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#1 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 12:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DH recently e-mailed his ex, asking her to stop talking/texting with DSS past bedtime on school nights. It's been a pretty persistent problem, so far this school year. DSS will pretend he's asleep, then later we'll discover he and his Mom were talking or exchanging messages, sometimes as late as 11. And it's clearly not her saying, "Honey, go to bed! It's late!" The other night, after we talked to him about not doing this and getting enough sleep, she called him sometime after 10. He did the right thing and didn't answer (which I think shows an amazing amount of restraint, for an 11-y-o in such a confusing situation!). But she texted him later, urging him to write her back! Honest to goodness, like some girlfriend telling him to talk under the covers, so his parents won't hear! WTH?

We've had to start taking DSS's phone, at bedtime. Of course, we feel squeamish about it, since confiscating his cell phone was one of the ways his Mom used to block contact with his Dad - and was one of the reasons for the custody change. (But she confiscated it permanently, not just after hours...) Naturally, this makes us look like the bad guys, compared to his "cool" Mom who sneaks around with him, after curfew... We had hoped to curb the problem by talking to him. Finally DH hoped to curb it by talking to her. I mean, what parent would say, "No! By golly, I'll talk to our kid however late I want to, on school nights!"

Well...um...DSS's Mom would! Again, WTH?

Evidently, she feels it's important for DSS to be able to come to her at any hour, with all the secrets and hardships of living with us and late at night is the only time he can get away from us and freely confide in her. Yes, her encouraging DSS to ignore our rules and stay up late on school nights "is a problem (DH) has created", by being so controlling and oppressive!

No joke, in one sentence she chastises DH for being too "permissive" and "letting" DSS be up so late on school nights, saying DH "needs to lay ground rules in his home as she does in hers"... Then in the very next sentence, she declares that if the only way DSS can speak freely with her is to "sneak" and bypass DH's rules, of course she will encourage him to do so!

Well, at least her attitude is in writing for once, instead of the usual behind-the-scenes sabotage we deal with, but can't prove to anyone.

While I'm ranting, I just have to add that it makes me want to when she responds to DH by tacking on this list of unrelated complaints, particularly about him "limiting her parenting time during visits", "threatening to deny her access to their son", etc. Are she and I sharing the same planet? She comes to visit for 10 days and DH asks that DSS check in at home one night and that she take him to whatever sports practice or classes he's enrolled in. Whereas, DH used to go visit for 10 days and she'd let him see DSS for 6 hours and write letters to block his access to DSS's school and activities! And those were the good months! Sometimes he got just 3 hours. Sometimes it was zero!

...deep breath......deep breath...

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#2 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 12:22 PM
 
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i am sorry you are going through this. Could you have your step son hand over his phone after a certain time? Have the phone go in the kitchen charging while he is supposed to be in bed.

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#3 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 02:19 PM
 
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IMO, it is perfectly reasonable to take the cell phone of an 11 yo at bedtime. Kids need sleep to do well in school and grow. In the end, you are doing what is best.

Every time I hear about your craziness, I am so thankful that we have a reasonably normal blended family.I don't know how you do it!

What does your DH do after receiving an email like that (that I am assuming will show up in court one day)? Ignore it? Calmly refute things?

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#4 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 02:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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i am sorry you are going through this. Could you have your step son hand over his phone after a certain time? Have the phone go in the kitchen charging while he is supposed to be in bed.
Yes. That is what we've been doing. But he will not go along with a simple, "At 9:30, remember to put your phone on the charger, in the kitchen, on your way to bed" plan. At some point every night, he goes and hides his phone under his pillow, as though if we don't see it when we're saying goodnight, we'll forget about it. Then when we ask him for it, he stalls with, "Why do you want it?" or "I wasn't going to use it, anyway. Look, I'll just leave it here on the bedside table. You don't have to take it out of my room." etc. Then we either have to be dismissive of his questions and demand the phone, or conduct the same conversation about why it shouldn't be in his room after bedtime, as though we've never discussed it before. And at that point - even though there's not drama, or yelling, or even excessive pouting, it has still become a power struggle.

There's the typical teen/pre-teen issue of "Don't you trust me?" (i.e., Can I distract my parents from the fact that I broke their rules, by playing on their moral ambivalence about whether they should snoop in my room - which is the only reason they know what I did?)

And then there's the silent elephant in the room (of which we're ALL aware, even DSS): That this is really a power struggle between his parents and he's being pressured to take a side. His Mom wants/needs him to behave as though living with us is akin to being imprisoned with the enemy and, until he can get back to her, he needs that phone as a constant lifeline; and nothing - not school, or grades, or sleep, or obeying his father - matters, next to hearing her voice, in secret, at night, when he finally gets to escape from our watchful eyes... Meanwhile, his Dad and I are giving him the conventional parental line that it's not healthy - physically or academically - to stay awake 'til 11, if he must get up at 6:30. And removing the temptation to stay up will help him do the right thing and go to sleep.

I'm pretty sure he knows we're right and that we love him; that we don't just want to control him. But his Mom's story line is more exciting and emotionally compelling. And he worries that she's sad and missing him. He feels guilty that he enjoys the very thing that makes her sad - namely, him living with us. And he knows if he's not part of her Lifetime-Afternoon-Movie vision, of "mother and son clawing their way back to each other after being separated by an evil father and the cruel courts"...then she'll be all alone in that...as she is, in many respects, all alone in her life.

SO... each time one of us holds out a hand to take his phone, he's forced to choose: betray his mother, by being obedient and accepting the good sense of not being available to communicate with her; or rebel against his father and rail against the removal of that lifeline to his mother, the way she expects him to... even though he knows his father's just trying to take good care of him.

It should be easy, but it's just not.

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#5 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 02:39 PM
 
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Just take the phone at night.

You are not making him choose between either parent, you are doing it so he can sleep. If you take the phone & let her know that it is going to be taken away at X time each night & gets it back at X time in the morning. DSS won't have to worry about responding to her texts at night or at betraying DH. I'm sure it stresses him out to do this texting thing at night.

no court is going to agree that she should be allowed to text him late at night or give her custody over it.

DSS can text her during the day & give any "secrets" and such then. I highly doubt you or DH are standing over his shoulder reading as he's texting.
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#6 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 03:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What does your DH do after receiving an email like that (that I am assuming will show up in court one day)? Ignore it? Calmly refute things?
First, he wrote back and calmly - and succinctly - refuted things.

(He did indulge in a little sarcasm. Since August, she's been complaining that he denies her access to information about DSS's school. Clearly, this is just another way that she hopes to pin him in court, for violating our state parenting guidelines. After forwarding the link to the school's web site to her more than once, he printed out items, such as the calendar, scanned and e-mailed them to her. In discussing the phone, she accused him again of blocking her access to information about DSS's school. He pointed out that he sent her the calendar, etc, "after you were unable to access them yourself, on the school's web site". But that was the worst thing he said.)

When she wrote back, with even more vitriol, he just responded with something like, "Clearly, we are unable to come to resolution on this, so it's pointless for us to continue the back-and-forth." I think he ends a lot of their e-mail exchanges that way. It's kind of a double-edged sword. He assumes discussing things with her will not produce any positive result. Yet, if he just takes things directly to court, a judge will legitimately ask, "Why didn't you try to address this directly with her?"

One woman in a house full of men:  my soul mate:  partners.gif  orfencing.gif... twin sons:lurk.giflurk.gif(HS juniors) ... step-son: guitar.gif (a freshman) ... our little man: kid.gif  (a kindergartener) ... and there is another female in the house, after all:  ourdog2.gif. 
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#7 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 06:11 PM
 
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Would it be possible to give him a reminder? Like "It's an hour before bedtime... so you might want to call your mom before your phone goes away for the night. Bring the phone to your dad when your done, thanks." It's be harder for him to buy into the story that his dad is trying to cut her out of his life when he's been encouraged to call while he still had plenty of time to do so.

~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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#8 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 07:58 PM
 
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Does your dh have full custody of his son. If so he needs to step and say "Son, give me your phone." end of discussion. It goes in your bedroom until it is phone time again, which for my 10 year old is after school and even then she has to ask permission to use it. even to call her dad. And she better not back talk me about it. End of discussion. but since there is some weirdness with the xw (to put it mildly. That woman sounds ...um....unstable.) it is going to have to be your husband. He needs to be a parent and make rules and boundaries and stick to them. Honestly I don't think there is a judge on the planet who would fault him for saying "no phone after bedtime." And what is his mom going to do? Take you to court for not letting him stay up and talk all night? You are not just saying "no mom" you are saying "no phone". If they want to talk they will have to do it during reasonable hours. Perhaps have your dh send her an email saying " This is when he is allowed to use the phone. after that call on the home phone/adult phone. I will remind him to call you before he goes to bed." There is nothing wrong with doing that. And I really like what Mummoth said about "Do you want to call your mom before bed? If so do it now" That way you are even encouraging contact while still maintaining sane phone rules.

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#9 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 08:48 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Jeannine View Post
SO... each time one of us holds out a hand to take his phone, he's forced to choose: betray his mother, by being obedient and accepting the good sense of not being available to communicate with her; or rebel against his father and rail against the removal of that lifeline to his mother, the way she expects him to... even though he knows his father's just trying to take good care of him.

It should be easy, but it's just not.
My bolding. Ultimately, THIS is the message he needs to get... "I can rely on Dad and Jeannine to take good care of me. And when life is confusing and I'm feeling pressure from other people to do things that I know in my heart are wrong, I can rely on them to know what is right and to help me sort that out."

In the same way we don't give into toddlers when they have a temper tantrum and we offer kids healthy food choices instead of fruit roll ups and Lunchables for for every meal, we are doing the sometimes very hard work of teaching kids that we are reliable and trustworthy and will keep them physically and emotionally safe, even when what is right and healthy is not what is fun and popular.

I know that you KNOW all this, it's just hard to remember it under the weight of all the other baggage around the situation. I think if you can keep it in mind, though, and consistently talk to him about it from that perspective it will be easier to enforce the cell phone rule and feel good about the message he is hearing when you do it.

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#10 of 17 Old 10-05-2010, 11:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies, everyone!

I posted this because I get so flabbergasted by the things she says. I mean, what reasonable response was there to DH's e-mail, except silence or "Gosh! With the time difference, sometimes I don't realize how late I'm calling. I'll pay more attention,"? But, "You're just trying to control us and this is a gross abuse of your custodial authority"?!?! Really?

But I'm not worried that we're out of line, taking his phone at bedtime, nor that a judge would disapprove. There are other things I fear his ex-wife will successfully misrepresent, in her effort to regain custody, but not this. In fact, serendipitously, this e-mail exchange might prove helpful someday, to show that she undermines DH as a parent - even from thousands of miles away (much less when she has custody!) - and that some of her sympathetic sound bites ("He intercepts my messages to my son and refuses to let him speak with me!") are very twisted distortions of reality!

Lilyka, my husband does have sole legal and physical custody. And, of the two adults in our home, he is the one determining how to raise and discipline his child. But realistically, we have 4 kids in our home and it's not like DSS's Mom is here to do her share of the parenting EOW. So there are definitely times that it's me collecting DSS's phone at bedtime (or taking him shopping, or driving him to practice, or going out for a milkshake with him), just as sometimes it is DH packing lunch for MY older kids, or checking their homework, or correcting them when they're rude. It would be difficult for our big family to function - and for us to really feel like family - if everything were strictly divided by biology. We eased into it. But it works.

Mummoth, we do usually remind him to call his Mom, at least 1/2-hr. before bedtime. Sometimes he jumps right on it. Sometimes, he called her earlier that day. Other times, he may go into his room and get distracted and not wind up calling her. We don't nag, since they usually talk (at reasonable hours!) every day or two. And, when he neglects to call her, she may go days without calling him - so it's not like he's failing to return a bunch of her calls. I think his resistance to us taking his phone at night is less about feeling desperate to talk to her (that's just how she portrays it) and more about him testing boundaries: Do we have the authority to take something that belongs to him, that his mother bought, especially if she told him to keep it beside his bed all night and warned him we'd try to take it from him? Plus, the emotional ties I mentioned before. Heck, in his shoes, I'd wonder what the boundaries are and who's really in charge!

And Aricha, you're right, as usual!

One woman in a house full of men:  my soul mate:  partners.gif  orfencing.gif... twin sons:lurk.giflurk.gif(HS juniors) ... step-son: guitar.gif (a freshman) ... our little man: kid.gif  (a kindergartener) ... and there is another female in the house, after all:  ourdog2.gif. 
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#11 of 17 Old 10-06-2010, 08:09 PM
 
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I see. When she says crazy stuff smile, nod, file the email away (literally, in case you need them) and go on with parenting in a way that makes sense to your family. Set boundaries (about the phone, about obedience, about whatever) and stick to them. What you are thinking and expecting with regards to the phone and communicating with his mom is perfectly reasonable and quite generous actually.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#12 of 17 Old 10-06-2010, 08:35 PM
 
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I really think at age 11 he's old enough to hear-from dad-: "It's not ok for Mom to
encourage you to break our rules. The phone goes in dad's room at Xpm and you can get it in the morning. If that's hard to remember, I'll come get it. No biggie, thanks, we love you, etc.

I wouldn't even get into it with XW, honestly. It's a losing battle, and the PP is right-no court is going to give a hoot about this.

Just keep the emotion out of it, matter of fact and straightforward, and pass the peas.

Sounds like she's a doozy...good luck!

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#13 of 17 Old 10-06-2010, 08:58 PM
 
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I think it would be perfectly reasonable for a parent of a child even older to keep the charger in the livingroom or kitchen and say "when you go to bed, leave your phone on the charger" which is out of their room. Tell her what time bedtime is, and if she calls after said time, oh well, phone's in the kitchen so he won't even hear it. If she absolutely needs to talk to him, which I doubt would ever happen, she can call the house first, talk to you or his father, you determine whether it's worth waking him up 4. End of story.
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#14 of 17 Old 10-06-2010, 09:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Jeannine View Post
I think his resistance to us taking his phone at night is less about feeling desperate to talk to her (that's just how she portrays it) and more about him testing boundaries: Do we have the authority to take something that belongs to him, that his mother bought, especially if she told him to keep it beside his bed all night and warned him we'd try to take it from him? Plus, the emotional ties I mentioned before. Heck, in his shoes, I'd wonder what the boundaries are and who's really in charge!

I'm not the parent of a pre-teen yet, but if you think its more of a testing boundaries thing (which I'm sure it is - but it may not be about testing the ones you think. I'm sure at 11 he knows and understands that dad has sole custody, and makes the rules - he may just want to see what he can get away with in general, and as he gets older he's going to use the phone to talk to other people at night, not just mom) I think your dh and you should explain all of this to him. Say, "Yes, we can take your phone. We understand that your mother gave it to you so that you can be in contact with her alot. We want you to be in contact with her frequently, but after bedtime is not a good time for you to talk to her. So we need the phone on the charger in our room/living room/kitchen/wherever after bedtime."

If you spell if out for him, it might be taken a bit better. And, I know that by the time my brothers were 11 or 12 they had stopped talking to my parents alot. I mean, they talked, there wasn't major amounts of fighting or anything, my brothers just didn't do alot of cluing them in as to what was going on in their teenage brains. To counterbalance this, my mom did LOTS of talking to them, even when they didn't respond. She even tells me that she talked through bedroom doors sometimes b/c my brothers wouldn't talk to her!

But, it worked, b/c they are now 26 and 23 and very close to my mom.
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#15 of 17 Old 10-07-2010, 05:30 PM
 
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I once was a young teen caught between two parents. I sort of felt it was my duty to comply with whatever craziness they wanted from me, and also to push for my own independence just in case I needed to be able not to count on them--but when they did manage to set limits, or circumstances made it impossible for me to take part in their dramas, I was always tremendously, secretly relieved and would sleep so well at night.
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#16 of 17 Old 10-07-2010, 09:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I once was a young teen caught between two parents. I sort of felt it was my duty to comply with whatever craziness they wanted from me, and also to push for my own independence just in case I needed to be able not to count on them--but when they did manage to set limits, or circumstances made it impossible for me to take part in their dramas, I was always tremendously, secretly relieved and would sleep so well at night.
Gosh, as a stepmother who really loves this kid and sees tremendous potential in him, if he doesn't get sucked into having major emotional problems... what you said is so great to hear!

One woman in a house full of men:  my soul mate:  partners.gif  orfencing.gif... twin sons:lurk.giflurk.gif(HS juniors) ... step-son: guitar.gif (a freshman) ... our little man: kid.gif  (a kindergartener) ... and there is another female in the house, after all:  ourdog2.gif. 
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#17 of 17 Old 10-09-2010, 12:11 AM
 
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Why not just make a family rule that ALL cell phones (including yours and Dad's) go in chargers in the kitchen (or whatever room) at X:YYpm? That ensures that everyone has a charged phone in the morning, so everyone can reach who they need to reach. It doesn't single him out. Seems like the easiest solution.
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