I have two boys, 14 and 17 1/2 (full physical and joint legal custody), and have been divorced for 9 1/2 years. Most of that time has been very contentious, and included highlights such as my ex moving my son's bar mitzvah behind my back and excluding me, telling my younger son that he didn't have to follow his orthodontic treatment (because he hadn't been involved in the decision), telling my kids they would never see their friends again, telling my kids their school (same school district as my ex, but a different school) was substandard (which my kids believe), encouraging my kids to totally disrespect my husband, stealing my kids schoolwork out of their backpacks so I couldn't see it (I had to go to the school to ask them to make extra copies before the kids went to his house). Anyway -- things continued to be nasty and we spent a lot of time in court. Finally, we had about 3 years of relative peace (he still sent me e-mails telling me how I had harmed my children with my choices and other snarky crap like that, which I ignored). In September, we had a blow-up, which started everything all over again.
My oldest son is starting a new class in December. He will attend 4 classes at one school and one at another, so he needs to drive from one to another. I had actually purchased a car for his use, and spent 2 years working at teaching him to drive (yes, it took that long, and I still have some real concerns about his safety behind the wheel). His dad, who had not worked with him on driving very much, took him to take his driving test and to get his license. When he got his license, his dad had him put his dad's address on his license, which precluded me from insuring him on our vehicles (yes, it's true -- I work in no-fault law and confirmed it with my insurance company). Anyway -- I asked my ex to make the change so my son could drive the car. I also discussed it with my son, who told me I'd have to talk to his dad. I gave them both three choices -- (1) change the license; (2) have my ex provide a car; or (3) drop the class. When I pressed my son about getting his assistance to help with the problem he had created, he said I had to guarantee in writing that he could always drive the car, no matter what, in order for him to change the license address. I told him I could not guarantee that -- that nobody has that guarantee, and that his ability to drive the car was dependent on his behavior -- that he had to follow the rules and there would be no problem. I did tell him that if he lost the ability to drive the car, that I would make sure he could get to his class. He asked me to write down the rules for him, so I did. A few days later, I got a letter from his lawyer telling me I was inappropriately trying to negotiate a legal contract with my son, who was almost 18 and should be represented by an attorney. All for giving him rules to drive my car. Nice. He was told not to agree to them. Then my ex filed a motion against me -- to compel me to provide transportation.
So here I am -- with a car I spent good money on, unable to insure my kid for it, and on top of it, he was unwilling to change the address or agree to the rules of driving it. Every time I talked to my son, he either defered to his dad, or he listened to me and then called his dad to tell him what I said, and then I'd get another letter from his lawyer. I felt like my ex was living in my house. During the next conversation with my son, he demanded that I give him a list of people and a schedule of when each of them would drive him, should he not be able to drive the car. All kind of manipulation from my ex to get what he wanted -- which was to make the situation so impossible for me that I would have to allow my son to move over there.
I finally told my son that was what I felt he should do -- that he was being disrespectful, and it was unreasonable for him to make demands of me and treat me like I was subservient to him. I told him he should go over and live with his dad, because I was tired of fighting with him. So my ex gets what he wants, but he and my son are also responsible now for any consequences of these choices.
Anyway -- my younger son is now starting -- he's already told me his ridiculous my rules are for the car, and if he had to follow them, he'd move to his dad's. (He doesn't have that choice unless I give it to him). He's also on the phone with his dad complaining about things here (we have rules here, and expect respect, which is sometimes a problem for him). If he keeps up his attitude about the car and does what his brother did, he won't be able to drive at my house, either. But there's no class I have to get him to. He's just going to have a hard time getting to places he wants to go, and of course it'll be "my fault."
So my ex is the hero and I'm constantly wearing the black hat. Any suggestions on how to combat the negative influence of my ex? Or do I just need to be the bad guy constantly? My skin is not very thick, unfortunately. I have already spent a great deal of time allowing my kids to get away with too much for fear of being the "bad guy," but I need to be able to parent him. It's just very difficult when you have a kid who is constantly being told how "unfair" we are at my house and encouraged to complain about.
Honestly -- I'm really not bad. The kid has a pretty cushy life. He just doesn't know how to appreciate it. I'm afraid when all is said and done, I will lose my relationship with him.
The rules at your house are the rules at your house. The rules at your ex's house are the rules at his house. That's it and that's all. If you refuse to get dragged into debates with either your kids or your ex about your rules, then they'll stop trying to start those debates. There's nothing you need to say to your ex about your house rules except "it's not appropriate for you to interfere with my parenting choices, and I would never presume to interfere with yours." <click>
Now that your older son is residing with your ex, give him his birth certificate and other legal documents, wish him well, and withdraw yourself completely from scheduling and coordinating the details of his life and providing for his daily needs. That is your ex's job now. He left your household. Don't resent him for it, but recognize that he chosen your ex as his primary caregiver. If he wants to reverse that decision, tell him that he is welcome to get his license changed, agree to abide by your rules, and move back into your house and use the car you bought.
To avoid a repeat of this, make darn sure that your younger son is ready for his driving test the day he turns 16, is scheduled for the test BY YOU, and is taken to the test BY YOU. Your ex, having been forced to deal with the reality of fully parenting and providing for a teenager, will probably be less eager to sabotage your relationship with your younger child.
I think that the 17yo still lives with her, right? Honestly, at that age and at that point, I would not put up with that type of behavior and disrespect. What you ex is doing is completely wrong, and unfortunately your son(s) are victims and totally falling for it. On the plus side, at some point they will see through it all and realize the8 truth. On the downside, that may be a long ways off. Do you have a laywer? Does your older son have his own lawyer or is it your exes lawyer that he is going to?
In any case, DO NOT negotiate the car and other such GIFTS and LUXURIES with a CHILD. He should not be demanding anything from you, that is ridiculous. Refuse to feed into the drama and power play. You need to get a thick skin, dig in your heels, and reclaim YOUR household!!!! I hope I don't sound harsh, I'm just angry for you and hope you realize how they are taking advantage of your kindness.
"Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen." Ralph Marston
Don't play ball on the manipulation. "these are my rules. If you choose not to follow them you lose out on privileges. Such is life." you are not mean and you are not unfair. Since when is it mandatory to be a door mat?
I'm really sorry. This sounds hard.
My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.
Older son moved out on Sunday. It was very hard, but I feel it was the right thing. I'll see him every other weekend and on Tuesdays for dinner.
One hour after my ex picked him up, I got an e-mail from my ex asking to sign my younger son up for driver's ed. He couldn't even wait one day. Anyway -- I answered -- I told him I didn't want younger DS to take it until the spring. He's still 14, and there's no reason why he should be learning to drive on snow and ice. Last night, when I picked up DS from an activity, he started in on me about driver's training. That's how it works. The ex gets an answer he doesn't like, and then talks to the child, so he can work on me. The good news was I kept very calm, told my son lovingly that I would take everything he had to say into consideration, but that I loved him too much to fight with him about it. And then we moved on to another topic.
My new mantra...do not engage.
I'm so sorry that your ex will not stop. I think you have it down with the "do not engage", just don't discuss that stuff....and 14?! Can they even take it legally at that age? Yikes!!! Stay strong, you are doing the right thing.
"Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen." Ralph Marston
My 14 year old went at me again last night. He told me that "if I did to him what I did" to ODS, then he was out of there. He said everything had been my fault, and he didn't feel sorry for me at all. That maybe it wouldn't have happened if I wasn't so controlling and cared more about him. I tried to ask him specifically what his problem was -- what he felt I did wrong, and he said, "You think about it." He also said the reason I didn't have any money was because I spent thousands of dollars suing his dad. I told him that was not true, and that his dad and I had a dispute that could not be resolved, and the appropriate place to resolve it was in court. In other words, he doesn't know, he's just parroting his dad's words, but how the hell can I talk to this kid?
So basically, he has taken everything his dad said as truth, is spewing it back to me when I don't give him his way (getting to sign up early to driver's training), and won't have a discussion with me at all about it other than to bash me.
I don't know how to deal with this one. I really don't.
Hang in there. There may be no way to deal with this, rather just have to ride it out for a while. Following the "do not engage" mantra and remember your rules are your rules. Your younger son has a ways to go into teenage years so I'd try and remain calm and let him grow up a bit.
When has driving as a teenager become a right and not a privilege? Sell the car, tell the boys when they have a job and can buy a car, pay for insurance, gas and maintenance fees they are more than welcome to have a car. Let your ex take you to court over it, I can't imagine a judge would compel a parent to provide a car and insurance for a teenager.
You are letting them manipulate you through your fear of loosing them. Don't play the game.
You may "lose your relationship" with them now (esp older son) but i think later, when they are older, you'll get it back. If you try to hang on too tightly i think it will backfire. Maintain the standards for your household and do not give into the manipulation. Eventually they will realize their dad is a real jerk.
I know how it feels to have this happen (im still somewhat in the middle of it) but i think with time things will turn around. It will hopefully be better when they are adults and the ex cant attempt to control you through them. You really dont have long until they are of age. What a jerk though.
Things came to a head with my younger son. First, I texted him while he was at his dad's and he texted back that he didn't want to talk to me. Then, after he came back, he ran away (started walking up the road toward his dad's house, who lives 5 1/2 miles away), twice in one night. Both times, my ex was on the phone with him for a long period of time before he left. The first time I picked him up, he was spitting venom -- told me I hadn't cared about him since the day I gave birth to him, told me I was broke because I spent thousands of dollars suing his dad (????) and said terrible things about my father, who had called him earlier that week and tried to talk to him.
The second time he left the house, I sent the police to pick him up. My ex came over after that to add to the drama. I asked him to leave. After that, my son told me he wanted to spend more time at his dad's. I decided that there was no way to maintain my relationship with my son if I allowed a war to continue in my house, being spurred on by my ex, so I said yes, and now he is with me every other weekend and on Wednesday overnights. Things have calmed down at least, but this is a big adjustment, and it is really hard to deal with the fact that this terrible person manipulated this situation and my children the way he did in order to "win."
I guess we'll see how long the grass stays greener. In any event, I'm trying to look at the big picture. All I know is -- even if he thinks he "won," there are many things he can't take away from me. I carried those children in my womb and fed them from my body. He didn't. When they were young, the sun rose and set on me. I was the one they went to for comfort and love far more than him. I sang to them, nursed them back to health when they were sick, read to them and taught them as they grew. So now they're teenagers --- this is the time for them to separate, and they are lulled by the shiny "toys" that he can give them. That's no victory. It's a false one, and he can't take away what I had for all those years. He is a miserable excuse for a human being. My kids may never see that, but I know it.
Thanks for all of your support.
Mama, my heart hurts for you so much, tears came to my eyes when I read your update. Your ex is more of a monster than a man, imagine turning his own sons against their mother!
I'm a big fan of saying things plainly, especially with kids. Your ex obviously has no issue with manipulating your sons, and bending reality to make them do what he wants. I commend you for refusing to fight with him, through them. By backing out of the fight completely, even when they bring it to you themselves, you are preserving your connection with them. Eventually they will see through his bull****, and as you say, all those long nights when they were little will pay off. The problem I see is that they might take your silence on the subject of their dad as agreement. Well, maybe not agreement, exactly.
But it might help them to hear from you that you see their dad interfering in your home in a destructive way, and talking to them in a way that drives a wedge between you. I don't mean you should counter his actions by arguing with your son, but just point out the facts- that you sense he's repeating things his dad said, and that this is not a healthy way to deal with conflict. Have you straight up told your son that you want to work out how things will be done between you, with only him, not involving his dad? Why not gently suggest that his dad wants both of them to take sides, and that you love him too much to ask him to do that? Is that out of line, because I feel like it can be helpful to kids, in these sick dysfunctional parenting situations, to just gently call the kettle black.
Step mom to Malakie, Cameron , and Aurelia
I miss them so much. This is very hard. I dropped them off yesterday and I feel like I'm missing my right arm. I have to find a way to give this closure -- to stop feeling like I'm losing them all over again every time I drop them off.
I'm so lucky that I have my wonderful husband (at least I did it right the second time), but this is hard for him, too. He has been villainized by my ex and my children barely speak to him, so when they're here, he feels very isolated.
Sometimes I wish I had a time machine -- 3 1/2 more years until the youngest graduates. Then we can all get on with our lives -- my children and I can have adult relationships without the constant interference. I could use some closure. And maybe a hug.
I don't know you but I feel for you. It must be very painful to have your sons treat you this way. I think you're doing all you can do, and I don't have any wise words. I really think you did everything right. Perhaps you could trust that they'll come around. Sell the car. Wait for them to mature a little. Try to end the nastiness between your ex and you. My heart really goes out to you. I have a baby boy, and I will be the MOTHER of all control freaks when he is driving. If somehow he gets spoiled like this, I will be so sad. Just be there for when they come back to you. And be forgiving. Their dad is setting a horrible example.
Hello frustrated Mom. I would like to dive in with some advice in hopes that too much damage has not already been done. Your first sentence says a lot - you and your ex have full physical and joint legal custody. This means the Court requires cooperation in the "best interest of the children." You may have waited too long as both boys are now old enough to chose sides, and it seems that they have already done that. Sadly you are in a chess match with your ex, and these two boys are the pawns. The Courts really do not approve of this, so... one very last ditch option is to file a complaint to the Court that the ex has violated the intent of the custody arrangement. For example - if the Bar Mitvah was changed so you could not attend then it shows a clear intent to be in total control - not total cooperation. If the ex is denigrating you, and you can prove this with written statements or witnesses, then you can argue in Court that he should be held in contempt and heavily fined. I am sad for you and the boys. Divorces can be very reasonable when the adults love their children more than themselves. This does not undo the damage that has taken place to date. You need to have a mediator to help heal your family - if you can. I hope it is not too late, but if everyone really is honest - there is a chance for success (I think you waited way too long and should have done this the day after the Bar Mitvah). Your Rabbi would be the first step. School counselors would be second. A psychologist would be the third choice, followed by family counseling. Friends - current or former, might be helpful unless they have also taken sides. From reading your side (and none of us has heard "his" side of the story) the ex is more of a control freak than a good parent. As you try to enforce your own home rules try not to argue with either child (especially the one who is soon an "adult"). If you can pick up these books at the library written by Dr. Haim Ginott, "Between Parent and Child" (1965) and "Between Parent and Teenager" (1967). They help teach parents how to engage in dialogues with kids and avoid confrontations, usually by asking a question that needs an answer. Place responsibility on the kids. If the younger one wants driving lessons - great. "How will you get home when you finish, school bus or walk?" If the kid responds with a question (confronting you) "why can't you pick me up?" You respond without confrontation - "That is not a choice...school bus or walking? Your choice." If he keeps challenging you - never defend your answer - keep asking questions. This may take some practice on your part - to learn how to control the conversation (read Ginott or more psychology books on communication). "How will you pay the insurance?" "Can you be home by 5:00 because you are making dinner for us tonight." If they want to be adults - then teach them how to accept adult responsibility and not to deflect blame onto others. As a last resort only - call your lawyer and file a formal complaint against the ex for failure to fulfill his obligation under the joint custody arrangement and list every single violation with proof. Try to avoid court if possible - this is only done when all else has failed. I do hope your boys grow and mature to be caring and loving adults. Show them how it should be done. Good luck!
A little more advice if I may. In reading your last two entries it seems you are hanging on to the past too much....carrying them in your womb, reading to them, etc. This was you being a good mother and there is no "winning" or "losing" in raising your kids. You need to understand the psyche of children - it changes from age to age. You remember every little cute thing that they did, their giggling, sleeping in your arms, learning how to walk...etc. They do not remember any of it. They do not remember what they had for lunch three days ago so you should not live in the past. This is a major issue for ALL parents. You must understand their needs now. Your youngest may have had an erection while sitting in math class and was embarrased when the other kids saw it. Do you think he is going to tell you? If you had a daughter instead, and she got her first period, do you think she would run off to tell Dad? Raising the boys is not a competition - it needs to be a cooperative effort between you and the ex. Too much conflict, too much anger, too many hurt feelings...not good for anyone. Truce time. You and the ex need to meet with a mediator (Rabbi, counselor, etc.) and work out differences such as constant rules for both households, agreements on what is best for the children (not yourselves). You must come to accept that the past is of little value to a teenager - their concern is the next forty minutes. There is little if any comprehension for the future. Next month might as well be next year. The teen needs are immediate gratification and sitting on your lap is lost from their memory. They want to sit in the car, without you. So....establish the means to do it with adult controls. BUT agree with the ex on what these will be. Parenting is not a game to "win" or "lose." Raising teens is incredibly tough - I have taught thousands and parents came to me in droves because their teen was "out of control." Not really...the kid was trying to claim independence most of the time - but they do not know how to do it. So...teach them. Teach them how to make good choices and to be responsible to their decisions. In other words, if they get caught drinking behind school one weekend, tell them not to call for bail money and to have a nice weekend in custody. We have all gotten teary eyed over our memories of cuddling our kids. We all get frustrated when the kid grows up and seems to not appreciate those moments that we treasure. But we are parents for life. The key is in communicating because all conflict comes from a failure to communicate. Unfortunately for us our kids will not appreciate what we have done for them until that magical moment that they have their own first child, and hopefully we will be around to appreciate it too. Remember those great moments in your past with passion, try to forget the hurt but live for the future to make every day a mtzvah.
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