Exes Kathie and Gary accuse each other of being a poor parent to their 16-year-old son, Jesse. Can Dr. Phil get them to stop pointing fingers and start focusing on what’s best for their child? And, Alysia says her mother neglected her and her three siblings, leaving her to be the mother figure. How can this mother-daughter relationship be healed?
Abandoned on Father's Day?
Kathie claims that her ex-husband, Gary, promised their son Jesse, 16, that they were moving to Florida together on Father’s Day — but then left him sitting on the front porch, alone and disappointed. “I had to go tell Jesse that his father was gone. He looked like someone had hit him in the stomach,” she recalls. She claims that Jesse, who is adopted, responded, "It's OK, Mommy, he's not my father anyway." Kathie says that Jesse is still upset at Gary — and has even asked her to file paperwork to have his last name legally changed.
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But, Gary tells a very different story — and insists that he never abandoned Jesse. “My intent was to bring my son down to Florida as soon as I got a job,” he explains. Gary claims that Kathie is alienating him from their son and filling his head with lies. He says that he tried to call Jesse many times before he left and "begged" Kathie to relay messages to him. "She was mad at me and used Jesse to punish me," Gary claims. He adds, "My son knows that I love him. He is the joy of my life. He is my best friend.”
“How do you know that he knows you love him?"
Gary claims that Kathie is a party animal and a bad parent, who is upset about his move because she's "losing her babysitter." Gary says he left Kathie after 15 years of marriage because all she cared about was going out and holding onto her youth. “I think she got to the point where she regretted having adopted him,” he claims. “I think Jesse turned out to be more work than she ever anticipated.”
Gary says that Jesse flunked the 9th grade while living with Kathie, and claims that Kathie lied to him about it for an entire year. He also says that Kathie plans to kick Jesse to the curb when he turns 18. Gary adds that Jesse "has a home with me for life ... My son knows he has a father forever."
“Really? He didn’t know he had one when you up and left,” Kathie fires back. She denies Gary's claim that she wants to get rid of Jesse, and maintains that he would have known about their son's failing grades if he was more involved. "You never did one thing with this child when it came to that, and you were offended that you didn't know he didn't pass the 9th grade?"
"You set him up for over a month ... and then you left him sitting by the door."
Kathie and Gary square off, and Dr. Phil steps in. "How long have y'all been divorced?"
Dr. Phil tells the parents that he asked Jesse who he would rather live with, and Jesse said his mother, because he feels more comfortable with her at this point. He asks Kathie and Gary if they have any questions for him: "Is there some reason you came here, other than to yell at each other?"
Gary responds that he doesn't have anything to ask Dr. Phil.
"My question to you is how to help Jesse get beyond this point, because he is hurt and upset,” Kathie replies. “Because he’s adopted, he takes it personally. I want to figure out to help him to get beyond this.”
Dr. Phil tells both Kathie and Gary that they don't have to like each other — but cautions that they should not involve their son in adult issues. He turns to Kathie: "The first thing you need to do is manage this young man's expectations, and you don't do that by bashing his father." He explains that Jesse will figure out on his own whether he can trust Gary to keep his promises. "What you need to do in talking to your son is make sure that his self-worth is not tied up in what anybody else does, including his father," Dr. Phil says.
He adds that Kathie shouldn't keep Jesse from talking to Gary — and should even encourage it. "He's too busy being a right-fighter to recognize that there are things he can do to repair this relationship," Dr. Phil says. But, he insists, "There are things he can provide for your son that you can't provide. Even in all of your criticism of him, you never once told us this was an evil guy." Kathie agrees to make the effort.
Robbed of Her Childhood?
Alysia says her mother, Jennifer, robbed her of her childhood by neglecting her and her three siblings — making men a priority over them — and leaving her with the responsibilities of being a mother figure and housekeeper. Alysia says she has so much resentment and anger toward her mother, she can’t move on until Jennifer acknowledges her mistakes. Jennifer disputes Alysia’s allegations and says she was a good mother who never denied her children anything. How can this mother-daughter relationship be healed?
“It made me feel like the black Cinderella.”
After hearing her mother’s recorded interview, Alysia cries. She tells Dr. Phil, “That’s a lie. Everything that just came out of her mouth — she never admitted to the abuse.”
Jennifer says she's not lying and denies making Alysia do all the housework.
Alysia tells her mother that she had a lot of responsibilities as a child, including being a mother figure. “Still, to this day, they still call me and ask me for stuff. They shouldn’t call me — they should call you, not me,” she says tearfully.
“Were you parading men in and out of the home?” Dr. Phil asks Jennifer.
“No,” she says. Jennifer explains that she had a relationship with a man whom she later learned was married, but she insists she wasn’t having sex with married men and making her daughter clean her sheets. “That is so far from the truth, Alysia.”
Dr. Phil reads a statement from Alysia’s sister, Diona: “When I was young, I did call Alysia my mom, because my mom was never around. I’d run to my sister with questions and any time I needed help. I feel my siblings and I were not my mother’s priority. We never knew where our mom was, but we knew she wasn’t with us.”
Jennifer looks perplexed. “The only place I was, was at work,” she says.
Alysia explains that she almost didn’t graduate because she spent so much time taking care of her siblings that she got behind on her own homework. She says she went to live with her grandmother her senior year, so she could get help and catch up.
Alysia’s grandmother weighs in on Jennifer’s skills as a mother.
“I can count on both my hands how many times you’ve said you loved me,” Alysia tells her mother. “That is why I tell my kids every day that I love them, because I don’t want them to ever say I was this type of mom. It would feel good to hear it. I’m your daughter.”
Alysia says Jennifer kept information about her biological father away from her and claimed she didn’t know where he was. “You didn’t want him to have anything to do with me.” She says her mother once told her, “I should’ve listened to your father and got an abortion.”
Jennifer denies saying that to Alysia. When asked what she wants to happen, she says, “I want to have a relationship with my daughter, and I want my mother to stop talking behind my back to my daughter.”
Dr. Phil drills down on Jennifer. “I would think that you’d be concerned about the fact that she’s in this much pain.”
Dr. Phil offers resources for Alysia and Jennifer to repair their relationship. He tells Alysia to invest 30 to 60 days in healing her relationship with her mother. “And if it doesn’t get better by then, it isn’t going to get better,” he tells her.
They both accept the help. If you suspect that a child is being neglected, please call the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 4-A-CHILD (422-4453).