Tag Archive | Absent Parent

I am Now Pro-Responsible

Since the beginning of time, the issue of women’s reproductive rights has been an issue. Whether it was a decision as to who would raise the child, how to keep from having a child, who had rights over the child, who was the father, whether or not you could claim to be from a particular religion, and this was an argument no matter what class level you were at. From Catherine’s children being removed at birth, by Empress Elizabeth, to all women having no control over getting pregnant. That was until Margaret Sanger came along and opened the first birth control clinic in 1916 (before this there were condoms and other items that wealthy women had access to).  In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court voted on Roe v. Wade (or legalizing abortion) and from that moment on, the war between pro-life and pro-choice has been an endless battle of women and men, screaming why they were right and not listening to the others point of view; safely from their battle grounds.

Now you are deemed anti-feminist if you are pro-life and you are a “baby killer” if you are pro-choice. I once went to a protest in the 1980’s in Los Angeles, CA. It was at a federal building in the Santa Monica area. Women were lined up on two sides and my first thought was that it looked like they were playing “Red Rover, Red Rover.” Each side yelled at the other, to the point where they were red in the face and barely able to talk by the end (I feel sure). They were hoping someone would “come over,” or at least this seemed to be the point of their debate. Though, in retrospect, I really don’t think they cared who crossed the line, they were more focused on the strength of their vocal chords and being right about their beliefs. I walked away from this “debate” because I felt disturbed by this façade or pretense that they even cared about women’s rights. All they seemed to care about was their side. I’ve never focused on arguing about this ever again. It is pointless when no one listens.

Instead, I have continued to work with young women or the father’s, pre-graduate degree in counseling psychology and post. In homeless shelters, TAPP – Teenage Awareness Parenting Project, Social Services/CPS, The Fatherhood Project (various men’s groups I was involved with), and now as a therapist in private practice.

It was hard for me to stay on the pro-choice argument when I began to learn that modern young women were just not using birth control. Not that I don’t believe women have a choice but I was alarmed at the staggering numbers of young women who – not because they were ignorant or had no knowledge of birth control – simply refused to use it. In the foster care system, the girls actually assumed that this would get them “out of the system.” They assumed that the courts would suddenly emancipate them: now that they had a baby, no money, no shelter, no job, no nothing – which is what would happen if they were dumped out on the street as an “emancipated adult.”

Other girls tell me they don’t use birth control because their “doctor said they couldn’t get pregnant.” It is amazing how many girls actually believe their doctor said this. I feel pretty sure that they concocted this belief by misinterpreting what the doctor said. There are probably rare circumstances that a doctor would say this but ultimately, if you are a teen, you are going to get pregnant. This is the prime age for fertilization. A teen’s body is ripe and in outstanding shape. If it isn’t the doctor’s fault, than they are playing the Russian roulette game, “Wait and see.” They aren’t married, just women who are risking and disrespecting their bodies with a guy who is totally hopeless. There are also the girls who “don’t want to get fat,” from old stories about antiquated birth control pills but don’t take into consideration the nine months of being fat, till your deliver the baby.

Meanwhile, the guys are playing the “I don’t feel comfortable with a condom” game. They also play Russian roulette with their bodies, because when they get AIDS or Herpes, that is not very comfortable either and lifelong if not life life-threatening. It is also not comfortable to have “the crabs,” or other venereal diseases. It is easier for a guy to run away from the “I missed my period,” sentence uttered by the gal, because we just don’t do much to hold them accountable in our culture.

So, while I do feel that ultimately, a woman has a right to make a choice about her body, I feel it is disrespectful to our society, to their bodies, and to all the children who are born unwanted to take such a carefree approach to life. Margaret Sanger did not risk her life and give up her family for the sake of abortions. She did this so that women could have sex without the burden of having an unplanned pregnancy. She did this so that poor young married people, in the inner city, weren’t having to forsake marital relations in lieu of 13 kids that they couldn’t feed. Welfare has become a crutch for ignorant people but they didn’t have this back when she started her clinic (welfare is a crutch because people who are raised this way, assume this direction if they get pregnant and so depend on its existence as their fallback plan). Margaret Sanger also did this so that any class level of men and women could have sex and enjoy this without procreation.

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice women could actually come to the table and have some agreements with each other, just as the Pro-Gun and the reductionists could and just as the Democrats and Republicans could. They don’t because each side is more invested in being right than in coming to a compromise.

My new stance on being Pro-Responsible is that focusing on being responsible is much wiser and a better stance to take with young women and women in general than whether or not you should have an abortion. Pro-Life women are women. I haven’t really talked to many of them who believe that a woman who is raped should stay pregnant. However, this is dealt with anyway, IF a woman goes into a Rape Crisis shelter because she can get the “Day After” pill or the RU486 or whatever they call it these days. Though, if it is not the day after, women in general don’t believe a rape victim should be forced to keep the pregnancy. Meanwhile, pro-choice women have told me more times than not that they really wouldn’t get an abortion if they were pregnant or they wouldn’t want to but these are generally very responsible people.

Women who have told me they had an abortion, went through an unbearable amount of pain and grief. Generally speaking, this is a one-time thing, not a birth control option – though it happens. There are no accidents in life though. This is 2019, I don’t accept “it was an accident.” If you are not using birth control, it was on purpose. This is what women need to be focused on as an issue, not whether or not to get an abortion. By focusing on abortion rights, you are going to an early emotional grave – yelling and screaming – about what is the least of our problems. Women not using birth control, this is the more important issue at stake. Lets not forget the Special Needs girls who are extremely vulnerable (especially those in the inner city) to sexually active boys, who will pretty much do it with anyone they can get to pull their pants down.

Being pro-responsible is going to have more of an impact on our youth and young adults as we focus on making sure they are not only educated but encouraged. The most vulnerable population is the inner city girls and the girls from single parent families. These girls all KNOW about birth control, but they aren’t using it. So, what do we do?

We focus on teaching children to have respect for their bodies and building their self-esteem. I have, in the past, been a part of a wonderful organization in San Jose, CA called “Girls For a Change.” In this group, girls became “Social Change Agents.” They focused on projects, throughout the course of their school year, that took them out of themselves and into being concerned about an issue they cared about. Whenever we gathered together for conferences, with hundreds of girls, no one was pregnant. They were also less interested in gangs, chemical dependency, and hanging out with the wrong people. They were more focused on having an education and going to college in the future.

UNESCO studies show that the more educated a woman is, the less children she will have.

I was a Girl Scout until I was 14 years old and this was a safe place, that I could go to, to learn about: being a woman, work ethics, leadership, building a business, among many other things. This organization continues to provide young women with the same values. Women who are in the Girl Scouts, from around the world, can vouch for how this has impacted them. We continue to hear women thanking this group for helping them to become the person they are today. Eighty percent of female entrepreneurs; were once a Girl Scout. It is an institution that has been around since 1910 (began in England).

There are other ways of teaching young women to have respect for themselves and their bodies. Naturally, this is the job of parents but it cannot happen in a household with drugs/alcohol, mental illness, domestic violence, child abuse, narcissistic parent (s), and/or other mental health issues. It is part of a religious education but can’t be if the theologian has issues with women. It also can’t happen in a girls organization that is in a bad neighborhood and controlled by the streets rather than the group (which I have seen).

The Roe v. Wade argument is ridiculous because the law has been passed by the federal courts. It is ridiculous because it has avoided the real issues and we are ignoring the fact that women/girls need to be responsible for their bodies. Men/boys need to be responsible for their bodies as well. When adults do nothing but argue, kids will go off and look for emotional comfort. If we spent more time being focused on family planning and less on abortions being right or not, the issue may be of less concern. To do this, we should focus on creating more organizations that teach young people to respect themselves and to respect the other gender.

Teaching respect for bodies and self, will keep children occupied on their goals for the future and to be more aware of society at large. This is why I am now Pro-Responsible.

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Absent Hearts, Missing Pieces

This is the title of a memoir I published in 2003 but it is now out of print. I thought of the title again today when I was thinking of the holidays and all the sadness I continue to have of missing people in my life. Memories that won’t be made because of family members who have died or grandchildren who I am not allowed to see. I thought about being a single parent and all the women in my ancestry who were single parents, who began this trend long ago. I think about women today who glamorize this topic, the media who puts an entertaining spin on it, the women who argue with women who don’t want to have children, the 50% rate of unplanned pregnancies in America and the 40-50% divorce rate. I wonder about all the children who I have worked with over the years, who had no fathers because they weren’t allowed to see them. Mothers who were mad at the man they slept with because he didn’t give them the fantasy they craved. Fathers who are absent from children’s lives because they were players, addicts, pissed at the mother, never had a father themselves and didn’t know how to be one, the list goes on. These parents, who were quick to have sex but refused to take responsibility for the future by using birth control. I have been the kid, the granddaughter, and a single parent myself.

Imagine what it is like to be a child and your father is no longer around, as mine was at the age of four. By nine, my stepfather adopted me, because my father signed off on the papers so he would not have to pay child support. It sounds like a quick fix but I did not want this. I loved both my father and my stepfather. Imagine what it is like to suddenly be told that I could not see my two half-sisters, my grandparents, my stepmother, my aunts and uncles. As a young adult, it would be my maternal grandmother who put me in touch with my father and I began to become re-acquainted with my paternal family once more. She did not believe it was right what my family did. Re-connecting is not very easy when you have lost over a decade of growing with the people you once loved. It is not easy for them either. One of my half-sisters died before I could ever see her again. My memory of her is when she was about seven or eight years old.

Coming from such a tragic childhood, I fell into the trap of searching for someone to feel an emotional void. A guy I met in high school, who came from a father who was not there and who was at one time a batterer to his mother and an addict. I never knew addiction growing up; this was one issue I was lucky to not have to face as a child. Once I did face this and domestic violence from my husband, I got out quickly but not before having a child of my own.

I never re-married but I did continue to follow a path of looking to fill an emotional void. The difference though between myself and many other woman today, I took responsibility by making sure I did not bring another child into the world, just because I was looking for love in all the wrong places. One child raised by a single parent was enough for me. I learned my lesson there and I learned my lesson as a child. Life wasn’t easy for me, for my child and I wouldn’t do that to another until I figured life out and was more secure financially and emotionally.

My son grew up, eventually we found his dad and later, my son became a father as well. Unfortunately, he also took the path of an addict and brought three children into the world with three different women. He has since become a recovering addict, his father died unwilling to ever take responsibility for his health, his child or get off of the drugs. As a result of being an addict for so many years, these mothers of my son’s children were unable to admit to their own failures in the choices they made with men. The fact that neither they nor my son used birth control but yet it is “all” my son’s fault and they are angry with him. As a result of this, two of my grandchildren are not allowed to be visited by my son. He is able to keep in touch with the eldest who is 15 and old enough for Facebook but lives in a tiny town far away. This child wants to visit his dad but is forced to do what his mother requests. My son pays child support, gives him gifts for birthday and Christmas, talks to him almost daily but never gets to see him. In Ohio, it is not what is in the best interests of the child but what the mother wants. Men have no rights here to their children. Grandparents have no rights to their grandchildren.

My granddaughter lives near my son and goes to the same school as her half-brother and step-brother. Her name is not on the roster and my son believes she has been adopted by someone that her mother began a relationship with after him. My local grandson knows who she is though as he did meet with her a few times before her mother decided no one could be involved with her child. Her mother was in a relationship with my son, while he was in a relationship with my grandson’s mother. They were together in the same house he shared with my grandson’s mother even. Both of them were using drugs and partying “like there was no tomorrow,” but my son is the one who is in the wrong and my granddaughter is being punished, as is my son and I, because of this.

Being a single parent is no joy ride and it is difficult for the children to bear. I do not believe any parent should stay married for the sake of the children because this is not the answer. I do believe that we need to take more responsibility with our sex lives and the partners we choose. Having sex is fun, raising children is a lifetime and it costs money. It is easy to blame another but both parents have to take responsibility when a child is brought into this world. It is never ONE person’s fault. It is certainly not the fault of the children that the father did not give YOU, the mother, what you wanted.

My father was a player and hurt my mom’s feelings. This was wrong of him. I understand her animosity toward him because of this. I understand she needed the money from him as my stepfather was paying the way. However, it was not my fault that he was a player or that he wasn’t paying child support. He never harmed me and my parents were not desperate for money. After I was adopted, they made the same amount of money as beforehand. Meanwhile, I was emotionally wounded at the loss of my paternal family.

My son IS a recovering addict and has taken steps to clean up his life, get in touch with these women and reach out to be an involved parent. It is not my grandchildren’s fault that they want him to choose them now that he is clean. It is not my grandchildren’s fault that their mothers are jealous of his new life. These children will never have the benefit of their father and his family being in their life. They are being punished for their mother’s mistakes which they refuse to acknowledge and take responsibility for. My son was wrong for what he did and their mothers are wrong for their part too.

Many children will grow up in households, never knowing their fathers and in some cases their mothers. They will be turned against their fathers and in some cases will be told lies about who he was. From being a psychotherapist and having worked in social services, I see family patterns repeating themselves for many generations. I see girls being sexually molested by stepfathers, mom’s boyfriends, uncles, grandfathers. Often their mothers were too in childhood. I see boys who have spent time behind bars. Often their fathers were too.  I see adults coming in to tell me their anger toward the father who was never there. Telling me about fathers they didn’t know they had because they assumed the guy who raised them was the dad. I hear stories about mothers who never recovered from the man who jilted them and so the children aren’t really sure what to believe. Sometimes adults hold out hope that he might have been a good guy but more often than not, they take their mothers or grandmothers side of the story. Sometimes there is a huge blank from the families, because this is never discussed. The adult kids of missing parents don’t know what to believe.

Children have a right to know their families, both paternal and maternal. They have a right to figure out for themselves what this guy was like on their own as both my son and I did. If they then choose not to have a relationship with this person, it is on them. Closed adoptions are inappropriate and unfair to the child and to the family involved. If a mother has been raped by a man or if the man is a dangerous person to be around, this is one thing. The child should still be told. Many circumstances, neither of these situations are the case. In almost all circumstances, the grandparents are not to blame, nor the aunts/uncles, cousins, etc… The half-siblings of these children are certainly not to blame. Why do we continue to create this vicious cycle over and over again? Why do men and women continue to have unprotected sex? Why do women continue to lie to their children because they are upset with the father? It won’t end as long as we continue to ignore this topic because we don’t want to shame the single parent. Or because we aren’t being politically correct for some reason.

The holidays are meant to be spent with family. This is a time to create memories. It is a time to learn the stories of your ancestors. It is a time to find out who is who and make your own interpretations of what you see for yourself. Don’t kid yourself into believing that your lies will somehow help the child to have a better life. It never does.

Divorce – Don’t Punish the Children

There was an excellent article on Yahoo! Shine the other day entitled “10 Things Kids Wish Their  Divorced Parents Wouldn’t Do.” I am not adept at sharing articles, especially when there is no share button that specifically gives the WordPress logo. So I have to re-write them in here, to highlight the most important aspects of what they are saying. Below are the 10 things in bold – I am making my own comments to this, based on what I have heard from kids. Before you read this, there is one caveat. Obviously, if the other parent is abusive to you or the children, naturally it would be unsafe for that child to be with the parent. In these cases stick to the rules of the court and restraining orders but at the same time be careful how you talk about the other parent.  These are children not adults.

And before we begin, the comments below apply not just to parents but to Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, and any other adult who wants to make their opinions known to children.

1. Badmouthing the other parent – This one I can speak to from personal experience. My mother made horrible comments about my father, to both my sister and I. Since she left him when we were 2 and 4, it is really hard to comprehend why she thought we would have any understanding of what she meant. “He doesn’t pay child support?” What does a child know about child support? “He cheated on me with other women?” Again, what does a child know about loyalty and faithfulness? “He doesn’t care about you,” now this one we understood but it always confused me because when we spent time on visitations, he was very loving and caring. Children are NOT adults and do not have the intellect of an older person. As an adult, I do understand that my dad was irresponsible and why he hurt my mother. Growing up however, this emotional torment that my mother put my sister and I through caused us to have a hard time relating to men. It was hard for us to know who to trust, especially when we were being given mixed messages from adults in our lives. This is not unusual with my clients either.

According to a Morehouse University study, I read (circa 1990’s), children from single parent homes or those with a stepfather; boys are more likely to end up in juvenile hall and girls are more likely to end up pregnant.

2. Discouraging kids from talking about their other parent – This is really unfair to children. The other parent is their mommy or daddy. Someone whom they love very much. Yes, he/she may be a drug addict, alcoholic, womanizer, imbecile but to the child, he/she is still their parent. If you have concrete evidence of this parent bringing harm or neglect to your child (due to drugs, alcohol or even without) report this to social services and let them be the investigator.  Don’t try to do this or teach your children to do this. Don’t try to find out details of their visits as if you are the local sheriff. This will scare children and sometimes cause them to lie. I hear those lies in therapy and it causes emotional stress to the child. It causes them to feel as if they need to stand up for their parent and become the defense attorney. Again, these are children. If they come back from a visit and say “Oh we went to the park today,” Say “That sounds wonderful, I hope you had a good time.” Grit your teeth if you have to but think about if from their perspective. Kids like to go to the park, zoo, etc… They don’t need to hear, “What, he was supposed to take you to get a pair of shoes today, why didn’t you do that?” If you have an issue with their visits, discuss that privately with their parent, don’t make the child into your confessor.

3. Divulging the dirty details of the divorce – Really? This goes back to statement number 1. These are children not adults. They are not psychotherapists or attorneys or child welfare agencies. All the understand is this is my mommy or daddy and I love them very much. The divorce is none of their business. That is between two adults.

4. Keeping kids completely in the dark – On the contrary, if your child is a little older and mature enough to understand relationships, it is okay to answer the questions that your child has. What does your child want to know? If your divorce had to do with a lifestyle change such as coming out of the closet, finding God, or falling in love with another person, it is okay to tell this to your child but try to say it without your emotions coming through. Of course you are hurt and angry, naturally this would be the case but again, this is between you and the other spouse. It has nothing to do with the children.

5. Skipping family events because your ex will be there – In this case, you can actually use the event to your advantage. Show up looking your best, smiling, be cordial to everyone (in other words mature). Again, if you have to grit your teeth under your tiara, do it for your children. On the same token, if you are going to show up and do not take my advice – please don’t make a fool out of yourself and start drinking or slinking around the corner with his best friend. Remember, your children are there and you are there for them not him/her.

6. Making the situation all about you – The Narcissist. This is actually the flip side of what I just mentioned in number 5. If you are spending your new-found freedom putting your energy into your anger toward your ex, then you aren’t living your life. You are just wasting away and spiraling downhill. Anger toward an ex-loved one means you are apt to make the same mistakes with the new one. Get some closure on this, visit your local therapist and find some resolution.

7. Making kids feel guilty for spending time with their other parent – If they are on the phone with the parent, this is their time. It is not your time to suddenly speak loudly or yell out orders to the other parent. When the child is off the phone it is not okay for you to grill them about what was said. The same goes with a visit or if you bump into them in public. Behave like an adult and this will teach your children how to cope with stress and disorder.

8. Justifying your bad behavior – “I have to protect my children to make sure he doesn’t hurt them, like he hurt me.” Your ex is not going to do to your children what they did to you. You were the spouse, they were the child. If your spouse really is an idiot, time will prove this to your children when they grow up and become adults. Often times however the adult they are living with, ends up looking like the bad guy and the absent parent shines like the knight on a white horse. Absent parents have limited time to spend with their kids. They try to make this time pleasant and fun. They want their children’s love and respect. They want to not be seen like the bad guy. Yes, the custodial parent has to set the rules, deal with the sickness, school calling, etc… Kids eventually understand this and empathize once they are adults and are old enough to realize what you did. However, if you are using the stress to set the other party up, stalk them, craft voodoo dolls, organize gossip parties with neighbors, you will be the one they resent, not the target of your abuse.

9. Putting your kids in the middle – “Tell your father I said he needs to…” and going back “Tell your mother I said…” If you two parents aren’t capable of having a conversation with one another, hire a mediator. Your child has not been certified to be a divorce attorney, arbitrator or mediator. The divorce was not their fault. Get help from licensed professional adults, let your kids be children.

10. Making everyone feel your unhappiness – The Histrionic. No one needs to hear your drama except your best friend, family member, spiritual leader or psychotherapist. Your best friend should be an adult not your child. Your male child is not your little man and your girl child is not your princess. Sexualizing your children with these titles is repulsive and sends confusing messages to children. 

The above ten pointers were a little redundant but I think sometimes it bares repeating the message. For over a decade I have worked with children who were abused, neglected, who have had addicts for parents, or quite simply went through a divorce (without the added bonus of social services being involved). I have dealt with adults going through a divorce and I have dealt with adult children who are survivors of the divorce they had to suffer through when they were children.

We all make mistakes. My mother made mistakes as a divorced woman raising children and as a result I did the same thing. My clients make mistakes and generally they are very similar to what their parents did. Many of us did not have the benefit of the Internet to teach us about psychology. We did not have a society that was open to psychotherapy. We dealt with life through the eyes of our social network that was live and in person, not in a chat room. Now you do have a chance. Young women today who have hundreds of types of birth control and no excuses as to why they should be pregnant with the vast amount of education and support to teach them. Young parents have plenty of resources online, support groups, therapists on every corner, religious leaders are more open-minded, parents are beginning to realize their mistakes, YouTube videos for how too’s, the opportunities for growth are endless.

Your spouse cheated you out of the relationship you wanted. “They” ruined “your” marriage, in your eyes – even though it takes two people to unite into one. I really do empathize that you are pissed and angry and want to make him/her pay. I’ve been there as a child and an adult and I know what it can be like. I don’t know your pain but I know pain. Unfortunately, you have children to be responsible for. Whether the other spouse is living up to their bargain or not is not relevant in your household. Don’t make the children pay for your beliefs. Don’t force them into battlefields and expect them to choose sides. Some children I have worked with in the inner city already have to pick between the reds and the blues, on the streets, every day that they walk out their door. At school our children across America are living in fear of gunmen walking in their class. They deal with gossip of other children; potential bullies. They have an education they are responsible for listening to and learning from. They have two households now to manage living at.

Children’s lives now are not the same as ours were.

If you love your children, you owe it to them to be the best parent you can be. This means that if you are having problems in your relationships, you need to ask for help. If you have been through a divorce (or left your babies parent) it is time to learn from this experience. It is time to evolve and become a stronger and wiser person. Show your children maturity and they will grow into brilliant, healthy and responsible people. Show your children chaos, anger, maliciousness and they will become victims who will have a hard time growing up.