Empathy No. 034
08/19/02, Brawney off. 3:32 PM
ELEANOR: Well, it's been a big couple days. Roderick started at Redgrove, and so far things are going okay.
DR. BRAWNEY: That's good, and we will discuss that, but I'd like to talk about you first. These sessions aren't just getting information about Roderick, we are here to help you as well.
ELEANOR: You know, I was on the phone with Kristen - she's one of my sisters, if I never mentioned it - and she said something just like that. She said, "I bet everyone is asking 'How's Roderick doing?' and no one's asking 'How are you doing?'" She's right. You know, when you're a single mother, everyone assumes that the child is the center of your being - and to be honest, for me at least? They're right. Roderick has been my world for a long time.
DR. BRAWNEY: Tell me what day-to-day life is like for you.
ELEANOR: Um...I wear three different masks. I'm Lloyd's wife, I'm Roderick's mother, and I'm...something to the other kids, I don't know what exactly. Sometimes I feel like I can't be all three at once, so if I focus on Lloyd, then I'm neglecting Roderick. I focus on Roderick, I'm neglecting everyone else.
DR. BRAWNEY: What kind of relationship do you have with Lloyd's children?
ELEANOR: I get along very well with Brooke, we have things we do together - nothing big, but it's something. Jason, I don't really see that much. I think he kind of looks up to Roderick, and they're...I don't know, maybe not friends, I think Roderick is still a little apprehensive, but they have things that they do together.
DR. BRAWNEY: And Allison?
ELEANOR: Allison...when I moved in, I was kind of excited about that. When I was pregnant, we all thought I was going to have a girl for a long time. Allison is about Roderick's age, so it's almost like she's the daughter I never had. But...I don't know, I can't quite bridge that gap. I talk to her about Roderick and she tolerates it, she tolerates me making all these requests, but when I try to talk about, you know, those little personal things, it just doesn't quite work.
DR. BRAWNEY: Overall, do you feel that you're a part of the family?
ELEANOR: Yes. I mean, it's a process, but I'm getting there.
DR. BRAWNEY: And do you feel like Roderick is also part of the family?
ELEANOR: I'd like to think so, but it's not like he talks to me about things like that. That's more of a question to ask him, isn't it?
DR. BRAWNEY: Eleanor, I'm going to be straightforward here. I have spoken to Lloyd, and he mentioned that a few weeks back, he offered to make some school purchases for Roderick, and you were resistant.
ELEANOR: Resistant? I mean...maybe I was reluctant, but I let Lloyd take Roderick to get new frames for his glasses - the old ones were damaged, and Roderick really liked it and we both appreciated it.
DR. BRAWNEY: But why did you initially refuse to let him buy anything for your son?
ELEANOR: Because I can take care of all of his needs. I did for years.
DR. BRAWNEY: You've told me that you regretted that there were things you couldn't provide for him.
ELEANOR: And if there was anything Roderick really needed that I couldn't give him, then yes, I would let Lloyd help, but I can still take care of things like clothing. It's all right.
DR. BRAWNEY: You said you'd allow your husband to provide for Roderick?
ELEANOR: Look, I know what you're getting at, and you're off base. It's a complicated situation, and Lloyd isn't...I mean, Roderick really doesn't think of Lloyd as his father, and other people...I don't want Lloyd to feel obligated to do these things.
DR. BRAWNEY: Because these are obligations that his father would owe him?
ELEANOR: I'm just not using the right words, here. Of course I am happy to let Lloyd provide for us, but I didn't marry a meal ticket. I don't want Lloyd thinking he needs to do all these things when I can take care of them.
DR. BRAWNEY: Eleanor, do you want Roderick to think of himself as Lloyd's son?
ELEANOR: Yes, eventually. That's how we become a real family, but it's barely been a month.
DR. BRAWNEY: How long do you expect it will take?
ELEANOR: I don't know. I wish I did, but I don't.