I am a divorced father of a wonderful second grade boy. I am struggling with, I suppose, a common problem. “Ralphie’s” mother and I divorced for a number of reasons, but a new issue has arisen: she is not caring for my son’s needs. I don’t know if she has become prescription impaired, boyfriend impaired, or just truly doesn’t care. When he returns home from a visit, his clothes are filthy, he is pretty much unwashed, and recently I received notice from his school that he is missing a lot of school when he is with her. By a lot, I mean at least once every four days. I am documenting his school absences, but going back to court in the immediate future seems unlikely. What becomes of a child who has one loving parent and one apparently uncaring one?
I’d like to give you some legal advice to consider, but being as I got kicked out of law school many years ago, legal advice seems like a bad idea. Besides, the documenting the infractions seems to be a good idea. And, you are correct: I have dealt with numerous divorces that have one good parent, and one somewhat screwed up one. However, I remind you that you have had plenty of experience with the same (though not as important) scenario with teachers throughout your life. One teacher is properly strict with high expectations of her students. Next period you get Ms. Hilda von Featherhead who lets her students run wild. Does the lack of consistency ruin the students? No. However, would it be advantageous having both teachers on the same page with each other? Certainly. Still, the students adapt. Will your boy volunteer to take a bath at mom’s? No. Will he stay up too late ‘cause she doesn’t know how to be a proper parent? Yes. Will he be massively confused because of the inconsistency of the two parents? Were YOU confused by the two teachers, or did you eventually figure it out?
Unfortunately, the responsible parent has to deal with helping his child re-adjust to normal life upon his return. However, patience and loving dedication will ease this constant transition for your son. Also, it’s imperative you hide your anger and frustration from him. Talkin’ smack about a goony parent makes the child protect the offending parent even when they really don’t want to. Just pretend you’re in a high stakes poker game and you can’t show your hand. It’s the same in dealing with your disgust for son’s mother. What kind of chance does he have? I have found that vigorous, energetic, loving and dedicated parenting helps a child grow up to be a good human being. Even when one parent is a lightweight, as long as the other parent is a loving heavyweight, your son will likely turn out fine.