My 16-year-old son has a girlfriend, going on six months now and going strong. She’s terrific and so is her family. They seem locked at the hip and they’ve even managed to avoid the common mistake of “first love” by maintaining their existing friends and not drooling over each other ad nauseum.
However, they are holding hands all the time and even when I knock on my son’s door before entering, they’re often on his bed together, clearly enjoying each other’s company.
In every marriage, spouses face an inevitable choice between their children and their spouse. It is a classic dilemma that confronts every couple and one that is inescapable and difficult. It is especially true in second marriages, like mine. I have to admit, it is an ongoing issue in our home and one I’m trying to figure out with the right amount of love and respect shown towards everyone.
Some therapists advise that the husband/wife should always come first. Others, like Dr. Laura, advise to always put the kids first. As with much of her advice, I think it’s too cut-and-dried and doesn’t take into consideration the grays of life. In my case, I was raising my boys alone for several years and the bond we had was deep, plus the hurt from their mom abandoning them was deep and different for each of them.
The Boys Are Back is a small independent film, shot and set entirely in South Australia, directed by Scott Hicks (who did “Shine”) and starring Clive Owen and all unknowns, including two child actors who were pivotal in the “inspired by a true story” film.
My wife and I went to a preview and had a spirited discussion about it over dinner later. It didn’t help that there was a Q&A afterward with the director and Clive Owen in which my wife was practically drooling. Okay, he is one handsome dude. Plus, he was articulate and gracious. In other words, completely hate-able.
In-Laws. They make movies about them. They write jokes about them. They make marriages more complicated. And, I have them. Second time around. Much better, but still a challenge.
First time, I started off on the wrong foot by wanting to know why my wife had no relationship with one of her sisters. Evidently, wrong question. I then completely ate my foot when they offered to get us a camcorder for a wedding present and I had the temerity to want a voice in the choice. Being in the “business,” I knew what features I wanted. Oops.
We just returned from a boys trip to Vegas. By “boys,” I mean my two boys, who are almost 16 and 13 and me, the oldest of the “boys” (according to my wife). I had to consider, yet again, the dilemma we confront as parents today, with the constant assault on our values and the non-stop sexual and violent imagery our kids face. We can’t fully shelter our kids, but what should be the limits?
My best friend’s son, his youngest, has been house and teen-sitting for us. He’s 20 now and he’s really grown up in so many ways. It seems the alien pod has left his body and the sane human being his parents raised has returned. Such a relief, as it gives me hope for my two to know that they do grow up!
When he was my teen’s age I remember an incident that really stuck with me, when his family moved. I had offered to help and was horrified at how they allowed and indulged their youngest to basically sit around and do nothing, while we worked tirelessly. He was that self-absorbed.
This Fathers Day, being recently remarried, I don’t have to face it wondering what to do and who will teach my boys to remember and respect me. But, in previous years, while I was encouraging them to make or buy Mother’s Day and birthday cards for their mother, who had abandoned them, there seemed to be no one to help them with the same task for me.
This is no feel-sorry-for-myself reflection, but a conundrum many single parents face when their birthdays or other holidays come about. I was vigilant in reminding them to remember their mother and her mother, not because she deserved anything from them, but because it taught them to respect parents, other relatives, and learn the right thing to do when they got older.
I am quite happy to write this column from the vantage point of some distance from the pain of my own father’s death and the time I was alone, separated, and then divorced, and raising my boys 24/7. But, it only seems appropriate to reflect on those times, the positive memories of my dad, and the contrasting struggle of teaching my boys, much younger then, to remember their own father.
My father was a unique man: stoic, hard working, resistant to complaints, and whining, and completely in love with my mother. David Sallan died where he was happiest, right next to my mom, holding her hand, at 90 years of age. They met when he was 17 and she was 14, by a lake in Michigan; he was the sun-tanned water-worshipper, she was the shy, pale, redhead with a brain. He was brawn; she was class. And, he worshipped her from the day he laid eyes on her.