Hello, I used to frequent Mothering when my kids were smaller, but being busier than I can handle most days has prevented me from being here much. I just realized today though, what a wonderful and supportive community I once had here, especially with respect to being a single mom and the support I was given by other voices. So here I am again with a need for words, advice, or even just thoughts.
I have been a single mom for eight years, I have an eight year old and a twelve year old, and their dad lives in a different city (Canada). I am going to make this short because I want to get to the point without going through much history, but there is a court order that states they have one overnight visit with him (in our city at a hotel) every other weekend, and this has been in place just over a year. Both of my children dislike sleepovers very much, they aren't comfortable with them yet, and have never had a sleep over with him. My daughter tried once after the ruling was made, but was in tears and was very uncomfortable and came home. They don't have a close relationship with him, and it has always been a struggle to maintain any kind of relationship between them. I have supported their choices and so has he, thankfully, not to have the overnight visits. Up until now. My son hasn't even been going on the visits for the last 8 months because he doesn't feel a connection or comfort with his dad, and developed a great anxiety around it, and neither myself nor his dad has pushed this. We have always respected how they feel and want them to go on the visit because they want to, not because they are being forced to.
Now, their dad has told me that he wants to have the overnights enforced by both of us, and feels that his relationship is suffering because that isn't happening. I believe their relationship is suffering because he just doesn't have anything to do with them or their lives outside of the two days that he comes every month or two (which is what has happened despite the court order which is fine with the kids), and the fact that he never calls them, and has always been a difficult person to be around for them. But now, he wants them to start staying overnight. My daughter doesn't want to, is adamant about that, and my son doesn't even want to visit at all, let alone go overnight. But their dad is being stubborn so far, and I'm not sure how to deal with this. I don't want to go back to court if I can avoid it, but I also don't feel that this is right.
Does my daughter have a right to say no now that she is 12, and he has to listen to that? And how does one respect the father's wishes but also respect their child's right to say no for themselves... this is their visit, and I don't feel that spending the night should be forced on them, they have a right to say they don't want that. I'm having a hard time with this one.
Thank you for reading. Any thoughts would help.
What if you ask him to first demonstrate more initiative to rebuild the bond? (eg phone calls, etc). I assume you have been documenting the access time he has turned down. It's natural for kids to emotionally distance themselves from people who are not nice to them and who appear to be rejecting them.
I'd be really curious to know what a lawyer might say about this.
My advice would be to talk with your ex and maybe have the kids see a counselor. Maybe your ex would be willing to give up the overnights if could see them every weekend for a visit instead of every other. Good luck, I know first hand how stressful this can be.