Posts Tagged ‘custody’

Teen Mom: Season 2 recaps, wrap-ups, and lessons learned

October 13, 2010

This week marked the final episode of this season of Teen Mom — let’s see what everyone’s actions in this episode say about what they’ve learned/how they’ve grown since the beginning of the season, shall we?

1. Farrah

The season began with Farrah calling the cops on her mother, who had hit Farrah in the face after a verbal altercation. Farrah moved into the guest house, then into an apartment, and she was struggling to pay bills, got scammed out of $3,000, and was finally dealing with and grieving the death of Sophia’s father with the help of a therapist. She also had therapy sessions with her mom, which was helping them communicate better.

And then, this week, old Farrah was back! Snotty, demanding, and completely hypocritical, Farrah was back to argue with her mom — who also is now her landlord. Farrah lamented that she wanted to sign a contract with her mom so her mom would respect her privacy and treat her like any other tenant — except she also wants special treatment in the form of moving in early, not paying prorated rent, and getting discounted rent because she wanted to move in early and the place wasn’t move-in ready yet.

Her mom tries going over the procedure with Farrah and tries to treat her like a normal tenant, but Farrah only wants to be a tenant on her own terms — she wants the huge house (for which she pays only $500 rent) and privacy, but she also wants her mom to discount her rent even further because Farrah is struggling and, as a mom, she wants her empathy and she wants to be taken care of. Suddenly, when her mom agrees to knock $100 off that month’s rent, Farrah is super happy with her mom again!

Farrah has definitely progressed, as she isn’t as outlandishly ridiculous toward her mom, but I think she could very easily devolve into her immature self if enabled by her parents. This week’s episode was one example of how far Farrah still has to go — you can’t ask to be treated like an adult while simultaneously demanding the perks you’d get as a kid.

2. Catelynn and Tyler

Catelynn and Tyler went through a lot this season — Tyler was still very distraught about the adoption, they nearly broke up because of Catelynn’s lying about her past with an ex, Tyler’s dad went back to jail, and Catelynn’s relationship with her mom continued to be rocky because of the adoption. Neither had enough credits to graduate with their high school class, but both remained positive about their futures and their decision to put Carly up for adoption.

This episode, they got to see Carly for the first time in a year. They were actually very calm and mature about the entire thing — no tears, no resentment, only happiness to see Carly and the realization that they were not and still are not ready to raise a child. It was great that the meeting didn’t bring any negative feelings back to the surface, and the positive experience is a sign that the open adoption can work for both Catelynn and Tyler and Brandon and Teresa.

Catelynn discussed her mom issues with Teresa, saying, “I think she wanted [the adoption] to rip me apart.” As Catelynn has said many times before, she wanted Catelynn to agree with her, and when Catelynn decided to do the adoption against her mom’s advice, she felt slighted and wanted Catelynn to see that not listening to her was a mistake. Rather, she sees that Catelynn is happy with her decision, and it only makes her mom more frustrated and angry.

Catelynn and Tyler are more mature than both their parents, and it’s shocking to see how clearly they think considering how irrational their parents are. It really comes down to wanting Carly to have better than they had, as Tyler summarized best when he talked about how happy he was that Carly had a father like Brandon. “I wish I could have a dad that would take me to the park when I was a little kid,” he said in regard to seeing Brandon push Carly on the swings. Their unstable parents are a constant reminder that they made the right decision.

3. Amber and Gary

Amber and Gary have had quite the roller coaster of a relationship this season — they exemplified the “on again, off again” relationship, with Gary moving in and out of the apartment and the two of them getting back together, breaking up, getting engaged, and breaking up again. Plus, Amber took her aggression to the new level by punching Gary in the face. Gary moved out, Amber met someone new, and they were trying to take care of Leah while dealing with their own problems with each other.

This week though, I actually felt a little bad for Amber.  Generally I think she is abusive and needs help beyond antidepressants, but Gary is being overly possessive of Leah and using her way too much to threaten Amber and get what he wants. Whereas Amber uses verbal and physical abuse, Gary is mastering psychological abuse.

When trying to discuss the schedule for taking care of Leah, first Gary and Amber were fighting on the phone, then Amber drove to his mom’s house to find him and talk in person, and then Gary sped off in his car when he saw Amber pulling up. This is interesting because at this time, he didn’t have any leverage — he already had Leah, so how could he further threaten to take her away? Even he laughed about it when he recalled the story to a friend — it made no sense, and it illustrated either 1) how afraid he is of Amber or 2) how he can’t communicate with Amber unless he has something to threaten her with, e.g. “If you don’t let me talk, I’m leaving and taking Leah with me.”

Then he found out that Amber’s new boyfriend changed Leah’s diaper, and he was enraged. “No guy is going to change my daughter. That’s your responsibility,” Gary said. “If you let him change her one more time, I’m going to take her away.” This is a ridiculous request. If you, as parents, are separated, you have to accept the fact that someone else might change that baby’s diaper. Is Gary feeling resentful about being replaced as a boyfriend? Yep. Does he need to learn to separate those feelings from parenting? Yep. These two could really benefit from counseling — I’m not sure they learned anything this season.

4. Maci

Maci’s had an interesting season, too — she started dating Kyle, she had to learn to co-parent with Ryan, she moved to Nashville to be closer to Kyle, and then her and Kyle broke up after dating for a few months. She resolved to stay in Nashville because she enjoyed the independence and not relying on her family so much for support.

I’ve talked at length about Maci and she wasn’t featured much in the finale episode, but custody was again a hot topic this week. It seems that Ryan only saw Bentley four days every two weeks, and he wanted one more day with him, which would bump the total to five days every two weeks. They met with a mediator, and Maci had a breakdown when Ryan asked for the extra day.

This is a normal setup. For parents who don’t live near each other, the nonprimary parent seeing the child on weekends is the rule, not the exception. So it’s not unusual for the nonprimary parent to see the child four, five, or even six days every two weeks. Regardless of his intentions (Maci thinks his parents, rather than Ryan, want to see Bentley more), the fact is that Ryan is not asking for an extraordinary amount of visitation.

Ryan asked Maci at the end of the episode if he thought they should be together for Bentley, and they both agreed they shouldn’t because they wouldn’t be happy. This is a very mature response, and one that I have wholeheartedly agreed with in the past — the convenience you gain by living in the same house and not needing to develop a visitation schedule is not worth the happiness and quality of life you and the child lose by choosing a living situation in which the parents can’t stand each other.

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Don’t forget, next week is my favorite episode of all — the reunion special with Dr. Drew! Will he finally get the teen moms to admit their children are mistakes and they wish they’d never been born?! We shall see!

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Teen Mom: Women as abusers, kids as leverage

September 22, 2010

In this week’s episode of Teen Mom, Maci moved to Nashville, Tyler’s dad got sent to jail for contacting Catelynn’s mom against a court order, Farrah had to reconnect with her ex’s sister to get social security benefits for Sophia, and Amber screamed at Gary a lot.

1. Abusive relationships work both ways

Though the stereotypical abusive heterosexual relationship involves an aggressive, controlling man and a submissive, co-dependent woman, Amber and Gary are an example of the opposite of that stereotype. Amber showcased this week just how controlling and abusive she can be, and Gary illustrated how much in denial he is about his relationship with Amber and how attached he is to her despite her verbal and physical abuse.

It becomes especially dicey when he begins to rely on Amber for a place to live, despite their not being in a relationship anymore. She yells at him, derides him as a bad parent (though she flips out if he points out she shouldn’t leave knives where Leah can easily get to them), and gets close to hitting him — though we see in clips for next week’s episode she does actually hit him.

Though Gary’s friend was an illogical douche last week, he actually had some decent advice and words for Gary, who he saw as being out of touch with reality. “Amber brings you down, Gary. She’s not healthy for you. You’re not the same Gary you were when I met you,” the friend tells him. “Right now, Amber beats [your] ass, treats [you] like garbage, calls [you] a fatass 24/7.”

But Gary, instead of denying those allegations, just says that Amber loves him. It so much fits the bill of an abusive relationship — Gary is abused emotionally, verbally, and physically, but he is convinced that Amber truly loves him and he is determined to keep his family together. He uses this drive to “keep the family together” as an excuse to go back to her, ignoring the noticeable abuse the friend sees.

Amber and Gary’s relationship highlights that though the stereotype is the man being the abuser, it’s not impossible for the woman to be the abuser in a relationship. If the tables were turned and Gary was getting ready to throw punches at Amber, there’d be a public outcry and people would wonder why the producers didn’t step in. But men are expected to be resilient, and Gary’s perceived duty to be the head of the household and keep everyone together supersedes his own self-worth and safety.

Amber’s violent behavior is also dangerous to Leah — Amber projects her outbursts toward Gary, but if Gary isn’t there as her metaphoric and literal punching bag, that means she could turn her aggression to Leah. Couples fight and cohabitation causes stress, but the fact Amber so quickly resorts to violence is not typical relationship behavior, but more indicative of how she generally handles stress.

2. Kids are not meant to be used as leverage

Perhaps it was because Ryan told Maci she didn’t care about Bentley, but regardless, Maci made a swipe at Ryan by replying that he’d better reword what he said or else she’d change his visitation with Bentley. “You’re going to see him whenever I say you can have him, or are you going to rephrase what you said?” Maci asked Ryan. Ryan declined to rephrase what he said.

I absolutely despise when parents use their kids in this way — last week Amber was telling Leah that Gary was “abandoning” her despite the fact Amber was actually kicking him out, and this week Maci is trying to use Bentley as leverage to get Ryan to do what she wants and say what she wants him to say. Bentley could see this as, “Dad doesn’t want to spend time with me,” when really it’s, “Mom uses visitation to keep Dad in check and stay in control.”

Maci and Ryan need to try to keep some form of healthy relationship for Bentley’s sake, and using visitation with Bentley as leverage or a threat is not the way to go about it. Again, a reiteration of last week’s blog, but though Maci would like to be the sole arbiter of when Ryan sees Bentley, Ryan could easily start legal proceedings to get the court to decide who gets custody of Bentley and when, removing Maci’s ability to use seeing Bentley as a way to get Ryan to do what she wants.

3. Being an adult sucks

Farrah’s trials and tribulations are a constant reminder that being an adult sucks — you have to deal with crappy situations on your own, and you can’t simply just ask your parents to make every unpleasant or difficult phone call for you. (Though sometimes your dad is nice enough to chew out a realty agent for you — thanks Dad!) But what parents can still provide is support and advice, which is equally as helpful.

Farrah sat down and talked with her dad about her finances, and he suggested Farrah try to claim some type of social security benefit for Sophia, as Sophia’s dad had passed away in a car accident before she was born. Never in a million years would I have known to do that — and I don’t know that many other young people would either. The value of a support system, especially when you’re living on your own for the first time, is huge.

And, as Farrah found out, you discover that crappy things happen and you become stuck. Sophia’s dad’s sister wouldn’t show up for the paternity test she promised to get swabbed for, and she wouldn’t answer her phone — Farrah wanted to drag her in via court order, but her lawyer informed her that wasn’t possible and could open up a new bag of worms about visitation and custody. As an adult, you find that things don’t always neatly fit into place and people don’t always do what they say they’ll do.

Teen Mom: Bitches, prom dresses, custody battles, compromise

September 9, 2010

This week’s Teen Mom brought the drama — Catelynn’s mom was possibly projecting anger over Carly’s adoption while prom dress shopping; Farrah’s therapist put her in her place and possibly made an impact; Gary was a total douche to Amber on her birthday; and Ryan’s taking Maci to court to see Bentley more/ensure Maci can’t move to Nashville. I’m going to try to use as many profane quotes as possible in this post.

1. “You’re being a bitch, bro.”

Gary’s friend illustrated just how powerful peer pressure can be — especially when it questions one’s masculinity. It was Amber’s birthday, and Gary agreed to watch Leah that night so Amber could go out dancing with her girlfriends (keep in mind Gary does not like to dance, as evidenced on the episode when he proposed to her again). Everything was going smoothly, all was surprisingly calm on the Amber-Gary front.

Until Gary’s friend started saying he was being “a bitch” for watching Leah and letting Amber go out without him. Instead of just doing something nice for Amber, the friend suggested that Gary “need[s] to say ‘f-ck you’ and be a man.” Gary takes this wise, wise advice and calls up Amber, demands to go dancing with her friends and says she needs to “spend time with [her] f-cking fiance,” and refuses to babysit Leah anymore. Then, when he gets home, the friend remarks to Gary, “You’re going to cower like a little bitch in a minute to watch Leah.”

This problem isn’t central to couples with babies. I can only speak for heterosexual couples, in which guys are often peer pressured out of doing nice things for their significant other because showing affection or that you care about someone is a “weak” feeling — and because these same guys associate being weak with being a woman, you are then a “bitch” because you aren’t standing your ground as a man, constantly making demands and controlling your significant other like a strong, masculine, powerful man should.

Beyond that, his friend associates taking care of his child as something weak and feminine, too. Why should Gary have to watch Leah at all? He’s a man — and not only should he not have to babysit his own daughter, he shouldn’t even be responsible for finding a babysitter. Problematic because it encourages the parent to be irresponsible, and it speaks to how that peer pressurer views parental responsibility as a father.The entire scuffle wouldn’t have happened without the provocation of his friend, though I’m glad Gary eventually overcame the peer pressure and babysat Leah so Amber could go out.

Both man-to-man and woman-to-woman peer pressure can be toxic to relationships. Friends feel the need to point out problems in the relationship that never were problems. Then the friends convince the person that XYZ action is a problem and that their silence means they’re getting walked all over, and the person instigates a fight. This is why (1) too much friend involvement in the relationship is unhealthy; (2) you need to learn to stand up to your friends’ advice sometimes; and (3) some guys need to realize that you’re not a “bitch” for being a responsible parent/decent human being.

2. “Rude bitch.”

Catelynn and her mom don’t have a great relationship these days — though they tried to have a nice day out prom dress shopping, her mom quickly turned rude, mouthy, and childish when Catelynn disagreed with her opinion about a dress Catelynn liked. Catelynn’s friend’s theory was that “she sees that [Catelynn’s] happy and actually out doing things and it just pissed her off.”

This combined with Catelynn’s theory — that because she didn’t listen to her opinion about Carly, her mom feels Catelynn doesn’t trust or put importance in her opinion about anything — hits the nail on the head. Not only does her mom feel slighted that Catelynn chose adoption against her advice and wishes as a mother/grandmother, but Catelynn’s happiness continues to prove that Catelynn made the right decision and continues to prove that her mom didn’t necessarily know best.

It’s unfortunate for Catelynn though, because her mom’s projections feed into other insecurities that Catelynn has. Instead of being mature, Catelynn’s mom is negative about dresses and the way Catelynn looks in them — though for her mom this is because she feels slighted about the adoption, for Catelynn it merely adds to body issues she has had ever since becoming pregnant. “I’m already self-conscious when I’m in those dresses, I don’t need my mom being like, ‘Ugh,'” she says, adding her prom dress shopping experience “got turned into a horrific nightmare.”

Catelynn’s mom’s attitude also shows how immature she is. Constantly calling Catelynn a “bitch,” she also mimicks what Catelynn says and makes snide comments under her breath — sometimes watching them interact, it’s as if Catelynn is the mom and her own mother is trying to be the defiant child that gets under the parent’s skin. I’m curious if this is always how her mom has been, or if the adoption sparked this childish attitude.

3. “I have no rights.”

Ryan has actually been making an effort to see Bentley more, even asking Maci if they could split the custody 50/50 instead of the current setup in which Maci has Bentley more. Maci suspects it’s linked to the child support Ryan has to pay, whereas Ryan’s parents also seem to be pushing Ryan to get more time with Bentley. Eventually, they talked face to face about it and Ryan let her know he was taking her to court.

Maci was infuriated, saying, “He wasn’t a dad the first year [Bentley] was alive. Why should I have ever let [Ryan] see [Bentley]? He didn’t do a damn thing to show he was a good dad.” Regardless of his past though, and regardless of his intentions, he does have a right to see Bentley. Maci is understandably upset that he didn’t show such motivation sooner, especially when they were together, and I also think she sees better father potential in Kyle — which does not negate the fact that Ryan is his father, and is showing initiative now to see Bentley.

Ryan’s frustration is that because Maci is the mom, she can do whatever she wants with Bentley, but as his dad, his parental rights are more limited. Maci feels like Ryan needs to earn time with Bentley and isn’t entitled to it. There is a major communication breakdown between them, and when parents are separated, communication becomes even more essential. This is unfortunate for them because they’ve always had awful communication — e.g. Ryan has to drag it out of Maci that she’s planning on moving, she’s keeping her resentment bottled up. When you’re separated you don’t have to make a romantic relationship work, but you do have to make a parental relationship work.

On a different note, Ryan was complaining about child support, though he really has no reason to — his calculation was he’d pay $80,000 by the time Bentley was 18 and that it was outrageous, though it really isn’t considering the cost of raising a child ranges from $124,800 to more than $500,000.

4. Boo. Yah.

Seeing someone finally put Farrah in her place was refreshing — not because Farrah is entirely in the wrong to have problems with her mom, but because she was complaining about how doomed her relationship with her mom was at a therapy session that Farrah herself invited her mom to in order to try reconciling! The therapist called her out on her body language and unwillingness to be open to a relationship with her mother, despite the fact she invited her mom there in the first place.

“You’ve got to take a step back and look at what you can do differently, too,” her therapist told Farrah. These words seemed to resonate with Farrah, as she was much more open and friendly with her mom after that. Farrah seemed to feed off getting pitied; I think she wanted people to feel sorry for her — which people do, as her mom is abusive and mentally unstable — and I think she wanted to bring her mom in and get that same sympathy from the therapist. Instead, the therapist basically said, “Yeah, your mom needs to change. So do you.”

It was an important moment because it introduced the idea of compromise. Farrah can’t expect her relationship with her mom — which was damaged before the domestic violence — to be fixed solely by her mother, as it will never be mended or changed if Farrah keeps resisting it.