Friday, December 30, 2005

Airing a Grievance: FWTBGTH

Yes, Festivus is over, but I am airing a grievance anyway. A very special grievance.

Let me begin with the following premise: the parent of a child is entitled to a certain degree of respect and deference to said parent's wishes when it comes to babysitting. That is to say, if the parent says "Don't feed the child sugar", the babysitter should not feed the child sugar. If the parent says "bedtime is at 8:00" then the babysitter should make sure the kid is in bed by 8:00. Are we agreed on this premise? Are we agreed that no matter who the babysitter is, whether a friend, grandparent, or paid sitter, that the child's parent calls the shots? I hope so.

When Melissa and I broke up, my parents, realizing that there were 800 miles between Montreal and Philadelphia, promised to help me take care of Sam when he visited. The reasons were valid and mutually agreed upon: private day care is prohibitively expensive, with long waiting lists. "We are there for you."

Unfortunately, my mother did not feel bound by the baby-sitting premise stated above. Usually this wasn't deliberate, just the result of not paying attention, such as the time I came home and realized she'd been giving Sam juice sweetened with Splenda. On the other hand, quite a few incidents can be chalked up to plain old laziness and the attitude that "I will do things the way I want to."

"Mom, since it's such a nice day out today, I'd like you to take Sam to Clark Park and the playground."

"Yeah, well maybe. We'll see."

"No, I mean it. I want you to take him to the park."

"Well, maybe. It's just so far away. Maybe I'll take him to the park across the street."

"Far away? It's 5 blocks. Don't take him across the street, I see kids smoking blunts there all the time, and there's broken glass and paraphernalia all over the place. Don't bring him there."

"I don't know if I know where Clark Park is though. And it's so far away, so we'll see."

"Mom. It's 5 blocks away In a straight line. You know exactly where it is."

"Well, well see..."

And so on. She challenges me at every opportunity. If I wanted her to feed him at 6:00, she would feed him at another time and point out, as if she was proving something, that "he was hungry then". If I said naptime was at 2:00, she'd put him down at 1:00. Every. Single. Thing.

It's frustrating and it undermines my authority. I have had to remind my mother more times than I can count that I AM THE PARENT AND I MAKE THE RULES. It is not that hard to understand (except perhaps for Byl who claims that ultimate authority is vested with the parents' parents, and even HE admits that this philosophy is inoperable in his household).

The result was that my mother and I exchanged words a few times over the course of lat summer and fall. And so it was that two weeks before Sam arrived in Philly, my mother told me that she was unavailable to take care of Sam. The first week of unavailability was plausible enough: her coworker in the cleaning bsuiness had a nervous breakdown and my mom was pickign up all the slack. The second week was a swamp of lies. Tommy Flanagan-style lies. She might as well have tacked on "yeah, that's the ticket" at the end of every sentence. "Yeah, I'm just going to be... too tired. Yes too tired after the holidays. And, um, your father and I have plans for our anniversary. Oh and plans with Floyd. Yeah, that's the ticket" Floyd is my nephew. The real reason, my father told me, was that my mother felt "put upon" and didn't care for having her child care criticized.

The next two weeks were a scramble to arrange child care for Sam, making deals with my brother and his girlfriend, as well as other parents in the neighborhood. "I'll take yours if you'll take mine", that sort of thing.

As this melodrama played out, my mother managed to instigate two major fights with Melissa. The first occurred before I got screwed on child care: the old lady flipped her wig when she found out Sam wasn't going to be here on Christmas Day itself. We're talking the whole nine yards, bitter recriminantions and accusastions about Melissa and her family, tears, hysterics, the kitchen sink. I called up Melissa to try to work something out and to defend my mother's position, and the result was an enormous screaming row. A week later, Mom decided that "it's not such a big deal" that Sam wouldn't be here for Christmas after all. "We'll celebrate whenever he gets here." Thus, I spent a good deal of political capital defending someone who turned out to be be fickle and disingenuous. [Speaking of spending, because of my mother's failure to follow through on her promises, I had to spend almost all of my accrued vacation time taking short days at work so my impromptu babysitters wouldn't be overwhelmed. Thanks Mom!]

The next fight came when my mother backed out, and it looked like arrangements were going to be impossible. When I told Melissa I might not be able to take Sam at all, she went into a rage (probably justified). "I've spent $1500 to go to these coaching seminars. I've taken the time from work. You can't back out on me now. In the end, she told me that when she got back from training camp, she was going to sic a lawyer on me. I had to beg her to consider mediation instead, and there went the last of my political capital.

So let's review shall we? My mother refuses to respect my wishes when it comes to babysitting my son; instigated two fights between my ex and me; and in the course of one of these arguments got my ex so mad, that I will probably have a lawyer sent after my ass for a formal custody arrangement and a formal support order (which will cost me about $100-$200 more than I currently pay, since it will be decided by state or provincial guidelines).

Most of you know me as a contentious, arrogant bastard, but for once I decided not to be a royal asshole. I considered denying my parents any chance to see Sam, as well as spending Christmas at home in Philly volunteering at a soup kitchen, but decided it wasn't worth the hassle. My parents were coming to Philadelphia on December 28 to take my nephew to see Stomp! and we decided we'd all get together to watch Sam open his presents and go have some pho.

It was about 2:00 when the phone rang at work.

"Hi Brendan, it's your mother. Just wanted you to know that we're at your brother's house, Sam just finished opening his presents, and we're waiting for you to get here so we can go for dinner."

"He open-- what do you mean he opened his presents? I thought you were going to wait for me."

"Yeah, well we're not going to be around after the theatre and we..."

"What do you mean you're not going to be around? That's not true at all. You JUST SAID you're waiting on me so we can go to dinner."

"Well," she said, "We left you one present to open with him."

"ONE PRESENT? ONE?? You couldn't wait another hour?"

"Well, it's just not that imp--"

"He's MY kid. I haven't had one holiday with him and you just.."

And she hung up on me. Isn't it funny how things work out? When my mother doesn't get what SHE wants, when her feelings aren't considered and acted upon, it's the end of the fuckin' world. When it's someone else's feelings, the attitude is well, who gives a shit? I called my brother and told him to let my parents know that Sam and I would not be going to dinner with them after all. "We're too tired. Too tired after the holiday." Two can play the Tommy Flanagan game.

Email to my father, December 29:

To: Skwire, Steve; Steve Skwire
Subject: next time wait for me to get there OK?

Next time, do you think it would be that hard to wait
until i get there to let sam open his presents?

Jeesus christ. And yes, I AM really angry about this.

Email from my father to me, December 29:

Subject: RE: next time wait for me to get there OK?
To:"Brendan Skwire"

You are absolutely right Brendan. After we got there I realized Sam
opened one of his presents and I said, "Wait a minute. We should
wait for Brendan to be here before Sam opens his presents", and
agreed. For some reason or other, Mom is unable to simply say something
accommodating like, "Oh, I'm sorry Brendan, what were we thinking?"

So I will say it. I'm sorry Brendan. What were we thinking?

Email to my father, December 29:

To: Skwire, Steve
Subject: RE: next time wait for me to get there OK?

I don't know what you were thinking. Probably no one
was thinking anything at all, because everyone was
caught up in the excitement of watching Sam unwrap his
presents, and probably no one thought anything of it
until I was informed and got angry.

Your apology is accepted. But listen: after all the bs
I had to go through surrounding this visit, you're
lucky you got to see him at all. If I'd known I was
going to be excluded from what was billed as a family
get-together to watch him open his presents, I would
have followed through with the schedule that made
visiting impossible. Maybe I'll do that next time.

"For some reason or other, Mom is unable to simply say something accommodating like, "Oh, I'm sorry Brendan, what were we thinking?""

Well, she said "I'm sorry" but I've learned that when
Mom says "i'm sorry" it's usually a lead-in to some
kind of excuse. This time the excuse was "we're not
going to be around" which was a load of hooey, seeing
as the plan was to get dinner together AFTER the
theatre. "we left one present for you." Well that's
par for the course I guess: I only get to see him for
a fractionof the year, and so I guess it follows that
I only get to participate in a fraction of special

It's not in her nature to admit any error. I've
learned that as well.

You know, with Kate no one knows what's going to set
her off. With me, it's quite simple and has been
explained clearly: when it comes to Sam I am extremely
touchy and possessive. It's not that hard to

It was about this time that my friend Wendy offered to fly me to the Isle of Margarita, off the coast of Venezuela for a week-long vacation (Wendy has a trust fund). I can't go because all of my vacation time is used up.

I have decided that from now on, there will be no special concessions made for my parents. I hope this visit with their grandson was pleasant and fulfilling, because it's the last time they're going to see him for awhile, whether he's in Philadelphia or not.

I have been fucked with for the past two years, and I will not take it anymore, especially from those who are SUPPOSED to have my back. Fuck with the bull, get the horns. NO SAM FOR YOU!


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