This morning, prior to going to school, I reminded all of my kids that they weren’t with me tonight (I’m heading into Denver to see The Avengers. Yes!) so they needed to think through what they’d need not just for today but also for tomorrow until we met up after school. With a bit of prodding, my son got all his lacrosse stuff together and put it in the car (well, except for his uniform which needed to be washed), and everyone seemed to understand what I was talking about.
Then we get to school and my teen A- informs me that she forgot her new American Eagle shirt and since tomorrow’s picture day at school, could I possibly drop it off?
“Sorry, I can’t. I’m not heading back to my house today. You’re with Matt tonight, ask him to swing by my place so you can get it on the way home from school.”
Casting note: Matt is Linda’s new fiancée and has already moved into their house.
At this point I’m caught in a bit of a dilemma. Well, to be more accurate, my daughter is caught in a bit of a dilemma. She forgot her shirt and I am not going to go back to my place to get it. But she’s a teen girl and the idea of having her photo taken for posterity makes her want to look her very best, including the cute purple top that she bought just for this occasion.
Then again, it’s not my responsibility to shuttle back and forth taking care of things they’ve forgotten in one house or the other, especially when their new place is an hour roundtrip from my house.
But the kids didn’t vote for us to get a divorce, they didn’t ask us to split up into two households, and it is a big hassle for them to live in two houses, not just one. I wouldn’t like it, and I’m a very organized person. As a 15yo or 12yo? I just know I’d inevitably have things at one house when I was at the other, a never ending low-level frustration about the permanence of stuff and the fluidity of my life.
So is the MIA purple shirt a natural consequence of my teen being unable to think 24 hours in advance, or is it an unreasonable consequence of the nightmare logistics of living in two houses, a course of events that she certainly didn’t want to have happen in the first place?
Worse, if I did surprise her and get the shirt, taking 30 minutes out of my busy day for driving back and forth, am I solving this specific problem (which isn’t really that big a deal in my eyes) or am I facilitating, teaching her that it’s okay not to plan ahead because I’ll fill in the cracks, make sure everything works, even at the cost of my own time and schedule?
This time, I’m going to pass. To punt. And hopefully I can help them learn how to think a bit further into the future so that they don’t have this situation arise again. But it will. Que sera, sera.
Dave, truthfully, I think you dropped the ball on this one! Yes, you reminded them that they needed to gather up their things for the other house but, did you look at the calendar and remind them that it was picture day and that they would need to make sure that they had the clothes they needed for that. As the parent, it is your responsibility to guide them, instruct them, encourage them and yes, rescue them when they need it. They are still kids and kids need guidance to learn to plan ahead especially if they are not a very organized person as you have indicated that you are. One last thing, what could it hurt to take the extra time needed to run to your house and get the special picture day shirt and deliver it to your daughter. You would be the hero in her eyes and every father needs to be the hero every now and then (do you really want Matt to be the hero in her eyes) and she will only be your little girl for a few more years so, why not enjoy the role of father for as long as you can!
This is always a tough call- the good news is that you are empathetic enough to understand her position.
I’m typically a let-them-feel-the-consequences kind of guy. But our household situation is very different, and Mr11 feels nothing of the angst and ambivalence that your kids have to deal with.
I completely understand how it COULD hurt to “be her hero” and bail her out of her mistake. It DOES send the wrong message- it says,”males will always be there to dance on the head of every pin you place in the ground” which, in my opinion, will make relationships more difficult for her in the future. Future male partners will be expected to do these services, and will be unable to “be her hero” when she’s accustomed to that level of service.
I’d give her more slack, I’d bail her out of this one, and I’d have a sit-down with her about the experiences she’s had and the feelings about which she may be unaware- her desire for you to feel her pain of scattered homes.
It’s a chance to discuss the difference between the feelings we’re in touch with, and the feelings we won’t allow ourselves to feel but express through behavior anyway.
Interesting how you frame it, Dawn. My daughter already knows I am a devoted dad and constantly do special things for her. It’s not a competition. Matt can be amazing but he’ll never be her dad and she’s well aware of that. I have no worries in that regard.
In terms of me being uber-responsible for everything, if this were a crisis, if it were homework that was due or similar, I might be willing to drive back home and get her top. But it’s just a shirt, special or otherwise, and she has lots of nice clothes suitable for picture day.
At a more fundamental level, I believe very strongly that growth comes from making and dealing with mistakes, and that just doesn’t hold true if you know that whatever you do someone’s got your back and you’ll never have to ever face the consequences of your actions. It’s a shirt, for goodness sake, not life-threatening medications.
Just my additional $0.02.
Paul, thanks for your $0.02 too. We do talk about her experiences as a ping-pong ball in our two-household world, that’s why I know to remind them – multiple times – about chances in household, and why I do frequently bail one or the other out. My son’s sax is in the back of my car, for example, and I’m going to drop that off at school. He doesn’t need it today, but he will tomorrow. But a shirt? Taking up 30 minutes of my day? I just can’t see it…
You just can’t see it because you aren’t a teenage girl. 🙂 It is probably a huge deal to her and would mean the world to her if you did it. I don’t see it setting a bad precident for future male partners to live up to, but a good precident. People- males and females – should do what the can to make the lives of those around them easier when they can. If you do it, it is because she is usually (I assume) pretty good at dealing with the 2 household thing, but occasionally forgets things, just like most every human that I know does. My husband forgets his cell phone occasionally, and if he needs it and I can fit it in my day, I will take it 30 minutes each way to him at work. He would do the same for me. I want my kids to know that I don’t expect them to be perfect and that I have their back when they do mess up. If they see that with the small things, they will hopefully trust me with the big ones, if they should occur. Last week my 15 year old son forgot his baseball cleats and he had a game after school. I was able to take them to him, so I did. He was appreciative and hasn’t forgotten them again. If I hadn’t been able to do it, he would have understood and dealt with it.
It is, as you say, only a shirt. Taking it to her won’t cause her to turn to a life of crime or become a worthless bum. I promise. If you can’t do it, she will live.
D- yeah I get it and support your decision.
Two good things- she has enough pride to care about her personal appearance, and a father who cares enough to give these issues thoughtful consideration.
I am not discounting that you are a great dad and that you do alot of special things for your daughter and, I never intended my comment about being a hero was in any way a competition between you and Matt. I apologize if it came across that way. My point was that you knew this shirt was special because you said that she specifically bought it for picture day. Now a shirt is certainly not comparable to life saving medicine in a medical sense however, the shirt was just as important to her in an emotional sense. That being said, your refusal to get the shirt was not about teaching her a lesson about planning 24 hours ahead it was simply not significant to you because like you said “it is just a shirt, special or otherwise, and she has lots of nice clothes suitable for picture day” and, it simply was not worth it to you to drive those extra miles to deliver the shirt. But yet you were willing to drive into Denver to see The Avengers because that is what was important to you. How is driving the distance to deliver homework that was forgotten important? If you want them to learn a lesson about being responsible and planning ahead, let them get a failing grade for not remembering to take their assignment with them. Now, that will teach them a lesson about being responsible and consequences for not being responsible. You will drive the distance if they forget their assignment but not for failing to packing properly. Let me ask you this…in your daughters eyes, what lesson do you think she learned from this? When she looks at that picture she will remember that she was not wearing the “right” shirt and even if she looks great she will remember but I don’t think she will be thinking “Gee, if I had just been more responsible I would have been wearing the purple shirt in this photo!”
Just my additional $0.02 worth female perspective
LOVE IT, DT…always a challenge raising kids regardless of divorce or two homes. I have TWO teens so I know – for sure. They wouldn’t remember their heads if they weren’t screwed on!
Addendum: What I forgot about until yesterday afternoon when I was talking with my daughter on the phone while stopping at the Mall to exchange a pair of jeans for her, was that Linda and Matt moved to a new place way far out of town and that three months later they still don’t have a working washer and drier. Ramification: my daughter brought *all* of her dirty clothes to my place so she could wash them.
Which meant that she did not, in fact, have clean clothes at the other house.
End result: In about 45 minutes I’ll be stopping by her school to drop off her purple shirt and the new jeans from American Eagle, in plenty of time for her to change prior to the class picture.
Lots of reminders of good things to think about…
Glad to hear you took the clothes in. Picture day is like the first day of school – lots of thought goes into it and a special outfit is a huge part of it.
Being a parent is SO hard. Should I be a hero (and enabler) or should I teach them a lesson and perhaps let them figure out another solution? If you’re really lucky as a parent–you’ll make the correct decision at the correct time. If you’re just normal–you’re going to make mistakes. Ultimately, I try to do the best I can and not take it all so seriously. They do grow up–and when they do–you won’t have the option of being a hero.
It’s so nice to hear the inner dialogue of what goes on in parenting. Kudos to you for being thoughtful and considering the ramifications of what would happen in all the situations. Regardless of which way you went, it’s hard to see how you could do much harm because at the end of the day, this is a daughter with a very loving father.