Parenting: Am I Protecting My Kids Or Punishing Them

There’s nothing like a teenager or two to make you doubt yourself and feel like an unsuitable parent on a daily basis. I have plenty of friends who assure me that it doesn’t just happen within my household, that it happens in theirs too. Sure, I can be stubborn and set in my ways at times, I’ll admit to that. I’ll also admit that when my kids piss me off with incessant whining and arguing, I will say “No.” just to spite them. And don’t you sit there and act like you’ve never done it yourself!

A situation came up over the last couple of days that required me to make a very difficult decision in a short amount of time, and it wasn’t without tears, yelling and screaming from the kids. Normally that behavior would have resulted in “Excuse me?! I gave you my answer and I even explained to you why I chose that answer. You will not speak to me that way, so you’d better calm down and watch your mouths, because I’m not going to put up with it!” But this time it was different and I wasn’t entirely confident in my reasoning to begin with, so I actually let them argue with me about it. To better explain, I need to divulge some personal information regarding the situation.

My nephew Zack had been very ill for the last couple of weeks, and after making a couple turns for the better, ended up making even more turns for the worse. I received the phone call Tuesday morning that he was to be taken off of life support later that day. I was going to keep this news to myself, as my kids were still home due to a delay from school because of inclement weather. I ended up deciding to tell my oldest first, and we commiserated on how terrible it was. She continued to get ready for school and my other daughter came in a few minutes later asking what her dad was talking about on Facebook. She had seen his post about Zack and I told her what was told me an hour or so earlier. “He is being taken off of life support and has a less than 5% chance of surviving….” She asked a few questions regarding who was there and who would be there and I told her I wasn’t sure. She went back to her room and started a conversation on Facebook messenger with her dad. They found out that he was driving across state to go and say goodbye and to be there with the rest of the family, and they really wanted to go. I called their dad and asked him what he was saying to them and he assured me that it was them begging to go, not the other way around. He said he would come and get them if I wanted them to go, but neither of us were sure if it was a good idea or not. He was stressed out, emotional and trying to tie up a bunch of loose ends before he was able to leave town for the 7+ hour drive, so he told me to tell them that we’d decided it wasn’t a good idea and to quit messaging him so he could finish getting ready. I called them down from their room and calmly explained that after having a conversation, we didn’t think it was the best idea for them to tag along. I understood that they wanted to go and pay their respects, but I also didn’t want to subject them to such an extreme situation. I was instantly the bad guy. My oldest was yelling. bawling and telling me it wasn’t fair…that she deserves to go and be there with him and be with the family and my other daughter said she wanted to be there too. I again explained that it wasn’t going to be a peaceful, happy time and that it would be extremely sad, emotional and overwhelming for them and everyone else involved. Their dad called me back before I had finished my argument and said he felt horrible for not letting them go. I had to agree that I felt like an asshole, but I was trying to protect them from experiencing death and heartache.

The truth of the matter is, they would be affected either way…directly and indirectly no matter which path was chosen. I told them they could go if they could manage to not fight with one another on the ridiculously long car ride and to take things with them to keep themselves occupied. They packed their things and waited to be picked up and begin the uncomfortable journey across state.

They arrived at the hospital around 9:30pm last night and gathered with the rest of the family. I received a phone call around 12:15am Wednesday morning saying that Zack had passed… I paid my respects to my ex and inquired how the girls were doing; he said they were very shaken up and upset. Understandably.

I hate that they are all the way across the state. I hate that they are teenagers that aren’t too keen on calling or messaging me to let me know how they are doing. I hate that their dad doesn’t bother to tell me how things are going and to just give me general updates about the well-being of my children. At least I don’t have to live with the guilt that I am the one who prevented them from seeing their cousin one last time and saying goodbye. The long term effects are yet to be known, but I can only hope that they will process it as a learning experience and a lesson in life and death. I love my kids and don’t want to see them hurting…I’m still questioning whether or not I made the right decision. I can’t change it now.

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