This weekend I witnessed a moment of poor parenting as a direct result of childfree envy and it made me REALLY, really sad. We attended a party at the home of some friends, and our lone childed friend chose to bring his three kids – 7-year-old twins and a 9-year-old. The rest of us, many of them longtime friends of his, are pushing 30 or comfortably there. Some are childfree by choice, some simply haven’t taken the plunge yet, and others are childless after infertility. Regardless of the circumstances, though, these were the only kids. They’re close with the host couple, though, and as such they were welcome at the party. It was widely known, though, that there would be a great deal of drinking at said party, and this was deemed acceptable around the kids; we were instructed to pretend the kids, who spent most of their time in the pool, weren’t there. This was pretty okay.
Except their dad, also pretended they weren’t there. It’s no secret that his marriage has been strained recently and he’s going through a “what am I doing with my life” crisis. He’s been (more or less publicly) wishing his family away, wishing he could have the do-over at life you don’t get when you start having kids at 24. To be fair, his wife is pretty awful, and he’s spent the last few years trying to please her, which can’t happen until he eliminates all ties with all his friends (we’re all a bad influence and she is ANTI-childfree), even though he’s usually a GREAT dad. Well, I think he snapped on Saturday, when he proceeded to get drunk. But not just a little drunk – we’re talking slurry, sloppy, puking-in-the-bathroom, pass-out-on-the-futon, you-ain’t--23-no-more drunk. It was really sad.
His eldest was REALLY upset at seeing her dad like this, and we all tried to help. I was left to wonder… why did he bring the kids if he intended on drinking like this? Why not leave them with his wife, who didn’t want to come and be forced to socialize with all of us non-moms? And if the kids are there, I’m sorry, but you exercise some restraint. I don’t care HOW much you long to “let loose”; getting that drunk in front of your kids is NEVER acceptable parenting.
So while I can understand why his wife looked to this occurrence as confirmation that we’re all just pushing her husband toward hellfire and brimstone (ironic, because they’re pagan), I wonder at the motivation for leaving the kids at a party with all his awful friends. If she foresaw this (“I knew this would happen!”), why let the kids come in the first place? Seems a really crappy way to make a point.
While I was adamant about following the “forget the kids are even here” instruction, I was keeping an eye. I gladly handed off the Wii to them so they weren’t horsing around by the pool or threatening to knock over the liquor table with errantly thrown water balloons (it happened twice…) I was also well aware when the conversations veered into the unsavory, and was apparently the designated shusher. I resented the fact that their father had made such a mess of himself that the rest of us were picking up his slack. I resented the fact that he brought his kids with no intention of watching them. Their dad is one of the brothers in the group (we’re all family), but my gods I wanted to strangle him. Not as much as his wife did, though.
The bottom line is that it made me incredibly sad that this father wanted so badly to escape his life that he let himself become that way in front of his kids, who mean the world to him. It gave me some insight into the life of my own alcoholic father, and that made my heart hurt. I don’t remember an incident like this with him, but I also don’t doubt that my friend’s eldest daughter will ever forget that night. She was really shaken up, and I saw myself in her eyes.
(my apologies for the rambliness of this post... trying to get posts in when I can, and sometimes that means sacrificing a proper edit)