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#1 of 42 Old 03-29-2008, 10:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We had 50/50 custody of my husband's 5 1/2 year old daughter for 4 years until we moved across the country (3000 miles away) a few months ago. Now my husband is with her about 1/3 of the time: here during her school breaks and there one long weekend a month when he flies back to see her. While she has been doing relatively well with the big change and generally views her bi-coastal situation as something fun, she talks a lot about it being too long between times that she gets to see us, missing her papa, missing her home and toys here and (recently) saying she wants to be here and doesn't want to be there. We know this is normal and expected given the situation. We talk to her about all the fun things she does there, about the importance of going school... we joke about how silly it would be for her to fly back and forth every week... obviously it breaks my husband's heart to hear it, but he does his best to talk at her level about the situation and make it into something positive while still acknowledging her feelings about it.

There have been a couple times he has flown back when he has needed to be there longer than a weekend, like for court dates and such, that her mother has refused to give him substantial additional time while he is there. He volunteers in his daughter's classroom at school during the day and goes to all her extracurricular activities because mom legally can't exclude him from either of those. Right now he is there for a full week after nearly two months apart (the longest they have ever gone without seeing each other) and mom is allowing a couple hours one afternoon and a couple more another evening. There is no justification given, no previously-made plans with mom that conflict, nothing shared with him that he can get her excited about going to mom's for.

My step-daughter doesn't understand why she doesn't get to stay with her dad, why he has to take her back to mom's if he is in town, why she can't sleep over at [friend]'s house with him like she usually does when he is there, why she can't spend more time with him...

He will NOT give her an answer that gives her the impression that he doesn't WANT her with him while he is there, and he won't lie to her and make up some meeting or obligation (trust me, even if he wanted to she will not be deterred by that and will look for a "loophole" in his reason). But he is always a responsible co-parent and will absolutely NOT answer her in a way that blames her mother... But that leaves us with no idea about how to answer her when she asks directly during these trips about why she has to go to mom's or why she can't stay with him.

Any advice on what to say to her would be appreciated. This isn't a hypothetical "what if she asks?"... She is already asking. And we don't think these sorts of situations are going to go away... even if this visitation issue is fixed another will inevitably arise. So we need to come up with a way to handle it in the future so we have it ready for next time.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on how to talk to her about it... We're usually really good at finding answers that don't contain or even imply any judgement about lifestyles or choices that are different between the two homes... this one has been a lot harder.

Parenting four little monkeys (11, 8, 6, and 4) with the love of my life. Making it up as I go.
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#2 of 42 Old 03-29-2008, 11:37 PM
 
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That is so hard. We've had a few things like that and usually use little white lies. Like when their mom wouldn't let us video with the kids. They wanted to know why, and I couldn't blame their mom (even though it was her fault), so I just said the camera didn't work on her computer.
Complete lie, but anyway, it seemed the least bad of the ones I could think of. Of course, I never thought to coordinate the lie with her (oops) and it turned out she did tell them at one point that they couldn't video because she said no.

For visits, it's really hard. It's terrible that she's being so difficult. In our case at least their mom is very flexible about visiting, so we haven't run up against this one yet. Have you asked her what she'd like you to say? Then she might at least try to give a reason or let you know what she's telling her. For all you know she might be admitting it's her decision so you don't need to say anything else.

I think with us with a 5 year old we'd just say because it's your turn to be at your mom's. He can just remind her that he loves her very much and wants to see her as much as he can, but right now he can't because she has to go to her mom's. It's not very descriptive, but it is simple. Just a simple that's-the-way-it-is type of answer is sometimes all that you can give. Best of luck!

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#3 of 42 Old 03-30-2008, 09:37 PM
 
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Has your dh asked your dsd's mom how she thinks he should answer that question?

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#4 of 42 Old 03-31-2008, 06:32 PM
 
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It wasn't the mother who moved 3000 miles away. I think maybe she's just not ready to do everything on your terms when you are the ones who moved away. That's how I'd feel. Since your dh is now staying at a friends house, that might also be a reason. I wouldn't want my child to stay at someone's house who I don't know. If it's on dad's time, then I wouldn't have a say, but on my time, I wouldn't want it and since I'd have a choice, I'd probably say "no."

If the father of my child moved 3000 miles away, I'd be very hurt for my child and it would probably bring out the worst in me with regards to him.

It sounds like it's going to take awhile to negotiate everything so that everyone feels valued in this new situation.

Oh, and as for how to answer? I don't think that there really is much of a way you can answer. You'd say it was her fault and she'd say it was your fault. I think I'd just try to change the subject to something more positive.

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#5 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 01:22 AM
 
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I agree; I'd also give a "that's just how it is, and when you're older (how much older? maybe a teenager) we can talk about it more, but these are grownup things. So for now, I'm telling you that's how it is, and now [something more fun].)"

I have to say, as a custodial mom I'd also be disinclined to bend. Who knows what opportunities she never told you guys about, but passed on, because she was committed to keeping her dd near her father? She and your dsd have been forced to find some new rhythm, some new kind of schedule, thanks to the move; she's doubtless had a tremendous job of helping dd with the fact that her daddy has moved far away. Why should she allow their lives and routines to be disrupted whenever your dh happens to have extra time to spend? And who will be the one to comfort dd when a visit is missed, because something else has called her daddy away this week or this month?

It does sort of sound like you want her on a string -- your dh moves 3K mi from his daughter, he doesn't come back for two months, and yet the mom should jump to accommodate whenever your dh makes himself available, in the interests of the child. But not only is that disrespectful of the mother's time and parenting, I think it's a poor thing to teach a young girl. You don't jump because the man you adore has time to kill in your town this week. If he really wants to be with you, well, then let him make that commitment in his life, and get a local address.

I do hear a lot about unavoidable moves. Understand that not everyone sees most moves as unavoidable, regardless of career. I'm here with no family within a thousand miles and much more opportunity elsewhere. My ex is mentally unstable, and yes, there are times when I'm afraid of him and would prefer to live far away. However, both he and his parents are major parts of my daughter's life, she loves them and they love her, and she does amazingly well with our situation. I think it would damage her seriously to pull her away from them -- and, for that matter, from the friends and town she's always known. I can't begin to imagine moving away from her myself -- even if my ex were competent to take care of her on his own, I wouldn't do that. So the exciting career and the money can wait another decade or so, and I just keep my fingers crossed when it comes to physical safety. What if another man entered the picture and found a dream job far away? (Shrug) Bon voyage, cheri. Send a postcard. There is what they call a prior commitment here.

I understand all this may sound overheated to you; I've been in a position similar to yours, and of course from there it seems like the best thing to do is for all of you to just start from zero, embrace the situation that exists and work with it. The problem is that the situation may have meanings to which you aren't a party, and which can't be knocked out of the way.
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#6 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 09:31 AM
 
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It does sort of sound like you want her on a string -- your dh moves 3K mi from his daughter, he doesn't come back for two months, and yet the mom should jump to accommodate whenever your dh makes himself available, in the interests of the child. But not only is that disrespectful of the mother's time and parenting, I think it's a poor thing to teach a young girl. You don't jump because the man you adore has time to kill in your town this week. If he really wants to be with you, well, then let him make that commitment in his life, and get a local address.

I do hear a lot about unavoidable moves. Understand that not everyone sees most moves as unavoidable, regardless of career.
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#7 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 09:57 AM
 
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For now, I'd stick with something simple like "right now it's time for you to go to Mom's house." "Why?" "Because that's what all the grownups have agreed on."

I would consult with my lawyer about changing the custody arrangements to allow for more visits when he's in town, rather than relying on the ex to change her whole schedule on little notice. If it's official and in writing it smooths over a lot of those emotions.

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#8 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 03:29 PM
 
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Dear Op, I think it will just take time. I don't think you or your Dh are wanting anyone to jump at your command, he just wants time with his child. And I am one of those people who understand having to move with a job. Not all skills are transferrable. My Dh has very limited but very technical skills and can only work at certain jobs for instance. Just be patient. If you have to go to court again to get things modified, that's what you do. Since you had true 50/50 custody before, there is probably something that can be done. Sometimes here at this site, it becomes more about the birth mom and her feelings than about the child. Your DH has rights and sounds like a loving father. He should pursue whatever it takes to have time with his daughter. The child benefits from contact with both parents.
Angilyn, unless your dh has a physical or cognitive limitation that prevents him from doing any but a very narrow range of work, or you live in an extremely rural area with few or no employers, there are choices. Not all of them will lead to good money or be fulfilling careerwise. But in most areas, two adults doing relatively unskilled fulltime administrative/managerial work will make enough to support a household. If you're a reliable person with very good technical skills, you're probably bright enough to retrain for one of those jobs quickly.

In a perfect world, I'd love to whisk my daughter away to a major city where she and I would have the art, culture, and opportunity you find in those places. It'd be like reconnecting the blood supply to my career, too. And custodywise, I could probably do it. But the priority is that she grow up with both parents and as much family as possible. It's hard enough for her that she has to see us separately; she's nearly 5, and, like so many kids with divorced parents, what she wants most is for us to be married again and all living in the same house, even though she has no memory of it. So as much stability as possible, as much family and love on a regular basis as possible -- that's what's most important. The cities and all they hold will still be there ten years from now. I can wait.

People can survive on junk food and poor personal habits for an enormously long time. It doesn't mean it's healthy or in their best interest. Similarly, kids will suck up a tremendous amount, and take a lot of hurt, before they really fall apart. You can put them through moves, divorce, LD separations, all kinds of things, and because they seem to do OK we adults are great with the rationalizations. But I believe there very often is lasting harm, lasting sadness. It's hard for me to imagine something more traumatic, if you're a 5-year-old girl, than seeing your daddy -- whom you'd lived with half the time all your life -- move so far away so that you hardly ever see him all schoolyear long. It just sounds heartbreaking. You see it all the time with the mil families, but at least there the kids are all in the same boat, and they know that their mama or daddy is off doing something heroic. And it's still awfully hard on them. It's why I can't seriously contemplate taking my daughter away from her daddy, even though I have many reasons to want to be away from him, and many reasons to go elsewhere.

It sounds as though the modification from 50-50 had to do with potential disruption to the child's schooling and the court's unwillingness to leave her mom with no vacation time with the daughter at all. That's a fairly standard thing -- courts try to avoid that taskmaster-mom/disney-dad setup. The mother has probably already given considerable accommodation in order to give the girl lots of regular, nondisruptive time with her father. When parents here move away, they are not entitled to 30%. The courts view it as the parent's choice to leave, and they give primary custody to the parent who stays. Essentially they are telling the parents that if they genuinely want shared custody, then they need to adjust their lives and careers accordingly.
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#9 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 04:58 PM
 
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[QUOTE=mama41;10905750]
People can survive on junk food and poor personal habits for an enormously long time. It doesn't mean it's healthy or in their best interest. Similarly, kids will suck up a tremendous amount, and take a lot of hurt, before they really fall apart. You can put them through moves, divorce, LD separations, all kinds of things, and because they seem to do OK we adults are great with the rationalizations. But I believe there very often is lasting harm, lasting sadness. It's hard for me to imagine something more traumatic, if you're a 5-year-old girl, than seeing your daddy -- whom you'd lived with half the time all your life -- move so far away so that you hardly ever see him all schoolyear long. It just sounds heartbreaking. You see it all the time with the mil families, but at least there the kids are all in the same boat, and they know that their mama or daddy is off doing something heroic. And it's still awfully hard on them. It's why I can't seriously contemplate taking my daughter away from her daddy, even though I have many reasons to want to be away from him, and many reasons to go elsewhere.[QUOTE]

Thanks for making these points, Mama41. The whole "kids are so resilient" allows many adults to rationalize their choices in ways that I find amazing. I say this from the perspective of someone who grew up with divorced parents.

Can the dad rent a place for the times he visits, so the child can have a 'home' when she stays with him? I can't see how irregular sleepovers at a friend's house encourage a a sense of stability. The courts won't go for that kind of transitory arrangement either.
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#10 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 05:45 PM
 
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[QUOTE=mama41;10905750]Angilyn, unless your dh has a physical or cognitive limitation that prevents him from doing any but a very narrow range of work, or you live in an extremely rural area with few or no employers, there are choices. Not all of them will lead to good money or be fulfilling careerwise. But in most areas, two adults doing relatively unskilled fulltime administrative/managerial work will make enough to support a household. If you're a reliable person with very good technical skills, you're probably bright enough to retrain for one of those jobs quickly.QUOTE]

I think you must be a lot younger than me and you are not in my situation. Full time administrative/ managerial work he has never had. As for retraining, get a company to look at someone in their 50's for that and it would be a minor miracle. He has tried for two years now to get other work and there just is none besides Mcdonald's or Walmart. My Dss's mom would be the first to complain if Dh had to take a lesser paying job just to be able to stay close to his son. She wouldn't be able to make her house payments on anything less. I don't fault the original poster at all for the move. They did what they needed to do for their family and their economic well being.

I also think the bio mom of the child in this question needs to let up the control. That is what happens when we all divorce, we have to let go. I don't think that child will come to any harm by seeing her daddy more when he comes and it could give the mom a welcome break. As long as he notifies them in advance in a polite manner. Why do we all have to hang on with a death grip to things that don't help our children? If Daddy is good enough to see during his regular times, then he is good enough to see all the time, and same with the mom.If all of us were more flexible regarding seeing the other parent, it would only benefit the child. This child of the Op would certainly benefit and would not feel the loss as much. I think the bio mom needs to reach out and give a little.
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#11 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 06:09 PM
 
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I think the bio mom needs to reach out and give a little.
This part I don't get. It seems like knee-jerk scapegoating and denial of accountability for one's (moving away) choices. We're talking about another human being (mom) who went from sharing the responsibility of child raising 50/50 to doing it completely on her own and having to work hard to create a new, post-move life. It doesn't sound unreasonable to want to preserve some stability for one's child. Everything I've learned about "best interest of the child" custody guidelines suggests a predictable pattern for visitation. If one parent fails to respect the child's rights in this regard, the other parent must step up and protect them, even at the risk of being labeled "inflexible" or "emotional" or whatever.
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#12 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 06:41 PM
 
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I'll write more on this later (have to run soon), but I just want to add here that the dad already moved. So, given reality, is it better for the kid to see her dad or not? It shouldn't matter if the mom disagrees with his choice to move -- this is supposed to be about the child. And this notion that visiting "predictably" has to be the priority doesn't ring true to me. The child wants to see her father, and he goes to great expense and trouble to see her, and yet she is not allowed to see him. I find that inexcusable, whether the mom approves of the dad's choices or not.

In our case (also long distance), the mom allows us to visit whenever we are in town (yes, sometimes overnight at a hotel or with family). We always tell her as early as we can, though sometimes (like extra trips due to fare sales) have short notice. We ask her, and remind her that we don't want to mess up her plans, and see if the dates work for her before we buy tickets. She has her kids' interests at heart, and always tries to accommodate extra visits. She even told us don't be afraid to ask on short notice, as the kids love the visits. I respect this about her a great deal.

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#13 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 07:18 PM
 
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[QUOTE=violet_;10907829]It shouldn't matter if the mom disagrees with his choice to move -- this is supposed to be about the child. And this notion that visiting "predictably" has to be the priority doesn't ring true to me. The child wants to see her father, and he goes to great expense and trouble to see her, and yet she is not allowed to see him. I find that inexcusable, whether the mom approves of the dad's choices or not.[QUOTE]

It's not stated anywhere that the mom is basing her decision on 'agreeing or disagreeing' re: the move. Perhaps it's different in your state, but 'predictability' and routine are a big part of custody guidelines where I am in the Northeast. If you read the original post, the dad goes to the 'great expense and trouble' for court dates; the extra visits are not arranged for the sole purpose of seeing the child.

Why isn't it 'inexcusable' to choose to live thousands of miles away from one's child and then complain that everyone else makes it difficult?

It's not a 'mom' or 'dad' thing (although it seems to be reduced to the 'bio-mama drama' scenario). When my mom moved us across country and away from our dad and his family in the 70s, it [B]hurt us[B]. We, as children, experienced great loss. When I heard the 'if mom is happy, then the kids are happy' rhetoric from advisors encouraging me to move to fulfill my potential (and even to get a darn job in the awful academic job market), I knew they were just plain misinformed. I could tap into the sense of well-being that was restored when we moved back to where dad and his family was a year after our move and recognize that I needed to make living near my son's dad a priority.
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#14 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 09:09 PM
 
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The child likely also has a routine in place for school days, and those "extra" days that Dad's there disrupts the routine. I'm not sure I'd be thrilled with that, either. Especially if *I* then had to deal with the fallout.

Is it a shame that the little girl has a more limited amount of time to her Daddy? Sure, it is. But... Daddy's the one who created that limitation.
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#15 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 09:33 PM
 
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When I heard the 'if mom is happy, then the kids are happy' rhetoric from advisors encouraging me to move to fulfill my potential (and even to get a darn job in the awful academic job market), I knew they were just plain misinformed.
Sure. I had advisors telling me the same thing. And yes, I probably could've gotten into the Berkeley program, though there would've been more interesting work to be done at/around MIT. Yes, afterwards I'd have been capable of making more money, having a more secure retirement, possibly even finding a berth at a decent school with good tuition benefits. However, it would've meant ripping the kid away from her father and grandparents, and keeping her far from them through most of her childhood. If the idea is to improve things for the child, I don't see how that makes any sense.

Angilyn, I'm 40, and went back to work recently after a few years off the market entirely, and before that a long history of part-time work. I work in a field where I had no prior experience. Most low-level admin/mgmt jobs don't require much if any prior experience; that's why you see 25-year-old managers in retail stores. 50s are certainly tougher, esp for men, and esp if there is no BA, but I used to see my community college students swing it. Lose the farm, get a job driving truck and go to school at night to retrain. Accountancy was a favorite, and yes, they got jobs in the end. In any case, it's a bit of a reach to say that any American has to move thousands of miles to make enough to live on and pay c/s. To get a job in a particular field, yes. To get a job, no.

As for the kids' mom, you're sure she'd really want your dh to move out of her kids' daily lives so that she could keep the house? If so, she must not think much of their relationship. There's no love lost between me and XH, but if it was necessary to camp out in a small apt so dd could still have two parents around, that's what we'd be doing.
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#16 of 42 Old 04-01-2008, 10:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, I was just not answering the original responses that made a lot of assumptions about my situation because what I am interested in is NOT why mom does what she does, but on how to answer my step-daughter when she asks. But I will address a couple assumptions quickly to clear things up.

Trust me, We know how my step-daughter's mother feels. Perhaps it feels similar to what my husband felt when his ex took his daughter away from him one day and moved 1000 miles to another state and wouldn't let him see her for months. My husband gave up his career, friends, and life to move to where she was and fight for joint custody of his daughter who she took away. Don't bother telling me that SHE feels hurt and inconvenienced by the decision my husband made because it can not possibly compare to how he felt when his daughter was taken from him and he gave up everything to be with her.

Second, the reason he is there for longer than a weekend is because there is a custody hearing for a motion SHE filed, scheduled by HER lawyer for the middle of this week. In writing the agreement he agreed to VERY generous notice, against the advice of his lawyer, for his weekend parenting time because mom wanted as much notice as possible. He gave her even more notice than required and he politely requested the additional time. He didn't fly out on a whim and call her last week to ask for extra time, then get upset when she didn't change her plans to accommodate him.

Finally, we didn't move because of someone's career, so no need to apply any of those arguments to my situation.

There are lots of other assumptions that got my back up, but I'm just going to leave it at that... As a previous poster said, this is not about the adults. Regardless of the reasons for the move or anyone's feelings about why the situation is the way it is, it is the reality we are living with. My husband and I are interested in and committed to making it the absolute best situation possible for my step-daughter. And THAT is all I am asking for advice on. Not my life choices.

So for those of you who gave suggestions about how to answer her, thank you... I have passed them on to my husband and will keep them in mind for myself if I am the one fielding those questions. If anyone else has any other thoughts on how to answer her questions, I would love to hear more. Everyone else can keep fighting amongst themselves about why parents who move away are horrible and selfish, but I will assume you are talking about someone else.

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#17 of 42 Old 04-02-2008, 12:31 AM
 
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I like your answer! A lot of people on this board do make a lot of assumptions. Everyone seems to have their own situation and their own baggage, and they have trouble seeing through anything but that lens.

I've been on this board for a year now, and I am starting to feel fatigued by some of the judgmental responses. Especially from those telling me what to do when they have no stepchildren of their own. So I feel your pain.

I never really answered your original question (just asked one myself), because in your shoes I would have been very tempted to say "Ask your mom."

This sounds like a tough situation. I hope it works out for you guys. No matter who is inconvenienced, blah, blah blah, I hope it works out so your dh gets to spend some quality time with his dd, especially since they both seem to want that.

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#18 of 42 Old 04-02-2008, 01:28 AM
 
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Trust me, We know how my step-daughter's mother feels. Perhaps it feels similar to what my husband felt when his ex took his daughter away from him one day and moved 1000 miles to another state and wouldn't let him see her for months. My husband gave up his career, friends, and life to move to where she was and fight for joint custody of his daughter who she took away. Don't bother telling me that SHE feels hurt and inconvenienced by the decision my husband made because it can not possibly compare to how he felt when his daughter was taken from him and he gave up everything to be with her.
In my state that kind of behavior would guarantee that the mother became a noncustodial parent. Not joint custodial; noncustodial. (I've seen women lose custody because they broke custody orders fleeing with children from violent men.) Kudos to your husband for going after her.

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Second, the reason he is there for longer than a weekend is because there is a custody hearing for a motion SHE filed, scheduled by HER lawyer for the middle of this week.
Yes, OK. None of that changes what I said about that, though.

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Finally, we didn't move because of someone's career, so no need to apply any of those arguments to my situation.
I'd never ask you to justify it or explain. But for me, I can tell you that unless the move was prompted by a terrible illness -- a biological parent's illness -- and a specialist across the country, I can't imagine a circumstance in which what I'd said would change. In the end, yes, this is about the child, and the child's priority.
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#19 of 42 Old 04-02-2008, 08:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'd never ask you to justify it or explain. But for me, I can tell you that unless the move was prompted by a terrible illness -- a biological parent's illness -- and a specialist across the country, I can't imagine a circumstance in which what I'd said would change. In the end, yes, this is about the child, and the child's priority.
And when you have more than one child, it becomes a balancing act between what is in the best interest of each individual child, not sacrificing other children for the sake of one. When my step-daughter was the only child, there was no question that we both would sacrifice everything, and we did, to give her the absolute best situation for her that we could. I don't expect others to understand who haven't been through what we have been through and aren't living in the situation we are living in. And the adults still continue to sacrifice whatever we need to in order to make this arrangement work the best way possible for our step-daughter. We didn't enter into this lightly and we waited years to do it as responsibly as possible. She is doing very well with the living situation... she is simply not doing well with her papa being in town and not being able to see him and no one able to give her a good enough reason why not.

Okay, say what you want, I am all done defending the move. I can't tell you everything that happened in the last 6 years of our life to give you the lens through which I am looking. It would be helpful if, should you feel like giving me advice, you would start from a place of assuming that we are loving, stable, responsible parents doing the absolute best we can with the hand we've been dealt and putting the interests of our children above all else, with the interests of our step-daughter always above all else... even when it doesn't seem like it from where you are sitting.

Parenting four little monkeys (11, 8, 6, and 4) with the love of my life. Making it up as I go.
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#20 of 42 Old 04-02-2008, 12:47 PM
 
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She is doing very well with the living situation... she is simply not doing well with her papa being in town and not being able to see him and no one able to give her a good enough reason why not.


I'm sorry your feeling defensive and misunderstood. Your initial post raised very difficult issues and evoked many different perspectives. That's the risk of posting one's situation on a public board, no? Some posts were critical, yes, but not with carelessness or unreasonable presentation. I can't isolate the "she's doing very well with the living situation" from the second half of this statement. This entire statement allows the adults who made the choice to separate child from parent to deflect responsibility for creating the situation. If not for the move, the other issue doesn't exist, and it's difficult to understand how one can make an accurate assessment of how well a child is really doing from 3000 miles away. 3000 miles away.

It's simply unfathomable to me as a parent to think about living permanently 3000 away from my child. Can you look at your own children and say that you would ever, ever choose to leave them behind? If I made that choice, I would not feel entitled to any control over the fall-out. But you are right that no one knows your situation like you do. Perhaps it was a real 'Sophie's Choice,' a life-and-death situation. If so, then I am sorry you've been it that position. Best of luck.
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Dear OP, thank you for writing back. I felt a lot of the responses were not really thought out. It turned into moving away is unjustified and those who move away are doing it for selfish reasons. I think just being loving to your daughter and saying, we are doing the best we can and want to see you as much as we can. At one time in my life I moved away with just my younger daughter leaving my ex and my oldest boy overseas. I felt my son needed to graduate from that high school and my daughter needed to be in an American school where under age drinking and sex are frowned on. There were thousands of miles between me and my son, and he didn't like it but as an adult he understands now that sometimes it is for the greater good, in this case his sister not being in an environment where she could be taken advantage of. Good for you for standing up for yourself. With children, all adults involved need to put the good of the child first instead of their need for control over every aspect of a child's life. Divorce is horrible but it doesn't have to be horrible for our kids. Flexibilty, forbearance and compassion are three things that divorced parents need to practice. I know you know these things but am just mentioning them for others here that are not yet in the step parent blended family boat.
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It would be helpful if, should you feel like giving me advice, you would start from a place of assuming that we are loving, stable, responsible parents doing the absolute best we can with the hand we've been dealt and putting the interests of our children above all else, with the interests of our step-daughter always above all else... even when it doesn't seem like it from where you are sitting.
Such a novel concept!

When faced with questions like this come at us, my DH and I use a stock answer about grown up decisions.

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#23 of 42 Old 04-02-2008, 10:53 PM
 
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Where I live, if there is a custody order in place, nobody would get away with moving a child away from the other parent. ITA with the poster who said that is a quick way to become a noncustodial parent.

And, I can't imagine my DD's dad moving far away and being unable to see her frequently as a result. She would be heartbroken. I stay here so she can have relationships with both her parents, and that involves sacrifice from me; I feel he owes her the same. Why should it be any different?
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#24 of 42 Old 04-02-2008, 10:55 PM
 
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The child likely also has a routine in place for school days, and those "extra" days that Dad's there disrupts the routine. I'm not sure I'd be thrilled with that, either. Especially if *I* then had to deal with the fallout.

Is it a shame that the little girl has a more limited amount of time to her Daddy? Sure, it is. But... Daddy's the one who created that limitation.
In my experience, routine is nothing compared to spending more time with a parent. Dss's mother moved away and it broke his heart. The courts told us to get over it. It is what it is. Now, how do we make sure dss is happy and conected to both parents given the fact that she lives very far away, is rather flakey, and shows up randomly? I can't imagine making dss continue on with his routine (afterschool YMCA, karate lessons, Wednesday playdate, etc.) when his mom was in town just waiting to spend time with him. There's nothing he'd want more. Keep in mind, I don't like this woman, I think she is a nut, and it bugs me to no end that she moved away. Still. Dss wants to see her and he is happier with her more in his life.

However, I think the OP's question was how to tell the dss. I guess I'd ask the mother what she'd like me to say. Or, I might say, "That is what the custody arrangement says."
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#25 of 42 Old 04-03-2008, 10:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm just having trouble with some of the logic in some of the replies...

My step-daughter didn't do anything to create the situation she is in. I'm having trouble with the logic that says that HE chose to move, so SHE shouldn't be allowed to see him while he is there. I don't want to raise a child with the world view that if someone does something that hurts you, you should just suffer the consequences and not take actions available to you to make it better... or that you should make sure that person suffers regardless of who else gets hurt in the process.

I'm also having trouble with the fact that people who are willing to sacrifice careers, relationships, family, education, financial advancement, and their other children for the sake of their child are not willing to put forth the effort required to help their child manage a change in routine, or to be incovenienced by a change in their own life so the child can see their other parent.

I understand the logic "He made me suffer, so he should suffer, too." And if she can find some ways to make him suffer that don't involve making her daughter suffer, then I say go for it. Believe me, I spent a lot of time wanting her to suffer for what she did to us... but I wouldn't make my step-daughter suffer for a decision her mother made. We're the parents, and we can get over ourselves and claim our own baggage for the sake of our children... and if we can't, we should get some help to do it so that we can keep our children's interests first and not make them pawns in our relationships.

Parenting four little monkeys (11, 8, 6, and 4) with the love of my life. Making it up as I go.
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#26 of 42 Old 04-03-2008, 11:12 AM
 
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I think you hit the nail on the head, OP. Our children are not pawns in our power struggles and that is what I have been saying all along. They are our gift to be loved, enjoyed, and raised and protected as best we can. They are not just a gift to one parent, but a gift to both. It is not about what we as parents feel, such as he/she shouldn't have moved away, he/she shouldn't have divorced me, he/she should suffer the consequences of moving. No one suffers but the child when we start thinking so much about fairness to ourselves or about what we are entitiled to. As ex's we are entitled to politeness, information, kindness and not being talked badly about, timely delivery of CS (if we are CP) and visitation (if we are NCP). Both parents should feel their children are safe when in the other's care. We are not entitled to make decisions that keep a sound parent from seeing their child. We are not always entitled to convenience or what is the absolute best for us at any given time. Even parents that are still together are inconvenienced at times by each other and their children and many of us have sacrificed in our marriages to have a give and take that benefits the family as a whole. Why is this ability gone when we divorce or separate? IMO it goes because we let bitterness take its place and a subtle one up manship of how we should be treated goes to the forefront. We mirror our own feelings on to our children, and many times they become our mouthpieces to the world. I want my children to be flexible and loving to both parents even though personally I can't stand my ex. They didn't divorce their dad, I did. They still need and want his presence and don't need me standing in the way of a continued relationship. I would never presume to, as I treat my ex how I want to be treated, with respect, kindness, flexibility as well as good boundaries. Both boundaries and flexiblity are possible when wanting to be first is laid aside.
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#27 of 42 Old 04-03-2008, 11:23 AM
 
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I haven't seen any details about how the other child would be 'sacrificed' by having remained closer to your step daughter? Since you've mentioned that a few times I'm curious.

ITA about children not being 'pawns in power games.' But OTOH I think it is not the most reasonable thing to move 3000 miles away and then expect to be accommodated no matter what the effects on the routine or the custodial family, whenever you happen to randomly return to town. Kwim?

I mean, I would probably accommodate my daughter's father, as much as possible, as long as there was no hostility, because one of the saving graces for me when we did have hostility in our relationship was predicting when I would have to deal with him. But I don't know what's going on with your DSD's mother, why she is making the choices she is, and I'm not seeing acceptance of responsibility from you, the OP, for having created this situation by moving so far away. It's just as though that is a given and the responsibility should fall to the mother to accomodate your partner's unpredictable availability. I don't see that as a fair solution.
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Angilyn, I'm 40, and went back to work recently after a few years off the market entirely, and before that a long history of part-time work. I work in a field where I had no prior experience. Most low-level admin/mgmt jobs don't require much if any prior experience; that's why you see 25-year-old managers in retail stores. 50s are certainly tougher, esp for men, and esp if there is no BA, but I used to see my community college students swing it. Lose the farm, get a job driving truck and go to school at night to retrain. Accountancy was a favorite, and yes, they got jobs in the end. In any case, it's a bit of a reach to say that any American has to move thousands of miles to make enough to live on and pay c/s. To get a job in a particular field, yes. To get a job, no.

As for the kids' mom, you're sure she'd really want your dh to move out of her kids' daily lives so that she could keep the house? If so, she must not think much of their relationship. There's no love lost between me and XH, but if it was necessary to camp out in a small apt so dd could still have two parents around, that's what we'd be doing.
You don't know my Dss's mom, so please don't make assumptions. Of course she doesn't think much about their relationship, that has been one of our on going problems. Her house and money are everything to her to the point of great debt. If going back to school or anything of the other things you mentioned were an option at all, my Dh would have already done it as he is a very concientious person and very caring for his family's well being. Not all options work for all people's situations and yours would have had us in a very bad situation, living with his mom far from Dss, possible bankruptcy, and still owing the lawyer for trying to get CS lowered and owing bio mom for back CS. Maybe it would have even caused our divorce due to financial stresses. Good for your college students though, however, they were not in our situation.
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#29 of 42 Old 04-03-2008, 04:46 PM
 
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In my experience, routine is nothing compared to spending more time with a parent. Dss's mother moved away and it broke his heart. The courts told us to get over it. It is what it is. Now, how do we make sure dss is happy and conected to both parents given the fact that she lives very far away, is rather flakey, and shows up randomly? I can't imagine making dss continue on with his routine (afterschool YMCA, karate lessons, Wednesday playdate, etc.) when his mom was in town just waiting to spend time with him. There's nothing he'd want more. Keep in mind, I don't like this woman, I think she is a nut, and it bugs me to no end that she moved away. Still. Dss wants to see her and he is happier with her more in his life.

However, I think the OP's question was how to tell the dss. I guess I'd ask the mother what she'd like me to say. Or, I might say, "That is what the custody arrangement says."
It's a tough call. If the parent who moved away is a real flake, or has some sort of serious problems that makes him or her deeply irresponsible and you know it can't get better, I can see bending and bringing the parent in to see the child in some supervised environment. Otherwise, I still think it's a poor idea to teach children to get up and run for people who aren't treating them in a respectful manner. My father lives far away and has health issues that prevent him from traveling out here often. Still, when he's here, he never asks to step on our daily life. If my XH wants to give up time with dd so that she can see her grandpa, that's very nice of him, but nobody asks him to do it. My dad doesn't ask or want me to take dd out of her regular routine, lessons, etc. to see him; he and his wife spent time in town till we're done, and then they meet us. He's also careful to avoid visiting when I have heavy deadlines coming up. In other words, he respects the fact that he lives far away and we have a life here, and he doesn't come in shouting, "Hey, I'm here! I'm more important! My relationship with my granddaughter is more important than whatever you all have got going on!" And I respect and appreciate that greatly.

When I was a girl, my favorite aunt was a hippie with, as it turned out, some serious problems. She lived near my grandma. Sometimes, when I was in bed at my grandma's, I'd hear my aunt at the door, wanting to see me. And I'd jump out of bed. My grandma would tell my aunt to go away, sometimes, and come back another day, and I'd go back to bed feeling the separation. Much later, I understood why she'd kept my aunt away from me and why she'd been right to do so.

angilyn, it sounds like you made a difficult decision. I will say, though, that separating from a 16- or 17-year-old is very different from separating from a 5-year-old. When I was 17 I'd already been at college for two years and overseas on my own. I said "bye" to my parents at the airport and didn't look back. I can't imagine his moving away when I was five, though. When I was five he was my favorite person in the whole entire world, and I was still more or less figuring on marrying him. And that's just him -- mix in a stepfamily's leaving too, and I can't begin to imagine.

One thing this board is teaching me is the value of being very careful of acquiring competing interests after divorce when children are involved. In ways I wouldn't have imagined a year ago, I see that it would be wise to build this home for my daughter very stable and strong, with strong community ties, and without bringing in new men or new children while she's growing up. The norm appears to be to accept a long string of disruptions, breaks, and upheavals throughout the children's early years, and to expect the children will be resilient throughout. I wonder how much that has contributed to the unprecedented rates of serious childhood mental illness that exist now. In any case, if what I'm hearing here is representative, then having a fixed pole sounds like a good idea.

Incidentally, re the situation the OP asked about, if the mother is not likely to allow irregular visitation, I'd be very careful not to tell the child that her father is in town until the mother has said yes to the extra time, and not to make it appear that he is available to see her during other nonscheduled times.
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#30 of 42 Old 04-03-2008, 05:16 PM
 
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I'm also having trouble with the fact that people who are willing to sacrifice careers, relationships, family, education, financial advancement, and their other children for the sake of their child are not willing to put forth the effort required to help their child manage a change in routine, or to be incovenienced by a change in their own life so the child can see their other parent.
Aricha, I don't know the particulars of your dsd's mother's situation. I can tell you, though, that after several years of being at the whip end of my XH's abrupt and unilateral decisions, there are many things I will no longer accommodate. If he makes a decision, for instance, that leaves him unable to see our daughter as much, both of them will have to live with that decision, unless there is some advantage to me in changing the visitation arrangement. I am done with disrupting my life, and damaging my work and reputation, to accommodate him and his irresponsible behavior. I understand it may be hard for him to arrange work and school so that it accommodates his visitation time. However, I've manage to arrange my school and work well enough to keep dd out of fulltime daycare, and I'll continue to manage them so that I can leave work midday and pick her up from school daily, since it's on my watch and no one else is available to do it. If I can do these things, he can figure out something, too.

I find that when I stick to these terms, XH learns and lives within the rules. When I chronically accommodate, he very quickly learns to walk all over me. Why can't I just be a doormat for the good of the child? Well, first because I don't think it really is for her good (see next para), and second because I am the custodial parent. I do the work of maintaining the child's home and most of the work of raising her. That means I also need stability, regularity, rest. If I am stressed, that's no good for dd. I'm sure that if I were raising a 5-year-old whose father and entire stepfamily had just picked up and moved away for good, I would already be living with considerable stress. I would not allow XH to stress me further by dealing with requests for schedule changes.

As for why it wouldn't be so good for dd to chronically accommodate schedule changes: It is a matter of responsibility, and in that sense it has to do with childrearing, too. The larger lesson for the child is that if you are irresponsible, you cannot expect others to drop what they're doing to save the day, and you may not only lose out but cause real pain. In this case, the father does have regular visitation, and the child will see him then. I would also say it's irresponsible to imply to the child that she can see him outside schedule times before the mother has agreed.

I would agree with the pp about not hearing a willingness to accept responsibility for having forced a large change already, or willingness to live within the rules set up by that entirely voluntary change.
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