A concerned father calls me up. He's frustrated because his son is in bed at his mother's apartment, apparently not feeling well. The father is concerned that the son is taking advantage of his mother and his parents' separation and feigning a malady in order to avoid school.
The father is further frustrated because the mother went to work and asked him (the father) to take the son to school when he wakes up and calls. What if he never calls? Maybe I should just go drag him out of bed and take him to school? But I don't want to offend my estranged wife by taking unilateral action...
He was concerned that:
a. She is nonchalant about the son missing school and therefore is too much a "jellyfish" parent on this issue.So we get the wife on the phone, conference call. She starts off defensive: "I tried numerous times to phone you last night to discuss this, but you had your phone turned off. Do you know how frustrating that is?"
b. She lets him stay up too late, thereby exacerbating the problem
c. The son can stay around her apartment all day playing on the computer, a much more attractive option than school.
He explained, "I'm not accusing you of anything, or saying you did something wrong, I just want to know what I should do, should I wait around for him to call or get him up or just let him miss school?"
"Listen, I just tried to call him and he didn't answer, so I assume he's still sleeping. When he wakes up, if you're available to take him, fine, if not, I'll go and get him."
"I'm concerned that he's just going to play on the computer all day."
"He can't do that, because he doesn't have the password."
After she hangs up we debrief. The dad tells me he's skeptical that his clever son hasn't figured out the password. I raise a much more profound issue:
"Is this a new issue, her not being able to reach you? Or does it predate the separation?"
"It predates the separation by many years. I originally got a cell phone so that she could reach me. The problem is that I get busy and forget to turn it on."
Ah-ha. There's the rub. Rule #1 for a successful marriage: Your wife must be able to get a hold of you whenever she needs to. If she can't, she doesn't feel cared for.
"But I don't necessarily want to talk to her whenever she calls."
"OK, but then you are not going to be able to co-parent successfully, you will have a lifetime of mis-communications, not to mention she will always feel resentment."
So he hung up the phone and did what every good husband or wife should do when confronted with their own missteps. He phoned his wife and apologized, not just for last night, but for five years of being unreachable.
Your child, grandchild, niece and nephew, as well as your student, mentee, or protege, they are your legacy. It helps to know that there are three types of parents and teachers:
a. The brick wall - way too inflexibleWhat kind of parents and teachers do/did you have?
b. The jellyfish - a pushover, no backbone
c. The backbone...
Which kind of parent/teacher are you?
This lingo comes from the book, Kids Are Worth It! - a must read for anyone who has any contact with any kids of any age.
Brick wall, jellyfish and backbone parents tend to be brick-wall, jellyfish and backbone spouses, and vice-versa. Think about it.
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." - Churchill