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One of the ways my dad sought peace from his stressful job fixing airplanes was fishing. When his father died, he was finally able to buy the boat he wanted - a "real" fishing boat. The fishing genes weren't passed down to me; my lifetime catches are several branches, a bunch of moss, and one unfortunate frog. However, I've finally learned something from my dad and his boat.

My family lived close to Tarrant County Junior College's Northwest campus in the suburbs of Fort Worth. Close to the school was a pond that had the required elements to keep my dad happy: ease of access, relative solitude, and quiet. You didn't hear Evinrude or Mercury engines on this water; it was a fisherman's paradise, even if you didn't catch fish.

Of course, no solitude lasts forever. In the late 80s/early 90s, cable sports programming hadn't yet hit its stride with such activities as watching people play poker or seeing reporters argue with each other about the relative merits of our modern glorified gladiators. No, back then, it was water skiing. I had yet to realize that competitive water skiing was becoming a big thing, but ESPN was ready to capitalize on the market. The pond soon had motorboats and skiers going across it all of the time, and there was even some sort of televised competition held at that pond, replete with slalom and ski jump events.

While all of it was neat, it destroyed the tranquility of the spot for my dad. Every boat that came by left a wake, and those wakes "disturbed the fish". He didn't fish there anymore, and much later sold his boat out of lack of use.

I keep thinking about my dad and being disturbed by wakes when I look at my current household situation. My wife and I have been married almost 20 years. We have two kids aged 9 and 7. Our family is normal, predictable, and stable. The boy plays Minecraft. The girl does gymnastics. We are a stereotypical nuclear family minus .3 kids.

We are people of faith, and this has led us some interesting places. We believe that helping people is more than just writing a check to some charity. In particular, we've been bleeding hearts for people who have needed a place to stay.

These are people from all walks of life. Some we've known--a boss that lost his right to stay in the country after losing his job under ugly circumstances, a friend that would go on to cause us to lose a court case for cosigning his loan. Others have been strangers. Some have ended well where people have found a sense of normality. Others haven't. Having my wife be accused of poisoning a houseguest's milk is the one instance that stands out for that side of the coin. Yes, we've been hurt, but no one ever said that helping people wouldn't come without cost.

Our most recent instance of helping someone was a friend. She was the person who took photographs of our kids for every month up until age 2, and then every year after that. She was a single mom raising two kids by two different, absent dads. She was only 17 when she had her first. Her second came when she was 24.

Due to legal issues, dependency issues, and mental health issues, she lost her house. She and the kids needed a place to stay. We said yes, not realizing that this woman would essentially leave a wake of drama behind her, disturbing whatever tranquility there might be as badly as the ski boats did to my dad's fishing.

We moved both our kids into one room and gave her the other. Her brother was in a homeless shelter, so he came and stayed with us. He even brought bedbugs with him.
Much angst and "this isn't working outs" later, she and her new boyfriend got a trailer. He got a job. Everything seemed to be working.

Then it wasn't. She found herself walking outside, barefoot, at 3 a.m. trying to text us where she was. She knew she needed help, so she asked us to take non-custodial authority over the kids. This would give us the right to sign medical forms, but it wouldn't make us their parents.

So we found ourselves with a 12 year old who harbors a ton of resentment at her mom, and a 6 year old who believes that she can get anything she wants by screaming long enough. The mom married her boyfriend before going into rehab so they could share a room. They both walked out less than a week later.

Meanwhile, we're trying to establish stability. The 12 year old desperately needs attention. The 6 year old needs structure. We work on it, day by day. Then mom comes to visit, and the wake of drama washes all over the kids; it's back to square one.

Right now, we have the kids until school is out (roughly one more week). We've already seen nasty custody issues between the father of the younger daughter and the mom (using us as an unintentional proxy). We've seen the resentment that the older daughter has when the mom doesn't pay her any attention and focuses solely on the younger child.

The mom and husband have jobs now and a garage apartment to boot. The mom wants to take the kids back over the summer. The selfish part of me is ready for that to happen; the sad part of me believes that there will only be gloom and doom, and the kids will come back to us at some point.

How can I protect those kids from the wake of their mom? I can't. I can only insulate myself and my family from it as best as I can.

Originally posted to kjlopey on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 06:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Reetz, salmo, FloridaSNMOM, weck, JBL55, mrkvica

    You and your wife are certainly far better people than I would ever be.

    How do your children deal with it all?

    •  We're not better by any means (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      salmo, arizonablue, FloridaSNMOM, weck, JBL55

      One of the reasons we wind up helping is because of our own experience with mental health issues. My wife is bipolar; I deal with depression. So there are some roads we've walked down, but... That doesn't mean much.

      My kids? We check in with them frequently. My daughter is almost the same age as the younger, so there's a certain amount of shared time. My son is not a fan of the screaming, but we work hard to give them both individual "them" time with us, away from the others. I rely a lot on my wife's intuition, since I'm usually looking at stuff at army's length.

  •  Child Protective Service (5+ / 0-)

    They need to know what is going on.  The least they could do is to pay you for the care of these kids.  The time may come when it is not in your family's best interest to continue this arrangement.

    You are first and foremost responsible for the kids you brought into this world.  The fact you have opened your hearts and home to other children is wonderful.  If the time comes that you feel your children are suffering in any way it is your responsibility to do what is necessary to fix it.  These kids have been dealt a shitty hand.  That is not your fault and you have done over and above what most people would say is reasonable.  Do not let this woman and her problems cause ripples enought to rock your boat to the point of tipping.

    My Brothers Keeper

    by Reetz on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 06:36:09 PM PDT

    •  Trust me (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      salmo, Reetz, arizonablue, weck, JBL55

      That is always an option.

      As far as the mom goes, I really don't care. She has her issues, and I know enough to protect my family from anything. She herself will never live under our roof again. She does know when she can't handle her kids; it's when she's in transition that stuff happens. As it stands, the younger daughter's dad may sue for custody of her. All I really care about is seeing the kids get stable.

      •  Oh, dear. (0+ / 0-)
        the younger daughter's dad may sue for custody of her
        Coupled with this from your diary:
        the resentment that the older daughter has when the mom doesn't pay her any attention and focuses solely on the younger child.
        My heart really goes out to the older daughter, as does yours I'm sure.

        "War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate." ~ Al Cleveland & Marvin Gaye (1970)

        by JBL55 on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 10:17:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If they go live with them (0+ / 0-)

    please contact child services.  You would not be doing anything wrong, just expressing your legitimate concern.  And they could actually help!

    I admire your efforts and feel bad for your plight.  keep on keeping on.

    •  Child Protective Services (0+ / 0-)

      In Texas?  Seems like an oxymoron.

      Republicans - they measure our national success by corporate profit margin, not the well being of the citizens.

      by egarratt on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 03:03:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  An old college friend (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53

        ... worked for them for a while after graduation. It was a very, very depressing place. Too heavy caseloads, too few people to try to make life better.

        The slow starvation of resources for societal programs in Texas echoes the extermination-minded tendencies of public school opponents. Teachers who are already burdened with being at times the one adult some kids see in a day have more and more barriers placed between them and doing their core job of educating students.

        See the pattern? That's not just Texas, sad to say.

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