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Should parents be parents or friends?

Updated on August 23, 2013
Neal left, Dave middle, Andy right on our wedding day.
Neal left, Dave middle, Andy right on our wedding day. | Source

Should parents be friends to their children or just parents? I personally feel there is an ideal balance somewhere in the middle. It is great to have the kind of relationship with your children or kids where they feel totally comfortable around you, and are even okay socialising with you when they are young adults, (especially if you manage to achieve this without any negative impact on the people they grow up to be), but what happens when by being a friend to your children you end up with a problem, not least in terms of the respect they give to you as their parent? I have lived through this exact experience with my late Husband's teenage children, and saw at least one of them turn into a truly horrible person. I can't swear to the fact that this was as a direct result of his Dad treating him as a friend for most of the time, but it was blatantly obvious that this young man had experienced a lack of respect or discipline in his life even before I came along.

I am strongly against children or kids calling their parents by their first names. I feel it shows a lack of respect for the parent. I am over 40 now, and I would never ever call my Mum 'Mary' (which is her name). However, my former Stepson (Neal) used to call his Dad 'Dave' even though this lad was only about 18 years old. This just sounded and felt wrong to me, but I said nothing. Perhaps I should have said something, but much though I loved my late Husband, I doubt it would have made any difference. Now I have noticed that my current Husband's older Son is also calling him by his first name (Richard.) At this point in time Richard's Son is a lovely lad (now aged about 19), but I suppose based on my previous experiences I can't help but feel a little alarmed every time I hear him call his Dad by his first name. Is this a sign that all respect for the adult parent has gone?

Parents Obey
Parents Obey | Source

When I started officially seeing my first Husband I remember him telling me on a number of occasions that he was going out on his motorbike with his Sons and their friends (who also had motorbikes.) At the time I didn't think too much of this and thought it was just another day out, no problem. I guess it was only much later I started to find it quite odd that these young adults were always socialising with their Dad. It was as if their Dad was choosing to hang out with his kids instead of leaving them with their friends whilst he went out with his own friends.

This became noticeably more weird when I moved in with Dave. Both his Sons and myself enjoyed playing pool, and the obvious place to play it was in a local pub/bar that had six pool tables, (which were free to play most of the time.) I did however start to become frustrated when Dave point blank refused to go anywhere else. Instead what was happening was I was acting as a taxi driver for all four of us from the same venue each night. If I ever suggested a night out without the boys it was met with major resistance, even though the boys were well on their way into their twenties.

I admit this did start to annoy me, especially when I noticed that soon after moving in with Dave, one of the lads, (Neal, who had walked out on his job after falling out with his boss), was quite happy to let his Father carry on either doing all the housework, or paying his ex-Wife (the lads Mum) to come in several times a week and do the ironing and other housework for the family. Dave was already in full time employment, (as was I), and whilst I quickly put a stop to the ex-Wife coming in and being paid to do so, I was not at all happy that whilst both lads sat around doing nothing their Father was in the kitchen ironing or cooking for them after he had already done a full day's work. It also infuriated me that I would come home to a kitchen sky high in unwashed dishes which I would wash up and put away. If I then went out anywhere like the supermarket I would come home to find the kitchen looked just as bad as before with a fresh pile of unwashed dishes. Dave seemed unwilling to tackle the problem, (perhaps afraid of alienating his kids.) At best he would get the younger of the two lads (Andy) to do the washing up, (admitting to me this was because it was easier than asking Neal, who would no doubt refuse.) As time went on I found my anger was building up because my Husband refused to 'rock the boat' and make his lads show some respect and pull their weight.

Things came to a head with Neal when I not only realised he was throwing my cat outside into the garden even when she didn't want to go out (he didn't like cats), but when I had a huge row with him following a pool match where he starting giving me a load of cheek and rudeness on the way home, (as I had predicted would happen and had warned his Father.) I gave Dave an ultimatum, either Neal goes or I do, and thankfully Neal was forced to move in with his Mother, (I guess he harboured this resentment for the duration of our marriage prior to Dave's death from Bowel Cancer.)

Years went on, and whilst the motorbikes had gone, things in other ways were not good. The younger Son Andy had been imprisoned for arson and was serving a two year jail sentence. Dave and I had stopped going to the pool bar because the landlord had confessed to strangling his own cat (something which resulted in my reporting him to the RSPCA), and we had moved away from the area. Problems began again when Andy was released from prison and Dave agreed for him to move in with us in our newly rented home. I liked Andy, but he had a big problem, he was a pathological liar, and additionally his Dad had never made sure Andy pulled his weight around the house. As Dave was working extremely long hours taxi driving now, (and the commute in his car was a good ninety minutes each way), I ended up feeling like I had virtually married Andy (who wasn't working.) I was trying to get my new vegetable and plant growing business off the ground so I was at home most of the time, and the frustration of Andy doing nothing and lying constantly was causing me to have big rows with Dave when he did come home. I honestly wanted Andy to move out before it split Dave and I up completely.

Teenager | Source

Eventually I demanded Andy moved out, and finally Dave acted and made sure he did. This was just in time as Dave and I had reached breaking point in our marriage and he had even told me he wanted us to break up. I had suggested that we give it six months after Andy had moved out to see if it made a difference, and luckily within a week we were getting on incredibly well again. The house stayed tidy and both of the lads were more than welcome to visit whenever they wanted to, and when they did I made them welcome.

Sadly Dave was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer soon afterwards, and he died within two weeks of being diagnosed, (aged just forty eight.) Neither of his Sons did anything other than a few visits to the hospital, and it was down to Dave's Brother (who flew in from Australia) and myself to look after Dave in the hospital (clean up after him, bathe him etc.) Where were they during this time and what were they doing? Neither of them had mortgages, wives or children! It just seems to me they had no respect and no idea of how to behave when their own Father was dying. Even when Dave was in his final hours of life Neal refused to come down and be with him, claiming he had 'already said his goodbyes'.

After Dave's death you would think that the family would have rallied around, but no, Dave's family in general were horrible to me, the only exceptions being his Brother Mike, his Sister Jackie and to some tiny degree his younger Son Andy. Neal's behaviour however was totally appalling towards me, and no-one in his family stepped in to stop it. He found a way to steal Dave's car from me (even though I had no car of my own and lived in the middle of Romney Marsh), he stole a very expensive camcorder from me that I had bought for Dave (he tricked me into lending it to him and then refused to give it back), and later (when I took him to court on principal over the camcorder), he handed me a photo of some girl in stockings and suspenders and claimed Dave had been having an affair with her all along (something I believe was a total lie only designed to cause me anguish.) The full story of how I was treated by the family after Dave's untimely death can be read in my hub called Bowel Cancer Stole my Husband at 48 Years Old.

To this day I believe that these problems were largely as a result of these kids being brought up to be mates with their Dad instead of having a healthy degree of respect. Even my Sister had said to me several years earlier that she found it a little 'unhealthy' that Dave spent so much time socialising with his Sons and their friends, (rather than having his own social life.) I obviously didn't pay enough attention to what she said, because in the long run I believe she picked up on something I should have noticed far earlier.

I dread to think how both lads have turned out, and I may never know as once I got away from the UK mainland and returned home to Guernsey I made no effort to maintain any contact with the remains of that mostly horrible family. I would predict that Andy has probably ended up in trouble with the law again since I last saw him, and as for Neal, well with his attitude problem I doubt he would ever have amounted to much, and I am fairly certain he never will.

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