Hi! My name is Matt and I sure could use some advice. While I'm not exactly a single dad, I am the closest my four year old nephew has to a dad. Please excuse me if I begin to ramble but there is quite a bit of background info I need to share before I get to my questions.
A little over four years ago when my nephew was three months old, my sister asked if I would babysit him while she was at work. My sister and my mom both worked at the same elementary school and we all live within 5 minutes of each other (and the school). I agreed since I am disabled, on disability and have no family of my own. Wow, what a learning experience that was! I grew up in a strict household and basically hated it, so my style was fun uncle/babysitter. My sister was the baby of the family (I'm 11 years older than her), and got away with everything and her parenting style is more strict than I care for. We basically agree to disagree and I keep my opinions to myself (I realize I am not his parent, so my opinion doesn't matter). Although I frequently have flashbacks to my childhood and all of the things I hated about it.
Now I'm going to fast forward to about two years ago when my sister's life fell apart (trust me, this all ties together). My sistter's best friend, who lived in Wales, passed away at 26 years old in her sleep. The doctors could not find any medical reason why she forgot to breathe. They met online back when they were both in junior high, and basically talked every day. They would also take turns visiting each other every year after high school. Sadly, her friend left behind a two year old son. Approximately six months after that my mom passed away suddenly after being hospitalized for a month. Needless to say my sister's world fell apart and she slowly sunk into a deep depression that she is still fighting. My mom was my sister's rock, she was the one who could calm my sister when her Asperger's would send her into a tailspin (she has high functioning Asperger's)
Since my mom passed, I've had to step into her role as well. I drive her to and from work, the grocery store, any errands she needs to do. On top of that my dad almost passed in December, thankfully he is still with us, but now I'm taking care of him as well. My sister wants nothing to do with my father and my nephew has never met his grandfather. That is another can of worms altogether!
Now that you have all of the backstory (thank you for staying with me), let me explain what is going on and why I need some advice. Since my nephew has started Pre-K he has been acting up. While I don't think anything of it, my sister will have none of it, and I have noticed that they are really butting heads. Most mornings are good but there are some mornings that just plain start out bad (she's mad at him, he's mad at her) what a perfect way to start the day! I'm not there so I don't know what is happening there. The issues are mainly happening after school and this is where I have no idea what to do. His full day Pre-K class gets out at 2 p.m., but his mom doesn't get off until 2:30. After I pick him up we walk to his mom's class (she is an aide so there are no children in her classroom). Since it is technically still school, we can't play on the playground. So normally I let him play some preschool games on my phone, watch something on his Netflix or watch YouTube Kid videos (which he LOVES). Whatever he was watching today was making him laugh, I mean really laugh. It normally takes about 8 minutes to get from the school to their house and normally (98% of the time) he will hand me my phone back and hop out of the car. Well, today he didn't want to get out of the car and what started off as a good afternoon quickly soured and ended up with mom and son mad at each other and him in trouble. What really gets me, is that she has openly told me that being around kids all day, leaves her with no patience left for her own son at the end of the day! So now I'm wondering if I should take the phone away, since it seems to be causing problems. However, with only 30 minutes between the time he gets off and she does there is not much time to do anything. With the weather getting warmer where we lived, I asked my sister if she lets him play outside after school. She said no, that to her neighbors in her apartment complex an open door is an invitation to chat, and the neighbor's 2 year old daughter comes in the house.
I've also noticed something he hasn't done in a long time, whenever we are together if he has a choice between his mom or me, it's always me. Even when grocery shopping, he wants to sit in my cart. When my mom was alive, he always wanted to go with her.
So from my perspective, I think my nephew misses his "just guys time", needs a better way to blow off steam than Youtube Kids, and how can I help with the once in a while after school meltdowns. Any advice?