Sunday, October 08, 2006

parenting in a house divided  

posted by Michael Piwonka 3:40 PM
Mason mentioned something to me on Tuesday that's been bothering me ever since. As I was helping Allie with her math homework, Mason complained about a couple things he doesn't like about his new life in an apartment with Penny's ubiquitous boyfriend.

He said that he didn't feel that he gets to spend enough time alone with his mom because Charlie is always around. I asked him if he had discussed this with Penny, and he said he had, and that she liked Charlie being around because he "is there for her."

I mentioned it to Penny, hoping she would make more time for Mason. But the main thing I could do for him was just to reassure him that I am always available to him if he needs to talk about anything.

The second thing he mentioned, however, was much more alarming to me. It seems that if Mason asks his mom for help with his homework, Charlie tells Mason that Penny has already graduated from the second grade, and doesn't need to do second-grade homework anymore. It obviously hurt Mason's feelings (and probably is the root cause of his first complaint about Charlie being around all the time).

I sent Penny an email saying that I didn't think such demeaning comments were healthy for a child.

Penny, per usual, said that Charlie was merely "kidding", and that Mason is lazy, trying to get someone else to do his homework for him. My response was simple: I don't care if Charlie was kidding, it hurt Mason's feelings, and I don't think that belitting a child into doing his homework is the proper way to motivate a child.

Mason is very intelligent, and can do his homework easily when he wants to. While I definitely don't want anyone doing it for him, I also don't want anymore damaging his self-esteem.

Penny said she would discuss this incident with Charlie (although I'm not sure she wasn't just appeasing me; I wasn't left with the impression that she would actually mention it).

These are the kinds of issues that are difficult for me to deal with since our separation. If Penny and I don't agree on parenting issues, there's no guarantee that my concerns will be considered.

But, alas, that's how it's going to be. Since the kids spend the majority of time with Penny, my influence is reduced. However, I feel the kids realize that I care for them and for their well-being; that may be the best I can do now in a house divided.

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