I have posted here once before and got some great feedback, so I thought I’d put this out there for all of you to see if anyone has thoughts or suggestions.
I have a 5-year old daughter and my SO has a 5-year old son. We’ve been together almost three years and have lived together for a little over a year.
Some background on the relationship between my SO and his ex-wife: they separated when their son was an infant, and she has done everything in her power to minimize dad’s role in his life. The relationship is still very contentious. Until about a year ago, mom had about 90% of the parenting time. Now the parenting schedule is approximately 60% mom and 40% dad, but they’ve agreed to mediate again in a couple of years because dad wants equal time. Mom has final decision making on medical and educational decisions, but the parenting plan encourages mom and dad to work together to make decisions and resolve issues, with mom having final decision making if an agreement can’t be reached.
Their son’s behavior is very troubling at times. He has what seem to us like many of the signs of ADHD. He has an extremely hard time sitting still, concentrating on tasks, following directions, and controlling his behavior. Many people have told us that he’s just being a 5-year old boy. I know all 5-year old boys have these issues SOMETIMES, but these are the rule with him, not the exception. He is markedly less mature than his peers, who are also 5-year old boys. As an example, he played in a sports league with other 5-year old boys this past fall. All of the boys hung from the goalposts once or twice. All of the boys lost focus occasionally. He, on the other hand, was consistently messing around (hanging from the goal posts, playing with things on the field, getting up in other kids faces and acting silly, running off the field during play, etc.) and for the most part totally oblivious to the game going on around him on the field. The difference between him and the other boys was significant and obvious.
Additionally, he has some serious behavioral issues. When he’s excited, he escalates very quickly to an almost manic state where he’s out-of-control hyper and impulsive, doing things he knows he’s not supposed to do. When he’s upset , he escalates very quickly to crying, yelling, hitting, kicking, spitting, and biting. The most minor thing can turn into a major meltdown. I don’t know where he learns these behaviors, but it certainly isn’t from us or anything he’s exposed to at our house. He has tantrums and meltdowns on a daily basis. We have tried a number of techniques to help him calm down and channel his feelings appropriately, but our success has been very limited. I feel like we spend most of the time he is with us in crisis mode, barely surviving until he leaves and we can put everything back together.
He has gotten sent to the principal at school three times this year for aggressive and/or disruptive behavior. Last week something he did was escalated to the school social worker. It wasn’t that big of an issue and it was resolved the same day, but my SO stopped by on Friday to introduce himself to the social worker and they ended up chatting for a while. The social worker felt it was appropriate to set up a meeting between mom, dad, stepdad, and me. When mom found out that dad met with the social worker, she sent an e-mail saying that she was going to notify the school that she has SOLE decision making and that dad cannot meet with teachers, social worker, etc. without her. She also said that she does not experience any troubling behaviors at her home. We (me, dad, mom, and stepdad) are now meeting later this week with the school social worker, principal, and his teachers. I’m sure she’s going to downplay his behavioral issues and deny that he has behavioral issues in her home, as that is what she’s done in the past. She’ll probably also find a way to make dad look like a jerk even though his intentions are good.
So, I have a million thoughts swirling through my mind, in no particular order.
Is it reasonable to say that 5-year olds should not have tantrums on a daily basis that escalate to hitting, kicking, and spitting? Is it possible that he doesn’t exhibit these same behaviors at mom’s house? It seems unlikely that he’s extremely volatile and quick to anger with us but cool as a cucumber with her. It also seems unlikely that he exhibits signs of ADHD at our house but not at her house. Are we setting ourselves up for something by saying he has serious behavioral issues at our house when she’s going to deny that any issues exist in her household? Can that be used against dad later when he’s trying to increase parenting time? Is mom reasonable in saying that meetings with school personnel cannot take place without her because she has final decision making? Is there any recourse if mom continues to insist there are no issues and prohibit dad from meeting with anyone at the school without her? Any advice for the meeting this week?
Thank you in advance for reading this (I know it’s long!); any insight is welcomed.