The Toilet Bowl Theory of Raising Kids without Fathers

This weekend I “forced” my kids to go to our house on Vashon. I knew it would be one of the last nice weekends and given Olivia’s impending ACL surgery next Tuesday, I figured it would be a good way for her to enjoy some freedom before her confinement.

The reality was an insane drive across town, complete with a very long detour around an “AIDS” walk in order to pick her up from a sleepover. As I was swearing as a couple of red-t-shirt clad walkers in my path (nope, no road rage there), she called on my cell phone. “Mama, some of my friends are going downtown, I was just wondering, do I have to go to Vashon?”

I think I managed not to swear at her, but it was clear I was none too happy. “You are coming to Vashon, and we are going to be a family!” I think was my final two-year old temper tantrum remark. Of course she sulked the entire weekend. And fought with her brother. And of course I questioned my sanity. Should I have let her be with her friends? Should I have risked a bunch of 14 year old girls hanging out at our house unsupervised? “Will I ever be allowed to stay alone overnight?” she asked me at one point. “No!” was my immediate response. Certainly that must be illegal, right? I actually have no idea what the legal age is for leaving a kid alone overnight. Hopefully its 32.

On Sunday I spent almost all day digging out a 25′ garden (Only with the help of Tylenol am I now able to write this). Since the house once belonged to a famous author, I felt like I was digging out famous weeds. The were certainly OLD weeds. And tough! As I broke my back with a shovel in the lovely late fall sunshine, both my kids were sequestered inside watching movies on their individual computers, probably for about the 60th time.

If Arron were here, I thought, I wouldn’t have such lazy kids. He would have them clearing paths, or hauling rocks or going to Home Depot. He wouldn’t allow computers at the cabin at all. There would be no arguments if we were headed to the cabin for the weekend (ok, there probably would, but the disputes would not last all weekend). And then that thought that I sometimes have popped into my head again. I wonder what the kids would be like if their father hadn’t died. I know its a useless thought, but it helps me to remember his values in raising our kids. He was a man who couldn’t stand still, had very high standards, and laughed a lot. All things that I sometimes worry are missing in my kids lives. But I only have so much energy to be the bad guy. Was it worth Olivia’s sulkiness to be a family? Not sure. But I do know that when we went to the hardware store to buy a rake so I could flatten the now lumpy garden, she asked if she could by rubber gloves, a sponge and toilet cleaner. When I asked why she wanted them, she said, “So I can clean the toilet and we can leave sooner.”

Maybe there is a tiny piece of Arron in them despite me…

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  1. Samantha September 28, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Don't cut yourself down, it sounds like there is a tiny piece of Arron BECAUSE of you! No one else can keep the memory alive, no one else can help them remember. Congrats, it sounds like you are doing a great job!

    My parents forced us to go on these types of things all the time, and both were still there and I hated both and sassed both just as much. Its the age, and they are getting something out of it, despite the attitudes, and you are a great mom for taking your time and energy to make sure they get these types of experiences!

  2. Suddenwidow September 28, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    This is such a big issue in my life right now and I know it will continue to be as we move farther away from when the boys last saw their Dad. Thanks for letting me know that I'm not alone in wondering how my kids would be different if Austin was alive. I try to incorporate his values and opinions into our kids' lives but obviously that isn't the same as having him here. And it seems like it's our kids' jobs to not want to do whatever we want to do, no matter how many parents they have 🙂 But getting through that stress without having the other parent to share part of the load is exhausting!

    By the way, a weekend at Vashon sounds fabulous! You are lucky to have your cabin, even if your kids don't realize it yet!


  3. anniegirl1138 September 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I would balk at the idea of 14 year olds alone overnight and as someone else pointed out, we were all forced to go on family outings/trips as teens – and we were deliberately miserable company the whole time – and we somehow weren't scarred for life.

    Before I remarried, I already knew that Katie was a different child than she would have been if Will hadn't been sick all her life and then died. People would tell me "it's made her strong and built her character" but I objected (still do) to the idea that children need such a thing at all, let along that way.

    There are things they will not experience because of Arron's death and there are things that they wouldn't have experienced had he lived. Life takes turns. Who's to say that we don't end up eventually where we were supposed to?

    You did what my mom would have done. Did do. What every mom/dad does more often than not. Parenting is not always as fulfilling as it is cracked up to be.

  4. Abigail September 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

    You are all right of course. Olivia will not die by beach cabin (despite her obvious efforts) and my kids are who they are as a result of how they have been raised (i.e. sans a dad) but I do wonder sometimes what our life would have been like with Arron in it.

    Thank you all for your comments.

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