Presents are wrapped. I'm the only one awake and too caffeinated to sleep. So I'm going to vent.
HISTORY, loosely (Feel free to skip. This is actually me trying to be succinct, but it's a complicated situation and I'm long-winded.):
* DSS's Mom is Jewish.
* For a time, she was estranged from her family and surrounded by Christians (including my DH; her husband at the time). Understandably, she attended get-togethers on major Christian holidays and participated in celebrating them with my DH and their son (whom she agreed to let DH raise as a Catholic). However, she still identified herself as Jewish.
* During their divorce, she severed ties with the Christians close to her (besides DH) and reconciled with her Jewish family. She went back to celebrating only Jewish holidays and began telling people DSS was also Jewish and saying derogatory things to DSS about Christianity. She didn't bother to give DSS any Jewish education. Evidently, it was enough to tell him Jesus and Santa were both made-up and to switch Christmas gifts and decorations, for Chanukah ones.
* For several consecutive years, DSS spent every Christmas with DH, with Mom's blessing. The year Chanukah began at sundown Christmas Day, DH offered her parenting time, but she wasn't interested. She said she and DSS had celebrated Chanukah together early.
* The year DSS was 7 was especially high-conflict. DH won several court battles, reinforcing his parental rights. Mom responded by moving across the country with DSS; trying to get conflicting orders out of the CA courts; and making concerted efforts to sever DSS's contact with DH and everyone in his family.
* DH was entitled to a 7-day visit over winter break. Mom had to pay for airfare. Unfortunately, nothing spelled out who got to pick the dates. Months in advance, DH requested to have DSS the same week the older son from his 1st marriage would be visiting, from college. Mom would only agree to let DSS be there for half of his brother's visit. But the dates she agreed to included Christmas. She never suggested she felt it was her turn to finally spend a Christmas with DSS.
* Instead, she took DSS out of school early, sent him here for only a 5-day visit and scheduled his return flight at 6am the morning his brother was set to arrive. (So, before Christmas.)
* Even when DH took her to court, she never argued that she felt entitled to Christmas, since DH had it the previous who-knows-how-many years. She only said the dates she chose were "convenient".
* The court let DSS stay here through Christmas. Then he came down with pneumonia and was under doctor's orders not to travel and ended up with DH until a day or two after school resumed. Mom was spitting mad and even pushed for DH to fly DSS back to CA against doctor's orders and the judge's instructions, because DH getting such a long visit was so intolerable.
* The next year added insult to injury. DH asked to have DSS over Christmas, as usual. But he also asked to have DSS on Thanksgiving Break, to be in our wedding.
* Mom posed no objection to DSS spending yet another Christmas with DH. But she wanted to make DH choose: Have DSS at our wedding, or exercise his winter break visit. Not both.
* Only AFTER the judge sided against her and let DH have both visits did Mom suddenly become emotional in court, claiming she celebrates Christmas even though she's Jewish and how hard it's been on her, to go so many years without having DSS on the holiday.
* The judge let her have DSS that Christmas. AND SHE DIDN'T CELEBRATE IT WITH HIM. I know that's hard to quantify, but they had celebrated Chanukah earlier in the month and did nothing Christmas Day that DSS recognized as a holiday celebration. No tree, no gifts, nothing festive. They went ice skating, which they could've done just as enjoyably on the 26th, without DSS having to miss Midnight Mass and everything his Dad's family does, for Christmas.
* Two months later, the judge issued her final ruling, giving DH sole custody. The ruling mentions, "Father is Catholic and celebrates Christian holidays. Mother is Jewish and does not observe Christmas."
* In the 1st 3 years after the custody change, Mom made it clear she sees the year DSS was 8 (and spent Christmas with her) as a precedent that she's entitled to every other Christmas. But she has either offered, or been willing, to trade "her" Christmases for other things she wants.
* Sometimes DH has gone along with her (i.e., buying DSS's plane tickets, even though Mom is court-ordered to pay for them). Other times, he hasn't (i.e., when she wanted DSS to have no contact with us whatsoever and to skip all his regular activities, like sports, during her 10-day visits). Either way, DSS has spent every Christmas with us, with little or no conflict.
* One year, she'll put up a Christmas tree - and make sure to send a photo of it, to support the idea that she's entitled to alternating Christmases. She'll call DSS's gifts "Christmas", not "Chanukah" gifts; and the Chanukah seder at her parents' house a "family Christmas party", even though DSS sees through this. The next year, when she more easily gets what she wants from DH, she makes no show of celebrating Christmas. (At least, DSS will tell us she didn't put up a tree or do anything Christmas-y and they openly celebrated Chanukah.)
* Back in October, Mom emailed DH that she'd bought DSS's winter break airfare and had given DH Christmas Day with him. Easy, right?
* But the tickets she bought had DSS departing for CA on Christmas Eve. When DH pointed that out, Mom said it was a simple, honest mistake. She'd just forgotten what day Christmas was!
* Other problems with her tickets:
***** On both legs of travel, DSS was scheduled to change planes by himself, in one of the world's biggest airports, on an airline that will take absolutely no responsibility for unaccompanied minors, past age 11. You can't pay extra for it. They just don't do it. DH has been clear with Mom that this is unacceptable and, frankly, as sole legal custodian, he has the right to set that limit. And direct flights are available, on the same airline.
***** She scheduled his visit exactly in the middle of his break, chopping up DSS's 5 days with us. When she had custody, she herself insisted this was unfair to DSS, and DH cooperated with her.
***** She gave us neither Christmas Eve, nor the day after Christmas with DSS, but took the whole period around the holiday.
***** She scheduled an 8-day visit, not 7. DH sometimes offers her longer visits. But she should've coordinated that with DH, not just taken it - especially in a year when DSS's break is less than 2 weeks. We're already getting a short vacation time with him. Her lengthening her own visit makes it even shorter. (And on top of that, she chopped it up into two even-shorter periods!)
* However, Mom used vouchers from frequent-flier miles and couldn't find eligible seats on other days.
* We had nearly the same situation last year. DH paid to change the tickets and there wasn't another peep out of her.
* This year, he told her he couldn't afford to keep buying DSS's winter break airfare and wanted her to change the tickets herself. (Incidentally, airfare is Mom's sole financial contribution. And sometimes she out-earns DH.)
* Suddenly, she became passionate about having DSS for Christmas. She put up a Christmas tree (or at least sent a photo of one she claimed is in her apt.) - before Thanksgiving. She talked about gathering around it on Christmas Day with her (Jewish) family and how important it was, for DSS to be there.
It seems so obvious to us that she volunteered to let DH have Christmas, when she thought she was getting tickets for free; and the mistake centers around her not knowing the date of Christmas, so how important can it be to her? Her claim of an interest in Christmas seems very contrived and convenient to the situation, not genuine. But I think she works herself up about things like this, until she really believes them.
DH was clear and firm: He would not put DSS on a flight where he had to change planes by himself. And he refused to give up Christmas simply so Mom could avoid actually paying for DSS's airfare. The tickets must be changed.
When Mom hadn't changed them by Thanksgiving, we assumed she wasn't going to and quietly bought DSS different tickets, before they got more expensive. We didn't want him to actually miss the visit. And if Mom came through and changed her tickets, we could always change the dates on ours and let DSS use them some other time.
As time went on with no word from Mom, DH went ahead and cancelled the tickets she'd bought, so they'd be returned to DSS's account and could be used later, not lost. The airline notified Mom of the change and DH also emailed her, explaining what he'd done and giving her the flight information for the tickets we bought DSS (to arrive in CA the day after Christmas).
DH called and texted her, to be sure she got his email and knew about the date-changes of the visit.
No response. Not even a "What-you-talkin'-about-Willis? I didn't get the memo!" And this was only minutes after Mom texted DH, asking him to have DSS call her. So her phone was working and she was near it.
Meanwhile, all month she's been talking up "Christmas in Cali", with DSS, telling him how she can't wait. Clearly, she wants him to side with her and be disappointed and fight it, if DH tries to keep him here for the holidays.
But DSS has repeatedly asked for reassurance that he's going to get to spend the holiday here. But he's confused and frustrated, because Mom keeps telling him he'll be out there by Christmas Eve - as though she is completely unaware of the flight changes.
She has further confused DSS, by playing up how exciting it will be, for them to spend Christmas with her friend, skiing in Tahoe. She copied DH on their plane tickets to Tahoe and they aren't going until Dec. 28th.
Today, she called DSS mid-day and asked excitedly if he was on the plane!? (Well, she knew he wasn't in flight, or he wouldn't have answered the phone!) She already knew DH had changed his flights, but she behaved as though she didn't and made DSS give her the "bad news" himself, then he had to listen to her full-flavored shock, disbelief, anger, disappointment and tears, as though this was the first she'd heard of it.
DH and I had both promised DSS that DH would communicate with Mom about this, that he wouldn't have to break the news to her. So, Mom made DSS think we lied - or at least slacked off and hung DSS out to dry.
He's also confused about whether we've ruined his ski trip, which Mom wants him to think started on Christmas Day, but which we haven't interfered with, at all.
She has even confused him, about previous Christmases. He told me, "Mom says I was supposed to visit her on Dec. 26th last year, but that didn't happen and Dad sent me late." Which is complete B.S. He did fly out to see her on the 26th, last year.
He had a big crying jag, after he got off the phone with her. But aside from that, he's seemed remarkably fine. He's having fun with all the pre-Christmas stuff and spending extra time with his brothers. He was excited about Midnight Mass and Christmas morning. He's been particularly eager for heart-to-heart talks with me. He bought everyone gifts with his own money and made something special for his Dad and me - completely on his own initiative. He's excited for all of us to open them.
I just hope he doesn't go out there the day after Christmas and have to spend a week listening to manipulative, distorted crap about his Dad and listening to his Mom (the one who didn't celebrate Christmas, the last time she had him for the holiday) crying about spending the holiday alone and making him feel guilty if he doesn't take sides against us.
Edited by VocalMinority - 12/26/11 at 5:41am