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For the past eight years, I've been a mom to Alexandra's children. But no matter how many noses I wipe and lunches I pack, Nathan and Leilah are keenly aware that their real mother isn't here.

Recently, they were reunited, and it was bittersweet.

Alexandra had last seen her oldest two kids 18 months ago, when she was in the throes of addiction. She saw Michael when he was a little over a year old.

I cried seeing my daughter with her children. There were lots of tender hugs, sweet kisses and precious tears from everyone and I could almost see the love, like a little cloud hovering above them. But the cloud didn't burst – because in the heartbreaking truth, my daughter and her children barely know each other.

The little family spent about an hour together. The visit was kept short for Alexandra's wellbeing – the counselors were keenly aware of how overwhelming this moment would be for her. I understand that approach. I agree with it. It makes sense. But it didn't change my feeling that again, the children were last on the priority list.

Nathan and Leilah had been so excited to see their mother. Nathan, I'm afraid, had visions of everything changing – that his mother would become his own now, and that she would be there to snuggle him good night and kiss him good morning. Of course I had explained Alexandra's situation to him – but he's eight. His hopes were high.

When the hour ended, Nathan was angry. He said he couldn't believe that an hour had passed. "It seemed like only a few minutes," he said, a few minutes that he had to share with his sister and toddler brother. Leilah just became quiet, then started meekly asking to "see Mommy again." There was no way I could explain, in a way that they could understand, why Alexandra couldn't see them again. She had looked well, and acted healthy – in their minds, she was making a choice not to be with them. Again.

But my daughter is not emotionally healthy yet. She's now thinking clearly, and beginning to realize how much of her children's lives she has missed. It's like she has awakened from a nightmare and discovered that life kept moving without her. Any day now, I'm afraid, the full extent of how she has damaged her son and daughters will hit her like a physical blow. It will be a devastating moment.

And it will make her determined to jump into motherhood. But she can't.

The best the best gift she can give her children and prepare for the demands of parenting is to continue working on her sobriety and learning how to take care of herself. Through that process, she can build the spiritual and mental strength she'll need to be a mother, a daughter, a sister – and a contributing member of society.

I'm nearly as impatient as Nathan, for a different set of reasons. I'm tired. I feel old. I'm ready to substitute the carefree joys of being a grandmother for the daily grind of parenting three young children. I love my kids – and believe me, I consider them my kids – but at this point, I'm also willing to share the parenting responsibilities with someone younger and more energetic than me.

Alexandra also had a reunion via satellite with her younger sister Katherine, herself a new mother now. Katherine looked beautiful and calm – and reserved. Now that she has young Paul, I think she more fully resents the choices her sister made. Learning to trust Alexandra will take time for her, and will fully depend on Alexandra being willing to prove herself worthy of that unconditional sisterly love. I hope both girls are patient enough to wait for that time to come.
 
Sometimes I imagine what life would be like if I had parented differently. Would our lives be very different? I would have still worked. However, I would NOT put my career ahead of my family.

I worked fulltime in a great career in banking. I regularly received awards, accolades and recognition for my successful management, exceeding sales & service goals, etc. Because I was good at my job, I focused a lot of my energy on continuing this success.

When life at home got difficult, I retreated further into my job, where I thought I had some "control."

A few changes:
I would be sure my daughters felt loved, their thoughts and opinions valued, and they respected themselves and others.

I would pay more attention to the details of their lives: What are their favorite movies, music and classes in school? What do they daydream about? What is going on in their hearts?

I would know their friends, friends' parents, teachers and coaches.

I would know where they are going, who they will be with, when they will return and check up on them, unannounced.

I would be consistent.

I would give my daughters regular chores, without pay, as a requirement for being a contributing member of our family. Extra work would earn them money for desired things.

I would NOT give my daughters everything they asked for – like horses, cars, phones, clothes, etc. I would have made them work for what they want and perhaps pay half.

I would NOT admonish, ridicule or degrade my child in front of others to give myself a sense of superiority for a few minutes and completely disgrace my child for life.

I would NOT argue with Marty in front of my children -- no matter how much I disagree. Marty and I would be a united force to our children.

I would NOT tolerate disrespectful language or behavior. I could "what if" myself to eternity and it would not change anything about the current state of our family. We will use what we learned and make changes in how we parent Nathan, Leilah and Michael.
 
Wow! We have a lot going on today as Dr. Phil catches up with Marty. Bridget, who recently appeared on Dr. Phil, is a young woman whose mother chose a detrimental lifestyle over her own children. Bridget makes a very emotional plea to Alexandra. Her candid message speaks truth from her heart. I hope Alexandra can hear what Bridget is saying.

I am thankful Dr. Phil is able to meet with Marty face to face and talk with him about our daughters and grandchildren.

Marty is the kind of man who likes to get things fixed - quickly - and move on. He has been working very hard to listen, understand and influence Alexandra and Katherine. I think Marty finds both of our daughters very frustrating. Occasionally, we experience a small flicker of hope with Alexandra. She appears to truly understand what Dr. Phil is saying; when our hopes are dashed as she makes excuses for her poor decisions or denies her poor choices ever happened.

Dr. Phil's comment regarding Alexandra: "I think she has an involvement with these guys who feel safe to her, because they don't require anything from her." Dr. Phil's observation makes perfect sense. I was never able to understand why she chose the particular caliber of men in her life. It is obvious now: Marty and I did not require enough from our daughters when they were young. Now, they do not require enough from themselves.

Marty and I realize the mistakes we made with Alexandra and Katherine. Dr. Phil helps us by giving us better parenting and relationship tools.

Every day, Marty and I work on making our home a peaceful, safe, sanctuary. We are not  "The Cleavers"; we get it wrong more than we get it right. However, at the end of the day, we review what we did well and what we can do better. We recognize our own errors and we take responsibility for our actions.

Marty and I grateful to Dr. Phil and his staff for all the help he has provided for our family.

We take one day at a time.

Talk with you soon,

Erin
 
I am completely caught off guard by Dr. Phil's comments.

Rightfully, he calls out Alexandra and Katherine on their amazingly selfish and disrespectful behavior. Dr Phil explains to Alexandra and Katherine they have some very specific boundaries and the consequences, should they breach these boundaries.

What surprises me is how I am included in the fracas! What happened to the united front when addressing your children?

I am worried about two things:

1.    Alexandra and Katherine will not see Dr. Phil's boundaries and consequences as serious and continue behaving badly. Thus, losing the resources he has made available for them.

2.    Alexandra and Katherine will see Dr. Phil's chastisement of me as an opportunity to justify their own disgraceful behavior and continue their disrespectful attitudes.

Dr. Phil said his children would be airborne if they acted as Katherine does with me. OK, seems whatever I try to do, not do, respond or not respond, I am chastised, berated and humiliated. My head is spinning, thank you.

Dr Phil points out how I enable my daughters, and then he gives them $400 in gas cards. Hmmm ... I am sure there is a reason for this that does not include enabling. Thankfully, the audience receives gas cards as well!

When Alexandra and Katherine were 12 and 9 years old, I was mistakenly lured in a false sense of security. We had just moved into our little farmhouse, we attended church, the girls went to the youth group, my successful banking career was on the fast track and my daughters seemed so mature.

Both girls were involved with horses -- riding lessons, shows, barn mucking, feeding, brushing, cleaning and caring for the horses. I unwisely thought my daughters were "safe" with all their activities.

I did not hold Alexandra and Katherine accountable for their bad behavior and when they were disrespectful. I either overreacted or had no reaction. I tried to find their "currency." I grounded them, took away their phone and TV privileges, and gave them extra chores. I tried rewards and enticements. Nothing seemed to work.

So, I focused on my career and ended up leaving Alexandra and Katherine's adolescence to chance. When the girls were disrespectful, I buried myself further into my career. Big mistake!

I wish I had paid more attention and listened to my daughters while they were becoming young women. I realize I missed an opportunity to help them develop a stronger authentic self, based on healthy choices and self-respect.
 
Alexandra and Katherine resent me holding them accountable for their mishaps. I am not very good at sugar coating things. I call people out. I am quite good at backing someone into a corner and making that person feel completely offended and inadequate.

I finally have come to the realization this may help me feel better for a few moments, at the great expense of my relationship with the person subjected to my miserable argument. Like many of my BFO's (Blatant Flash of the Obvious), changing this dreadful practice of mine requires serious change on my part.

Dr. Phil is a well-educated, professional psychologist. Me: I think I know it all after my college psych 101 class!

Interestingly, I have always treated Nathan and Leilah very well. I am exceptionally careful of how I discipline and correct the children. I seek out successful parents and inquire about what they did to mold and create successful adults - including Dr. Phil and Robin. Their books are most helpful.

I have noticed one particular common denominator among successful parents - the parents are respectful of each other and value each others thoughts and contributions. Even when the parents don't agree on how to handle a particular situation, they do not argue about the issue in front of their children.

I think Alexandra and Katherine are occasionally resentful of how Marty and I care for Nathan and Leilah. Marty and I interact with Nathan and Leilah on a closer level than we did with Alexandra and Katherine when they were little girls.

Lastly, I think Alexandra is angry with me because she considers me a hypocrite. Fair enough on her part. I rationalize my choices: I am older, I have suffered more, paid my dues, and it is payback time. Erin, the great martyr. Uhmm, no. Glory!
 
If you are interested in speaking with regarding parenting, Alexandra, Katherine or the grandchildren, please let me know. We are taping a show Monday, November 16th at 9:00 AM PST in Los Angeles.
You do not have to agree with me! I read your messages and consider what everyone is saying.

Please message me.

Thanks!
Erin
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