I wanted to get some thoughts from the wise moms on here regarding a couple of issues.
A little bit of background: my DF and I have been together for three years and have lived together for a year and a half. I have a daughter and he has a son. My daughter is with us 100% of the time and his son is with us just under half-time. The kids are just a few months apart in age and are in the same grade at school.
DF's ex-wife is very angry and very, very difficult to co-parent with. She regularly sends DF e-mails criticizing him, threatening legal action, making accusations, or just plain ranting. Although she really doesn't know me at all, she's brought me into it, so I get criticized and accused of things as well. She is manipulative and controlling. Despite this, DF and I choose to greet her pleasantly when we see her and generally be civil toward her. She, on the other hand, flat out refuses to acknowledge us. We see her fairly regularly since the kids attend the same school and since she and her husband coach DSS's soccer team. The kids notice this and my daughter has asked about it on several occasions - things like "Mom! There's C! Say hi to C! Mom! How come you didn't go say hi to C?" or "Mom, how come C doesn't say hi back when you say hi to her?" Thus far, I've been able to divert her attention or change the subject, but at some point, I will need to answer her. Any suggestions as to how to address the tension and discuss her behavior with the kids without disparaging her or confusing the kids?
The second question is really the big one. As I mentioned, the kids currently go to the same school. DSS's mom doesn't work and is able to be very involved at school, which is great, but that means she is ALWAYS there. Not only do I run in to her at drop-offs, but there are school programs, field trips, fundraisers, field day, etc. I pretty much always feel anxious and uncomfortable at school because odds are good I'm going to run in to her. I REALLY hate that I feel that way at my daughter's school. I want to go to her events and be relaxed and focused on her, rather than wondering where the angry, hostile ex is and when I'm going to run in to her.
The school they attend now is outstanding and probably the best elementary school in our district. It is not our assigned neighborhood school, however, so I could easily transfer my daughter. Our neighborhood school is also very good, but it's arguably not the same caliber of school. However, I am giving a lot of thought to transferring my daughter anyway. Of course, it would complicate things; two days a week we'd have to get two kids to two different schools 10 minutes apart that start at the exact same time. We'd have two sets of school programs and conferences and field days and fun runs, and sometimes they would conflict with one another. My daughter would have to adjust to a new school and make new friends. But, it would significantly cut down on the amount of forced contact between the adults, and the resulting tension and anxiety.
Does anyone have any experience with having their kids in separate schools, either for similar reasons or altogether different reasons, or thoughts about changing schools? Would it be selfish of me to transfer my daughter in order to make MY experience at her school more pleasant?
I would appreciate any input.
Oh my. Well, I have 2 DS's from a previous relationship, A DSS, and a nearly 1 yo DS with DH. The 3 older boys are ALL in K this year. (my oldest was held back, has ASD). they are at two seperate schools now (DSS's mom has him 2/3 of the time, but will be changing to 50/50 over the summer- yay! So he goes to her home school) and next year they will be in 3 different schools (my oldest son will be going to a special program). We tried to enroll our 2 NT kids into 2 different charter schools but they didn't get in, so 3 schools it is! NOT looking forward to it! So... DH's Ex and I had a similar relationship to what you describe- except we were pros at flat out avoiding each other so I basically saw her once or twice in the first to years DH and I lived together! and I was her child's step parent- it seems so bizarre. Basically it felt weirder and weirder as time went on- like the longer you avoid someone the more awkward and standoffish you feel. Not to stick up for her, but it could be a self-perpetuating thing- the behavior continues and that habit is never altered or broken, so it just carries on. Yeah, it may be her issue, but I started to realize more recently somewhere along the lines the tables had turned with my DH's Ex- Where I used to avoid her at all costs (she kind of swooped in and conquered my social circle, school, interests, etc after we got together, weird I know- thats another story), and I ended up feeling really isolated and lonely- I gave up things I was passionate about (like going to yoga class at the one great yoga center in our small city, or frequenting my favorite coffee house, or hanging out with certain mutal friends/attending their get-togethers etc)... Then I started to realize, she didn't back down like that at all- she was aggressive about her territory- even new found (my interests) territory. part of the aggressiveness was as you describes- She was and is super involved in everything. I am a mellow type B who's overwhelmed just being a mom to 4 young boys and having a child with autism. I DO NOT get involved in a lot because I know my limits. I felt like she deserved those things more than me because she was so active about them- volunteering, making fast and strong friendships, doing community stuff, being super social and becoming a respected expert at everything she set her sights on. It's a lot of charisma and charm I'm not so good at manifesting- I'm more on the quiet, friendly, low-stress/low-key person. I avoided her because she was very angry in the beginning- towards me, towards DH, and fought dirty to get the business and primary custody. We don't fight dirty, and it was hard to just have to deal with it. Then she continued to spread rumors about me (befriending my friends and aquaintences and telling them these things), and it would get back to me. It felt like it was never going to end.
I felt like I was in a competition I wasn't even competing in.
But guess what? Time has allowed it to slowly cool down. My DH has arranged a few times where we were all around eachother, and it was like it broke that spell, and although still awkward sort of eased down some of the wall that was there. and that was when i saw it: She was now more worried about me than I was of her. I think she figured I held a grudge towards her for her behavior (the rumors, the lies to get custody, the bullying, etc). So much time had past I had just let it go for the most part. I wanted peace, I avoided her in the first place because of her anger and dispassion for me/us! SO. I don't go out of my way to interact with her, I hardly see her still. But I don't dread crossing paths with her anymore, and she has totally picked up a friendly demeanor when we do run into eachother, like she was just waiting for someone to make the move to change the vibe. I am still slightly wary of her- I know if at this point even if she is friendly there is something innate in her personality that may be misconstruing the situation/ my actions etc. But I don't think we are her "focus" anymore.
I started picking up where I left off with places, people, classes... And it feels good.
So what I am trying to say is, don't pull your kid from "her" school. Because it isn't hers. I regret to this day I avoided so much... It may have been appropriate for a short time, but not years. I think it will be good for your children to go to the same school, and easier for you to pick them up etc (Seriously. THREE schools.). They are getting old enough to sense the tension and social weirdness, and instead of avoiding some bridge needs to be made. Even if she isn't responsive, I bet she will come around some day because carrying that on for years and years... Would be hard, and awkward. removing your child from the school would signal to her it's a) worth it to avoid her, so you must really not like her, add fuel to the fire, and b) Possibly empower her- you will show her you are backing down out of what she has conquered as "her" territory. If yo give her that, she may make attempts on other areas of your life. It happened to me- even id DH's Ex didn't consciously recognize it as such.
I would also like to add that often i think bitter/ difficult exes of a certain personality type will rewrite history to better fit their self image. If they wan't to be justified in all that they do, and want to be free of guilt (or play the victim- yes some people are victims of abuse in relationships etc, not talking about that, just "being the victim" for whatever reason). This requires an alternate story line where their history, actions and feelings are always justified and their ex's/ex's new partner are always in the wrong. In order to keep up this alternate story line they have to start manifesting it as a reality- usually by telling people (new husband, friends, family, children) to perpetuate the image that ex & co are in the wrong in some way. Even if time passes and wounds start to heal, and ex isn't feeding into their anger, now that a lot of people (or even just new DH and child) are aware and involved in the alternate story line, how would it look if they let their guard down and just got civil and friendly with the once-enemies? To me, as an outsider, it would be "like yes! progress! forgiveness! yay!" But I think people sucked into that are really concerned about keeping up appearances, even if it is one of conflict and resentment. What has she told her DH about your DH? Or, is there something in your collective history that she may be (in her mind) justifiably mad/resentful about?
As far as what to tell your kids... That's tricky. Our kids never seemed to ask about that, but then again I hardly saw my DH's ex! But I think demonstrating her refusal to communicate to your children when her child LIVES with you part of the time is sending a really bad message. You're not some random dating casualty, you'r her child's step parent. If the tables were turned, how would she feel? To me, it seems like your DH needs to talk to her. And make it about the child, not about you/her needing to be friends. Say the kids are asking questions, and you guys want a positive message being sent to them, even if its a surface level thing. My other suggestion is all of the adults getting together, with the kids if possible. In neutral territory- like a park or something. Where it's not super forced, but done with the intention of breaking the barrier down to the point where DH's ex actually speaks with you, however much or little. That's what did it for me- we hardly spoke directly, but being around DH's ex in a neutral setting with both of our partners there helped us to be like "oh hey. how are you.". And now when we see each other we aknowledge one another etc. I would also like to note that, in a school setting- even if she volunteers there- if she is displaying the inability to even be friendly with you while you are... People will take note of that. It won't look good on her part. She needs to grow up. A little.
What I would do is keep my child in the same school, but request that the kids are put in different classes (assuming there is more that one teacher per grade) There are usually a few opportunities during the year to volunteer for something that takes place in the classroom... in my kids' school there's building gingerbread houses at Christmas time, a guided reading program that is year-round, sometimes there's field trips.
For what to say to the kids about the other mom not saying hi, I'd probably just tell them that sometimes after a divorce people have hurt feelings for a long, long time and she will say hi when she feels better. If your husband is going to talk to her about it, he could tell her the kids are asking about it and so far you've avoided the question but this is how you're thinking of answering next time, unless she has a better suggestion? That way she has a heads-up. If she doesn't like the explanation, she can either suck it up and say hello or avoid you.
~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.
I pretty much always feel anxious and uncomfortable at school because odds are good I'm going to run in to her. I REALLY hate that I feel that way at my daughter's school. I want to go to her events and be relaxed and focused on her, rather than wondering where the angry, hostile ex is and when I'm going to run in to her.
The school they attend now is outstanding and probably the best elementary school in our district.....Of course, it would complicate things; two days a week we'd have to get two kids to two different schools 10 minutes apart that start at the exact same tim
I've had my kids at 2 different schools, and for a while I was homeschooling one and the other was in school. Although I was doing what was best for each child, it was a PITA. And wouldn't you still have to go to your DSS's school for all sorts of reasons, so it won't solve your problem
Rather than uprooting your DD, I would work on finding a way to be relaxed and focused, even at times that you may run into the ex. It may be fairly simple, and talking about it on a message board might help, or it may be so complex that you really need to find a family therapist and talk about with a professional. That would give you a chance to talk about it before you expect to run into her, and again afterwards to work on processing all this gunk so you can get past it.
She is who she is, and you will never change that. However, she doesn't control what is going on inside your head and how you feel. There really is a way for you to find your center and stay there in spite of her being the way she is.
Could you just be honest with your DD? Could you explain to her that while you and C both really care about DSS, you guys aren't friends, but that is OK. Then change the subject.
As far as the kids being at the same school, at the school I work at, they would NOT be placed in the same class, but they would have recess together. Do they get along OK? We have some step-siblings that aren't allowed to be on the same part of the playground because they kept getting into physical fights.
but everything has pros and cons
Thanks to all of you for the feedback.
Mamakitsune, your second post is spot-on. DF's ex has re-written history. In her mind, DF was and is a horrible person. She's convinced her self of that so as to better be able to convince others. Her identity is that of the poor victim of an ex-husband who is a bully and a terrible father, and who is trying to take away HER child. I'm glad your situation has improved over time. I don't mean to be pessimistic, but I really don't think things will ever improve with my DF's ex-wife. She was angry before she met him and angry the entire time they were together. Now that they're divorced, she is doubly angry, and DF is the target of her entire life's worth of anger. She is not open to anything he has to say, so he won't get anywhere with her by explaining the impact her behavior is having on me and the kids.
Mummoth, the issue isn't so much that I don't have the opportunity to volunteer in my daughter's class; I do. The kids are in different classes and we have requested that they be placed in different classes every year. It's that DSS's mom is ALWAYS at the school. I see her at every drop off, every field day, every fundraising event, every program, etc.
Linda, you're right, I need to work on finding a way to be relaxed and focused and centered in spite of the fact that she's there. The problem is that she creates a significant amount of stress in my life (including recent allegations that resulted in a visit from CPS), and I don't know how to NOT feel anxious at the prospect of seeing her. DF and I are going to start seeing a counselor in a couple of weeks to start working on just that.
For now, I am planning to leave my daughter in the school and work on ways to keep DF's ex out of my head, so to speak. At this point, I don't think things are bad enough to warrant uprooting her from her school and her friends.