of the kids is bizarrely unrealistic

    No, it’s not unrealistic at all. What’s so hard in shutting up instead of commenting on your ex behaviour, uninvited?

    I certainly expect my friends not to diss my significant others – especially people i’m in love with – in my presence unless i ask them for opinion, and it’s pretty standart expectation. Are kids preferences less important?

    Uh, it depends. Sometimes you have to point out the harm in the other parents’ ways in order to keep the child from internalizing it or considering it normal.

    I’ve been down this road, though I’m a few years further along, and my son felt the sting of paternal rejection when his dad got remarried, had a couple more kids, and forgot that his visitation time with the boy was about the two of them spending time together and not just filling a time quota per the Good Dad courts.

    I spoke to his dad about the problem. For years. I think five years this went on before he finally addressed it — the boy was in tears about it often and his dad denied there was a problem or said the problem was mine. He did nothing. You bet I had several conversations with my son about what my son wanted from his relationship with his dad, and what would happen if he got all/some/none of that in the future.

    There is a difference between dissing or trashing your ex and acknowledging that your ex is a fallible human being whose actions affect the child you are responsible for 85% of the time. I really, really try to be fair in my discussions of his behavior, knowing full well he has never afforded me the same concern. Something about this really rubs me the wrong way, that the women who are mostly responsible for raising the children live with the social expectation of silent martyrdom.

  70. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Since my father’s behaviors to me and to my mother were creepily intertwined, it was hard in our situation to separate them (part of the issue is that he has a hard time telling Jewish women who are related to him apart–no, Dad, I’m not your mother, also not my mother who is also not your mother, also, I’m not my sister, or your sister); since it was a small apartment, it was hard not to know how my mother was feeling; since it was a small neighborhood, shit happened like running into my mother on the street while she was crying. It was a bad divorce, and I have no misgivings whatsoever about blaming my father.

  71. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Something about this really rubs me the wrong way, that the women who are mostly responsible for raising the children live with the social expectation of silent martyrdom.

    Exactly this.

  72. August 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Agreed with EG and Lauren that parents (and really mothers, which is who we’re talking about here) are human beings who are balancing multiple interests. Is it often ideal for them to never say anything negative about their exes? Yes. It it, depending on the circumstances, sometimes actually a good thing to say something negative about the ex, because it validates the child’s experience or clarifies that the problem isn’t you, kid, it’s your other parent who has a pattern of this behavior and surely loves you very much just has some problems? Yeah. Life and relationships are complicated like that.

    All of that said, it doesn’t sound like Eve is trash-talking her ex to her kid. It sounds like she goes out of her way to be supportive of her daughter’s relationship with her daughter’s father, and to help her daughter pick up the pieces when that relationship begins to strain.

    Anyway, one thing I appreciated about this post was the tension between wanting the people we love most to be a way that we believe will ultimately benefit them — strong, smart, resilient — while also wanting the people we love to be themselves, flaws and all. And how that tension is especially visible when the person in question is a person we’re raising, whose existence we are helping to shape.

  73. chava
    August 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I think it’s important to make the distinction between occasionally saying something snippy about the other parent, vs. alienation parenting. It is unfair, perhaps, to expect that a parent not want the child to pick sides or to prefer the “better” parent. But nothing about parenting is fair, and it’s still emotional terrorism to react badly every time the child talks to the other parent on the phone, goes to see the other parent, etc.

    It doesn’t sound like the OP does that; however, I’m not fond of the “well it’s so hard to be civil” line of argument.

  74. August 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I recommend gurl.com. It’s quite progressive (from what i’ve seen) in terms of puberty, body image, and sexuality, and is geared towards girls (and some boys) around your daughter’s age up to around 19 years old. Heck, I used that site during most of college!

    It’s also interactive, with slideshows, web comics, a really good advice column, and quizzes that range from “find a party dress/who’s your perfect date?” (where you can choose boys and/or girls) to “what historical female warrior are you most like” to “test your STD knowledge”.

  75. Bagelsan
    August 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Uh, I think the perspectives of parents on parenting , which is what is specifically being discussed here, are more mature than non-parents, yes. I wasn’t aware that this was controversial.

    If people are welcome to share their parented experiences as well as their parenting experiences, which they seem to be, then I think the views of non-parents are going to be equally valid and on-topic. So dismissing their perspectives as “immature” does not seem appropriate to me — different, sure, but not “immature.”

  76. SWNC
    August 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Eve, I loved this post. (Maybe the fact that I’m a mother who also believes in routines and to-do lists has something to do with it!) I’m sorry that your daughter is going through a rough patch with her dad. It sounds like you are a compassionate, thoughtful mother and your kid is lucky to have you.

  77. August 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    The OP is largely talking about issues of control. Truth is, we can’t control the emotional state of our loved ones. We can’t control how they respond to other people. We can just contribute positively and kinda hope for the best. And it’s very hard to come to terms to that when our kids are involved. But we end up doing it anyway – since we hardly have a choice in the matter.

  78. ch
    August 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    I want to chime in with support for Eve here, too. I don’t have kids and I didn’t grow up in a divorced household, so I don’t have any personal experience either way on this post, but I really do feel for you (and also for your daughter!), Eve. And the “daddy’s little girl” cultural expectation: I think we can all agree that’s super effed-up.

    Also, I wanted to give a book recommendation: It’s a Girl Thing by Mavis Jukes. It’s the book I had as a preteen and, while not perfect (is anything?), it was really feminist in a lot of ways: it dealt with body issues and how your post-puberty body might not look the way you want/expect it to, it dealt with both opposite and same-sex crushes, and it dealt with issues of sexual harassment/creepy dudes/rape. It was published in 1996, so some of the scientific info might be a bit outdated, but I really recommend it. And while my parents bought it for me when I was 8 or 9, I see searching Amazon that there’s an abridged version specifically for younger girls (like 8 or 9 year olds), that looks like it leaves out some of the more advanced sex/contraception/std info. I was fine with having that info at 9, though, and I think I would give my kid the full version of the book (if I had a kid!). But just FYI.

  79. Lauren
    August 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    If people are welcome to share their parented experiences as well as their parenting experiences, which they seem to be, then I think the views of non-parents are going to be equally valid and on-topic.

    This is like saying that because one went to school, one knows how to teach. To some degree, sure, I guess one might have some perspective. But I don’t expect a former student to be able to tell me much about pedagogy.

    I really don’t want to argue this, so I’m not going to. I just think it’s a really limited perspective that smacks of me-too-ism.

  80. Lauren
    August 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    As far as sources about puberty and growing up, I recommend the “What’s Happening To My Body?” books. They’re targeted at girls 9-15 years old, so there should be plenty of material for a young tween.

  81. Bagelsan
    August 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    This is like saying that because one went to school, one knows how to teach.

    Well, students certainly know how not to teach!

  82. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Some of them do. And some of them, like the ones who complain that I only give them a week to read a novel, only think they do.

  83. August 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    About judging my daughter and using “chubby:” childhood obesity is a problem in this country. My daughter does not have my metabolism, and our pediatrician has expressed concern about her weight more than once. We eat healthily, encourage exercise, and don’t have desserts on school nights.

    I’m hesitant to step in here, but your wording makes me a little uneasy. There’s the “oh no, childhood obesity crisis!” There’s the reliance on a pediatrician’s opinion; your pediatrician may be great, but a significant number of doctors are fatphobic and worried about size over health. Then you follow it up with food restrictions and talk about “exercise” as opposed to a more neutral/positive word like “activity.”

    I don’t want to come down too hard on you. I just want to point out that a little shift in thinking (emphasize activity over exercise, etc.) might be healthy. Are you familiar with the HAES movement?

  84. August 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    @With Love #84

    thanks for your input. i’m quite interested in rhetoric, especially in the current political climate –i love the way certain words, which appear to be synonyms, actually affect people quite differently.

    that being said, my blog was actually about my daughter’s relationship with her dad, my role as her mother as we navigate this specific territory, and finding peace with the Unknown.

    i will no longer discuss my use of the word “chubby,” in this piece; it seems to be a derail.

  85. Anon for this
    August 22, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Sometimes you have to point out the harm in the other parents’ ways in order to keep the child from internalizing it or considering it normal.

    This. My nephew had issues with his dad that he attributed to not being his biological kid. Telling him “oh no. Your Dad LOVES you.” didn’t help. Pointing out that his dad was just as much of a jerk to his half-brother, was what helped. Because it validated his feelings that his dad treated him poorly but also meAnt that it was his dad’s problem, not him.

  86. pedestrian
    August 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    I think “chubby” is a straight up insult and your defense of it makes me feel bad for your daughter. What’s next, chunky? Cuz after all, she is!!!! But that’s probably just the immature perspective of someone childless who grew up shamed about her weight. Didn’t make me thin, BTW.

  87. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I find it amazing that the thing that’s upsetting this girl is that her father, who sees her for about a quarter of the year, has less room in his life for her–this is literally what’s making her cry–and yet easily three-quarters of the comments on this thread are mommy-blaming. It’s really quite possible that it’s not the mother’s fault when a kid is unhappy, even if she has expectations for the kid or uses the word “chubby.”

  88. Donna L
    August 22, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you. I think a lot the comments here have been grossly unfair and unhelpful. How many of you who are being so judgmental have actually parented a child through and following a divorce? Or parented children at all?

  89. chava
    August 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    FWIW, sometimes children do the complain about the other parent thing for less-than obvious reasons. It can get you in ‘good’ with the parent you’re complaining to, for instance. It can be a rare way to shift the conversation away from that awful you’re-betraying-me-by-loving-them dynamic, etc. It can even be a way to get gifts or money out of the parent you’re complaining to.

    And beyond acknowledging that yes, parenting through divorce is tough….I don’t know that you have to have stood on the parent end of this one to have an opinion on how it can go horribly wrong, or be suspicious of certain dynamics in the OP.

  90. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 2:55 am

    But she’s not complaining; she’s crying and breaking a regular pattern of talking about what a great time she had. And there’s nothing in the OP to indicate that she’s getting stuff for doing so, or that Eve pulls a “you’re betraying me by loving him” shtick on her (unless a mother expressing dismay and impatience regarding a father to other adults necessarily means she’s doing so to the kid, and given what Eve writes about the role she tries to play with respect to these yearly visits, I don’t see any reason to think so), or that doing so is getting her in good with her mother. There’s no there there, unless you assume a priori that Eve is doing wrong things.

  91. TMK
    August 23, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Do you live with your friends? Do your friends have emotionally fraught and intense histories with your significant others? No? Then the situation isn’t at all analogous, is it?

    I did at one time. Wasn’t a problem.

    But no, the situation isn’t analogous. If i did that to my friends, they would be able to tell me to shut up or limit contact with my if i persisted with that behavior. Your kid is unable to do either, so indeed the situation it’s something entrirely different and it would be hard to find other relationship with bigger power differential.

    And let’s be serious, we’re talking about your relationship with your ex, not your kid. That’s something which shouldn’t be used. Yes, it’s okay to discuss something s/he did, hell, if your kid wants to it’s good thing to do.

    But don’t go on how your ex is this or that out of the blue. THIS is what people mean. Your relationship with your ex, expecting support from your kid or what’s worst, taking your side (Which is sort of the undercurrent of OP, with the “loves me the most” stuff) is something that should not happen.

    If the situation is such that it’s really bad, then talk about facts and your feelings not about how the person is bad. (and frankly, find a friend to talk about that particular feelings of yours)

    Of course, it’s hopeless because every kid that lives with you will pickup implicit unsaid things like “his 5th wife” that reeks of resentment, but hey, damage control.

    Anyway, one thing I appreciated about this post was the tension between wanting the people we love most to be a way that we believe will ultimately benefit them — strong, smart, resilient — while also wanting the people we love to be themselves, flaws and all. And how that tension is especially visible when the person in question is a person we’re raising, whose existence we are helping to shape.

    Hm, this is something i can quite relate to. While i’m not a parent, i had a relationships where i basically was constantly agonizing whether i should have push the person in some direction or stop being so dominating and directing. The fact that the direction was of “more independence and assertiveness” made it rather contrivied and was lampshaded basically every other conversation we had about it. That said i can’t see anything in the post about it.

  92. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 7:16 am

    But don’t go on how your ex is this or that out of the blue. THIS is what people mean. Your relationship with your ex, expecting support from your kid or what’s worst, taking your side (Which is sort of the undercurrent of OP, with the “loves me the most” stuff) is something that should not happen.

    No, it’s not the undercurrent. Nothing indicates that Eve goes on about how awful her ex is to the kid out of thw blue. Nothing indicates that she expects support from the kid or the kid to take her side. Expressing annoyance with and resentment about the ex, as well as a perfectly self-aware fantasy about being loved best to an unrelated group of adults, particularly in the context of a blog post about how the ex has made her kid unhappy doesn’t indicate any of that.

    Perhaps you lived with friends who had been deeply involved with your ex for years before the relationship between them ended in an unpleasant way, and yet they never said anything to you. In that case, go ahead and nominate your friends for sainthood, but don’t expect normal human beings to behave like that. It’s a level of self-abnegation that’s simply ridiculous.

    The dynamic I see here is one that’s common to parents who are married as well as well as divorced. One parent, almost always the mother, is the primary caretaker and so is responsible for enforcing all the boundaries regarding healthy eating, chores, homework, cleaning up, and the other one, almost always the father, gets to swan in after work or on the weekend or over the summer, break all the rules, give treats, take the kid to Disneyland, generally be the fun one, and then drop the kid back off with the mother when it’s time for boundaries to be enforced again. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t be resentful of such a set-up. Often the only consolation for the primary caretaker is to hold on to a vision of the future in which the child recognizes that Disneyland and hot dogs don’t mean more love, and that the primary caretaker who does all the not-as-much-fun boundary-setting and slog work is the reliable one who will be there for bad times as well as good.

    If you want to talk about one parent undermining the other, why aren’t we talking about how the father is completely undermining Eve’s child-raising decisions and the boundaries she is setting?

  93. TMK
    August 23, 2012 at 7:42 am

    No, it’s not the undercurrent. Nothing indicates that Eve goes on about how awful her ex is to the kid out of thw blue. Nothing indicates that she expects support from the kid or the kid to take her side. Expressing annoyance with and resentment about the ex, as well as a perfectly self-aware fantasy about being loved best to an unrelated group of adults, particularly in the context of a blog post about how the ex has made her kid unhappy doesn’t indicate any of that.

    Well, i see it differently. The “5th wife”, the “this man”, the “loves the most”, the “predictable return”, “worships”, is how i’ve seen people who are resentful against other but can’t do much about it or don’t want to express it openly talk. Eh, every other sentence in which OP talks about the father, almost.

    For me it couldn’t be more visible.

    I can’t imagine who wouldn’t be resentful of such a set-up.

    Oh great! I don’t say that the resentfulness is ‘bad’, even though i understand that i might have come across as that! Perhaps it is, no idea, if the OP (or anyone) feels that way, there must be the reason for sure – but what i was saying that it’s not good to act it out on your kid.

    If you want to talk about one parent undermining the other, why aren’t we talking about how the father is completely undermining Eve’s child-raising decisions and the boundaries she is setting?

    Because i wasn’t talking about undermining but about actions associated with feelings relating to that relationship, and how these actions can affect the kid. But sure, we can.

  94. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Well, i see it differently. The “5th wife”, the “this man”, the “loves the most”, the “predictable return”, “worships”, is how i’ve seen people who are resentful against other but can’t do much about it or don’t want to express it openly talk. Eh, every other sentence in which OP talks about the father, almost.

    It seems fairly open to me, but regardless, she’s not talking to the kid. She’s talking to us, other unrelated adults. So what’s the problem?

    Because i wasn’t talking about undermining but about actions associated with feelings relating to that relationship, and how these actions can affect the kid.

    I think that assuming that the “fun” parent’s actions aren’t associated with feelings related to the caretaker parent is far too much benefit of the doubt. It seems to me that the “fun” parent’s actions are very much part of a desire to disrespect the caretaker parent.

  95. TMK
    August 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

    It seems fairly open to me, but regardless, she’s not talking to the kid. She’s talking to us, other unrelated adults. So what’s the problem?

    Yep, she’s not talking to the kid, so that’s not a problem, true (although i’m pretty sure that the whole discussion started because something else). I’d try to talk about it (the current relationship with the ex) with friends, since bottled up feelings show up exactly that way i described above (implicit messages) and it’s bound to happen at home and the kid picks it up. But perhaps OP does that, and i don’t want to speculate, not too much anyway, so, well.

    I think that assuming that the “fun” parent’s actions aren’t associated with feelings related to the caretaker parent is far too much benefit of the doubt. It seems to me that the “fun” parent’s actions are very much part of a desire to disrespect the caretaker parent.

    It’s pretty common trope of fathers being the spoily parent, but not as something against the mother. So, why do you think so?

    But yes, the fact your kid (especially one that spends most of the time with you) gets to live by the rules of someone else, without your influence can be pretty stressful if you disagree with how that person act in this situation. And since there is not much you can do about it, it’s pretty normal to feel resentment about it, so i understand if OP does feel that way.

    But it’s incredibly complicated. As i said above in reply to Jill, this is a thin line between controlling and, i don’t even know how to call that. Manipulating? :D Encouraging and facilitating change, let’s say. Weasel words. I prefer to call it manipulation.
    Second, it’s not like the more strict parent is certainly right, and it’s the father, despite not being primary caretaker, is a parent too, so may feel the same about her rules. I wouldn’t frame it as him undermining her decisions, because you sound as if you are eliminating his agency here.

    Ah well. It’s probably impossible for most people to make any agreement without grinding their teeth in such case. ‘Divorce’ is usually a messy thing. One of my exceedingly liberal friend who is a daughter of divorced parents said that she thinks divorce should be banned. I am not sure whether she was serious or not, but it left me (later, it was emotional conversation, so i got to analyze it from intellectual perspective a lot later) a bit puzzled what to think about it.

  96. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 8:50 am

    It’s pretty common trope of fathers being the spoily parent, but not as something against the mother. So, why do you think so?

    Experience. It’s a way of creating an allied us-against-that-mean-mommy bond. We live in a culture that constantly portrays men as children who want to have fun and who must rebel against rule-enforcing women, representing the forces of conformity and adulthood, to do so. In commercials and movies, women clean up after men, women represent settled domesticity, women are grown-ups while men run around like kids. When dads play into that trope, they are implicitly accepting that dynamic, and that dynamic portrays male disdain for adult responsibilities as a rebellion against women.

  97. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I definitely don’t think divorce should be banned. Maybe marriage, though (I’m joking).

  98. TMK
    August 23, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I like your idea :D

    No, more seriously it was just that she liked her parents to do stuff together, and it was so obvious how important it was for her, and i knew how hurt she was by the whole ordeal. But on the other hand, their marriage was not working, and they are better off separate, and she knows it too, so it’s pretty much situation without good solution. Only bad and bad.

    My other friend parents divorced too, and it devastated her completely. The only thing i was able to get from it and from other stories is that: if you’re going to divorce, do it when your kids are younger than six or older than twelve. (on a side note, my parents divorced when i was 1 and my sister 4, and we were completely okay with it, even thought the divorce itself was very toxic or so i heard).

  99. TMK
    August 23, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Experience. It’s a way of creating an allied us-against-that-mean-mommy bond. We live in a culture that constantly portrays men as children who want to have fun and who must rebel against rule-enforcing women, representing the forces of conformity and adulthood, to do so. In commercials and movies, women clean up after men, women represent settled domesticity, women are grown-ups while men run around like kids. When dads play into that trope, they are implicitly accepting that dynamic, and that dynamic portrays male disdain for adult responsibilities as a rebellion against women.

    Hm. In my experience it’s something more related to fathers not being invested as much in their kids particular future as mothers (not really suprising given how much kids define womanhood compared to manhood), and thus being more lenient.

  100. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I was 16, and my parents’ divorce was very acrimonious. I don’t know that there’s a time that doesn’t suck, really. I did a reading six years ago and both my parents were there, and they spoke in a friendly way about me and about their youth together, and the experience was so powerful and amazing that I had to walk away because I just couldn’t watch it any more, it was too much–and I’m in my mid-30s!

    But yes, bad situation, and multiple solutions that hurt. I agree.

  101. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I suspect that it also has something to do with the fact that fathers and non-custodial parents are less likely to have to deal with the even immediate consequences. If you’re not the one who has to put the kid to bed, you don’t mind getting her wound up right before bedtime; if you’re not the one who has to clean it up when she throws up, you’re more likely to let her eat all the cotton candy and caramel corn she wants. That kind of thing.

  102. TMK
    August 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

    I was 16, and my parents’ divorce was very acrimonious. I don’t know that there’s a time that doesn’t suck, really. I did a reading six years ago and both my parents were there, and they spoke in a friendly way about me and about their youth together, and the experience was so powerful and amazing that I had to walk away because I just couldn’t watch it any more, it was too much–and I’m in my mid-30s!

    Oh my. I can relate to it even thought it’s completely not my experience (as i said i basically was single-parent kid), but since these friends i spoke about were very close, i can really emphatize with your feelings at that situation and it feels so real. I’m touched.

  103. amblingalong
    August 23, 2012 at 9:25 am

    If you want to talk about one parent undermining the other, why aren’t we talking about how the father is completely undermining Eve’s child-raising decisions and the boundaries she is setting?

    Because only Eve’s child-raising decisions and boundaries are legitimate, and it’s her ex-husband’s job to accept them as unilateral dictates? Huh?

  104. DouglasG
    August 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

    It’s interesting seeing commentary about the “fun” parent, as I was just thinking last night that if there were a Celebrity Guest who’d be perfect for this thread, it would be Winnie Holzman (the genius of My So-Called Life).

    Even with the Chase marriage operating with the sincere attempt to be a cohesive and coherent unit, Patty and Graham kept running into conflict over Mean vs Fun. And there was Angela’s line summing up the father-daughter Puberty Separation, “My breasts have come between us.” And, had MSCL not suffered a premature death, Ms Holzman was planning a marital split (among other things, including bringing in Rickie’s [birth] mother); ever since learning that, I’ve felt doubly deprived for not having seen how Ms Holzman would have written that situation.

    Going beyond, it seems a point on balance in favour of Ms Eve to recall how Bess Armstrong, who played Patty, was the only actor who seemed to remember in later years how all the youngsters froze out Lisa Waltz (who played the homewrecking catalyst Hallie Lowenthal) on the set, out of loyalty and attachment to the fictional marriage.

  105. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Thank you, TMK. That’s actually really hard for me to talk about; in most ways, it’s easier for me to talk about how terrible the divorce was than it is for me to think about what it means to me to have seen–or would mean to see again–my parents showing…I don’t know, affection or friendliness or happiness to each other since the divorce, on those very rare occasions (I can think of only two). I know my mother understands, because her parents were divorced, but I’m quite sure my father doesn’t, or at least, he seemed surprised when I mentioned it.

  106. Lauren
    August 23, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Because only Eve’s child-raising decisions and boundaries are legitimate, and it’s her ex-husband’s job to accept them as unilateral dictates? Huh?

    Funny, my ex says this to me all the time. After going through a really ugly years-long custody battle where the court decided that I was the preferable custodial parent, yeah, I feel like I have some sway over these decisions that he does not. And also, his behavior over time shows that he’s really just not interested in our son’s best interests, by my standards, or by more neutral general parenting standards.

    And you know? Things like missing planes, which it sounds like has happened ore than once, sounds really, REALLY passive-aggressive.

    I’ve tried to co-parent with someone who does not respect my time, money, goodwill, or good-faith efforts for many years, and we’re at a point now where I’ve stopped reaching out and just started mitigating damage.

  107. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Because only Eve’s child-raising decisions and boundaries are legitimate, and it’s her ex-husband’s job to accept them as unilateral dictates? Huh?

    Because attacking his parenting decisions and undermining actions is no worse than the many attacks that have been levelled against Eve’s parenting decisions and her attitude toward the ex, and I think it’s telling that it’s the mother whose parenting decisions are being attacked even when the kid is crying over the father’s behavior.

  108. Lauren
    August 23, 2012 at 9:40 am

    BTW, EG, thanks for sharing your experience here. We’ve clashed in the past, but this thread has given me a lot of insight into my relationship with my son and his relationship with his dad. My parents didn’t divorce (though they should have long before I was even born), so there is a part of me that just doesn’t understand what he deals with.

  109. chava
    August 23, 2012 at 9:48 am

    I don’t know that there’s a time that doesn’t suck, really. I did a reading six years ago and both my parents were there, and they spoke in a friendly way about me and about their youth together, and the experience was so powerful and amazing that I had to walk away because I just couldn’t watch it any more, it was too much–and I’m in my mid-30s!

    I have one photo of my parents together with non-baby me, and it’s from my wedding (they divorced when I was three). I asked them to do it; they’re still not friendly but it was nice/moving to have the picture.

  110. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Thanks, Lauren. I still tear up when I look at photos of us all together sometimes when I was little, now that I know what was coming down the road, but I also know that both my parents are much happier now. From everything I’ve read of yours, your thoughtfulness and perceptiveness–and calling out when need be!–will let you do just fine by your son, even if you don’t have the experience yourself.

  111. chava
    August 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

    re: the men as”fun” parents vs women as serious/responsible ones–

    I agree that it’s damaging when men play into this role; on the other hand, it lets women be accepted as the more suitable parent without anyone really questioning what’s going on beneath the surface. It’s kind of amazing how much a few choice words about your child’s father will manipulate people.

    To be clear–I don’t think Eve is evil, or manipulating people, or anything like that. I did get a little irked/triggered by some of the dynamics her post hinted at, but that’s neither here nor there.

    • Kabodell
      August 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      I really agree with that. I also think it’s understandable for Eve to think of the dad here as being the ‘fun’ parent. I get why that happens an it happened with my own mom and dad. Bit as a child, I know that I did not feel that way. I has confusing and upsetting interactions with my dad on every visit and his struggle to connect with me through activities that were ‘fun’ did not make him better or worse than mom to me… Just different. I don’t know how well this relates to the original post, but it was my experience. The ‘fun’ parent problem is a projection.

  112. TMK
    August 23, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Thank you, TMK. That’s actually really hard for me to talk about; in most ways, it’s easier for me to talk about how terrible the divorce was than it is for me to think about what it means to me to have seen–or would mean to see again–my parents showing…I don’t know, affection or friendliness or happiness to each other since the divorce, on those very rare occasions (I can think of only two). I know my mother understands, because her parents were divorced, but I’m quite sure my father doesn’t, or at least, he seemed surprised when I mentioned it.

    I had to take a walk to feel these things that appeared in me, even. It surprised me.

    I think it was the same for her. We certainly talked more about the bad things. I think i know why it is so, i think it’s because of the longing of the long lost happiness that one was forced to give up and forget and remembering it is so painful and experiencing it again reminds not only of the happiness but of the things lost.

    And your words – affection, friendliness – bear striking resemblance to hers, in some way, despite different language (even though i put it as “doing stuff together”)

  113. TMK
    August 23, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I suspect that it also has something to do with the fact that fathers and non-custodial parents are less likely to have to deal with the even immediate consequences. If you’re not the one who has to put the kid to bed, you don’t mind getting her wound up right before bedtime; if you’re not the one who has to clean it up when she throws up, you’re more likely to let her eat all the cotton candy and caramel corn she wants. That kind of thing.

    Yes, i think it’s somewhat related to what i was trying to say (the kids being the mother responsibility, especially when it comes to daily things. Same for domestic work, which cleaning up thrown up candy is)

    And you know? Things like missing planes, which it sounds like has happened ore than once, sounds really, REALLY passive-aggressive.

    Oh, yes, that struck me too, even though it’s not surprising. After all, i wrote about how resentment on Eve part is perfectly natural (situation you can’t control), but the opposite is also true.

    Passive-aggressive PD is sort of my kink. The thing is that is perfectly reasonable response to situations where you don’t want to do something but don’t have that option. After all, it was first diagnosed in soldiers, IIRC, and that’s very clear situation where you have to follow orders. So what do you do? Drag your feet. Pretend you’re digging that latrine but do it as slowly as possible. Miss the plane.

    It’s when it persist in situations that you can be assertive it can be diagnosed as personality disorder.

    That said, i’m not going to judge whether Eve or the father rules are better (even if i’m personally more liberal), but i think, since both are sort of full parents, they both get to do that, even though it means both will be unhappy.

    I have one photo of my parents together with non-baby me, and it’s from my wedding (they divorced when I was three). I asked them to do it; they’re still not friendly but it was nice/moving to have the picture.

    And there goes my theory it’s not as bad when you’re very little! ;(

  114. pheenobarbidoll
    August 23, 2012 at 10:43 am

    f you’re not the one who has to put the kid to bed, you don’t mind getting her wound up right before bedtime; if you’re not the one who has to clean it up when she throws up, you’re more likely to let her eat all the cotton candy and caramel corn she wants. That kind of thing.

    And the non custodial parent doesn’t have his or her job made twice as hard while they undo all the crap that went on during fun parent visit.

    My daughter would come back looking like she’d been on a 3 day drug binge. She was filthy, the extra clothes I would send would always get “lost” or not make it back here. She’d have dark bags under her eyes from having no bedtime and she’d eat like she hadn’t had a real meal the whole time.

    It would take me a week to get her back on schedule and in bed at a decent time so she wouldn’t be a zombie for school. The teacher even called once, concerned that she wasn’t getting proper nutrition or rest. HE let her stay up all night. *I* had to deal with the school phone calls and judgment.

    His visitation was a weekend every 2 weeks (unless he had more important things to do that weekend like get drunk) and those 2 weekends a month screwed up at least 2 weeks out of the month, schedule wise.

    It’s pretty human to resent the person that makes your life and parenting work twice as hard because they don’t give a damn.

  115. DonnaL
    August 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I did a reading six years ago and both my parents were there, and they spoke in a friendly way about me and about their youth together, and the experience was so powerful and amazing that I had to walk away because I just couldn’t watch it any more, it was too much–and I’m in my mid-30s!

    I am sure that my son could relate to this, EG. My former spouse and I separated when he was 10, and he’s now 22. It was not an amicable divorce; the whole process from separation to divorce decree took 4 1/2 years, and ever since he’s been old enough that we don’t have to talk about him regularly, we hardly ever communicate. When he graduated from college in Chicago a couple of months ago, the three of us had dinner together a couple of times during the weekend, and it was all quite amicable. The evening after his graduation ceremony, when he and I were sitting in a taxi on our way to Boystown to celebrate by seeing Latrice Royale perform in a drag show (I suspect that he was the only graduate who chose to celebrate that way), he mentioned to me that those dinners were the first time that the three of us had eaten together since he was in 6th grade, and that things were a lot more pleasant now than they’d been on the prior occasion. And that it really meant something to him, even after all those years — more than half his lifetime since the separation.

    And I was happy to be able to give that to him, even though if it were entirely up to me I would probably never speak to my ex again. I don’t hate her — I don’t see how I could, since she’s my son’s mother, and he loves her, and I loved her once upon a time — but I’m not sure I can ever forgive her for how she chose to handle things, including threatening to use, and using, my transness against me during the divorce. Just as, I’m sure, she’ll never forgive me for not turning out to be what she expected.

  116. DonnaL
    August 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I also wanted to say that although I realize that all the generalizations in this thread about divorced fathers are probably true in the vast majority of cases, and although I know I shouldn’t take them personally, I still find it very sad to read them. Because, even though I’m as self-critical of my parenting and everything else as anyone I know, I honestly don’t believe that I was that way. I always did the very best I could under extremely difficult circumstances.

  117. chava
    August 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I also wanted to say that although I realize that all the generalizations in this thread about divorced fathers are probably true in the vast majority of cases, and although I know I shouldn’t take them personally, I still find it very sad to read them.

    From what I’ve seen it’s about 50/50.

  118. chava
    August 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    It’s pretty human to resent the person that makes your life and parenting work twice as hard because they don’t give a damn.

    Yeah, it’s human. What’s human, but not acceptable, is lobbing that resentment off on the child. My father–the non-custodial parent, btw– managed not to unload on me, for the most part, so it is possible. But fwiw, if I never hear “oh, I get it, I have to be the *bad guy* and I never get any time to be the “fun parent” with you” it will be way. too. soon.

    I get it’s human to roll your eyes and unload a comment like that at your kid every so often. What I’m saying is, we remember it. Sometimes we might grow up and realize that our parent was under a lot of stress and doing their best…annnnd sometimes we realize, that best wasn’t good enough.

  119. Lauren
    August 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Because, even though I’m as self-critical of my parenting and everything else as anyone I know, I honestly don’t believe that I was that way. I always did the very best I could under extremely difficult circumstances.

    It’s really heart-breaking, no? I can only sort-of imagine having my very identity used against me in court like that. I went through something only marginally similar, and while I know that’s part of the ugliness of divorce, it’s still not a path I chose, one I didn’t use against my ex, and one I wholly hope to avoid for the rest of my life.

    Despite all the enmity between us, what I wouldn’t give to feel like he could actually sustain real interest about our son and our role as co-parents. I can say that after it all, I wouldn’t care who my ex turned out to be, so long as he demonstrated love and care for our child. As you do.

  120. August 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Re: “badmouthing” a parent

    I was twelve when my mother finally took me (and her) away from my dad. It’s the best thing she ever did for me. I guess I was fortunate enough at that age to already be aware of what a terrible parent he was. He certainly tried to be the “fun” parent, but he was too much of a self-absorbed narcissist to understand that fun for him wasn’t necessarily fun for anyone else.

    My mother felt really bad at first criticizing him in front of me, but actually it helped validate my emotions a lot when she finally spoke frankly to me about the things he did to her (financial shenanigans, public and private humiliations, general asshole-ishness) which led to her leaving and about the things she saw in his behaviour toward me that also freaked her out. It helped me reach a point where I was able to understand how toxic he was to me and get over the need to be “daddy’s little princess”. To be clear, I’m not talking about passive-aggressive mudslinging or venting – I’m talking about the two of us sitting down and talking critically through our thoughts and experiences. She treated me, then in my mid-teens, like an adult, which helped me behave like an adult. Meanwhile my father has trouble acting like an adult himself, much less interacting with anyone else he feels powerful over the same way. (My mother has also been pretty critical of herself.)

    So I think that being critical of another parent’s behaviour has its place, especially when that behaviour truly is inappropriate, hurtful, or dangerous, though I agree that dumping stuff on a kid as a way of venting your own stress rather than helping a kid work through their own concerns and fears is not helpful.

  121. August 23, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Re: the younger/older thing.. My ex and I split when our oldest was a toddler and I was pregnant with the youngest. They really don’t have a concept of a time when it was me and daddy together. Hell, I’m not sure they remember a time when their step-mom wasn’t around. (when my oldest was about five, she expressed utter shock that her grandma – my mom – and her dad actually KNEW EACH OTHER)

    The first year or two, before ex-hub met current-wife, sucked hard and there was a lot of fighting with me, him and his GF at the time. Things got better when he met current-wife. Ten years post-split, all three of us get along okay, and the animosity is at a minimum.

    I still find myself dealing with the ‘fun dad’ and ‘mean mom’ trope (mostly regarding movies, games and tv shows), but not as much as most, since we’re almost 50/50 on access, so he has more time to actually parent, rather than just overcompensate for seeing his kids twice a month.

    All that being said.. I vote for doing it when they are young, and can’t remember it.

  122. DonnaL
    August 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    My son has said to me that the divorce would have been easier for him if it had happened when he was little, and perhaps if I had transitioned when he was younger, too. (I transitioned when he was 15, a year after I told him of my intention to do so; he had already figured out on his own that I was trans.)

    If only we had both known when he was little that the problems in our marriage weren’t going to get better.

  123. DonnaL
    August 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Perhaps I should add that although I’m under no illusion that experiencing a parent’s public gender change is ever completely without difficulty for a child past infancy, my son dealt with mine about as well as any child possibly could, and it isn’t the difficulty of experiencing my transition process per se that motivates him to say that he wishes I’d transitioned when he was younger. Rather, it’s that he believes that it would have been far better for both of us if I had been a happier person for a greater part of his childhood.

  124. pheenobarbidoll
    August 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I never had to bad mouth her father. She has eyes. Eventually she learned (from other family members- his) that we weren’t together because he was abusive to me and did things like kick me down a flight of stairs when I was 6 months pregnant and HE admitted to her that he wasn’t in any hospital baby pics because he chose to get high instead of take me to the hospital when I went into labor.

    The day he got into the wreck that eventually killed him, he had blown her off to celebrate the 4th of July with beer.

  125. zuzu
    August 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    And you know? Things like missing planes, which it sounds like has happened ore than once, sounds really, REALLY passive-aggressive.

    If that’s what’s happening, yes. But you’d be surprised at how many flights from the East Coast do get delayed or canceled for shitty weather in the summer.

    If there’s a question, check with the airline. Because they have to publicize that stuff.

  126. Bagelsan
    August 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    My parents have a happy marriage, but kids really do pick up on every little thing; if you’re not expressing bitterness over a set of embittering circumstances they might just imagine your bitterness anyways from the circumstances, ’cause most kids aren’t stupid. Yet having an actual heart-to-heart is still way better than just venting that bitterness, even if the kid can guess that it exists.

  127. Bagelsan
    August 23, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Hell, I’ve been bitter purely on behalf of one parent or another at seeing the shit they go through. I don’t think it’s a stretch that Eve’s kid knows exactly how her mom feels, and may be starting to feel intensely the same despite loving her father. I’d cry too.

  128. August 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    On the age thing altogether, I think there’s no real rule to a right or wrong age. In my case, I think it was easier on me being a pre-teen than if I had been a few years younger, but that’s partly because of the person I was and my own coping skills and where I was at in those years. It helped also that my mother was more settled in her career when she split and didn’t have so much financial concern (her previous job had been almost as bad for her psyche as my dad was) and that I was able to switch to a whole new neighbourhood and school and start over after a really bad experience in elementary school. My sister was older and it was harder on her, but not because of her age so much that she took a lot on herself to protect me as the little sister, and because she stayed with our dad because she didn’t want him to be alone and he kept on being an awful parent to her until she finally left a few years later.

    I don’t believe in waiting for the “right” moment for divorce/separation on someone else’s terms – my mother left as soon as she realized that to stay would mean the destruction of her sense of being. I wish she had figured that out sooner and avoided the years of depression, but I’m glad she figured it out when she did. I’m also glad that part of that realization process also led her to understand that she needed to get out even if it meant leaving her kids behind (as she later recounted to me). Not because I wanted to be left behind or because she wanted to do that, but because I understood that it meant she was finally empowered again, after years of subordinating her life and her identity to her family and to a crappy husband – it was the best thing she could have done as a role model (and always reminds me of one of my favourite a softer world comics). I get that people in a divorce are concerned about the impact on kids, but if my mum had tried to wrap her life around her kids, she would have been just as depressed and useless as a parent as when she was trying to wrap her life around my father. Despite the fact that she has never consciously thought of herself as a feminist, I still think of her as my number one feminist role model because of how she taught me to stand up for myself while still caring about others.

    (I should point out that my father was never physically abusive and that her leaving us with him, while it would have been far less than ideal, would not have constituted any kind of neglect or bad parenting on her part.)

  129. August 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    It was also easier on us as older kids because a lot of our friends’ parents were also going through divorces, so it was a normalized experience and we had other support networks to help out. So… context, I guess?

  130. chava
    August 23, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    The ‘doing it when they’re young’ thing only works well if you don’t keep fighting up until when they do remember it, and then some. My parents had a shitty divorce, which I don’t really remember that much, and then a shitty custody battle six years later, which I most certainly DO.

  131. megagolden
    August 24, 2012 at 2:24 am

    I happen to know this author and her daughter is a dear friend of my daughter. I am actually shocked at the generally misunderstanding comments. Eve is an awesome mother that has made the best of a continually challenging situation ( “Dad” is conservative, dietarily unenlightened – ‘Uncrustables’, anyone? – and generally not very helpful).
    I watched as the author signed up her daughter at the Y for gymnastics only to sweat bullets that the dad would come though with paying the monthly bill that HE had insisted on, based on all evidence pointing to probably not. This is one instance but representative reality.
    To call Eve’s parenting style “controlling” is plainly inaccurate. She implements structure that any involved Dad would be praised for.
    Shame on all of you who judge this woman. I double friggin’ dog dare your quasi-liberal asses to do a better job raising an AMAZING little girl in Los Angeles in 2012.

  132. samanthab
    August 24, 2012 at 6:59 am

    I don’t know Eve like megagolden, but, as someone who has spent a significant portion of her life in L.A., I havta agree that I don’t see it as an easy town in which to raise a self-confident girl. It’s a town that’s especially thick with misogyny and lookism- see: the American film and television industry. I don’t have any advice beyond a really strong endorsement of http://www.rookiemag.com, which is steered by the fabulously creative and firmly feminist Tavi Gevinson. I love reading it as an adult, so that should tell you something about the level of respect it shows for girls. It’s fun and joyous but also full of insight. Your daughter may not be a teen yet, but, speaking from my own experiences, kids do a lot of looking ahead, meaning young girls will read about tweens, tweens will read about teens, and teens will read about adults.

  133. Janeen
    August 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Sorry to be late to the party here, but I feel like I went through something similar and wanted to share my experiences as a child of divorce.

    I was lucky in the fact that my dad never moved more than 90 minutes away, despite probably having better job prospects other places. I do know that I felt a bit of whiplash coming back from weekends at his house. Whiplash I’m fairly certain could never have been prevented. Sadly, my mom complained about it loudly to me, to my dad, to my step-dad, and to my half siblings. That, among other comments she made about my bio-dad, completely ruined her credibility for me. A problem that I still deal with today at 28. It’s one of the biggest hurdles to us having a productive relationship as two adults.

    I also dealt with some weird feelings about how my bio-dad’s life progressed without me being there. He had girlfriends, who were all very nice, but every time one didn’t stick I felt betrayed. He married a wonderful woman when I was 14, and I was happy, but I remember him having to have a conversation with me about how that would change our relationship. I’m so glad he did, it was hard, but being told that it had nothing to do with me meant a lot to me at the time. My dad was always really good at that. I’ve always been the first to know if he and my stepmom are getting a dog, planning to get pregnant, having a third child, or moving my grandmother into an assisted care facility. Often he tells me these things through 2 minute phone calls or short e-mails, but it makes me feel safe in our relationship and respected and loved, always has.

    Eve, I don’t know if your daughters dad would be receptive to some constructive criticism, or if your current relationship with him allows it, but talking to him about your daughter’s difficulties may be a good suggestion. A frank, open conversation between the two of them may help her to feel included, despite the fact that his life has to move ahead without her sometimes. Maybe he could offer a weekly or bi-weekly phone call/skype update about his life and about hers, it might do wonders for how she processes the changing geography between them.

    As I child of divorce I think it’s easy to feel like the parent you see least owes you more, if that makes any sense. I wanted 100% of my dad’s attention all of the time I was with him. I still sometimes wish we spent more time just the two of us instead of me acting as a third parent to his young children and us talking more about 3rd grade homework than anything real in either of our lives. But my dad has dutifully done his best, and those occasional phone calls or e-mails to actively include me did wonders for me as I went through puberty, navigated high school, tried out adulthood in college and still do wonders for me as I attempt to build real, adult relationships with other men in my life today.

  134. Jade
    August 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I’m in a similar boat with my 9 year old daughter with regards to her growing up so much faster than I expected. Not so much physically growing up faster than I expected, but she is mentally and emotionally and intellectually growing so much faster than I ever knew possible and it’s both terrifying and exciting.

    From the other side of the coin, I was only a few years into my 20’s before I began to understand and appreciate my mom. I’ve come to discover that she’s an amazing woman whom I’m proud to call my mom and I tell her that often. She and I have nearly opposite on certain topics that are typically things that people argue heatedly about even to the extent of ending relationships. However, she and I can and often do discuss these topics and our views without any animosity. Rather, they’re often positive conversations. You may be surprised what things your daughter grows to be so very thankful that you did for her. There are many things on that list for me from my mom.

  135. August 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Eve is an awesome mother that has made the best of a continually challenging situation ( “Dad” is conservative, dietarily unenlightened – ‘Uncrustables’, anyone? – and generally not very helpful).

    I am not supporting any of the criticism of Eve’s parenting, which has been mostly petty sniping. However, I have to admit that didn’t get that picture of Eve’s ex from the OP. When I read the OP, the picture she paints made one imagine her as the conservative one, and her ex, a hippie slacker type. As I said, the outrage was well OTT, but I can kind of get why people would mistakenly think she might be a bit ‘controlling’ purely based on this post.

  136. DouglasG
    August 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    “Dietarily unlenlightened” isn’t necessarily challenging in and of itself. If people are reasonably willing to work together, it can go much smoother if one former partner is educated/invested on a particular subject and the other isn’t. When it works, A dictates reasonable maintenance guidelines and B goes along. Of course, it’s easy to turn adversarial from either side – for B it’s often an easy tail-twister just to be laissez-faire, or A might insist on an impractical Best over an easily managed Quite Good Enough out of animus or zealotry.

    I’d still rather have that over an originally adversarial position, though, where often, even with the most amicable split, there might well be no good or fair answer.

  137. cherrybomb
    August 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Just wanted to give a book recommendation– The Period Book was pretty great, I got it when I was 11 or 12.
    I doesn’t look like it is still in print, but you can buy it used on amazon for a penny plus shipping. I don’t think it has info on sanitary pad alternatives, like the keeper cup or cloth pads, but that’s easy enough to give extra info about.
    I only wish there were a similar book for boys that I could give my son when he gets older.

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