Richey’s Choice | The Dad Trifecta | A Word From Micah


Richey’s Choice

Dear Micah

My brother and my best friend got into a tousle a few weeks ago and the s**t’s all hit the fan since then. This is my best friend since elementary school and my brother. My brother. That’s a spot to be in between. Both expect me to side with him and both pretty much expect me to have nothing else to do with the other. I’m stuck. Need another point of view quick please. Where should my loyalty lay? BTW the fight wasn’t over any specific thing. They just don’t get along and it was a combo of little things. Nobody did anything really.

Richey

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Dear Richey,

I have to first address that they got into a “tussle.” If they got into a “tousle” it would have been the two of them rubbing their hands in each other’s hair. But maybe your friend and your brother have luxurious hair and that’s a thing you guys do? So thanks for the laugh this morning.

As to the problem, I am glad you clarified at the end of your question that the fight wasn’t over any real one thing. I was wondering because loyalty can be decided on the issue sometimes. If your friend had insulted your brother’s wife, then I could understand your brother expecting you to take sides. Likewise, had your brother cheated your friend out of some money, I could see the friend expecting you to side with him. But since nothing really occurred except that these two men don’t get along, then the answer is pretty cut and dry.

You shouldn’t have to choose between either and their job, if they love you, is to accept that. The bond between friends can be as close or closer as the bond between siblings. Sometimes your friends are the people you most often spend your life with, and your family are the people you only see occasionally. And of course, often siblings become great friends as adults, and that’s a relationship that is treasured and protected.

If they are asking you to take a side against the other, they are in the wrong. You asked me where your loyalty should lie, but I don’t think this is a question of your loyalty. This is about their loyalty to you. They each have now decided that they do not want to be friends with the other, and out of their loyalty and respect to you, they should either try to work things out on their own or back off and not put unjustified pressure on you. They should each recognize the importance of their presence in your life and should not begrudge you having either one.

It isn’t fair to expect you to get involved. This isn’t your fight. The circumstances here are special and each one of them needs to understand that. One of these men is your oldest friend in the world–your best friend with whom you have shared memories, secrets, ambitions, dreams, and failures. No one can expect you to erase that from your life. You will never again find a friend in life that can replicate what he represents to you. He is someone to hold onto for the rest of your life. Your brother has to be told this and made to see your friend’s importance in your world.

And your friend needs to understand that you also cannot get rid of your brother. It’s your freakin’ brother! You don’t write your brother out either. He is your family. You want to have as close a friendship with him as possible, too, because he is the only other person that understands your roots and what has made you who you are.

Neither one of these guys has the right to put you in the middle. If necessary, show them this, or have them email me, and I’ll tell them. They do not have to like each other. They do not have to be friends and hang out together. Nowhere is it written that all of your friends have to be friends with each other.   The real wrong here is that both of them got so heated that they allowed small differences to escalate into a brawl, and now they expect you to mess your life up by cutting someone you love from it. That’s not right, and you do not have to choose.

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The Dad Trifecta

Dear Micah,

Your opinion might settle an argument in my household. Should my child’s ex step-father have any rights in her life or say-so in her parenting when I have remarried and a new stepfather is involved? My daughter has her dad, then the stepfather that I was married to, and now my new husband all trying to be her father figure. It’s causing problems. I think my new husband and I are her main parents, then her dad who I was never married to and he never lived her (although she does spend weekends with him sometimes). My ex-husband was with me from when she was 2 until she was 8. That is just six years of her life. She’s 10 now and I think my ex needs to step back and let my new husband and I and her father raise our family without interference. I made my mistake by letting her spend time with my ex after the divorce, almost like a visitation, and now he thinks he gets to weigh in on matters. How do I tell him that his role is just to be my daughter’s friend and he doesn’t really get a say?

Alex

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Dear Alex,

First of all, I want to commend you for allowing your ex-husband to have some visitation with his step-daughter. A lot of women would not have allowed that. I think that your gut instincts told you to foster that relationship because it would be the best thing for your daughter. And that is right. If your daughter was 2 years old when you married that man, and her real father has never been in her daily life, then that step-father IS her dad. He is her father in ways her natural father and her newest stepfather will never be. And clearly that man loves her, or he wouldn’t be hanging around trying to spend time with his ex-stepchild.

He is more than just your “daughter’s friend.” He also sounds like he is a pretty good guy. Maybe he made for a poor husband for you, but I think he might be a good father. Your daughter is about to enter her teens in a few years, and right now she needs as much love, support, self-esteem, and stability as she can get. These are the years that form what kind of woman she will be. If she has three fathers and a mother all looking out for her, she’s a pretty lucky girl.

But, I bet it can get confusing when it’s time to parent. My opinion is that both the natural father and the ex-step-father should be allowed to weigh in on matters. They love her too, and they have the right to express their opinions on what is best for her—but they are only consultants. They don’t get to hand down decisions or proclamations. The final decision belongs to you. You are the mom and the one parent that has been there through her whole life every day. New step-dad may lend some good ideas as being the newest member of the family and possessing a fresh perspective, but final decisions should be yours alone.

Do not let the girl think her new step-dad is running the show. That never fosters warm and fuzzy feelings. Her old step-father could get away with that because she was so little when you married him. He really was her dad in her eyes, so his proclamations had substance to them. Make sure all decisions you make have your name–and your name only–stamped on them. But, again, do let her father and her ex-step-father give you their take on matters. They love her, too, and they also have been around for enough years to know her brain and how she ticks. Their advice could prove valuable as you head into teen years.

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A Word From Micah

Dear Readers,

This isn’t a question. This is just me (Micah) making an observation on an issue I see growing worse. That issue is sportsmanship. On any given Saturday, any one of us can find a generous sprinkling of excited and loyal football, basketball, baseball, and soccer fans expressing their support of their team.

Posts are usually good natured and fun, but inevitably, there are always a few that are not. Those posts are mean-spirited and nasty. People sound like they are enraged at a team or a coach or a player. They approach it with the same vehemence as they would someone who set fire to their house. Every week, the number of out-sized reactions to a simple game is astounding. Hate and venom spewing all because some college kid made a mistake on a field or a coach made a bad call.

I want to respond with “It’s just a game. There will be another next week,” but who knows what backlash that would bring out? My grandfather used to say, “don’t poke a barking dog with a stick.” I recognize that there are bowls and trophies at stake, and I really don’t care all that much if adult people get heated over something they are passionate about—hell, I got that way when TNT cancelled Dallas in October (I think I made some threats too). But the new way in which we are all permitting ourselves to be bad sports is trickling down into our children. More and more kids are throwing tantrums when things don’t go their way on teams. If they make a mistake, or feel someone else did, they feel they have the right to act like a dick about it.

My very own son, who is four, thinks he has to win at everything he does, and if he doesn’t he gets upset. I haven’t taught him this. I try to teach him that losing can be fun, too, because it keeps everything exciting when you don’t know if you can win or not. Winning is boring if it’s always the outcome. But he doesn’t listen to me, and he is still driven to win every time. Maybe that instinct is born in us. I am trying to redirect focus onto the enjoyment of playing a game with someone for the sheer fun of it, and part of the fun is that mystery outcome of will you or won’t you win?

There’s no need to get mad and throw a fit or hurl insults at someone for making a mistake in the game. They already know they f***ed it up; they don’t need people in the stands or their teammates to ridicule them. And fans can get pretty heated. There was a case of bad sportsmanship I heard about a couple of months ago that just shocked me.

My cousin’s son, some of his friends, and his little brother all went to a high school football game (not in Birmingham). They were in the stands supporting their team as their team played at another school’s Homecoming. Well, their school won the game, which meant that the other team lost their Homecoming game. I understand that losing your Homecoming game can be rather disappointing, and it is understandable that the home team was in bad spirits after the game.

What is not understandable is that a group of around 15 students were so mad that they just randomly attacked someone in the parking lot who was wearing the opposing team’s colors. That other person was my cousin’s son. They swarmed him and started hitting and kicking him. It was so scary that his little brother ran to the car and called his parents screaming. He didn’t know if his brother was alive, hurt, or what because he had been surrounded and was now on the ground in the middle of the group.

These kids didn’t know this kid. This entire act of violence was sparked because they had lost a game, and he was dressed in the other team’s clothes. Is this what competition is going to bring us to? Luckily my cousin was fine, or will be, I should say. He went to the doctor that night and was treated. And I think the incident was handled through the school board in their town, so the necessary reprimands have been made. I only tell this to illustrate how far things can go when we decide as a community that sportsmanship and the ability to take a loss like a man gets muddled with the drive to win, win, win!

Let’s start giving ourselves, our teams, and especially our kids permission to lose. It’s really okay. I promise you the moon will not fall out of orbit if your daughter doesn’t make cheer squad or your son’s basketball team doesn’t win.

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