The first installment from “The Mean Dad” is on 12/4/16
AB: When we last left Dana and Jacob (see post from 12/13)), they seemed to be enjoying themselves and each other. But I was too hasty in assuming we’d turned the corner in this case. I got phone call from Dana about a “rough week” on the home front.
Here’s a nutshell version of our next session:
Dana and Jacob walked into the office looking not as pleased with themselves as in previous visits. They described a dinner table scuffle between Jacob and their oldest child, seventeen year old Lila, that ended with Jacob bolting from the table, steam coming out of his ears.
Both Jacob and Dana agreed about the nature of the so-called argument. Lila apparently dropped the news to her parents that she had signed up to go to Rome for a work-study program in the summer. Though she apparently talked to her folks about this in the abstract, her parents were far from signing on the dotted line. They suspected that, for Lila, the program would probably not involve much work OR study.
Briefly, Jacob felt that Lila was trying to shove the program down their throats and he tried to question her about it. Jacob felt that the more he questioned Lila the more she stonewalled him. This drove him crazy. While Dana agreed that Lila was trying to pull a fast one, she felt that Jacob reacted too harshly. “He loses control”, she said. Dana added that she thought it was “a good thing” that Jacob left the table rather than continue his apparent rant.
We talked a bit about the painful task of parenting adolescent kids. Jacob looked crushed. “I’m confused” he muttered. I smiled, “That’s great”. I added that that’s the optimal state for parenting teenagers. I remember it well. That means we can learn. I told him I worry most about people who don’t allow themselves to be confused. He smiled, “I’m good then.”
I also asked Dana what happened to her feeling of “team-i-ness” with her husband. She said generally things have been much better. She described the home atmosphere as more harmonious. “But”, she added, “Jacob can at times be emotionally abusive. ” She looked at him, saying “I don’t want to have to be your MOTHER. ” Ugh. I got the same feeling in my gut that happens when I hear a woman in therapy tell her partner to “Man Up.”
Jacob looked at me. “Did you hear that?” he asked. I said I did. I asked him, “Did you like that?” (obviously rhetorical). “No”, he answered. I responded, “Neither did I.” Jacob moved to cover a bit for his lovely wife. Her comment sounded really alienating, patronizing. Jacob looked at her, “I need a partner, not a mommy. I don’t think you meant that. You didn’t mean that.” Tender. Disbelieving. Dana looked uncharacteristically clumsy. The perfect wife and mother. Busted.
We ended the session on this rather jarring note. I realized that I no longer wanted to talk abstractly about “parenting”. I needed another session with the two oldest kids to see this repetitive drama up-close and personal. The folks readily agreed. We set it up for later that week.
Tomorrow…Session With The Kids