I'm so confused

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Whiteheron

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I'm so confused
« on: May 11, 2018, 07:34:30 PM »
stbx is at it again. He keeps taking DS out of school on my custody time, claiming it's in the best interest of DS (and don't I care about that??) and that DS is old enough to say who he gets to go home with ( :blink:). The custody order is only a month old, and in that time, stbx has done this twice. My L has sent letters to his L on both occasions, both of which have received off the wall, accusatory replies.

Something I find curious...stbx didn't do this until the judge forced us to both sit down and have the custody order read into the record - stbx was unable to sign what had been agreed upon in court a few months prior. Since then, every stand-alone week night stbx gets the kids, he picks DS up from school early (which is my custody time - his time begins when the school day ends).

So I know I shouldn't let these response letters get under my skin, But they do. The tone. The insinuation. The fact that his L uses bold, italics and underlines to make his point. The first letter insinuated I wasn't a willing co-parent because DS asked for stbx to pick him up from school (DS has figured out that if he complains of vague intestinal ailments, stbx will jump in to the rescue, whereas I see it for what it is - a teenager trying to get out of school so he can go home and play videogames). The first letter read like stbx had won a contest - DS chose him over me. DS wasn't aware of the custody order and that he should have called me (since I do not speak about these things in front of him).

The second letter, which I received today (just in time for mother's day) claims that DS gets to chose and he's chosen his father over me. Never mind the fact that I work at the school part-time and that stbx has to pass by my car directly to get into the school to pick up DS - I was there both times he took DS early. (this last time there were four cars in the lot and he claims he didn't see it  :roll:). And never mind the fact that both times I was informed DS was no longer at the school after stbx had already taken him home.

I am angry and confused. Angry because this is not a contest. There's nothing to "win" by using and manipulating DS like this. Confused because the crazymaking throws me right back into the mindset of "what if he's right...what if DS does want to be with his father more...what if, what if, what if..." which is stbx's game, but I find I'm sucked right back in and second guessing myself. Do I now have to tiptoe around DS so as not to push him towards his dad? (and this is the kid who before divorce was begging me to get him out of the house and telling me he can't handle living with his dad anymore).

I can see that DS and stbx are manipulating each other. DS gets to stay home from school, and stbx gets the rush of being the chosen one (chosen over me) and gets to be DS's rescuer (which gives him an almost high, euphoric feeling).

I'm terrified that DS will choose to live with his dad, will get sucked even further down the rabbit hole and I'll lose him to the PD insanity.

I'm also so sad because DD calls me each night and cries and tells me she wants to be here with me. That she doesn't want to stay with stbx, just to visit him but not spend the night.

I'm scared because DS over exaggerates minor sibling squabbles and claims he can't handle his sister anymore - so will he want go to his dad's more so he doesn't have to deal with her? 

I'm horrified to know stbx is still projecting his mental illness onto DS as in "we're in this thing together".

Too many emotions. Too much confusion. Each time I think I'm getting better something happens. I really try to not let this affect me, but it's the kids. They're all I care about.

You can't destroy me if I don't care.

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LightOrb

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2018, 07:52:34 PM »
I am so sorry. I don't have practical advice because I am not a parentparent. I just needed to comment on the interesting fact that the other lawyer in my divorce also uses italics, underlines, color and bullet points. But what I hate the most, and yes, I am being petty, is that she signs her name in pink!  :stars: Is perhaps the crazy formatting some type of "lawyer for the crazy" signal?

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Associate of Daniel

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2018, 09:15:41 PM »
I have to say that your ex's lawyer sounds to be very unprofessional.  I wonder what a judge would say if he/she saw the lawyer's correspondence.

I'm not sure how old your teenage ds is. Mine is 11. Andlike you, I work at his school part time.

U/npd exH has pulled him out of school early a few times but thankfully not often.  Usually he's late to pick him up on his time and ds is left waiting around.

I gave a copy of the relevant court orders to the school and stated clearly that ds is picked up by his father on x and y days.  They know that I'm the "primary carer" and that I'm responsible for him until school finish time every day.

If your ds is asking the school to send him home, the school should be contacting you, not your ex, to pick him up. And especially since you are already there. Students have to be signed out by a parent if they leave early. At least,  that's the case in our primary school. 

So I suggest giving a copy of the orders to ds' s main teacher and the other relevant administrative people.  Form comfortable relationships with them, if you haven't already, so that you're their first thought when ds wants out early again.

It's really hard seeing our children so keen on their pd parent. Not just because it hurts us, but because we fear they'll end up like them and we want to protect them from the pain that a pd person causes.

And it must be hard to see your dd so upset when staying with her father. May I suggest you speak with a counsellor to give you and your dd some strategies/ideas to help her?

Other than that, I can only encourage you to be yourself, stay calm and consistent. Make yours the calm, reliable, consistent home, that both of your children take refuge in.  I'm sure you're already doing that so this is more an encouragenent to keep going.

Just a thought - is your ds old enough to be told of the judge's decision that you are the parent responsible for him until the end of school?  Stressing that it was ordered by a judge as opposed to either you or your ex might help him.

AOD


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Penny Lane

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2018, 10:08:10 PM »
Whiteheron, if I remember right, up until recently your daughter was the favorite and your son was the scapegoat? Has this switched recently? I ask because if that's the case, I imagine your son is really enjoying the new attention from his dad and is worried it will go away. And that's going to make this more difficult in the short term for you, but being a stable consistent presence should mitigate it in the long term.

My SO's ex's lawyer also sends some totally insane letters. This is a real interaction they had: His lawyer asked hers to ask her to not drive by our house DAILY and park outside, watching us. Her lawyer sent back what can only be described as a rant that lasted for 10 pages about how the kids are unsafe with us and he should lose custody and also there was a long section about how I'm the worst person in the world. It was not a fun letter to read, and it also was in no way based in reality.

Guess what happened then? She stopped driving by the house. My point here is that the lawyer wrote that letter because it's what the ex wanted (actually I think she wrote it). But I think behind the scenes the lawyer was telling her "seriously, though, stop stalking them." Unless your lawyer is worried, I would try to not let it get under your skin. There's actually a benefit in that it does give you a little insight to where his head is at: He's trying to win a contest that he made up in his mind over who DS wants to be with.

One strategy I would suggest is to just ... not play. Stop engaging about this. It is so obnoxious that he does this, for sure. But if it's not hurting son's education too much, maybe you can just see how it plays out? It sounds to me like he's feeling out of control and he's trying to push the boundaries of his parental authority. If he's like my SO's ex, he'll pretty quickly get bored if it's not getting your attention. YMMV - if you think he'd keep doing it forever, I wouldn't suggest this. (Of course, keep documenting it in case it comes up in court.)

Whatever you do, it seems like he's getting something from the back-and-forth with the lawyers. So if your lawyer keeps writing letters, it might actually prolong the issue. Some other options: Deal directly with the school, like AOD suggests or decide that you're going to play by the new rules that he's adopted, and when the school calls you on his time you're within your rights to deal with it.

Do NOT walk on eggshells with your son. Be your normal awesome mom self. Set boundaries. Insist he go to school. Love him and set loving limits. Do fun stuff together. Your kids need one stable parent, and you're not at your most stable self if you're making decisions based on your ex's manipulations.

When he says he "can't handle" his sister, can you give him some tools for interactions? Like "in this house when we're unhappy with someone else, we take a break in our rooms or go for a walk, we don't yell at them"? In the Bill Eddy books recommended on this site, he suggests a few things that can combat alienation: managing your emotions, thinking in shades of gray, moderate (vs extreme) behaviors and not blaming others. SO and I look for ways to teach the kids these skills as much as possible.

I'm sorry about your daughter, that sounds totally heartbreaking. Is there anything you or she could do differently to help her cope? I love AOD's counselor suggestion. Or maybe your role is just to listen to her and validate her feelings.

This is all very frustrating. It drives me INSANE when the kids' mom refuses to follow the parenting plan. My therapist gave me the best advice I've ever gotten, which I've said here several times. She said, you can't change her behavior, but you can give the kids tools to become more resilient in handling the other parent.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 10:28:31 PM by Penny Lane »

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Whiteheron

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2018, 02:57:40 PM »
Thanks for all of your replies.

The letters are completely unprofessional - just like the affidavits (so yes, AOD, the judge has seen some of this writing "style"). My L knows stbx's L and tells me she's never seen correspondence from him like this. I know stbx is putting a lot of pressure on his L, and his L is likely in it for the $$ at this point. Lightorb - no, you're not being petty. Any L signing a professional document in pink would make me think she was off her rocker. Completely.

My L wanted to write the letters so the GAL would see them. That was the main reason.

As long as my post is - I left out some details.
DS is 14.
The school now has a copy of the custody order - I spoke with the principal and she in turn spoke with the relevant faculty/staff. She told me that they will not allow stbx to pick up DS without my prior consent (I am custodial parent).

Yes, Pennylane, DS is now the favored child because DD was talking back and picking on stbx (she's angry about the divorce). He still tries to hoover her, but it's less successful. DS knows his dad's patterns and is able to successfully keep his head down and mouth shut when needed.

I did have a talk with DS after the first time - I told him he was to contact me, not stbx. But he contacted stbx the second time anyways. I think stbx texts DS during school, DS complains and stbx offers to come get him...so then DS has the nurse call his dad because he knows his dad will come get him, whereas I would likely make him stay at school (no fever/vomiting then he stays unless he's acting sick, which most times he's not).

DS starts most of the fights with his sister - she's raw so acts out more than usual when she's insulted, DS gets upset because her reaction is over the top and around and around we go. I've had him go to his room - but he claims he doesn't want to feel like he's being the one punished...the weather's finally turned nicer so he's been going for walks in our neighborhood (he actually told me last time he felt total peace - something he hasn't felt in a very long time). I think they're just both working through their emotions (Both have Ts).

DD is in counseling - we go see her T next week and I will bring up some of the stuff before her session.

I will look up those Bill Eddy books - thanks!

Are there any books on how to teach kids to be more resilient? or is that Bill Eddy? I try with DD, but each time I try to equip her with words or sayings, she says I get it but no thanks, because I don't want him to be mad at me. DS tells DD to stick with him (stbx won't pick on her if DS is there), but that's not always possible.
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Whiteheron

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2018, 02:59:32 PM »
Another story:
I'm a little miffed at my L. Friday was a half day for DS. It was field day. DS didn't want to go. He was at stbx's house (scheduled time). Talking with him on the phone the night before, he was forcefully telling me he didn't want to go, wasn't going to go, it was pointless, etc. Normal reclusive teenager response. I told DS that he was going and that I would not allow him to skip school, no matter what. He was not happy with me.

The next day I was planning to contact the school to see if DS was there. I just had a feeling. I knew he wouldn't be there. Sure enough, I received a text from stbx informing me DS wasn't "feeling well" and was staying home from school. Of course, I got the text an hour after school had already started, but who's keeping track? (me).

So I let my L know that stbx essentially allowed DS to skip school (I say essentially because he missed no classes). I tell her that both myself and DS's T are trying to get him to break out of his self-imposed isolation and interact with other kids his age (what better time than field day?). My L writes back and tells me that she doesn't blame me for being upset but stbx will say that I should have given him a heads up about this...

Was I supposed to tell stbx that DS was fishing to stay home? Really? stbx is so smart, he can't tell when he's being manipulated by a teenager? I'm getting angry because it's not my job to parent for stbx, and I don't feel I should be blamed for not doing so. Then she (my L) closes with DS and stbx are successfully manipulating each other and that she hopes this doesn't backfire with the GAL  :blink: really? No wonder I'm a complete basket case.
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Penny Lane

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2018, 05:44:48 PM »
Yes! Whiteheron I have a LOT of book recommendations. My number one parenting bible is Parenting with Love and Logic, which is what my therapist recommended to help make them more resilient. It's written for all parents, not specifically people with difficult coparents, but I think the philosophy really helps a lot. It's is based on giving your kids lots of opportunities to learn skills by giving them choices and letting them suffer the consequences in low-stakes situations. My SO's kids are younger but some of this is as simple as letting them pick out what they want to wear, saying things like "do you want to start your chores now or in 10 minutes," etc. This helps with their confidence which I think helps with their mom. I also really like How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. Some of the solutions in L&L are more severe where how to talk recommends more collaborative parenting. I find myself going back and forth a lot based on the situation.

When the kids here fight, we encourage them to work it out among themselves with the hope that they'll teach themselves how to resolve conflicts. But we also give them some guidance. Sometimes this is as specific as walking them through how the conversation should go. Sometimes it's as simple as "you guys need to calm yourselves down before this continues, do you want to do that here or in your room?" Even if one kid starts the fight, they're both expected to try to find ways to resolve it, including just walking away. (Obviously this assumes some degree of good faith; if one kid is just relentlessly picking on the other we'll step in.) They're not getting punished by going to their room, they're being given an opportunity to calm themselves down before they do something they regret. I'm not sure these exact strategies would work on older kids, I just wanted to give you a sense of how it can play out.

I went through and read a bunch of Bill Eddy books after I found this site, and they were all good for me. But the two that apply most here are Don't Alienate the Kids and Splitting. There's also a book called Coparenting with a Toxic Ex (not by Bill Eddy) that was really helpful too. All these books were life changing to me, and I think the kids have really, really benefited from me and SO reading them. If you read any of these I'd love to hear what you think and whether they were helpful, and I'm particularly interested in whether the strategies hold up when it comes to teenagers.

Have you tried teaching DD about the skills listed in the toolbox on this site? Like, grey rock, detaching from negative interactions, etc? She's probably old enough to start implementing some of them. We also try to roundabout teach the kids that they are NOT responsible for other people's feelings without even mentioning their mom. Sometimes we'll even use ourselves as an example! Like, yeah I'm feeling really cranky right now, I'm sorry I snapped at you this is not your fault and you aren't responsible for making me feel better.

On the lawyer thing ... I like to think of my SO's interactions with his ex as falling into two categories. One is communication for the purpose of documenting something. The other is communication for the purpose of resolving something with her. They're often mutually exclusive; if my SO clearly states the facts of the situation, she totally blows up. It sounds like that's what your ex did here. He's lashing out like a child throwing a temper tantrum because he doesn't like seeing proof that his parenting is lacking (at least, if he's like SO's ex). I don't have any advice here but lots of sympathy and solidarity.

Do you think it's possible that your ex heard you talking to your son and he was trying to undermine you by letting him stay home from school? He clearly knows (and probably likes) that it bothers you. Does the fact that you're the custodial parent give you the right to make these sorts of rules? Basically what I'm getting at is, it sounds like he's trying to get into a power struggle with you. Is there a way you can sidestep it, either by exercising your power as a custodial parent or by letting it go? I don't want to minimize it - I know this is so incredibly hard. SO's ex takes the kids out of school for all kinds of insane reasons (and sometimes, we're pretty sure, the reason is that she is hungover and wants an excuse to stay home from work). It is so frustrating. But overall there's very little we can do so I mostly try to not let it get to me, with varying success.

Also, don't forget to focus on yourself sometimes! The more you can heal from this terrible relationship, the better you'll be at being there for your kids in this way.

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Associate of Daniel

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2018, 07:49:59 PM »
As PennyLane said, communication is both for resolving/organising things and for documenting - to protect yourself.

So I suggest next time something like a Field Day comes up that you email ex your thoughts re ds and the school's expectations.

Then leave it. You will have done all you could. If the school or a court questions you re ds's absence, you have documentation that ex was aware of the situation and that you did what you could.

Ex may blow up at you for the email (how dare you have an opinion?! How dare you tell him how to parent?!). But you don't have to answer.

You are entitled, and it's your job, to parent your children. Unfortunately in our situations it means taking the time to state the obvious to the ex in written form.

AOD

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Whiteheron

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2018, 10:44:14 AM »
Yes, you're right, I should have covered my a** and sent him a quick text. But I didn't. I chose to let things play out to see what stbx would do. I hate to admit it, but I don't want to help him at all, I want him to fail (but I know that's bad for the kids). I want him to realize he's not all he claims he is (but he never will). I hate that I have to point out the obvious to him, especially since he's spent so much time and effort smearing me to anyone and everyone (including the court). I guess the root of it all is, that I've been so hurt by his words and actions, so why should I turn around and play nice and help him? (high road - no regrets). But that's how the game is played and it's what's best for the kids. I guess he doesn't need my help to fail - if I do all I can to try to ensure he doesn't fail and he ends up failing on his own, then I can claim I did all I could. (ahh! It's torturous to have to help my abuser!) sorry for the early am rant.

It is possible stbx was in the room when DS was on the phone with me. I hadn't considered that possibility.

I have a few of those books - I have so many I get overwhelmed and don't know where to start. I've started reading a bunch of them, then set them aside as other things come up (and I don't want the kids to see me reading them). Some I've started reading, thought, "this doesn't apply to me, it'll never happen", then I go back and reread and realize it did apply to me because it just happened.

I think it's information overload.

Thank you both for the advice. It's greatly appreciated.
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Penny Lane

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2018, 10:49:11 PM »
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to overwhelm you! I read those books over the course of several years - I definitely wasn't suggesting you should go out and read all of them at once. I know I have to take big long breaks because the subject matter is so frustrating and scary.

The ONE I would pick for the resiliency thing is Love and Logic. And since it's not about dealing with a difficult coparent, you can probably read it in front of the kids. Our kids bring it up and occasionally even ask about it. I think they're generally curious about how adults make the decisions they do, and this is no exception. The older one says they like it because it prompted their dad to start giving them an allowance! (It also prompted him to take away their candy stashes, which was not a popular decision around the house, but he didn't bring up the love and logic facet to that).

Anyway, it sounds like things are very new and very raw for you. I'm sorry you're having to deal with this and I really hope it gets easier for you, and soon!

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lifeline

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2018, 11:19:17 AM »
Ew! What nasty tactics!

Document, as much as you can!

I know you said your L is writing to his L, have you or your L considered filing a violation of the custody order with the courts? 

This sucks, doesn't it WH?  I feel you on this stuff, it's really tough...   And I get that wanting him to fail thing.  I can't really offer any other advice, because I am just as much in the thick of it as you are, but I can tell you I can relate, and keep strong.  :bighug:
"Only I can change my life.  No one can do it for me."
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Whiteheron

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Re: I'm so confused
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2018, 10:44:53 PM »
Oh Penny, I didn't mean you are overwhelming me - I meant all of the books I currently have at home - packed with valuable information my brain refuses to retain. I have books on my kindle, on my phone, hidden under the bed, my closet, a cabinet...including Splitting, Will I ever be Free of You, Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex, BIFF, the Self Esteem Workbook, Inner Child Workbook, Drama of the Gifted Child, CPTSD from Surviving to Thriving...etc, etc, etc.

That being said, I just ordered four more (information overload!) including the one you strongly recommend. I'm hoping to have some downtime over the summer to read (fingers crossed!).

Hi Lifeline!
I started documenting again. I'm finding I feel resentful that I even need to, but such is life with a PD.
My L sent a letter today saying if he does it again, we will file a violation with the court. He usually does it on alternate weeks - so it would be next week if he tries again.  :roll: He can't be that dumb, can he?
You can't destroy me if I don't care.

Being able to survive it doesn't mean it was ever ok.