Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Break-Up (Part 2) - Time With The Kids

I spend a lot of time with my kids.  I make no apologies for that.   

I do not accept the premise that my responsibility to my children is analogous to T's responsibilities to his parent's and sisters.   My children are, well, children.  I am their father and they are dependent on me for all the things that children are depend on their fathers for when they are still children.  The fact that I am gay and divorced from their mother changes nothing.  The youngest person in T's house is 40.  They are all adults who are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.  In due course, my children will grow up and become less dependent on me. Eventually, they will become adults and move out on their own.

Don't take any of this to minimize how important T's family is to him.  They are very important.  For the 35+ years he was in the closet, they were there for him.  When he had some very dark days before I met him, they were there for him.  When the communist took over Vietnam, they were there for him and got him (and everyone else) out.  So, it's not that I don't appreciate where he is coming from.  I'm just saying that the needs of his parents and adult sisters are not the same as minor children. 

The last thing to consider is AJ.  AJ lives in the same house as my kids.  I need to be present enough and active enough in their lives to make sure the kids see me as not only their father but their dad.  I do not want any of them ever coming to me asking what I think about them changing their last name to match AJ's. 

So having said all that, is the time I spend with the children a choice?  It takes at lot of my time.  It interferes with everything and it makes it much harder for me to do the things I want to do for myself.  But is this really a choice?  I'm not so sure it is.  I suppose it is a consequence of the choice to have children, but I don't think it's a choice now.  No more than going to work in the morning is a choice.  I do make a choice to be accommodating to K's schedule, but really I do that because, in the long run, it makes it better for the kids, and my relationship with them. 

But why do I have to go over to K's all the time to be with them?  Why do I hang out there until 9:00, 4 or 5 nights a week.  Is because I just like to be around her?  Is it because of the free food at her house?  Is it because I am so used to doing what she says and making her a priority that I just do it?  Am I afraid of upsetting her?  Is it because the internet is faster at her house?

Nope.  All of these are wrong.  Well, actually her internet service is faster, but mine is fast enough. 

I think children need a consistent home.  They need a home that is theirs where everything is familiar and feels like home.   While my kids used to live in my house, my house is not that home any more.  With my agreement, K has created that for them at her house.  It is better for them and better for me for me to come to K's house as often as I can to maintain my relationship with the kids as a ACTIVE and HANDS ON father.

My house has a roommate living there.  He is a nice enough guy and my kids like him, but he is not family.  I don't even consider him a friend.  He is actually my third roommate (fourth if you count the kid I had to throw out) in the past 2 years.  A parade of three strangers in my house is not exactly the stable home environment I want for my kids.  I do not have a roommate because I am lonely, I need the rent money to help pay the mortgage.    

So what would happen if I had a real partner.  What if T had offered to move in with me?  How would things be different? I think things would be drastically different. 

T and I would have made a home there.  We could make a home for the children there.  The children could have that stable, familiar home there.   Then the idea of having the kids stay with me every other week, or some other arrangement, a lot more plausible.

You see?  Even though my current situation is that I am at K's house most nights until late, that is not what I want long term.  It's just what I have to live with right now.

I don't just want a partner to come home to at night.  I don't just want a warm body to sleep with at night.  If I had a partner to make a home with, make a life with, I would make make different choices about my situation.   I would push K to change the way we share the custody of the kids.  That would, of course, spark some conflict.  K would not want to give up that time with the kids under her roof.  There would be a consequence to that choice, but, I think it would be manageable.  

I'm sure it would be worth it.


T said...

Long before I met you, Jim, I found out the my younger sister is also gay. Until today, she has neither come out nor gone out with another woman. Before I had to come out, she had always been there for me. Both of us understand how sad it is to be gay and in the closet. I vowed that I would never leave her or let her be alone. I know you would not mind living with me and my sister, where my parents live. However, I have tried hard to get them to get to know you and accept us. There has been so much progress in my eyes but. However, there's much to go. I couldn't promise you that our dream would materialize. All I could do was to try my best and hope. At our age, I also agree that you should move on. You deserve better than this. Sad as it is, how could I leave my sister? She is so scared to come out or even to go out with anyone secretly. She would stay with me. I know how sad it can be. I a laugh and smile and try to make people laugh all the time. But I know how it feels to be in her situation. I don't want to choose anyone over anyone. I made a promise. I promise you I will forever be your best friend and be there for you. I will forever love you.

T said...

I meant if I were by myself, she would not abandon me.

TwoLives said...

Your break-up is sad news. I'm really sorry to hear about it. It's not easy to find a terrific guy like T who loves you as much as you love him.

On the other hand, your break-up is very understandable. You've been talking about this same issue for years and you've split up before because of it.

One thing I'm not clear about is whether your impasse could be solved if you moved in with T and his family. If your kids were grown and independent, would that living situation work for you?

Anonymous said...

No matter what, you both sound like good men. Even good men with the best of intentions can't always make things work.

Maybe it's my life experience but I find T's dilemma completely understandable. He loves his sister and feels he owes her this. Like the poster above, I don't know if it would be possible for you to live with him eventually but that would clearly have to be as part of his extended family. That may not work for you either of you.

I see the distinction you're drawing between kids and parents but that too is cultural. Plenty of men walk away from their obligations to their under-aged children. You wouldn't be the man you are if you did that but it IS a choice you make (and admirable one I might add) just as T has made a choice to care for his aging parents. The duty he feels to them is not dissimilar to the duty you feel towards your children. You may not agree with it, as is your right. But if I asked T I bet he'd feel every bit as duty bound as you feel even if you can't accept or fully understand the reasons.

Again, none of this makes either of you wrong. I hope you can remain the best of friends. Who knows? Someday circumstances may be different for each of you....

RB said...

Jim, I agree with everything you've said about parental responsibilities. It's time consuming and a lot of work, but it's also the most rewarding thing that will ever happen in your life.

I have been a single dad raising two kids for more than ten years now. Their mom works very hard to make my life as difficult as possible. And I'm working a demanding job. It's a real challenge and I'm often exhausted. So when someone tells me raising kids is "just a cop out" for not having an active gay social life -- it makes me fucking furious. So I respect your decision to stay close to the kids, and I know how hard it is to be a single parent. You have a responsibility to the kids and you are doing the right thing. I don't know what else you could do to make things better.

I also think you are correct that the situation with T's responsibilities is completely different. By "protecting" his sister he may actually be making things worse. It's 2013!! Push her to live her life! Is it really necessary for T to live with his parents? He can't live a few houses or miles away? I have many Asian friends who are very loyal to their parents -- but this seems over the top! Just from reading this blog, it appears that T absolutely won't bend. No compromise to make this situation work. Maybe moving on is the right thing to do.

As your kids get older they will spend more time with friends and become more independent. You'll get back on your feet financially. And you'll meet someone who wants the same things you do -- and they will work hard to make that happen.

laughingcreation said...

I think this dilemma in and of itself stems from the reality that choices do have consequences.

Ideally, the enduring partnership is the one that brought forth kids in the first place. The result of this dynamic is that to seek the best interest of the partnership is to seek the best interest of the children. Through that primary love relationship parents roll model loyalty, commitment, forbearance, kindness, love support and on and on.

When the marriage dissolves, I agree that the nurture of the children is of primacy until they are of a majority age and given an initial start toward stability on their own.

T probably feels like his obligations to his family are just as real. He has every right to feel this way. They are not commensurate circumstances. There are matters of biological fact that come into play.

Where reproduction is concerned, there is a down generation focus. Parents, literally manufacture their children and in turn agree to be the provision for the lives that they are creating until they are of such an age that they can sustain themselves.

The up-chain obligation to T's parents and the lateral obligation to his siblings is biologically not of primacy. There are biological and moral drives within parents to tend to their children. Those upward and lateral obligations can be tremendously important and add richness to family life, but push come to shove, the partner dyad and the nurture of young, for as long as that obligation remains, are of primacy.

fan of casey said...

The issue that seems to be somewhat overlooked is the cultural differences. In western culture, offspring are encouraged, even forced to fly the coop when it's the appropriate age.

While asian cultures value filial association, long into adult hood. Asian children are expected to care of their parents, and to certain extent, younger siblings. To not do so would bring shame to the parents, the offspring, even the whole family.

This is not to say one system is better than the other, just that the expectations are different. So when Jim says he is rightfully prioritizing his family, T needs to understand this (and I think he does). At the same time, Jim needs to understand that T's family, is just that -- his family, not worth any less to him, and he cannot just abandon them either.

So no one is more right or more wrong -- it's just how people have been raised.

Anonymous said...

I'm someone who grew up in an Asian culture where family and filial piety is very important, and now I'm living in Australia where independence and building your own home away from your parents at a young age is considered as an important thing to becoming a real adult. I can understand how the 2 of you have to face the cultural differences. Here is my 2 cents worth:

@ T:

I'm not trying to sound harsh or anything, but what you are doing for your sister is detrimental in the long-run. I have 2 sisters myself, 1 of them is very independent and the other is not as independent. I always try to guide my 2nd sister along the path of life by giving advice at appropriate intervals, but I ultimately want her to stand on her own feet, make some mistakes, learn from them and grow up.

Your sister has to learn how to pursue her own happiness, whatever risks that she needs to take in that pursuit, she has to do it herself. It's her own life and nobody can do that but her. Also, you cannot be there forever for her. Touch wood, but what if one day something happens to you and you are suddenly no longer around for her? What is going to happen to her? Is she going to collapse because her pillar of support is gone? Not only does she has that responsibility to take care of her own life, but she also has that responsibility to take care of your parents in case something happens to you. If she cannot even take care of herself, how is she going to take care of your parents?

Yes, a promise is a promise, but things change and you have to adapt to the situation. Using an analogy that she has taken care of you when you were young versus now is different, because the situation and context is different. Also, I know of people that still pursue their own happiness but do not let their parents suffer the hardship of knowing. It depends on the family dynamics. If you think that your family cannot handle having another sibling turning out as gay, so be it, then don't tell them. But your sister needs to come out of her comfort zone and grow up. You cannot grow up without facing your worst fears and staying within your comfort zone. Considering her age, it is time to do it. Otherwise, she will never do it.

@ J: I think that the problem that you two are facing now is that you are not pursuing the same relationship goals, that is why you are unhappy. I can totally understand that, without the same goals, it is like walking on different paths in life and ultimately not reaching the same fork in the path. Maybe it is time to reevaluate your life by taking a breather. However, I think that all is still not lost. Maybe you and T can start off by getting a house close to T, and slowly work around his living arrangements with his parents. In Asian cultures, it is of importance that you take care of your parents when they are old, healthy or otherwise. Maybe by living next door, you kill 2 birds with 1 stone - you are close enough to take care of them and fulfill your obligations, while having a place to call your own for the 2 of you only. Slowly, the 2 of you can make the living arrangement to be the norm for both sides' families.


fan of casey said...

The way to wean T's parents can be done, in little steps. The difficulty, besides the cultural expectations is the long period of reinforcement and entitlement that has been established.

For T to make a dramatic statement will not go over well. I would bet his parents will feel like T is abandoning them, that this act to get away will be viewed quite harshly . . . unless he explains the love part.

Perhaps if he confronts the silent elephant in the room, his parents will understand his need to build his own life while still retaining a good relationship with extended family.

I'm asian so I know how they can lay on the guilt trip -- but if you ever want to get out of the shadow of your parents, you will learn how to say no in a respective way.