Both of your observations are completely understandable. Nevertheless, let me play devil's advocate regarding the second one. I think it's much healthier for a kid to feel comfortable talking about everything in his life, to either parent; than to feel so involved in the failed relationship between his parents that he filters and stifles his thoughts. It's bad enough that your kids have to deal with their dad having moved out of state. It would be worse if they ALSO spent their time on the phone with him constantly asking themselves, "Is THIS thing I'm thinking about OK to tell Dad, or is it one of the things Mom doesn't want him to know about, anymore?"
There may be cases where you'll have to say, "Look, it's just inappropriate to share that with your Dad. It makes me uncomfortable." Let's say they want to laugh with him over your surprise burp at the dinner table. Kids over the age of three can easily understand that it's not polite to share that kind of thing - with their dad or anyone else.
But I don't think the example you gave falls in this category. Certainly, you'd prefer not to have your ex judging your housekeeping, your chore assignments, your choice of video games. But cleaning your room - and then getting the reward of a new game he wanted - was part of your SON'S day. Being annoyed, wondering what your ex will think of these things, is YOUR issue. I commend you, for resisting the impulse to confuse them!
If you had told your son not to discuss this with his dad, what would have been the deeper underlying message? Since those events happened during your parenting time, in your house, your room, you assigned the chores, you approved the game...that part of HIS day belonged to YOU...and shouldn't be shared with his dad. If your son began to think of his life in that compartmentalized way - one life with Mom, another life with Dad, try not to mix them - he might grow to feel uncomfortable telling his dad about things you don't mind him sharing - say, an award he got at school (which will now seem like your turf, because Dad's out of state).
We have kind of the opposite extreme, with my step-son. His mom seems rather maniacally intent on his life with her being completely separate in every way, from any relationship he may retain, with his dad. When DSS lived with her, he was never allowed to have phone conversations with my husband without his mom in the room; and if he told his dad things she didn't want him to say (even things she was required to share with DH, like when she changed jobs), you could hear her yelling in the background and sometimes she'd hang up the phone. Even now that DSS is older, his phone calls with DH when he's visiting his mom are very minimal and perfunctory. And even though he lives with us most of the year and we ask about his mom, and his time with her, in positive ways, he doesn't talk about her nearly as much as I'd expect him to. Every once in a while, he'll blurt out something about her, or her house, or what they did together during his last visit. But sometimes he'll follow it up with, "Oh. I'm not supposed to talk about that with you guys." It's deeply sad, to me, to see that he clearly feels his mom's hostility toward us takes priority over his own right to just relax and talk openly about his life, with the people he lives with. I'm glad you're reluctant to do that, to your kids. Good for you.
As far as the cost, why not tabulate how much you're spending on calls to your ex, and ask that it be factored into your settlement? You're right. He unilaterally chose to create a situation where it's expensive for your kids to stay in contact with him. You're doing the right thing and not restricting their access to him, by phone. He should help with the cost. Ask that half the monthly amount you've been averaging be added into his child support. Or, if the court is uncomfortable adding this into the CS calculation, ask that he be ordered to send you a monthly phone card in that amount. Or, heck, ask that he cover the entire cost. Maybe he'll balk and the court will settle for him paying half.
Edited by VocalMinority - 7/29/11 at 5:55pm