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10.17.2010

Raising Peter Pan

Dealing with Buddy is like handling one of the kids. He can’t get them fed on time, can’t get them to bed on time, doesn’t do their laundry, barely keeps up with cleaning a bathroom, doesn’t shop for groceries and the nuances of their needs goes over his head. I gave him a list of large chores 6 weeks ago. It wasn’t a long list. I told him today if he doesn’t get them done, he’s essentially telling me to do them. He got defensive, telling me he works hard, doesn’t have much time, and gets to it when he can.

I said, “They’re your sons, Bud. Being a single dad with three kids takes some real hard work and long hours. It’s time you start putting the time in.”

I shouldn’t have to have this conversation with this 33 year old man. I don’t think he understands how hard most single parents work. Most don’t have help, some put themselves through school to improve their lives, many work two jobs. The list goes on. He puts in his 40 hours and that’s about it. Of all the people in the house, his life is the only one that got easier. The boys are all trying to cope with kid issues and the daily trauma that attends it, Tish has to work a lot of hours and put off any concept of retirement so we can afford this slice of paradise. I’m re-inventing my business, looking after the boys day and night, trying to write a novel (and this blog) and do some community service.

Meanwhile, Buddy works his 40 hour week. He doesn’t understand what it takes and, as an adult hyperactive, he only sees yesterday, today and sometimes tomorrow. He can’t remember last month, he can’t plan for next month, and years of experience tell me that’s not going to change. What extra he can manage to do feel like a full plate to him.

Right now, it’s 6:45 on a Sunday night. On school nights we serve supper at five so Kit has enough time before bed to avoid bed wetting and Doc who needs to be in bed by seven won’t get indigestion in the middle of the night. It’s Bud’s one day a month to cook and he’s only now taking a frozen pizza out of the oven. There’s no reason for him to be two hours late. This means, I’ll have to get Kit up twice tonight so he won’t get any good sleep and I might be attending Doc at two a.m. when he wakes up screaming. Does Buddy not care? Or does he simply not get it? I won’t mention this to him because he knows and I don’t want to hear some lame excuse. Kids always have an excuse. They think it makes things less their fault. Of course, I know that tonight’s episode was brought to us by the makers of passive/aggressive. He put dinner on the table late because earlier today I came down on him for not getting to the chores.

He’s a good man, er, boy. Not one of those parents who walked away when separation and divorce and drugs and all the other calamities of broken homes got in the way. He stayed and paid support and saw his kids as often as the law allowed. He fought for custody at every turn and won’t walk away now that he has it. He just doesn’t have a clear idea of what to do with them. His problem lies in not knowing how to create a foundation of rituals and rules and expectations that the boys can count on. With a generation of child raising already behind us, it seems straight forward to me and Tish so our problem lies in not being able to instruct him like we would the small boys. I mean, how do you tell a 33 year old to go to his room for a time out?

Raising kids is fairly straightforward. Raising an adult is another story.