crouching dysfunctional kids, hidden parent

I would like to begin and end this post by saying that the living skeleton in my family is a Cuban called Fidel Castro. Unfortunately, dear bloggy reader, my life could not be that simple.

The living skeleton is actually a single parent who is raising two kids in sunny Miami, ignores what the kids learn in school, loathes the act of cooking for them and feeds them breakfast cereal for dinner.

She is my cousin. My Cousin in Miami (CIM).

Perhaps I am overreacting in giving her living skeleton status. But last night, after a two-hour phone conversation with another cousin in South Carolina, I learned that CIM's breakfast cereal-turned-dinner is occasionally replaced by a Dunkin Donuts "meal" (Tony Bourdain, I am right there with you on your recent criticism of Rachael Ray. Her latest endorsement is just Evil. Could someone finally please teach Ms. Ray about Integrity in Food?).

I am guessing that CIM is not the only one who relinquishes her childrens' brains to the random schoolteacher, and allows the system to work its magic on their grey matter. But my South Carolina cousin (SCC) informed me, "No, you don't understand...she doesn't even know her kids' teachers by name." Worse, SCC became concerned enough to ask CIM's kids to show HER their report cards. SCC flipped. "You're failing in Math? Does your mother know?" The child shook her head.

Neglect is a touchy subject in my family. I was a child of regular doses of neglect (a.k.a., The Spectacular Free-Spirited Seventies!). And I suspect some of us homeschooler parents may overcompensate in our kids' educations because of our own perceived parental uninvolvement -- but I'll leave that one to you kiddos to psychoanalyze for yourselves.

Anyhoo, SCC decided to intervene in the food matter and let CIM's kids eat a real sit-down restaurant. No instant gratification facilitated by quick meals, no plastic utensils. So SCC and CIM's kids go to at Gloria Estefan's restaurant on Ocean Drive. Yes, that one. It was during this noble venture in (greasy) food education, that one of CIM's kids blurted out, "BUT I'D RATHER EAT BURGER KING!" Note: The kids are age 12 and 14 years old.

SCC and I agreed that CIM's kids need help. I want to call a family intervention on CIM, I really do. The issues we'd address would include her kids' malnutrition, CIM's partying ways (sorry, won't get into that here, but let's just say there is an issue of a certain quantity of men), and the need for her to pay attention to her kids' education.

Unfortunately, because neglect is not a new issue in that side of my family, the fractured relationships prevent a family-size "intervention" from happening.

A question to ponder from LaMai: In addition to your involvement with your kids' education, what do YOU do to reinforce healthy family relations?


Heidicrafts said...

I practice some benign neglect, looking for the ability for them to entertain themselves without bothering the other.

We try to have a restaurant night every fortnight or so. Kids Eat Free Night. It forces us to be together without distraction, which is important when one or more of us has ADHD.

Angela said...

As a child of the '70s' era that you referred to I think I actually overcompensate for what my parents didn't do. (Lots of neglect.) Between homeschooling and activities we try to always be home when they are. Most nights we eat dinner together. I think the kids just knowing the parents are available for them makes a huge difference.

Manda said...

Okay, not to be flippant, but I just have to say it because I love Jimmy Buffett: "Everybody has a cousin in Miami."

Manda said...

I should add that I also suffered from a certain amount of neglect (long story), and so I am also very involved now in my son's life. I mean, he's only two, but I'm still a member of the parent board at his nursery school, and we eat dinner together at least twice a week, maybe more like three or four times (the hard part is waiting for Dad to get home). It's hard because I'm both trying to "be here" for him but also trying to instill a sense of independence, so. . . There's a lot of me being in the room and reading while he plays, but also me stopping to answer questions, help him, read to him, etc.

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la Maitresse said...

Manda, you crack me up.

la Maitresse said...

That is, the "Everybody has a cousin in Miami" comment cracks me up.

Neglect is no fun.

And you (everyone who has read and commented here) know what? I own up to my overcompensation! That's right. I'm a proud, overcompensating, homeschooling, guerilla parent.