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The Ambivalent Parent

"But I love my baby! I can't believe he's getting custody! I can't believe that he will be the person making all the important decisions in my child's life! It's like I don't matter at all!"

The mother sat there, shocked. How did she lose the opportunity to take care of her child? How did the other party take control? How can she live under the new rules where she would be subject to what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it?

It took a long time to get to this point. It didn't happen over night.

The parties had a child. Originally, she was the doting mother. She cared for the child. She nurtured the child. That didn't sit so well with him.

"You're doing that wrong," he would tell her. It didn't much matter what it was, whatever it was, she was doing it wrong. He would take over.

He asserted that she was incompetent at medical care. "You don't know how to care for a scrape. I'll bandage her if she needs bandaging." He would take over.

He asserted that she was incompetent at helping the child with homework. "You can't do math. I'm the only one in the family who understands math." He would take over.

He asserted that she was boring in her play. "My child doesn't want to play your stupid game. She wants to throw a ball with me." He would take over.

Time passed. Mom tried less and less. If she ever did raise an objection, he shot her down immediately and forcefully. There was no compromise. There was only command.

Before long, he would take the child to the doctor's appointments. "I'll take care of it. You don't need to do it." "Ok," she said.

He would meet with the teachers for Parent-Teacher Conferences. "I'll take care of it. You don't need to do it." "Ok," she said.

He would take the child to the softball practice and games. "I'll take care of it. You don't need to do it." "Ok," she said.

As a bit more time passed, he took the child on vacations. He assured her that she was better off staying at home. "Ok," she said.

When it came time to formalize the separation (they had been living as essentially separate for several years by then) she was shocked when he claimed that he was the primary care-giver and should have sole custody and sole decision making over the child's future.

Considering how the parents had behaved toward their child, the judge could only agree.

"But I love my baby! I can't believe he's getting custody! I can't believe that he will be the person making all the important decisions in our child's life! It's like I don't matter at all!"

He was wrong for his hostility and his winner take all attitude. But she was wrong for her reticence, her acquiescence, her ambivalence.

Don't be like him. Don't be a bully and act like it is winner take all. That doesn't end well in the long term (see Marie Antoinette). And don't be like her. Don't be shy. Don't give up. Don't become disinterested. That doesn't end well either (see serfs generally).

Bottom line? Vote!

-Michael Manely 

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