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post #21 of 42
Dear OP, thank you for writing back. I felt a lot of the responses were not really thought out. It turned into moving away is unjustified and those who move away are doing it for selfish reasons. I think just being loving to your daughter and saying, we are doing the best we can and want to see you as much as we can. At one time in my life I moved away with just my younger daughter leaving my ex and my oldest boy overseas. I felt my son needed to graduate from that high school and my daughter needed to be in an American school where under age drinking and sex are frowned on. There were thousands of miles between me and my son, and he didn't like it but as an adult he understands now that sometimes it is for the greater good, in this case his sister not being in an environment where she could be taken advantage of. Good for you for standing up for yourself. With children, all adults involved need to put the good of the child first instead of their need for control over every aspect of a child's life. Divorce is horrible but it doesn't have to be horrible for our kids. Flexibilty, forbearance and compassion are three things that divorced parents need to practice. I know you know these things but am just mentioning them for others here that are not yet in the step parent blended family boat.
post #22 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by aricha View Post
It would be helpful if, should you feel like giving me advice, you would start from a place of assuming that we are loving, stable, responsible parents doing the absolute best we can with the hand we've been dealt and putting the interests of our children above all else, with the interests of our step-daughter always above all else... even when it doesn't seem like it from where you are sitting.
Such a novel concept!

When faced with questions like this come at us, my DH and I use a stock answer about grown up decisions.
post #23 of 42
Where I live, if there is a custody order in place, nobody would get away with moving a child away from the other parent. ITA with the poster who said that is a quick way to become a noncustodial parent.

And, I can't imagine my DD's dad moving far away and being unable to see her frequently as a result. She would be heartbroken. I stay here so she can have relationships with both her parents, and that involves sacrifice from me; I feel he owes her the same. Why should it be any different?
post #24 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtiger View Post
The child likely also has a routine in place for school days, and those "extra" days that Dad's there disrupts the routine. I'm not sure I'd be thrilled with that, either. Especially if *I* then had to deal with the fallout.

Is it a shame that the little girl has a more limited amount of time to her Daddy? Sure, it is. But... Daddy's the one who created that limitation.
In my experience, routine is nothing compared to spending more time with a parent. Dss's mother moved away and it broke his heart. The courts told us to get over it. It is what it is. Now, how do we make sure dss is happy and conected to both parents given the fact that she lives very far away, is rather flakey, and shows up randomly? I can't imagine making dss continue on with his routine (afterschool YMCA, karate lessons, Wednesday playdate, etc.) when his mom was in town just waiting to spend time with him. There's nothing he'd want more. Keep in mind, I don't like this woman, I think she is a nut, and it bugs me to no end that she moved away. Still. Dss wants to see her and he is happier with her more in his life.

However, I think the OP's question was how to tell the dss. I guess I'd ask the mother what she'd like me to say. Or, I might say, "That is what the custody arrangement says."
post #25 of 42
Thread Starter 
I'm just having trouble with some of the logic in some of the replies...

My step-daughter didn't do anything to create the situation she is in. I'm having trouble with the logic that says that HE chose to move, so SHE shouldn't be allowed to see him while he is there. I don't want to raise a child with the world view that if someone does something that hurts you, you should just suffer the consequences and not take actions available to you to make it better... or that you should make sure that person suffers regardless of who else gets hurt in the process.

I'm also having trouble with the fact that people who are willing to sacrifice careers, relationships, family, education, financial advancement, and their other children for the sake of their child are not willing to put forth the effort required to help their child manage a change in routine, or to be incovenienced by a change in their own life so the child can see their other parent.

I understand the logic "He made me suffer, so he should suffer, too." And if she can find some ways to make him suffer that don't involve making her daughter suffer, then I say go for it. Believe me, I spent a lot of time wanting her to suffer for what she did to us... but I wouldn't make my step-daughter suffer for a decision her mother made. We're the parents, and we can get over ourselves and claim our own baggage for the sake of our children... and if we can't, we should get some help to do it so that we can keep our children's interests first and not make them pawns in our relationships.
post #26 of 42
I think you hit the nail on the head, OP. Our children are not pawns in our power struggles and that is what I have been saying all along. They are our gift to be loved, enjoyed, and raised and protected as best we can. They are not just a gift to one parent, but a gift to both. It is not about what we as parents feel, such as he/she shouldn't have moved away, he/she shouldn't have divorced me, he/she should suffer the consequences of moving. No one suffers but the child when we start thinking so much about fairness to ourselves or about what we are entitiled to. As ex's we are entitled to politeness, information, kindness and not being talked badly about, timely delivery of CS (if we are CP) and visitation (if we are NCP). Both parents should feel their children are safe when in the other's care. We are not entitled to make decisions that keep a sound parent from seeing their child. We are not always entitled to convenience or what is the absolute best for us at any given time. Even parents that are still together are inconvenienced at times by each other and their children and many of us have sacrificed in our marriages to have a give and take that benefits the family as a whole. Why is this ability gone when we divorce or separate? IMO it goes because we let bitterness take its place and a subtle one up manship of how we should be treated goes to the forefront. We mirror our own feelings on to our children, and many times they become our mouthpieces to the world. I want my children to be flexible and loving to both parents even though personally I can't stand my ex. They didn't divorce their dad, I did. They still need and want his presence and don't need me standing in the way of a continued relationship. I would never presume to, as I treat my ex how I want to be treated, with respect, kindness, flexibility as well as good boundaries. Both boundaries and flexiblity are possible when wanting to be first is laid aside.
post #27 of 42
I haven't seen any details about how the other child would be 'sacrificed' by having remained closer to your step daughter? Since you've mentioned that a few times I'm curious.

ITA about children not being 'pawns in power games.' But OTOH I think it is not the most reasonable thing to move 3000 miles away and then expect to be accommodated no matter what the effects on the routine or the custodial family, whenever you happen to randomly return to town. Kwim?

I mean, I would probably accommodate my daughter's father, as much as possible, as long as there was no hostility, because one of the saving graces for me when we did have hostility in our relationship was predicting when I would have to deal with him. But I don't know what's going on with your DSD's mother, why she is making the choices she is, and I'm not seeing acceptance of responsibility from you, the OP, for having created this situation by moving so far away. It's just as though that is a given and the responsibility should fall to the mother to accomodate your partner's unpredictable availability. I don't see that as a fair solution.
post #28 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by mama41 View Post

Angilyn, I'm 40, and went back to work recently after a few years off the market entirely, and before that a long history of part-time work. I work in a field where I had no prior experience. Most low-level admin/mgmt jobs don't require much if any prior experience; that's why you see 25-year-old managers in retail stores. 50s are certainly tougher, esp for men, and esp if there is no BA, but I used to see my community college students swing it. Lose the farm, get a job driving truck and go to school at night to retrain. Accountancy was a favorite, and yes, they got jobs in the end. In any case, it's a bit of a reach to say that any American has to move thousands of miles to make enough to live on and pay c/s. To get a job in a particular field, yes. To get a job, no.

As for the kids' mom, you're sure she'd really want your dh to move out of her kids' daily lives so that she could keep the house? If so, she must not think much of their relationship. There's no love lost between me and XH, but if it was necessary to camp out in a small apt so dd could still have two parents around, that's what we'd be doing.
You don't know my Dss's mom, so please don't make assumptions. Of course she doesn't think much about their relationship, that has been one of our on going problems. Her house and money are everything to her to the point of great debt. If going back to school or anything of the other things you mentioned were an option at all, my Dh would have already done it as he is a very concientious person and very caring for his family's well being. Not all options work for all people's situations and yours would have had us in a very bad situation, living with his mom far from Dss, possible bankruptcy, and still owing the lawyer for trying to get CS lowered and owing bio mom for back CS. Maybe it would have even caused our divorce due to financial stresses. Good for your college students though, however, they were not in our situation.
post #29 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flor View Post
In my experience, routine is nothing compared to spending more time with a parent. Dss's mother moved away and it broke his heart. The courts told us to get over it. It is what it is. Now, how do we make sure dss is happy and conected to both parents given the fact that she lives very far away, is rather flakey, and shows up randomly? I can't imagine making dss continue on with his routine (afterschool YMCA, karate lessons, Wednesday playdate, etc.) when his mom was in town just waiting to spend time with him. There's nothing he'd want more. Keep in mind, I don't like this woman, I think she is a nut, and it bugs me to no end that she moved away. Still. Dss wants to see her and he is happier with her more in his life.

However, I think the OP's question was how to tell the dss. I guess I'd ask the mother what she'd like me to say. Or, I might say, "That is what the custody arrangement says."
It's a tough call. If the parent who moved away is a real flake, or has some sort of serious problems that makes him or her deeply irresponsible and you know it can't get better, I can see bending and bringing the parent in to see the child in some supervised environment. Otherwise, I still think it's a poor idea to teach children to get up and run for people who aren't treating them in a respectful manner. My father lives far away and has health issues that prevent him from traveling out here often. Still, when he's here, he never asks to step on our daily life. If my XH wants to give up time with dd so that she can see her grandpa, that's very nice of him, but nobody asks him to do it. My dad doesn't ask or want me to take dd out of her regular routine, lessons, etc. to see him; he and his wife spent time in town till we're done, and then they meet us. He's also careful to avoid visiting when I have heavy deadlines coming up. In other words, he respects the fact that he lives far away and we have a life here, and he doesn't come in shouting, "Hey, I'm here! I'm more important! My relationship with my granddaughter is more important than whatever you all have got going on!" And I respect and appreciate that greatly.

When I was a girl, my favorite aunt was a hippie with, as it turned out, some serious problems. She lived near my grandma. Sometimes, when I was in bed at my grandma's, I'd hear my aunt at the door, wanting to see me. And I'd jump out of bed. My grandma would tell my aunt to go away, sometimes, and come back another day, and I'd go back to bed feeling the separation. Much later, I understood why she'd kept my aunt away from me and why she'd been right to do so.

angilyn, it sounds like you made a difficult decision. I will say, though, that separating from a 16- or 17-year-old is very different from separating from a 5-year-old. When I was 17 I'd already been at college for two years and overseas on my own. I said "bye" to my parents at the airport and didn't look back. I can't imagine his moving away when I was five, though. When I was five he was my favorite person in the whole entire world, and I was still more or less figuring on marrying him. And that's just him -- mix in a stepfamily's leaving too, and I can't begin to imagine.

One thing this board is teaching me is the value of being very careful of acquiring competing interests after divorce when children are involved. In ways I wouldn't have imagined a year ago, I see that it would be wise to build this home for my daughter very stable and strong, with strong community ties, and without bringing in new men or new children while she's growing up. The norm appears to be to accept a long string of disruptions, breaks, and upheavals throughout the children's early years, and to expect the children will be resilient throughout. I wonder how much that has contributed to the unprecedented rates of serious childhood mental illness that exist now. In any case, if what I'm hearing here is representative, then having a fixed pole sounds like a good idea.

Incidentally, re the situation the OP asked about, if the mother is not likely to allow irregular visitation, I'd be very careful not to tell the child that her father is in town until the mother has said yes to the extra time, and not to make it appear that he is available to see her during other nonscheduled times.
post #30 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by aricha View Post
I'm also having trouble with the fact that people who are willing to sacrifice careers, relationships, family, education, financial advancement, and their other children for the sake of their child are not willing to put forth the effort required to help their child manage a change in routine, or to be incovenienced by a change in their own life so the child can see their other parent.
Aricha, I don't know the particulars of your dsd's mother's situation. I can tell you, though, that after several years of being at the whip end of my XH's abrupt and unilateral decisions, there are many things I will no longer accommodate. If he makes a decision, for instance, that leaves him unable to see our daughter as much, both of them will have to live with that decision, unless there is some advantage to me in changing the visitation arrangement. I am done with disrupting my life, and damaging my work and reputation, to accommodate him and his irresponsible behavior. I understand it may be hard for him to arrange work and school so that it accommodates his visitation time. However, I've manage to arrange my school and work well enough to keep dd out of fulltime daycare, and I'll continue to manage them so that I can leave work midday and pick her up from school daily, since it's on my watch and no one else is available to do it. If I can do these things, he can figure out something, too.

I find that when I stick to these terms, XH learns and lives within the rules. When I chronically accommodate, he very quickly learns to walk all over me. Why can't I just be a doormat for the good of the child? Well, first because I don't think it really is for her good (see next para), and second because I am the custodial parent. I do the work of maintaining the child's home and most of the work of raising her. That means I also need stability, regularity, rest. If I am stressed, that's no good for dd. I'm sure that if I were raising a 5-year-old whose father and entire stepfamily had just picked up and moved away for good, I would already be living with considerable stress. I would not allow XH to stress me further by dealing with requests for schedule changes.

As for why it wouldn't be so good for dd to chronically accommodate schedule changes: It is a matter of responsibility, and in that sense it has to do with childrearing, too. The larger lesson for the child is that if you are irresponsible, you cannot expect others to drop what they're doing to save the day, and you may not only lose out but cause real pain. In this case, the father does have regular visitation, and the child will see him then. I would also say it's irresponsible to imply to the child that she can see him outside schedule times before the mother has agreed.

I would agree with the pp about not hearing a willingness to accept responsibility for having forced a large change already, or willingness to live within the rules set up by that entirely voluntary change.
post #31 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by angilyn View Post
Good for your college students though, however, they were not in our situation.
No, I don't believe they were, custodywise; I believe they were married, but I don't know what number marriage those marriages might have been (there was one widower with mostly-grown children). They were by and large bankrupt, though, and you could tell they were deeply ashamed of it. The farm crises are still not over.

As for college, increasingly there are online courses available -- I know there are good colleges in Texas that provide a lot of online instruction, but of course for online schools you can go anywhere. Increasingly "real" colleges are doing online courses, which is good, because then you don't risk losing your investment when a shady operation shuts down, and your degree means something in the end. (If I do a PhD, it will almost certainly be remote.) Federal loans do not take prior debt into account, so they're available regardless of credit history, and financial-hardship deferments are available for the payback. So don't give up there.
post #32 of 42
Thread Starter 
I don't disagree with a lot of what was said... if a father were to pick up and move 3000 miles away for no good reason with no thought to anyone else and no notice, then breeze into town now and again, unpredictibly, without notice and expect that the child be pulled from her normal life and schedule here and there at his convenience so he can spend time with her on his schedule with no regard for anyone else...well, I would absolutely agree that the custodial parent should step up and help to provide some stability for the child and set some boundaries in order to do so. In fact, reading the post as though I am reading about someone else's situation, I find a lot I agree with.

So I only disagree in that the same logic applied to this fictional irresponsible flake of a father is being applied to our extremely different situation or any number of other extremely different situations. Again, I'm not going to contradict all the individual details that make this fictional situation so different from our real one, or go quote every post that makes an inaccurate assumption and set the record straight... suffice it to say that the characters and history of this fictional scenario that we seem to be examining doesn't even begin to resemble those of the people and histories actually involved in my step-daughters life. You're just going to have to trust me on that one, I guess.

As for what we are teaching our children through our own actions, that's a difference in parenting styles and the values that are important in our individual families, as well as probably experience and personal histories. If my parents come to town, they accompany the kids to their activities and lessons, take them out on special dates, pick them up from school early... heck, my father-in-law lives 20 minutes away but doesn't see the kids very often... if he wants to see the kids I say, by all means, pick them up from school and take them out for the day... they'll love it! But I have a different personality, a different history, a different temperment, a different family, a different set of values than others... and I am raising kids with different temperments, different histories, and different family situations than others. So the choices I make for them are going to be different than the choices other people make, and I can absolutely respect that... just so long as they can refrain from judging me for teaching my children the values and perspective that are important to me.

So as far as that goes, we are all different people raising different children in different situations, and our perspectives and choices are going to be different... That doesn't make one person's way "right" and one person's way "wrong"... more likely it makes one way "right" for one person's situation and a totally different way "right" for someone else's.
post #33 of 42
Thread Starter 
Okay, after hearing a story today from my husband, I will just share that from my step-daughter's perspective, her father did not move away and leave her. When we moved out here, she came with us. As far as she is concerned she moved to Vermont last summer and goes back to California to go to school. She lives in two places, just like she always has... in her words "sometimes I live in Vermont and sometimes I live in California." HE didn't move away, SHE moved, too.

When she heard that a California classmate was moving to New Hampshire at the end of the school year she told him "I moved last summer, too! Maybe I'll see you when I go to my house to Vermont." She wasn't totally sure why he wasn't going to be in her class next year though because "you can live in New Hampshire and still be in my class. That's what I do."

Man, I love that kid!
post #34 of 42
When I was a rookie stepmom (dh has full custody) I really did feel "Well, it wasn't my choice so why should I have to bend/accomodate/etc." "She decided to do X so why should I have to do Y?" Why? Because of dss. I had to be honest with myself about the importance of routine. I talked it, but I had to be honest. If grandma wanted to take the kids out to pizza would I let dss miss karate? Yes. If my best friend was visiting and all wanted to go out to dinner would I let dss stay up a little on a school night? Yes. If my dad wanted to pick dss up from school and take him to McDonalds would I let dss do his homework at a later time? Yes. If my parents wanted to take us to Disneyland would I let dss miss a day or two of school? Yes. So why did I feel so put out when his mother had a surprise extra day in town and wanted to pick up dss after school? Why did I suddenly feel like routine and stability were the most important thing in a childs life, especially a child like dss who had had such an unstable babyhood. . . well, you can figure that out, I'm sure. When dss spends more time with with his mom, he's a happier kid. Not happy like he got chocolate cake for dinner, but happier like more content, more stable, more calm, more sure of himself, more loved-- even though she's a flake and addict. It isn't my business to teach her a lesson. I think it is ok to show dss that we make accomadations for our families. That it's ok to go out of your way for a loved one. I don't want to be a doormat, but I think you can bend and go with the flow without being a doormat.
post #35 of 42
I have been reading Flor's posts since long before she was Flor and I always take great inspiration and comfort from them. I still really think you should write a manual.
post #36 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flor View Post
When I was a rookie stepmom (dh has full custody) I really did feel "Well, it wasn't my choice so why should I have to bend/accomodate/etc." "She decided to do X so why should I have to do Y?" Why? Because of dss. I had to be honest with myself about the importance of routine. I talked it, but I had to be honest. If grandma wanted to take the kids out to pizza would I let dss miss karate? Yes. If my best friend was visiting and all wanted to go out to dinner would I let dss stay up a little on a school night? Yes. If my dad wanted to pick dss up from school and take him to McDonalds would I let dss do his homework at a later time? Yes. If my parents wanted to take us to Disneyland would I let dss miss a day or two of school? Yes. So why did I feel so put out when his mother had a surprise extra day in town and wanted to pick up dss after school? Why did I suddenly feel like routine and stability were the most important thing in a childs life, especially a child like dss who had had such an unstable babyhood. . . well, you can figure that out, I'm sure. When dss spends more time with with his mom, he's a happier kid. Not happy like he got chocolate cake for dinner, but happier like more content, more stable, more calm, more sure of himself, more loved-- even though she's a flake and addict. It isn't my business to teach her a lesson. I think it is ok to show dss that we make accomadations for our families. That it's ok to go out of your way for a loved one. I don't want to be a doormat, but I think you can bend and go with the flow without being a doormat.
I completely agree with this. And, at least in our case, we don't really take the kids out of their routine anyway. If we're in town and it's time to go to soccer practice or dance class, we take them. We don't take them out of class early and we do get them to bed on time. Routines can be kept even with visitors.

Also, I try to think of it this way: Even now, as an adult, with a life and things to do and a routine and stability and independence, if either of my parents came to town for any reason and I couldn't see them, or could only see them for two hours over a few days, I'd be furious! I imagine that's going to be magnified for a small child.
post #37 of 42
Well put, Flor.
post #38 of 42
Flor et al,

You must consider that your husband's ex has a very different history with him than you have. What you may view as "bending" may, in the context of their shared history, be "doormat". You must also keep in mind that you're not in a position to judge whether or not that's reasonable.

Violet, it is not responsible to intimate to a child that she might see you outside the times specified in a custodial agreement until the other parent has agreed. Particularly if it's going to be a big deal. You risk setting the child up for major disappointment, and you also risk unfairly turning the other parent into the bad guy.

That's why I won't ask my XH to give up his visitation when my father visits, and why I won't volunteer his time. It's a little thing called respect. I'm fully cognizant of the visitation schedule, and I can plan our time with my father around XH's visitation.

It works the other way, too. Dd and I went on a short trip recently, and she missed her dad so much she wanted to stay over at his place for two nights instead of one. I told her that it was all right with me but only if he wasn't busy, and that I could not say yes for him, and she could not beg if he said no. As it happened, he was busy, and that was that.

aricha, I'm glad your dsd views the situation that way. That's got to help considerably. Now: Try thinking about what sort of reinforcement she must get at home to maintain that view, considering that she's five and has gone months wihtout seeing you. Consider that there is still probably quite a bit of day-to-day fallout in which she just misses you guys terribly -- fallout which her mother must handle and live with. Consider also that her mother has had to change her life considerably in response to your actions on behalf of your own children, whatever your motivation. (I am sure she believed her running off with the child, years ago, was also justified.)

Perhaps, given all that, you can let go of the idea that she's behaved shockingly, and owed it to your dh and her daughter to say "yes" to whatever custody exceptions were convenient for your dh the week he was in town for court. Forest, trees.
post #39 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by mama41 View Post
Flor et al,

Violet, it is not responsible to intimate to a child that she might see you outside the times specified in a custodial agreement until the other parent has agreed. Particularly if it's going to be a big deal. You risk setting the child up for major disappointment, and you also risk unfairly turning the other parent into the bad guy.
I totally agree, and this is (I think) the heart of aricha's original question. I read her question as asking how NOT to intimate that she might see you when she knows you're in town. As in, Mom allows him, say, 2 hours Monday and 2 hours Wednesday. Well, after Monday, she definitely knows Dad is in town, and is asking to spend the night, and asking to see him on Tuesday, for example. Aricha's question as I read it was what can they tell DSD so they are not blaming Mom or setting DSD up to feel ignored.
post #40 of 42
Thread Starter 
Mama41, clearly our view of the situation is far too different to see it from one anothers' perspective. I am having trouble considering things from the perspective you are offering because there are too many assumptions that are incorrect and phrasing that paints a very different picture than what is, in fact, real... so much so that I can't get past them to find what may very well be wisdom and truth in what you are saying. And I don't believe that any more I have to say will give you a more accurate picture of the situation or even persuade you that your picture may be inaccurate.

So I thank you and everyone else for the conversation and for the opportunity to examine my beliefs and apply other people's experiences and ideas to my situation. When I posted my question I was looking for help with a specific question and had no idea that it would lead where it did. I found a lot of opinions that I agree with and a lot that I don't, but I stuck with it because I thought it was important to deal with the issues it was bringing up rather than to shut out opinions I didn't agree with. At this point I feel like, at least for me, it has gone as far as it is going to go and I have little more to be gained from continuing this thread any longer.

So, with that. I will see you on another thread! I think I'll stick to giving advice for a while rather than asking for it
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