dealing with the separation by amping up her efforts to parent the Potato and generally step up to be more responsible. I have mixed feelings about it, I confess.
It can be frustrating, at times—her ‘parenting’ of the Potato can be abrasive and harsh—I often remind her, “the Potato has a mother and a father, and neither of them are you.” On the other hand, yesterday, after we went out and bought a bunch of pots and pans at Target, she voluntarily washed all the new dishes, so they would be usable.
It’s a delicate balancing act.
I remember that feeling, when my parents separated, of wanting to help my mom, of wanting to take on more responsibility. And part of that was a desire to boss around my little brothers, to finally assert my obvious superiority to them in all their stupid boy ways. Part of it, though, was a real desire to help my mom. To prove to her that she’d made the right decision in separating from my dad. To let her know that I could step up, that she didn’t have to shoulder the burden alone.
The Bee is a highly responsible girl. Most days, she gets herself out of bed & fed breakfast & dressed & ready for school with no parental prodding of any kind. She comes home after school & latchkeys about for a couple of hours–but in good girl fashion, she mostly spends that time watching YouTubes and doing her homework. Very rarely do landisdad or I have to nag her to do anything school-related—on the contrary, she is often the one who is nagging us to remind us about needed checks for field trips, or stuff we need to buy her for school or an extra-curricular activity.d
But while I’m glad that she is interested in stepping up to meet the new family dynamic, I also worry about it. I know that, for myself, the tendency to pick up more tasks at home when I was a kid eventually led to my mother leaning too hard on me. For the summer when I was 16, I was the unpaid primary caregiver for 6 younger kids, 3 of whom were under 10. The resentment that I developed as a result of that situation eventually led me to move back in with my dad, just so I could act like a high school student again. On the plus side, there is nothing to make you appreciate and insist on birth control quite like having to take care of a bunch of little kids when you are 16!
I don’t want to dissuade her efforts to do helpful things, like wash dishes or help cook dinner, or eventually learn to do her own laundry. But I also don’t want to make her feel resentful, because she ties the separation to a feeling of added obligation, or a need for her to grow up faster than she should’ve had to, all other things being equal.