In Case Any of You are Wondering…

… why Daily Pundit’s legal editor has been letting some pretty juicy Supreme Court cases go by lately, the answer is, I don’t have either the time or the mental energy right now to give them the attention they’d need for anything more than the most superficial drive-by commentary.

These days, I’m pretty thoroughly housebound. Luckily, I can get most of my work done through a VPN connection from home, and most of the rest of it during midnight trips to the office. My being housebound has nothing to do with Brenda’s illness — she had the mastectomy, the recovery, the reconstruction, the re-recovery, and everything’s pretty much done except for the regular oncology check-ups and the five-year course of estrogen-suppression medication — instead, it’s that Brenda has abdicated what little remaining duties of parenthood she was still keeping up with before her surgery, and someone’s got to do the job.

Here are the rules by which Brenda conducts her “parenting.” This is a more elaborate form of the list I originally posted here. Someone from a bulletin board I used to post to quite a lot sent me an email last week, asking, how’s it going, and I answered, I’ll post it on the board rather than unloading on you personally. I’ve been building it up for a couple of days. Here’s the result:

1) As long you have good intentions, the outcome is someone else’s fault.
2) Take the quick and easy way out of any problem, no matter how many larger problems it will create for the future.
3) Bribe for good behavior.
4) When rule #3 doesn’t work, bribe some more.
5) If you want to do it, and your husband says no, do it anyway.
6) If it’s something your husband will be upset about, don’t tell him.
7) Whatever you do, don’t assign chores.
8) If your husband assigns chores, shoot them full of so many exceptions that the children don’t have to do them any more.
9) Given the choice between paying attention to your children, and a special project that will have you ignoring them for a few days, go with the special project.
10) When one special project is finished, go right on to the next one.
11) The proper place and time to have an argument about the children and their discipline is in front of them while it is ongoing.
12) Never put off until tomorrow what can be postponed to the day when your kids are finally big enough to beat you up and you can just wash your hands of it.
13) Television makes an excellent day-long babysitter.
14) There is no need to pay attention to what your children are watching on television.
15) If your children are squabbling continuously over the television, don’t bother to teach them to get along: Just buy televisions for their bedrooms. If your husband says not to do this, see rule #5.
16) See rule #15 as to anything else your children squabble over.
17) When they each have their own, and they still squabble, see rule #3.
18) No matter how the children are behaving, there is always time to bury your nose in the newspaper or park in front of HGTV.
19) Should your children’s squabbles interfere with #18, scream “Just go away and leave me alone!” at the top of your lungs.
20) The entire house is your palette. When something you see on HGTV gives you an idea, run with it. It doesn’t matter whose space it is, how much the hackery costs, or whether anyone else might want something different instead, or even to have the thing left alone.
21) When getting your children up for school in the morning, sleep in as late as possible, and then force-march them through getting ready and out the door.
22) When your children get into trouble at school, bend all your efforts toward protecting them from the consequences, however much deserved.
23) When your children are home all day, feed them breakfast at noon, lunch at 4:30 or five, and dinner anywhere between seven and ten. Snacks are governed by rules #3 and #4.
25) Cater to each and every dietary whim your children come up with, no matter how vexatious. Whenever your husband tries to curb such nonsense, by at least having them try something, make it a point to charge across the house to say, “You know he isn’t going to like that.”
26) Any complaint about any of the foregoing can easily and unanswerably be brushed off with, “It’s no big deal.” Those who insist upon making a big deal over such things, well, obviously there’s something wrong with them.

It will, perhaps, not come as a big surprise to anyone here (though Brenda is mystified) that things have been sliding slowly downhill for years, nor that they took a really big plunge once rule #12 began to pay off. Things are at the point now that, if I leave the house when Brenda and the children are present, there will be busted furniture and holes in the walls when I get back. I’m not kidding. There’s a hole in the dining room wall right now, the result of a brief trip I took to the dentist’s last week for a cleaning.

If anyone’s wondering, by the way, whatever happened to moving out: I wound up moving back in a month later. The kids busted their asses, cleaning up their act so their father might come home. Brenda had very little to do with their efforts; her chief contributions were such things as calling up in the middle of the night to ask, “When are you coming back, if I take you back?” Once I moved back in, things carried along in improved form for a couple of weeks, and then started sliding downhill again — this being the invariable course of any improvement around our house — they are now worse than ever. Brenda did, however, invest a significant chunk of time and effort, as soon as I came back, into getting our rental property rented out, so I’d find it more difficult to leave the next time. As if it were easy before.

Here’s an example of the kind of thing claiming my attention right now. Last Friday, Susanna was having problems at school. She wouldn’t stay seated, and finally ran out of the classroom, so the school called Brenda to come pick her up. Brenda then spent the best part of an hour chasing her around the school, pushing what started as no more than restless irritation more and more into rage. Finally Brenda called me up, and I went to the school and picked up Susanna. On the trip home, riding the crest of that rage, she tried to get out of my truck at 40MPH on a busy street.

Now I would imagine anyone looking over that list asking themselves, whatever happened to common sense? because they’re the kind of things so obviously wrong that one wouldn’t think they even required arguing against. The answer is, Brenda has no common sense at all. It took me a long time to come to that conclusion, much longer perhaps than it ought to have taken, but it’s the truth: The world of obvious consequence is something she knows nothing about, nor is past experience a guide to future expectation; she will do the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result.

I’m sorry this is so disorganized. I’ve been staring at this for two days, tweaking it here and there without much result. One of the consequences of a near-photographic memory is, things are not just recalled: They are re-experienced in all their original fullness whenever they come to mind, so every time I come back to this, I wind up plunged again into an overwhelming disgust that drains all my energy. There are all kinds of things I’ve thought to include that haven’t made it in here because of that. If I could be dispassionate about the subject, this post would be a lot better, but I can’t do it, so I’m going to call this good. If “good” is the right word.

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About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


In Case Any of You are Wondering… — 13 Comments

  1. Gee, that list looks familiar…in an odd sort of way. About 5 years ago, I realized something. When my mood was sour, OR if I was just thinking dire thoughts, the house (and Victoria in particular) was just impossible. When I was in a good mood – things ran better, even if they were not running well at all. What was going on in my head was dictating the tone in the house. So, I changed. Whenever I found myself thinking about death, destruction and mayhem, I went and bought a book (sci-fi of course). Now, this was a distraction for when I was doing laundry, cooking, waiting to pick up child from school. Anything to change the tape that was playing in MY head.

    It worked. For the last several years, we have gotten along better – things are still not great, but we can deal with them and MY sense of sanity has returned. Yes, Victoria is still EXACTLY the same kind of person you have, but I have changed. I am not suggesting it will work for you, but YOUR sanity is your responsibility. Fix it.

  2. I don’t have any good advice. I once found myself in a relationship that, while not broken in precisely the ways yours is, grew just as intolerable.

    I kept at it until finally, one day, I realized I was simply fooling myself. So I ran.

    Your sense of responsibility toward your kids may not permit that. If so, well….like I said, I don’t have any good advice.

  3. The saying “love is blind” means you don’t see a persons faults until it’s waayy too late. That said you have my sympathies, I hope you find a solution.
    BTW with just a couple of words changed 1 – 9 would work for congress.

  4. I don’t have anything useful to add. One thing especially caught my eye, though:

    The kids busted their asses, cleaning up their act so their father might come home.

    My kids, ages 5 and 3, call me at work to see when I’m coming home. They actually get teary when I kiss them goodbye in the morning. Even if I thought I could get by without my wife, those two little blessings would keep me around.

    I cannot image what you’re going through. All I can offer is my sympathy and well wishes which, I know, is pretty useless.

  5. I just realized, I left the point — well, another point — off the last-Friday story. When Brenda got home, I told her about Susanna trying to get out of the truck. Come to find out, it was no surprise to Brenda: Susanna has been pulling that trick on her for a few months, now. See rule #6.

  6. You have my total sympathy. My grown daughter, now visiting, looked at your post and said, “Mom?”

    I also stayed for my kids. I’m not sure it helped them, as I’m still learning more about what they experienced from their point of view as the family collapsed. I admire your determination to do your duty and at least give your kids a glimpse of a normal functioning adult. Just don’t let it destroy you, or you won’t be able to help them.

    I live alone now, as the kids are grown. It’s really nice not to have your guts turn to ice when you put the key in the front door. I know you understand.

  7. Buddy, I think you need a divorce. It can save your kids; it can even, in a weird way, save your marriage.

    Feel free to email. I don’t want to “get started” in a comment thread, other than to second Tracy’s notion above: your sanity is your responsibility. You have a duty to your children, to not be disgusted with their mother. At least, not too disgusted. Kids pick that up and it eats them alive.

    I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

  8. There’s a special type of agony that encompasses a marital and family situation that goes all to hell. I’m lucky enough to have avoided a lot of what you experienced in your marital meltdown, but there’s more than enough there that makes me relive what I went through. And God, that sucks.

    Yes, there was a divorce. I had opportunities to take off and go elsewhere, but I hung in there for my daughters. All things considered, given the past thirteen years, it would have been easy to run. In retrospect, it was worth it to stay involved, and I’m glad I did. It seems to have worked out all right. YMMV.

    My sympathies.

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