I have two children, but this post mainly concerns my daughter, who is nine. The kids' father has been mostly absent from their lives since our separation. He takes them sporadically on weekends, but has gone up to 6 months without seeing them or speaking to them at all. The kids went through a period of blaming themselves for this, and it was really hard to help them heal from all of it. Their father recently remarried, immediately got his new wife pregnant (she announced her pregnancy two weeks after their marriage), and suddenly started showing an interest in taking the kids for visits again. They have gone two weekends in a row, which is seriously record breaking.
So that's the background. Here's the issue. My daughter plays sides. Hard. She'll come here after a weekend with him, and tell me how miserable it was. How her father just played X-box all weekend, or dragged them to the dog park and ignored them while he played with his dog. She tells me all about how he doesn't even talk to them, and doesn't do stuff with them, and she hates going there. I've told her multiple times that if she has problems with him, she needs to speak up and have a talk with him about it. (Side note: I have tried to speak to him on behalf of the kids about these issues, and it blew up in my face and didn't solv anything). She says that she can't talk to him about how she feels, because she worries that he won't want to take her anymore if he knows she's not happy with his behavior.
This Sunday, the kids came home and I asked them how their weekend went. They told me all about the $170 he spent taking them to the movies and dinner (I guess it was important to him to stress the cost of it?? As they wouldn't stop talking about how great it was of him to spend that much....heh). And then my daughter proudly proclaimed that she figured out a way to make her father happy with her. She just tells him that she likes it better at his house than with me. She tells him she doesn't like it here, and that makes him "sooo happy."
I was absolutely livid, and had no idea how to deal with it. I tried to explain to her that playing sides isn't cool at all. That she can't tell her father she hates it here if it's not true, because it'll just make him mad at ME, even if the immediate reaction is him lavishing her with the attention she so obviously craves. Christ...no WONDER he brags to everyone about what a fantastic father he is, despite being completely absent from their lives. The kids are manipulating him into thinking he's an amazing father, as a trick to try and keep him in their lives! It's totally messed!
So....how the heck do I even approach this one?? I'm angry at my daughter, I really am. I know I shouldn't be, but I'm just so hurt. I was surprised at how much this hurt me, knowing she's telling her dad she hates being with me. I don't know what to do. =(