After viewing DSS's lackluster interim report, DH's ex has emailed him, asking what the two of them can do, as partners, to help DSS?
(Just to set the stage here, DSS is 11 and in his 1st year - 6th grade - at a pretty challenging private school. He lives with us. His mom moved some 2,000 miles away. She does, on occasion, use very pretty, cooperative-sounding language. But generally it is at odds with her behavior and meant to impress a third party - say a judge or custodial evaluator - with whom she plans to share copies of her correspondence...)
DH is considering how to respond to her and asked for my thoughts. Hmmm.... How about:
Our son still struggles with the poor study habits and sneakiness (lying about finishing his homework, doctoring his assignment notebook...) that began in early grade school, when he lived with you.
I can only guess at the root of the problem, since back then you did everything you could to block my access to him and his schools. But...
>> It's possible that your own lying, distortion, manufacturing evidence and circumventing court orders, to get what you want - and pressuring or manipulating your loved ones, including our son, to back you up - might have contributed to his sense that it's OK - and even clever - to lie to his parents and teachers about his school work, as long as he succeeds in avoiding assignments he doesn't like.
>> When you discovered he wasn't doing his homework at after-school care, perchance it was a bad idea to arrange for him to do a whole week's workload every weekend. Sure, it saved you the headache of having to supervise his homework, during your work week. But he learned nothing about managing his time. And it fueled his general perception that homework is always overwhelming... even if he buckles down and plows through it, it'll still take up all his play time, so he may as well dawdle!
Jeannine and I knock ourselves out, to figure out how to help him unlearn these habits and work to his potential. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes he slips back and we try something new. This isn't as simple as fixing a bad hair cut. It's a long-term process. Keep in mind there's a harder grading scale, at his current school. At his old schools, the percentages he's currently earning would translate to grades one or two marks higher. So, he's performing as well or better than he ever has - not worse.
As far as you helping...in all honesty, it hasn't felt like you were any sort of "partner" to me, in parenting him, since he was about six months old. What are you offering to do?
* Since I got custody 3 years ago, you haven't set foot inside his school.
* You've never introduced yourself to any of his teachers, even online, although I've provided you all their contact info.
* The rare times you've been in town during the school week, you've refused to volunteer in his classrooms, chaperone field trips, or take him to any of the special family activities at his school, outside school hours.
* You've never once hosted a play-date with one of his new school friends, although I gave you their parents' contact info.
* During one of your longer visits, he acted up in school and was suspended. Instead of disciplining him, you took the position that HIS TEACHER lied, not him - even though he admitted to the principal that HE lied. You tried to keep the suspension a secret from me and encouraged him to do the same. And you "made it up to him" by taking him out to race go-carts.
* You don't consistently make him do his homework, when you visit. And you were SUPPORTIVE of him blowing off his summer reading assignment.
* You call yourself his "BFF" and commiserate with him about the unfairness of how much he's expected to do and that "teachers hate kids, that's why they assign homework", etc. Like you're 11, too.
* You buy him "I hate school"/"I'm allergic to school" T-shirts.
* When he announced he wanted to join the band at his new school, without a word to me, you mailed him an instrument he CAN'T play in the school band, arranged lessons with your best friend's husband and pushed him to join some junior punk-rock band with your friends' kids, INSTEAD of getting involved with the one at school.
* You complain to him about what a "waste of money" his current school is and tell him how much better - and EASIER - school would be, if he lived with you.
* Last but not least, you choose to remain far away from him. The child support I volunteered not to receive would pay for twice as many visits as you choose to make. So, you maximize how much he misses you and simultaneously put intense pressure on him to worry about your misery, loneliness and panic attacks and to believe the only way he can rescue you is to join your campaign for him to move away from us and back in with you. God only knows how all of that affects him and distracts his focus from his education.
WITH ALL THE "HELP" WE ALREADY GET FROM YOU, WHO COULD EXPECT YOU TO DO ANY MORE?
No...on second thought, that might not be the best way for DH to respond...
*facepalm* Right up until the last sentence, I thought that was what you were seriously considering sending her! Obviously, the real answer won't dredge up the past, or be accusatory. Kill her with kindness?
~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.
Mummoth: Of course there would no benefit to anyone, if DH were to say all of that! MDC just seemed a safe place for me to vent some of the things that ran through my head, after reading her messages to my husband.
It drives me crazy, knowing it's just a matter of time before we'll be in court, and one of her arguments for changing custody will be that DSS "hasn't adjusted well to school". Meanwhile, since the custody change, she's been doing everything she can to encourage DSS to have a poor attitude about his school work and not to feel connected to his school or the kids there. Yet, she'll have a stockpile of carefully-worded emails, to show the judge, so she can say, "I've tried to communicate and co-parent effectively with (DH), and to help (DSS), but (DH) just won't cooperate!"
It seems to me that - for so many, many years - she has put such energy and creativity into posturing and carefully crafting the superficial appearance of things, to "win" her die-hard mission to get DSS all to herself and spite DH. And she loses sight of what would really best for DSS. You really care about his education? Spend more time with him! Get involved with his school and homework! And quit working so hard to convince him that everyone else's expectations of him are too hard and mean, but that life with you is all about Disneyworld, shopping sprees and unconditional praise!
But, again, it's just not constructive to say all that!
Oh, I did eventually figure it out! I usually have to have a vent-fest before I can get down to writing a constructive response. Luckily, most of my dealings are with XH's parents, and grandparents rights are quite limited compared to parents, but they do the same thing! They'll send an email asking how DS is feeling, since he seemed so, so upset when they had to bring him home at the end of the visit. And I'll have to email back and request that they not promise to go pick up Mc Donalds for the kids after their visit time, and drop it by the house for them, as we often have dinner plans of our own. What I want to say is "Of course he was upset! You set it up to try and make me look bad!!"
I'm sure for every email she has, you guys have a well thought out response. I think they best response in his case is to give her an outline of what's being done day-to-day, and ask her how she thinks she can compliment that. Does he have/would you be interested in him having a tutor? Maybe ask her to split the cost with you guys.
~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.