Friday, October 8, 2010

Grandson Dante coming to town

This header by Connie reminds me of Dante when he was a little boy. I was thinking of this remarkable discussion I had with him one night when he stayed over with me. I made him get off the computer and talk to me. He was I think fourteen. He had been living with his mother for some time and attending church with her, and visiting his father on some weekends. Before that he lived with his father and his uncle, who was his mother's brother, and just went to visit his mother, so he had gotten a pretty thorough exposure to both his mother's and dad's thinking. And we discussed all my issues as well. I was able to talk to him about them better than I could to either of his parents, I think because Dante had struggled so hard to understand both his mother and dad's viewpoints. We even discussed legalized abortion quite a long time. I was amazed at Dante's maturity in being able to handle that subject. But he had listened to enough sermons and thought enough in depth about what was said that he could do it.
But he had been struggling with complex issues since he was a little boy. In fact, when he was just a little boy about three, I had gone to San Diego to tend him for several weeks while his mother was working. His dad had come back from Japan, and they had reconciled, but he had to go out to sea periodically. This was to be his last sea voyage before he planned to leave the navy after his seven years were up.
My son Dan was a born skeptic and he got a kick out of saying stuff to Dante that he knew would agitate his mother. So as I was wheeling Dante out in this little stroller to take him for a walk to the park, he spotted a church across the street. He pointed to it and said, "My Dad says "Burn the Church! but my mom says that's not nice!"
I told Dan later when he came back what he said and scolded him for teaching a little three year old kid to say such stuff. Dan just laughed and acted surprised Dante remembered what he said enough to tell me and point to the church.
For years when Dante came to visit he would want to talk about things his dad said. He was always trying to figure his dad out. His dad was the toughest problem to figure out he had in his life, and it was especially hard on Dante when his dad disciplined him with a somewhat military ferocity, but Dante by the time his dad came back from Japan had become a pretty uncontrolled little boy. It was hard to be around him because of that, but when his dad took over his disciplining for the first time in a long time he was able to stop the teasing behavior that had made him a trial. His dad's will was stronger than Dante's and it soon became apparent that that is what Dante needed in his life. His mother was only 17 when she had him, and Dante soon learned to exploit the slightest weakness in her trying to make him toe the line. She had gone to work before he was two and so she ended up being away long hours and Dante did the same thing to his grandmother who was tending him as he did to his mother. He took charge whenever possible. He would in essence run wild with any lack of attention or firmness on the part of his baby sitters.
I had made it a habit to go get him once a week and keep him for a day and usually the night or part of the night. It was always hard to get Dante to mind. He had just gotten used to resisting whoever was in charge of him. So there always had to be a battle of wills going on with him.
With chronic fatigue the way I raised my kids was to more or less let them do whatever they wanted to just because I did not have the strength to throw into their discipline. But I always spent a lot of time with them and would try to reason with them, gently, which worked pretty well.
My mother had been a ferocious believer in spanking and strict discipline, which I did not like, so I was determined I would not raise my kids like that. It just wasn't in me. Once in a great while they might get a swat from me, but I never spanked my kids on a daily basis as my mother did us when we were small. I also didn't have the strength and stamina to wade into them.
Dante's mother was too gentle to do that, too. She had too soft a heart to get too angry at him so he took advantage of that, too. I thought her methods would have worked better if she had just been able to spend a lot more time with him, but I think her problems with my son had caused her to turn away from her son, too, by going to work etc. My son insisted on a separation while he was away so long, so they would both be free to date. This just about broke Dante's mother's heart, but he obviously had not been ready for fatherhood especially when he knew he would be going overseas for 3 years, but neither had tended to the birth control methods properly, and Dante was the result. Talk about two parents who not ready to have a kid!
Sometimes when I went to pick up Dante from his grandmother's Dante would be the only one up and he would be tearing the house apart.
After my son came back from the navy I would keep trying to get him to take Dante to the park as I did, go out and play with him, but neither parent actually wanted to do this on a regular basis, so I could hardly blame Dante for getting so out of control at times. I thought he was spending too much time alone. An adult would be in the house but not necessarily interacting with Dante.
I think something like this can happen when neither parent is ready for a child. His mother was too young and his dad had to go overseas and spend three years stationed in Japan and sailing to many other countries in the region. He was a long long ways away from this little boy the first three years of his life.
So Dante is always going to be affected by those early years where he never got enough attention from either parent. Dan, however, had never had any interaction whatsoever from his father. So that, too, played a role in his own parenting of a son. Dan only saw his father once during his early years and that was on a trip I took him on back east to the city where his father lived. No child could have seen less of his father. He was totally dependent on me for his parenting which affected his own parenting of his son. Still he has never turned his back on his son as his father did on him. He has kept struggling to interact with him, trying to learn how to enjoy him and do things with him. Their relationship has been a real struggle, but it has gotten better and better I think, if it is not ideal. Dante's relationship with his teenage mother has gotten better as she always cared about him, she was just too young to be both parents as she had to be when my son went overseas. She knew he had to go overseas when she dated my son, but she did not grasp what having a baby by herself and raising him for three years by herself would be like, how hard it would be.
Dante's mother experienced a tragedy in her young life with her own father being murdered when she was six years old. Her father's sister however is a saintly woman and she has intervened time and again and has taken Dante for several weeks many summers and this last year she agreed to let Dante come and live with them in California to go to high school. Her husband is disabled so there would be a male presence in the home which Dante knew he needed. Dante could not stay with his dad because of his working hours, and his mother was having to go to work, too, to support him and her two younger children. Dante took it upon himself to find a place to live which would be more structured for his needs. I call that mature thinking on his part.
I know he still loves his mother and dad and when he is out of high school he can probably rejoin them without nearly the danger of getting into trouble when home and relatively unattended. In fact, Dante mentioned to me that he thought he needed a more stable home.
I left home at 13, a year early, because of my dad's drinking and the constant conflict in the home. I needed a more stable home, but after I was older I was able to return and rejoin my parents on a more limited basis without suffering the same stress. I was mature and able to move about more. I had developed other options rather than just staying with them.
My son agreed with his decision to go to California to school since there was nothing he could do about the sometimes long hours he needs to be away on his job.
I am looking forward to Dante's gradual maturity. He likes to make jokes like his dad does, saying the same kind of outrageous things that his dad does when he thinks he can get away with it. But he has compassion for his mother and what she has been through. He still reflects his struggle to understand both their viewpoints by becoming a complex rather surprising young teen.
I hope I get to see him in this fast trip to touch base with his mother and dad and the rest of the family. I think someday we will be able to have more remarkable talks as he tries to get through his teen years without anything too bad happening. He has always been such a tease, like his dad. He used to tease me by saying, "I wanna do drugs and go to jail, Grandma!" He had been warned so many times about not doing drugs. His dad was determined to keep him off the street and away from children who were already thugs and running wild without enough parental control. I know he will be tempted at times in high school. But so far everyone involved has managed to raise wild Dante without too much bad happening! Let us hope that can be continued in California while he attends school there with his aunt and uncle in charge.

1 comment: said...

That Dante! I'm glad he has had support from his extended family.


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