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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

PART II: Fear & Intimidation, or The Bully Cycle

I know a woman, in her early 70s, who has three children. Her daughter is an all-star person, just well-rounded and can take care of herself. Her two sons? Well, they are boys, boys in their 40s. They have never had to grow up. One has a spare mother, his wife, who takes care of everything. The other continues on the cycle of doing as he pleases, then running to Mama when Life hits him upside the head. Mama feels guilty, because after all, she raised him and somehow it must be her fault the Man Child is behaving in this fashion. Mama and Papa are retired and on limited means, yet the Man Child feels no compunction about sticking his hand out when Life smacks him upside the head. It should come as no surprise to you that the only help they receive is from their daughter and her children. It should also come as no surprise to you that Mama has left her estate when she passes to the Poor Boys who cannot fend for themselves.

I was a personal guilt sponge from the get-go. My adult daughter knew it. I felt badly about the time I devoted to her younger brother, a child with very special needs. I felt badly because I’d been divorced, and part of her childhood was spent as I raised both children as a single parent. She could lie her head off, and I would run with the checkbook. If she made it sound as if the children were going to suffer, I ran that much faster.

One of her biggest lies to get money out of us, the one that I should have caught but didn’t, was when her little baby girl was about six months old and they lived out of state, the baby, the adult daughter, and my erstwhile ex-son-in-law. I was called and told that the baby-sitter was blackmailing them. If they did not give her $200, the baby-sitter would report them to child protective services, even though she had no basis for doing so.

I am not a fan of our local child protective services, DCFS. I had encounters with them and my special needs son. DCFS did not train actual social workers in the 1980s and 1990s. I don't know if they do, now. Anybody with a bachelor degree who could take the state civil service test could be plopped on the list to work for DCFS as a case worker. DCFS seemed, at the time, to make a project of harassing people with common sense and big problems, while ignoring children who were molested, being tortured, lived in neglectful situations, or were raising themselves while their parent drugged and/ or drank. This colored my view of any child protection agency in any state.

We didn’t say, “Well, here’s a plane ticket. Bring the baby here until this is finished.” We didn’t say, “Well, call her bluff and submit to the investigation.” We didn’t say, “Ask to live on base, where there is a day care center” as they were both in the military. We didn’t say, “Give us this woman’s number and let her tell us that to our face.” No. Despite evidence to the contrary, despite how far-fetched the whole thing sounded, we believed them, believed her.

I do wonder every so often if they actually used it to pay a bill, or went out on the town, with or without a baby-sitter. But we believed more and more stupid things to come out of their mouths, eventually having them owe us some $3,000 or so.

We were stupid for over five years before we woke up and realized that our little baby was over 18 years old, and needed to stop blaming us for her mistakes. Furthermore, she needed to stop using her children as pawns to get us to do things.

“If you don’t get me a car, I won’t be able to get a job, and I won’t be able to support these kids.” We got her a car. We got her 3 cars. She screwed them all up by not performing simple maintenance, and used them to ditch work.

“I need clothes to get a decent job. If you don’t help me, I won’t be able to support the kids.” We got her clothes. Nice clothes. Clothes from real stores, and not thrift shops. And she did get a job at a respectable law firm. At the firm, she wore old jeans, nasty stretch pants, gym shoes with holes in the toes, and surfed the Internet day in and day out. Pity they didn’t appreciate all the work she alleged she did. They canned her after 90 days, and replaced her with a young woman who knew how to dress and knew how to work.

“My house is too much for me to clean.”

“You’ve got the money.”

“You forget, you gave the Boy everything.”

“I got sent to college when I was 17.”

“I was just taking a shower when the children cut each other’s hair with kiddy scissors. They can just go to school that way. I’m not paying to fix it.”

“If you don’t stop it and do what I want, I won’t let you see the kids again.”

“If you don’t stop it and do what I want, I am going to kill the kids and then myself.” This one was followed by locking herself in the house. It was our wake-up call.

This was punctuated with behaviors from her Ex. Ex and his child bride forged checks off his our adult daughter’s old marital joint account. Ex wanted visitation, but didn’t want to follow his regular schedule. Ex stopped paying child support. Ex allowed himself to be discharged from the service, then re-enlisted, removing any reference to our grandchildren, his children, from his service record. Ex seemed to enjoy creating drama in her life, and therefore drama in ours.

We got volunteered as visitation supervisors, without our knowledge.

We were on this bully cycle for years, from 1998 through October 2005. It took watching, observing, gathering evidence, before we could feel comfortable just packing up the kids and saying, “Enough. Get your act together, or we’ll keep them.”

We wanted her to step up and take responsibility. She owed us money, over $5,000. We had to force her to visit her children. And we still had to deal with bullying, to a lesser extent.

“I have no way to go to work, and you expect me to work. There’s no bus at 5 AM.”

“I need a storage locker, because my roommate and I had this awful fight, and I had to call the police, and she kicked me out, and St. Vincent de Paul paid for me to stay in a motel for a week…”

“I’m going in the Air Force as an officer, and all I need…”

“I’m going in the Navy, and all I need…”

“I’m really going in the Army. They gave me a free membership at the Y to work off the extra pounds. I need to transfer guardianship to you. I’ll make you out an allotment for child support. I’ll sign an agreement with you on that, along with a promissory note for the money I owe you.” She then disappeared for a couple months, only to resurface with the lie, “I decided the Army was not going to give me what I needed.” I know she flunked the urine test. I found out. Yes, I invaded her privacy. No, I will not tell who told me. Ever.

Laughing Boy, the Ex, was not much better. He had a new life, and three more new kids (he now has four). When our attorney approached him about relinquishing his rights, his wife's concern was that her rival, my daughter, was dead and there would be Social Security if they took the children. Alas and alack, my daughter is quite alive, and so Ex hastily signed the papers.

The bully cycle was less intense after we took the children. It really slowed down after the adoption. It did not stop. Her last attempt to bully and blackmail came about 4 months ago. She announced she planned on getting married, and that she wanted to do it correctly. To our mind, “correctly” meant she planned on taking her sorry fanny over to her local parish and consulting the priest about a defect-of-form decree of nullity, followed by intensive marriage preparation and counsel with the priest. Funny. Her view of “correctly” apparently meant that we would take her and her intended out to dinner to meet him at our expense, pay for a “real” wedding, and eventually turn custody of our younger children back over to her. Needless to say, we do not speak, email or anything else at this point.

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