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Parental Rights

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Parental Rights

November 7-9, 605

Simdale Valley

Sandy Bruty is 41, Zane Roberts is 29, and Zach Bruty-Roberts is almost 2.

Trigger Warnings:  Domestic Violence/Verbal Abuse

“I need a lawyer,” Sandy Bruty said, hoping Alexis would be able to help her.

“I don’t want my child’s father to be able to come around anymore.”

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Alexis looked at Ms. Bruty.  Her first thought was, “that’s not happening.”

“What makes you think you have grounds to deny your child’s father’s parental rights?” she said, instead.

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Sandy looked at her like she was crazy, like it was as obvious as the fact that the posh appointments of this office were paid for by chasing ambulances.

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“I should have realized it earlier,” Sandy started.  “Zane was always trying to control me.  He would get upset when I went jogging… he even yelled at me for talking to the neighbors when they brought a fruitcake.”

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“He didn’t like it whenever I was out of his sight.”

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“I tried to work it out.  I thought, once he knows me better, he’ll be able to trust me.  After all, we’d only been together since I found out I was pregnant with Zach, two-and-a-half years ago.  When I tried to talk with him, he acted put out.  “It’s not a big deal,” he’d say.

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And refuse to talk about what was bothering me.

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Sandy went on.  “Lately, Zane’s been having trouble at work, with his anger.  Last week, he even insulted a customer– a police officer who was eating lunch at Captain Jack’s while Zane was managing the floor.”

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“Sometimes, Zach, our son, needed to come to the restaurant with us.  When daycare’s closed, and when both of us were on duty, Zach would come along.  The staff love him, and they help look out for him.  But Zane started yelling at Zach.  He’s a toddler, for crying out loud.”

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Our wait staff told me, Zach went and sat down at the booster seat they’d put out for him, and started coloring.  But Zane came over and kept berating him for being “underfoot.”

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Ximena, one of the waiters, tried to intervene. She told Zane, “Mr. Roberts, let me get him straightened out.”  Finally, Zane walked away, in a huff.

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Ximena looked at Zach.  “How about some milk?” she asked, kindly.

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That night when he got home, Zane tore into me.

He said all kinds of hateful things to me, about how I’m a slut, flirting with the customers instead of keeping an eye on my child.

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Zach was in his room, and he was scared.  He was talking to his teddy bear.

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I tried to calm Zane down.  I know that overhearing yelling and screaming affects toddler’s brain development, and I tried to reason with him.

“Zane, I was in the kitchen.  You can ask the staff.  Please stop yelling.”

I offered to fix him some french toast, hoping to calm him down so Zach could feel safe.  I was starting to feel scared for both of us, in this house, alone with this raving man.  What if he really lost control?

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While Zane ate his french toast, I asked what he wanted to do about Zach’s childcare.

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“You’re always trying to make this about Zach,” he said.  “You don’t care about him, you’re just trying to make me think you’re a good mother.”

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I was totally at a loss.  Where was all this paranoia coming from?  I’d never cheated on Zane.  I’ve been asked out since we got together, but I’ve never followed through.

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I walked away, feigning cleaning out the fridge, so I could collect my thoughts with my back turned to him.

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A little while later, Zach came in.  “Mommy, I’m scared,” he said.  I comforted him, and hugged him, and took him back to his bedroom.

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Thankfully, Zane didn’t try to come into the bed that night.

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Early the next morning, I woke up early and felt like it must have blown over by now.  I went to the living room, still reeling from the verbal abuse and wondering if I should accept an apology from Zane or not.  Looking back, I feel crazy for even considering accepting an apology from him, but at the time, I was still in shock.

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I sat down next to him.  “How are you this morning?” I asked.

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Zane was still angry, and he glared at me.

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I took the trash out, and realized the can had been kicked over.

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As I cleaned it up, I vowed to myself I wasn’t going to let Zach live like this anymore.

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“So, you can see that it’s not good for Zach to be treated like that by his father, right??”

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Alexis just looked at Sandy, trying to think what to say to her.

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She explained that if they tried to limit Zane’s visitation with Zach, the burden of proof would be on them.  And in her experience, the other parent would probably get a lawyer too, and then it would get really ugly.  Alexis didn’t think their chances were good.

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When Sandy got home, she told Zane, “I want you to move out.”  She didn’t know what would happen from here, but she knew she needed her and Zach to be safe in their own house.

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Zane had some choice words for Sandy.  He tried to make her feel like she was the one being unreasonable.

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“Get out, or I’m calling the police,” she said.

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Suddenly something switched.  Zane realized she meant it.

“C’mon, baby,” he said, “C’mon, let’s work this out.  Give me a chance.”

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Sandy shook her head no.  Zane turned and left.  Her knees almost collapsed underneath her.

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Zane found a rent-by-the-month place in Three Rivers.  As he at his cereal that night, he vowed to get Sandy back.  No one was going to take his family from him.

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The next morning, on the way to work, he went by the house.

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He knocked.  Sandy came out and told him she was filing for a restraining order.  It was in his interest to leave peacefully.  She said he’d need to get a lawyer to clarify what his rights to see Zach were.

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Gameplay Notes:

  • Sims 4 Zane Roberts has the following traits:  hot-headed, jealous, and ambitious.  That combination brewed up a perfect storm– I played the household for three days and he was constantly stressed over his jealous feelings, stressed over a lack of promotion, and angry for no apparent reason.  He took it out on the customers, the staff, and Zach at work, and he took it out on Sandy at home.  Even when I set up their household, and the welcome wagon came over, Zane fussed at Sandy for chatting with their neighbors.  Sandy would not put up with that, I am certain, and having been on her own most of her life, I don’t think fear of being on her own would hold her back.  Her main concern is limiting Zane’s influence on Zach from here on out.

20 Comments so far:

  1. poor Sandy… This couldn’t have been easy for her 🙁 I hope things would work out for her and Zach

    • Thanks, V, me too… it seems like a messy situation, and hard to imagine, if Zane wants to see Zach, how she can keep him from being able to see him. But at least she put her foot down about him living there.

      • maybe Zane would realize his wrongdoings and be better to Zach at least… But yes it was for the best that Sandy kicked him out

        • I was thinking, V, Zane did do some things wrong, like he should control his temper and think before he speaks more carefully to avoid hurting people he loves, but I think his issues are deeper than just his actions. It’s his whole mindset and view of the world. And Sandy’s really smart to get out of the relationship because of that.

  2. Echo Weaver says:

    Wow. This is a different storyline. Very intense. I hope Zach can get some sense of security, and Sandy too.

    I’m curious about your gameplay style for Simdale Valley. How much is pre-scripted, and how much is determined by the game? How do you decide?

    • Hello there, Susan, thanks for commenting! Here’s a long answer to your question 🙂

      This post is more intense than most, for Simdale Valley. For Simdale Valley, I like to have one thought-out storyline at a time, involving several of the sims or households, that I plot out and then try to make happen best I can, in game, allowing for adjustments to the plot or characters based on gameplay as I go. The first one I did that way was Chelsea’s story of becoming a campaign manager, back in Sims 2, and the one that I just drafted a post for yesterday is the Smith family, who are homeless, unaccompanied youth. But most Simdale Valley posts are totally based on gameplay as their lives develop, with details added here or there when I write it up, to further define motivation or perspective or setting.

      This particular post about Sandy and Zach, I did not script ahead of time. Everything Sandy described to Alexis was either straight gameplay, or my interpretation of interactions they had (like Zane yelling at her in the kitchen after work in a jealous rage). I played their household (for the first time after moving them in to Sims 4), wondering if Sims 4 Zane was going to be someone Sandy could live with, or whether he was going to be abusive (when I gave him the traits I did, I thought that was a possibility; he was a mean Leo in Sims 2 and I expanded that with hot-headed and jealous, along with frustrated ambitious trait, poor guy, I really set him up to make poor choices). He really did get upset when she went jogging (what is she doing, who is she with??) and yelled at her when neighbors brought fruitcake, because she was talking to them. He really did yell at Zach in the restaurant.

      They barely knew each other when Sandy got pregnant in Sims 2, and in hindsight, from a character development point of view, seeing how he behaved himself here, I’d say they were in a honeymoon phase when Zach was coming along, and in this post, Zane showed his true colors: angry, bitter, suspicious, and unable to check himself. His behavior was all gameplay, and I didn’t “rescue” him from his bad choices, but I didn’t manufacture them, either. He was even a mess at work, yelling at the customers! Of course, I did choose for Sandy to break up with him and kick him out, and make up the part about Sandy consulting the lawyer, partly for her to tell what had been happening and catch up the reader, as well as round out what was going on for her due to his behavior. I staged the parts with Alexis, the lawyer, after the I saw how events unfolded, playing the household. Zach was talking to his teddy bear, but in gameplay, he was not stressed by the yelling going on in the kitchen. No sim kids were traumatized in the making of this post!

      I don’t know how visitation will work out. Some of that depends on Zane’s whims now that they are in separate households, whether he will want to have contact with Zach or not. I’d be happy for sim Zane to not want to see Zach, because it’s really painful to see him get yelled at. Sandy can stand up for herself though, I have no doubt about that! Simdale Valley’s enough of a charmed world that I’m sure law enforcement will take action if he tries anything dangerous 🙂 Even though in real life, this family would continue to struggle with the consequences and Zane would most likely continue to push things, I’d be content for this to be a happy ending,and not drag out any drama, but that will depend on what happens in gameplay. It’s not my goal with this blog to give a realistic, long-term view of the situation.

  3. Oh yeah- you asked how I decide what to include in posts, so I wanted to add– the part at the end where Zane’s in his own apartment, I played setting him up as his own household, and he wanted to see Sandy, so I had him go by before work. He knocked on the door, and she came out and put her hands on her hips (she wasn’t controllable). I was really pleased with how that one worked out so I included it. If it had been bizarre, like her falling into his arms or something, I wouldn’t have included it.

    Edit: Well, depending on my view of that sim, I may or may not have included it. For Sandy, the way I see her and the way I think she acts, it would have been bizarre for her to make up with Zane at this point so I may have ignored that as bizarre programming on the part of the game. For a sim who more easily falls into victimization, I guess I would have included it. Does that make sense?

    Edit #2 (lol): I don’t know, maybe I would have included it and revised my view of Sandy. I just can’t imagine her doing that after the way he treated her, and the game cooperated with my view of the situation, so it’s hard to say what I would have done, if she had welcomed him back. I definitely consider gameplay, but I guess I consider gameplay in light of past experience and context… like with the Ono’s… and like you saw with Daniel’s flirtation with Naomi, I’m still figuring out how to balance gameplay with character development in Sims 4 since I played Sims 2 for so long and kind of understood the parameters of that game engine better than this one.

    • Echo Weaver says:

      For some reason, I couldn’t comment earlier. I’m pretty sure it was my problem. (Though, come to think of it, it might have been WordPress’s too, since I’ve had issues with the integrated login before.)

      At any rate, thanks so much for the thoughtful reply! I really like getting that kind of insight as to how people use the game to create stories. Your process here sounds a lot like mine, actually.

  4. Yikes! Hot-headed and jealous is a brutal combination. My Jeremiah has those both too. I really admire the trait though, in terms of gameplay and what it adds to a character, and how it feels so unique on each sim. Some of the game traits seem to make no impact at all, but this is not one of them! Jealous sims are hard to keep happy though.

    I hope these guys can all manage to work things out. The first priority is for Sandy and Zach to feel safe. Maybe Zane might benefit from seeing a psychiatrist for some meds?

    I had those planned for my Jeremiah, but I don’t know if he’ll be willing to take them. :\

  5. Ha, that kind of strikes me funny for some reason, although in all seriousness, Zane needs psychiatric help and possibly meds! He’s so anxious and angry all the time! I’d seen those meds before, but really hadn’t thought of using them for this. I wonder if Jeremiah would take them?! In my experience, hot-headed and mean both have quite an effect on a sim. My mean sim (Elise Tesla) wrecked her relationship with everybody because she was always autonomously doing mean things. I saw that thread a while back (quite humorous, but I can’t remember specifics) where someone on the forum was testing whether evil had an effect and it really didn’t. But you know, Beatrice, as a child, was always doing things to really hurt her family members, so her evil trait really came out a lot, although it was later softened by her other traits– romantic, and art-lover (I think).

    Anyway, thanks for commenting and it might be fun to see how sim Zane responds to meds and psychiatry. 🙂 And I’ll have to look out for signs of improvement in Jeremiah too!

    • Evil doesn’t have much of an affect that I’ve seen, but I wonder if maybe that could be useful. I use evil for my sim, Fiona, who I see as a much more mindful and calculating deviant. So all of her wrongdoing I want to be very controlled, rather than reactionary. My Lauren is mean, and that feels like a very impulsive and autonomous trait. I kind of like the difference there. I haven’t played a whole lot with Fiona yet in TS4, so I’m not sure if there will be any advantage to her having “evil” at all, or whether I might as well fill that spot with something else and just leave it to storytelling.

      I’ll cross my fingers for Zane. It looks like those ones that boost happiness for 12 hours could really counterbalance some of the negatives of a jealous/hot-headed personality. At least enough to be a functioning member of society and not a threat to his family.

  6. chealsycat says:

    Poor Zach! 🙁 Children suffer most of all when their parents argue with each other.

    • Chealsycat, so true, it’s really rough on kids. I remember how it felt as a child when my parents yelled at each other. Fortunately, sim Zach wasn’t affected by the arguing between his parents, gameplay-wise. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Carla says:

    Good on for Sandy for standing up for herself and for Zach! I’m glad she’s getting legal advice on how to minimise Zach’s exposure to his dad, who can only be toxic for the poor kid. And for herself, honestly. Until he decides to get some help and gets his temper and his jealousy in check (if he can), he shouldn’t be around them.

    • I totally agree, Carla, and I’m glad Sandy was able to stand up to him and get help with the legal aspect. I’ve pretty much decided next time I play Zane to try those meds Laura mentioned and see if it helps him. It would be really nice if he could be a kinder dad to Zach, when he has visitation with him. Thanks for commenting and reading!

  8. maisie says:

    Good luck to Sandy. I know men who have done far worse and got to keep visitation, and continue to badger the Moms with court for even more. I am very intrigued by his traits and how the game plays those out!! Especially in regards to Zach, poor kid. 🙁 I like the element of realism though, and darn, I wish these were in TS2. It seems TS4 sims are much more rounded than the prior TS3 sims.

    I hope that Sandy can get her protection order, and that perhaps Zane could find a way to be cool…is there ways for him to better himself, like read anger management books? That would be a neat feature if it was something in TS4. I’m glad Sandy kept her house, and didn’t give it all up to get away.

    • Self-help books are a great idea, like the marriage counseling books the Sims could read in TS2! We don’t have anything like that, at least not yet. And yes, I think it is not likely she’s going to be able to keep Zach from him. I’m planning to try the meds Laura mentioned and see if that helps. I don’t want Zach having to deal with those outbursts. Thanks for commenting, Maisie!

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