Friday, October 16, 2009

Balloon Boy and Other Parenting Nightmares

The other day, Philip asked me (you already knew it would be Philip, right?) how I could push his buttons so easily. I told him he had to stop watching so much Dr. Phil. He only watches him because he thinks he looks like a human walrus, but still, the terminology wears off.

"Seriously, Mom, how?"

"I can push those buttons because as your Mom, I pretty much installed them."

I do believe that. I also think there is a really serious line between what parents can do to their kids and what they can't. This bothers me a real lot:

I listened to a radio interview with the balloon boy's dad. I tried to be open to the possibility that storm chasing dads are as competent and loving as employed dads who, say, mow the lawn instead of charting the courses of cyclones with their kids in tow. When the comment came about the boy saying he had to hide in garage attic rafters "for the show" the dad took out his harmonica and began tooting it. That's when I knew. I found out later that the whole family had appeared not once, but twice on Wife Swap. That's when I was certain.

I think it's great that the boy's innocence, the compelling element that the family tried to play off of, pretty much trumped in the end and revealed the gritty truth. I also can't imagine growing up in a family that has such visibly crazy parents - at least here we keep our craziness out of the national news.

But I also wonder how they get their kids to cooperate with that kind of thing. I remember trying to take pictures of my kids at their birthday parties and they would slide under the table to avoid it. When I would ask them to please, please not tell the teacher that I had actually gone to the bakery and bought the other dozen cupcakes to mix with the homemade ones, the teacher would greet me at the party and ask which ones had I made since the homemade ones were always so much better. They could never really be controlled to that level. In fact, control is the biggest issue in our house.

Emma has a teacher who makes them walk to lunch in a really straight line. (All I could think of when she described this was the children's book, Madeline, and that chant about walking "in two staight lines"). The other day, while the teacher was heading up the line, Emma began a silent version of the Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance and most of the class followed her moves. (I blame her father for those genes) They did this all the way to the cafeteria. She told me she's "kind of famous" in her school now.

I can't imagine asking her to crawl up into attic rafters even for five minutes let alone hours.

Kids that age are pretty innocent. Emma and Philip used to do things like this:

That family damaged that little boy, and I really hope someone other than me notices and steps in to check on the welfare and stability of those parents. It's too bad they can't find more positive ways to bring attention to themselves.


Elizabeth Bradley said...

My husband was watching that interview and I said, somethings fishy in Denmark, (uh-oh, dating myself with that old cliche), and I told him, that Dad is strange. The Mom kept smiling. Who would smile when something so seriously disturbing had just happened. If a mother really believed their son was 6000 feet in the air? The whole scene frustrated me on so many levels. Will they get in trouble for causing such a costly ruckus? Who knows.

Anne Spollen said...

I once "lost" Philip at a water park when he was about two. I was screaming, crying -- absolutely bonkers -- and this was within the first three seconds of his one minute diappearance. You're right: those parents were too calm, too comfortable with the cameras.

And how do they live? He says he spends most of his time searching for evidence of extra terrestrial life. That's a career when you have three kids?

I guess I'm ranting now.

But yeah, when you see him or listen to him, something is very fishy in Denmark (you can always quote Shakespeare)

Bish Denham said...

Yes all of that is disturbing. But what's disturbing to me is that there's a show called Wife Swap (along with all those other "reality" shows)and that people actually watch and/or participate in them. Why do people feel the need to look in on other people's lives? Do they not have lives of thier own to live? Are they living vicariously through other people? Are their lives that boring to them? Are they that empty? Do they totally lack imagination?

This trend of watching people/celebraties etc. on TV and in magazines has, to me, become a kind of sick voyeurism. The trend may very well be producing people like those parents and their children and a sick need for their 15 minutes of fame.

The other thing that gets me is that it was HEADLINE news. SURELY there are more IMPORTANT things happening in the U.S. and the world.

FrecklesandDeb said...

This is a disturbing story. The family does seem to need help.

Anne Spollen said...

I know, Bish. It's almost as if we are granting the dad his wish of having a reality show through all the media coverage.

And Wife Swap...I can't imagine. It's disturbing just to stumble upon.

Mary Witzl said...

What Bish said. I don't know the balloon boy story, but I can imagine. Fifteen years ago, there was a mother who claimed her little girl really wanted to fly a plane all by herself. And perhaps she did, but the mom was right behind it, always in the picture, smiling away. The little girl got to live her dream and fly her own plane, with an experienced pilot in attendance. They crashed the plane and she died. The whole thing was just so wrong. The mother claimed that the little girl had gotten to do what she really wanted to do and that that helped with her grief, but what a load of rubbish. No kid has the kind of maturity to make such decisions.

I can't get my kids to do things either, but like yours, they think for themselves. And that's a blessing.

Hardygirl said...

They must have promised that kid something really HUGE to have him agree to stay in that attic. Not that I believe in bribing children--but it definitely works . . . temporarily.

Call child welfare AND make them pay the entire cost of the rescue mission. They should also be blackballed by the media.


K.C. Shaw said...

From what I've heard, the parents are in trouble. I heard a short interview on the news with some official who said they were checking with the DA's office to see what kind of charges would apply. I'm glad. What horrible parents. At least their son wasn't actually in danger--but next time, maybe he will be. After all, it's might make a good show. >:(

Jm Diaz said...

That whole story is sad at so many levels, I feel bad for the kids.

Katie said...

I have nothing to add. You guys said it all...

Anne Spollen said...

Hey, Freckles and Deb, welcome! It is disturbing. I almost never comment on the news, but this story got to me.

OMG, Mary. My boys wanted to go on the roof whenever I tied a cape around them (which was most days when they were toddlers). We "flew" around the carpeted, basement playroom instead. That mother was looney tunes. Unfortunately, she wasn't the only one with kids living in looney land.

And SF, I've bribed my kids to do things like send thank you notes or not fight in the car. But you can't call that bribing: we are teaching "negotiation skills" --

I'm glad, K.C. It can't just be me who thinks those kids should be taken away. The other, new piece is there is a history of domestic violence in the marriage. The story just gets bleaker and bleaker.

Welcome, JM!

Anne Spollen said...

Hi there, Katie. Our posts crossed. Everyone did say it all (well, they're all writers...)

adrienne said...

I heard about the interview on Larry King, but only got around to watching it today. What an uncomfortable thing to watch. I feel for those boys.

Anonymous said...

Anne Spollen!!!! I just finished your freakin book and IT WAS GREAT!!!!! What the **** r u doing WORKING when u should be writing ALL THE TIME. YOU ARE AN AMAZING WRITER -- that book was freakin AWESOME!!!! I say Quit yr job and JUST WRITE -- I feel like that girl Magda is sitting right next to me. U NEED TO WRITE MORE< :

-Erin (in PA)

Glynis said...

The mother kept nodding when the little boy gave the correct answer. The siblings sat so seriously it was scary.
I hope the child abuse team help the child who was shut in an attic for hours,alone. To me he would have had to be threatened to keep quiet. He was too active to have done as he was told, he would have had to be threatened into silence and low activity.
Horrid story,horrid parents.
Interesting post,thanks.

Anne Spollen said...

It was uncomfortable, Adrienne. I felt like I couldn't breathe right when I was watching that. I'm actually glad the media coverage has died down.

I take it you liked the novel, Erin! Thanks so much. I work right now because I pretty much have to work. If I ever write a novel that would keep us in pizza rolls and mortgage payments, I would quit in a nanosecond. Maybe less. I would love to be a writing housewife.

See what you notice because you're a nurse, Glynis? You're right; that boy was really active (read normal- at least as of right now) to have been quiet. What must it do to a kid's head to have his parents "pretend" to look for him while the tv people show up? I can't imagine.

A lawyer friend of mine suggested there could be contributing to the delinquency of a minor charges brought, but I just wish those kids were living somewhere else.

Carrie Harris said...

These kinds of stories make me sooooo irate. The worst part is that the parents don't seem to find a single bleeping thing wrong with it.