Need some help - kind of long! - Mothering Forums

 
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#1 of 7 Old 07-17-2008, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This forum seems to be heavily populated by step-parents, so I am hoping you folks can help me out with something.

My ex-husband and I have been divorced for 11 years now. I have primary custody of our 11 year old son & his dad has ample visitation & knows that whenever he is in town, he can simply call me and come pick up our son. In fact, any of his family can do that, as well as his wife's extended family. It doesn't happen very often, but every year I send another letter at Christmas time reminding them he is available for them to visit. Captain Knuckle also spends the entire summer with his dad in TX (dad is in the Air Force & stationed down there.)

I thought we were doing OK with communication, but about 18 months ago, he simply stopped responding to the vast majority of my emails. I know he is getting them because if I send him an email saying, "M. - I haven't heard back from you or K. about who is picking up Captain Knuckle from the airport there in TX. I am headed to the airport in the next hour and if I don't hear from you by the time I reach the check-in counter, I can't put him on the plane. Please call me when you get a chance," then he calls within a half an hour.

I was wondering if maybe I could be wording my emails differently or something. I don't get why he isn't responding, especially over important issues! Here's a sample of some recent emails over the past few months. Read them over and tell me what you think.

Quote:
I was looking at the school website today to get some more information about Captain Knuckle's school/schedule etc., and saw that the open house for 6th graders attending XXXXX Middle School is on Wednesday, August 27 from 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. I am sure that you will agree that this would be an excellent opportunity for Captain Knuckle to get to know his new school, new teachers, and the layout of the school. Unfortunately, this is the same day that he will be flying to VA. I am hoping that we can figure something out that will allow him to attend this open house with all of the other new 6th graders - he is really excited about starting middle school but a bit anxious about using lockers and navigating the hallways.

I have looked at the flight schedules on Delta & found one that leaves at 5:30 in the morning and gets in to Norfolk at 11:40 a.m. However, Norfolk is about an hour from the school and so it would be an extremely tight schedule. It would also mean that you guys would have to get up extremely early in the morning there on your end. A second option would be to have him fly to VA the day before - Delta has a flight that leaves at around noon and gets into Norfolk around 6:00 p.m.

Please let me know what you think & if you have any ideas or suggestions.
Quote:
Captain Knuckle's Scout leader called me last night to let me know about the upcoming Court of Honor where he will be receiving his rank advancement as well as all of the merit badges he earned at Scout camp in June. I told him that he is in TX with you, but might be able to attend the Court of Honor if it were held and the end of July. If you think you guys can make it, would you mind letting me know ASAP? It is scheduled for a different day right now but they are wiling to move it to that Sunday to accommodate your trip to so Matthew can participate with his friends.

Thanks for your consideration -
Quote:
Not sure if you got my last email, but I thought I would let you know we are in the process of collecting up Captain Knuckle's things to take with him to TX. We are wondering what items you would like us to send. In a previous phone conversation, Kate specifically mentioned Legos, and Captain Knuckle wants me to send his radio controlled car, a radio controlled flying robot, and some dragons you guys gave him a while back. Is there any thing else, toywise, that you would like me to send? I am just going to send all of this stuff UPS so you don't have to hassle with it at the airport baggage.

If there is anything else you can think of that you want him to bring, please let me know (books, clothes, or his scouting backpack). We are headed down to Spanish Fork tomorrow and won't be back before Captain Knuckle leaves. Naturally, I can send things after I get back, but thought it might be good to get them down there prior to his arrival. Thanks for your help in this!

Sincerely -
I have never had a response to any of these emails or 14 others that I have sent since January. In fact, he has only responded to 3 of them in that same time frame. Issues have ranged from doctor & dentist visits, securing a passport for Captain Knuckle, Spring Break visitation for my ex (was willing to buy a plane ticket myself so Captain Knuckle could go visit his dad but never got a response), summer bridge activities for school, travel arrangements, etc., - stuff I thought most parents would want have some input on.

Is there something else I could be doing to encourage more open communication via email? He won't return phone calls either, btw.

Thanks!

Dissertating wife of Mr. Amazing Man, mother to Boo Bear ( ) Captain Knuckle (13), and The Professor (5). Expecting Penelope Rose 5/10/2010 via planned c/s.
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#2 of 7 Old 07-17-2008, 08:28 PM
 
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I have experience with this. A few things jump out at me.

First: "I haven't heard back from you or K. about who is picking up Captain Knuckle from the airport there in TX. I am headed to the airport in the next hour and if I don't hear from you by the time I reach the check-in counter, I can't put him on the plane. Please call me when you get a chance," then he calls within a half an hour."

Sounds like this is what works. Save your communication for this type of thing only....what relates to transportation of your son back and forth.

If he doesn't reply to the rest of your communication, then he doesn't get to hear it. Communicate the way he does. Say very little, if anything.

Natural consequences work very well for most people. He has it easy getting all the details without having to lift a finger.

Stop telling him things. You make it too easy with your very sweet, detailed emails. If he was going to get the details of your son's life he should either live in the town where your son lives, and see him five days a week, or ask you the details he wants to know. Better yet -- he should ask your son -- he is 11 -- old enough to tell his dad what he wants to, and respond to his dad's questions.
If his dad doesn't ask any, well, that's a hard truth to learn about his dad,but he needs to learn sometime.

This also goes for communication about what toys to bring and all that. Your boy is 11, old enough to pack his own stuff. You are raising a man, not a boy who needs to have his parents pack for him.
If your son doesn't deal with the toys, and your ex doesn't either, then send no toys. They'll figure out what to do.

You can't make your ex have a good relationship with you/your son by doing all the communicating. It's exhausting, one-sided and not fair, plus it is demeaning to keep writing and not even get a quick reply. Give yourself a break and let them have the relationship. The intensity of communication will be dictated by your ex.

Be sweet the whole time, say very little, since you are getting so little in return. Focus your energy on raising a good young man.

I don't mean to sound mean. I went through the same thing -- only I have three kids who go back and forth a long distance, several times a year.

Hang in there!
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#3 of 7 Old 07-18-2008, 12:11 AM
 
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Maybe he just doesn't want that kind of relationship with you? I don't know why, you sound very kind and willing to co-parent. How does his new wife feel about you? On the other hand, I love emailing people and I hate to pick up the phone. Maybe he doesn't. Maybe he checks his email in a place where he can't respond. Does he respond more on the phone?
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#4 of 7 Old 07-18-2008, 07:43 PM
 
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Could he have changed his email?

If not, I would go with the "If I don't hear from you, I'll assume....." and go with it. I'm sorry you have to deal with this - coparenting is difficult when the other party doesn't communicate.
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#5 of 7 Old 07-19-2008, 02:08 PM
 
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One more thought from the other side, dh's ex used to call him all the time. Everyday she'd call him about 4 times a day while he was at work. He'd just let it go to voicemail. The messages were always like this:

Message 1: Hi, B, just wanted to say that I might be about 10 minutes late picking up M. My mom will be visiting and she's supposed to arrive at the same time I'm supposed to pick up B, so. . . . .

Message 2: Oh, acutally I think I'll pick him up 30 minutes early. Could you have him bring his shorts? I think we might go fishing and . . . .

Message 3: Actually, I'll just pick him up at the regular time. I also have a question about Christmas. I know it is 6 months away but do you think that you could do Christmas Eve and I could. . . .

Message 4: Do you think that next week I can pick up M on Tuesday night instead of . . .


Ok, now most of the messeges were friendly and all, but dh doesn't enjoy talking to her and he felt like it was way too much. He just wanted her to leave a message and he responds if necessary. He's really not comfortable talking to her. I never call him at work. I don't know how often you email, but it seems to me like your ex wants less contact.
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#6 of 7 Old 07-19-2008, 02:26 PM
 
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I think you are doing the right thing by your son in including his father in his day-to-day life. I think you could simply shift your tone to informative rather than soliciting an opinion, but retain a little invitation at the end that you always welcome his input.

For example:
"C.K. wants to bring X, Y, and Z toys with him. If you think of something else he will need, let me know."

"The open house for his middle school is scheduled at blah blah blah... I think it would be great for him to attend blah blah blah. If he can come back early, or if you have another suggestions let me know, otherwise I will try to arrange for him to visit the school with me when he returns."

If there is something you absolutely need an answer back about, ask specifically for the information and a deadline, like you did with the putting him on the airplane email.

I know we sometimes get email from my husband's ex that doesn't seem to require a response and then weeks later we get an email that says "you never responded to my last email..." On the flip side, she often doesn't respond to our emails unless we give something specific that will happen if she doesn't respond (i.e. "Please let me know if you have a problem with the summer program by this Friday. If I don't hear from you, I will assume you are fine with my choice to enroll her.")

What I am getting at is that perhaps your ex sees your emails as simply for informational purposes... if he isn't going to make a change (like returning early from his visit) he might just assume that no response serves the same purpose as saying "no," but without having to actually tell you "no." If you change your perspective (your job is to inform and give the opportunity for input or veto, as appropriate) and say outright what the outcome will be if you don't hear anything, it might put you both on the same page.

While you are at the perspective shift, if your ex thinks you are doing a wonderful job as a parent and believes you make good decisions that he agress with, he doesn't feel the need to have any additional input. So take his silence as a compliment

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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#7 of 7 Old 07-19-2008, 04:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Just to clarify, I am not pestering him with multiple daily emails and phone calls. The average is about 2 emails a month, sometimes less & generally only for important things. The email example about the toys was because at Christmas time they specifically asked me to send toys with him during summer visitation this year. I was just trying to follow through on their request. Since he lives in TX, there is little reason for me to be calling him daily or even weekly. If we need to speak on the phone, it is typically after his weekly phone call to our son, and that isn't very often.

After talking this over with a trusted friend & adviser, I think I will just go with jjawm's suggestion to say, "If I don't hear from you, I'll assume....."

Thanks for all of the insights, ladies!

Dissertating wife of Mr. Amazing Man, mother to Boo Bear ( ) Captain Knuckle (13), and The Professor (5). Expecting Penelope Rose 5/10/2010 via planned c/s.
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