Friday, May 27, 2011

Insecurities and better parenting

I didn't feel threatened when things got serious between The Ex and the woman who would eventually become his second wife. I'm confident in my mommy awesomeness, so another "mommy" in the mix didn't concern me. Plus, as the daughter of divorced parents, I've had plenty of experience with both good and bad step-parents. I know that even the most beloved of the bunch were never competing for my affections. Suggesting that children only have room to love one mommy figure is like saying there's only room to love one grandparent. So I wasn't worried at all. In fact, I was excited and hopeful, full of idealistic visions of The Kid being adored by not one, not two, but three parents. They say it takes a village, and my kid's village was about to get bigger. Lucky boy! (It didn't exactly work out that way, but that's a tale for another day.)

The Ex has had a slightly different reaction to The Man.

Initially, he seemed unconcerned? uninterested? when The Man moved in. But then little things - good little things - started happening that, I think, got under The Ex's skin a little. Things like The Man teaching The Kid to throw a football, buying him a soccer goal for the back yard and kicking the ball around with him, offering to teach him to play guitar. They were simply interacting the way people who live in the same house do, but The Ex had always struggled with this part of parenting - the interacting part - and some of his insecurities were triggered.

His reaction started with a barbed comment here and there:
  • An accusation that I thought The Man was a better influence than The Ex on The Kid, which turned into an all out attack on my dad's parenting abilities.
  • Implying I don't know what, exactly, about The Man's parenting abilities based on the fact that his daughters live with their mom in Texas.
  • A lengthy tirade about "hippie bullshit" hybrids (The Man drives a Prius).
You get the picture.

But there was another reaction: The Ex started showing more of an interest in The Kid. He started expressing an interest in helping with home work and actually showed up for things like teacher-parent conferences. He called me and apologized for leaving me to do all the "real" parenting while he was busy being a buddy. And, for the first time in all his years of talking about focusing on The Kid more, he's actually taken a couple very small, very tentative steps toward actually focusing on The Kid more.

At first, I was irritated. His motives were all wrong. I wanted him to focus on The Kid because he's a good father, not because of a desire to win some misguided pissing contest. But you know what? He's not a good father. He'll tell you that himself. It doesn't come naturally to him and wasn't anything he ever actually wanted to do with his life (would've been nice if he'd told me that before we decided to have a child). But if he's going to try to be better - really, really try - who cares about the motives? I'll take what I can get.

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