Picasso Turns 17

Did I ever tell you that CF wished Rock Star a happy birthday via Venmo? He didn’t send a card. Didn’t text her. Didn’t call her. Certainly didn’t arrange to come see her. I suppose I shouldn’t mock his efforts, though. He did at least wish his daughter a happy birthday and more importantly, at least to her, he sent her $100. Yet another reason why I think he has a job.

Today his son turns 17. Picasso doesn’t have a Venmo account. His father continues to sell the story that he doesn’t have his phone number, so texting or a phone call is out. That leaves sending a birthday card or coming up. I think we can all agree he won’t be making that trip. We are now down to our final option- sending a birthday card.

Sad to say there was no mail today. No acknowledgement of his son’s birthday. Perhaps it is still in transit. Perhaps. I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

For the life of me I don’t see how he justifies attempting to have a relationship with one child while conveniently ignoring the fact that he has another one. Out of all the horrible, selfish things that man has done ignoring his son is the thing that hurts me the most.

Fortunately for Picasso he has a kick ass mom. I love that boy with all of my heart, even when I’m tearing my hair out over his grades.

Also fortunately for Picasso he had a good day despite his father’s absence. I worked, of course, but his sister bought him a gift and on top of that took him out to lunch and even gave him a brief driving lesson. She said she could only endure 15 minutes. Hey- we’re up to 45 minutes. She said he told her he wants to get his license before school begins.

Tomorrow we are going out to dinner with the family and Wednesday night he’s having a get together with his friends at the bowling alley before heading back to the house for ice cream cake.

Now we wait to see whether or not his dad will choose to acknowledge him.

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Into the Bowels of Hell, The Recap, Part 1

First, the good news. I survived! That’s awesome, isn’t it? Did you doubt me? I’m a plucky little thing.

Second, there is so much to recap that I’m going to have to do this in three parts, or you’ll be here reading for a good 30 minutes.

To summarize, when I last left off I had five hurdles to navigate. #1- meeting the oldest son, his girlfriend, and the grandson, #2- meeting the sister and brother-in-law, #3- meeting the son placed for adoption, #4- the graduation, and #5- the party.

As it turns out the adopted son did not attend. Something about he doesn’t have a license so he was going to fly but then nobody heard from him. Regardless, I didn’t meet the son placed for adoption.

Funnily enough I still ended up with five fucking hurdles. I got blindsided with a breakfast at the house with her on Sunday. Fun, fun!

Are you ready?

First hurdle to navigate- meeting the oldest son. He and his girlfriend were delightful. If they hated me they are very good at covering it. I jest. We had a great weekend together. His girlfriend is just the sweetest thing ever! She immediately went to hug me and then stopped herself. “Is it okay if I hug you?” she asked. Of course I said yes.

I think it was later that night someone was talking about what he should buy his girlfriend. I piped in with, “You could buy her a hot tub.” Now, there was a purpose behind this. It wasn’t as random as it sounds in this post, but I can’t remember what we were talking about. He replied, “I might be able to do that. It’s better than what most people tell me I should buy her. They’re always telling me I should buy her a ring.” Immediately I reply, “Well, you should do that, too.” This brings me to the point of this whole paragraph. He says, “Wait a minute! You’re supposed to be on my side!”

I thought that was cute. It was like we were a team already.

Second hurdle- meeting the sister and brother-in-law. What can I say? The mobster is the smartest man in the world. He’s getting a bit cocky with it now because this last time I admitted it he asked me, “So when are you finally going to start listening to me?”

They couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming. His brother-in-law, upon meeting me, asked, “Is this Facebook Sam?” Yes, yes it is.

Later that night, after the graduation, he put his arm around me, leaned down and told me it was nice to see the mobster smiling again.

Her sister was super helpful the day of the party. She helped decorate and was always asking if there was something she could do.

They taught us how to play new board games, invited us both up to New Hampshire, and gave us hugs when they left.

They were both fantastic. It didn’t feel awkward at all.

Third hurdle- graduation. She showed up. Several people, including her sister, said she either looked or sounded drunk.

Thankfully we didn’t sit together. There were over 20 of us there for T’s graduation and we didn’t even all sit together. It was so hot and humid. Of course it was outside, which worked well for the graduates as far as not having to limit the number of people they could have. It was hell for the audience, though.

She was hugging on all of the mobster’s family. So great to see them all, I’m sure.

At one point her sister was waving to someone and it caught my eye. I looked up and happened to lock eyes with BSC for a moment. That was uncomfortable.

After the graduation we all went out onto the field to take pictures with the graduate. Naturally, BSC was close by, hugging people, and just generally acting like Mother of the Year.

We ignored each other, which suited me fine. T came up to me and told me she wanted to get a picture with me. She had already taken one with Rock Star.

The mobster’s family all came up and said hello to me and made sure to keep me included.

After the graduation we bought pizzas and went over to C’s house. There was eating and drinking and a bonfire. She was not invited. We were out until after midnight. It was worth it though. I know the mobster enjoyed being around all of his kids.

To be continued…

Co-Parenting: Another Approach

I learned my lesson, people. The last time I saw someone give what I thought could be potentially harmful co-parenting advice I titled it, More Bad Advice. This time I shall label it, “Another Approach”. Perhaps people will not call for my head this time around. I’m also not going to link to the article this time so that should help as well.

Tip #1

The relationship is over. It is not your job to “ruin” the life of your ex. Please refrain from gossip that may harm the image of your child’s other parent. Remember that is still their parent and you chose them. Taking the high road, especially when you’ve been handed the short end of the stick, will go a long way in establishing a dynamic that is good for all parties.

First of all, who has said anything about ruining another person’s life? If by “ruining” you mean “imposing consequences” then I’m all for it! Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener. Sometimes when you act like a jackass people aren’t willing to help you out.

As far as gossiping goes I do my best to follow Chump Lady’s lead. I report the facts. I do not editorialize. If the facts lead others to believe you’re a shitty person… what can I say? If you wanted people to speak more kindly about it perhaps you should have acted better.

I always find it remarkable that the person who is shit on is the one being given the advice. Hey, even if your partner has completely fucked you over, take the high road. That’s what good people do. You want people to think you’re a good person, don’t you? Do you want people to think you’re bitter and angry? Then you’d better smile and be willing to work with fuckwits. Otherwise everyone is going to know you’re a horrible person who deserved whatever injustice you’ve been dealt.

Tip #2

When you start dating, vet your dates. If a person shows major signs of distrust or envy when it comes to your ex, they may not be mature enough to handle a healthy dynamic. For example, if they cringe at the thought of the two of you going to an event to support your in common child, sincerely take that as a red flag.

Vet your dates? Are there a lot of people out there who don’t do this naturally? Oh him? He was my prison pen pal. I’m sure he’ll be great around my kids. Sure, I had a little bit of a setback with that hitchhiker I picked up last summer… Like I knew he had a head in the duffel bag! But this guy is different. He wasn’t even in on murder. And he’s innocent! It was all a big conspiracy! He was framed! 

All snark aside, I think this can actually be very good advice. If your new partner becomes a green eyed monster whenever you and the ex need to have a conversation about your shared child, or throws a fit if you say hello when you bump into one another at a kid’s event, you probably need to examine that. This is probably not a good pick for a future partner, especially if you have young children and will need to co-parent for a while.

Similarly, I would be leery of the exes that do everything together. If you, new partner, think it’s weird for them to go to brunch every Sunday to discuss little Sydney, or think it’s unnecessary for them to co-chair the big spring carnival, or wonder why they still go to the movies together, this might not be a good relationship for you. They seem a little too entwined to me.

With that said, if you decide you want to act like one big happy, polygamous family, good for you! I won’t fault you for that. I, however, do not wish to hang out with the ex at every event. I prefer cordial when necessary. Not buddies. Not spending vacations together. No hanging out. Then again, that’s my line. You are certainly free to draw a different one.

Tip #3

When separating from the ex you share children with, you should consider it your job to assist when possible the betterment of that ex. What’s that mean? If you learn about an opportunity they could benefit from like a job, let them know about it. Or maybe you were their transportation before the break and they still need you to maintain employment, just do it. For as long as you can. And give a warning before you cease. Be the bigger person. Your kids are watching.

Give me a break! It is not your job to assist them. That stopped being your job when the relationship ended. How crazy would it be if we quit an actual job and people continued to tell us it would behoove us to continue to do that job? Listen, Gloria, I know you quit your job at the bank but don’t you think you owe it to us to come in and assist our customers? If you don’t do it, who will? Here. Just sit down right here at this desk. Turn on that computer. Maybe throw a loan or two together. Open up an account. You owe us that much. It’s your job to do your job that you quit. What kind of a person are you? Are you a quitter, Gloria? Are you?  A little warning that you weren’t going to continue to do this after you left the bank would have been nice.

You want a warning that I’m no longer going to continue to do things for you? Here’s your warning- I’m divorcing you!

Jesus Christ on crutches! It reminds me of Jackass and him asking me if we were still going to have spaghetti for dinner after I told him I knew he was fucking Harley. Gee whiz! I can’t think of a single reason I wouldn’t want to. Oh yes, except for that whole, “You’re fucking a whore!” thing. That makes me not want to cook for you anymore. FYI: Spoiler alert! I won’t be doing your laundry anymore either.

And always with the ominous warning: Your kids are watching!  Oh no! You mean my kids might actually see me standing up for myself? They might actually see me refuse to take any more shit? How awful! My God, they may not grow up to be co-dependent people; they might actually develop a backbone.

Generally I try to be open minded. I try very hard not to tell people what to do. But I’m begging you. Please, please don’t take this awful advice and continue to prop up someone who shits all over you. It is NOT YOUR JOB! Why? Because this person FIRED YOU FROM YOUR JOB! That’s why!

With that said if you were the asshole then I suppose it’s fine to continue to help out. Perhaps it will ease your guilty conscience.

The author goes on to say that she knows some of these examples are far fetched but implores the reader to hear her out. Too often when we split we want to make sure life is not better for our ex’s without us. It’s true. We all like to think we are the best thing that has ever happened to anybody we’ve come in contact with.

Eh. I don’t think CF deserves to have a wonderful life after what he’s done to me and our kids. I think the life he’s living is far better than the life he deserves. I definitely don’t think it’s my job to make sure his life hums along and that he has everything he wants. I owe him nothing. And quite honestly, I don’t have to do anything to make his life miserable. He’s done a fine job all on his own.

Instead, she wants us to get to what’s important. The children. Apparently, if you speak negatively about the other parent that is going to trickle down onto the child and damage their fragile psyche. If Mommy’s a bitch that must mean I’m a bitch. If Daddy’s an asshole, then I must be an asshole. Or so goes the conventional wisdom. The author points out that even if what you are saying are all facts you shouldn’t speak them because you could traumatize your children with that information.

I say, once again, if learning the facts about what you are doing would traumatize your children then YOUR BEHAVIOR is what is wrong. You can’t argue that cheating is okay or beating your partner is okay or gambling away your paycheck is okay or whatever behavior is okay, but actually telling your kids the truth about that behavior is traumatizing and never right. No, no. If it’s okay to do it then it’s okay to talk about it.

She goes on to tell a fun little story about her ex never paying child support. The man was $22k behind. Hmmm…. sounds familiar. Due to circumstances beyond her control he still wound up in front of a judge who was only too willing to throw him in jail for failure to pay. But Your Honor, this is a man who, despite being a deadbeat, sees his children every chance he had and his children appreciate that. His presence is so much more important than the money it takes to raise them. She decided to withdraw her petition for support and forfeited the past due amount. She didn’t want to be left having to explain why dear ol’ daddy had to “go away” for a year.

You know what? Good for her if she can forgive that debt and be completely fine without his financial help. Not everybody can, though. I sure as hell can’t say, “Hey, Cousinfucker, don’t worry about support. I’ll forgive it all. We’ll make it work on my hefty $28,000/year. I love the fact that I don’t make enough to have a home of my own. I enjoy sleeping on the couch. You and the whore take your combined $180,000 and go have yourselves a real fun time. You deserve it!”

Something tells me, though, that this woman always worked. She wasn’t a stay at home mom who followed her husband across the country. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she had been the primary breadwinner. I would also be willing to bet that if she wasn’t the primary breadwinner, that she at least made close to, if not equal to, what the father of her kids made. God bless those who are able to support their kids on their own. Sadly, not all of us can. And if you’re one of those who can’t you shouldn’t be made to feel as though you’re doing something wrong by insisting upon child support being paid.

I would LOVE to find a job paying me $60-$80,000 a year. I would LOVE to be able to tell Cousinfucker to fuck off, that I don’t need his goddamn money and he will NEVER be able to influence my life again. Alas, I doubt that will ever happen so I do the only other thing I can. I hold his feet to the fire. If necessary, I’ll throw his ass in jail.

What would I tell my kids if their dad went away for a year? Well, for starters it wouldn’t be a big change. But even if it were they are old enough that I would simply tell them the truth. Your dad owes thousands in back child support. The state takes his obligation to support his children seriously. He’s going to jail for a year as a consequence for not paying his child support, just like he could go to jail if he had been caught driving drunk or if he robbed a store. Honestly, I think that explanation is simple enough even for a young child. But if you think that’s too complicated try this: You know how when you do something you’re not supposed to, or I tell you to do something and you don’t do it so then you have to go to time out? When adults do things they’re not supposed to, or don’t do things they are supposed to they have consequences, too. Daddy’s going to an adult time out. We call it jail.

She goes on to say that the look on the judge’s and sheriff’s faces made it all worth it because they thought of him as cheap labor. That wasn’t going to happen on HER watch. He was her kid’s hero. I need them to see him as SUPERMAN. Really? A deadbeat is their hero? A man who leaves their mother to not only physically take care of them but also financially bear the entire burden? That is one awesome example.

She ends it by saying she needs her kids to know that both of their parents love them, emphasis on both. She wants them to have another person to run to if she’s not available. I need them to receive all the love God has made for them, even if it comes from their dad’s new love. She is in my place when I’m not there so she is important and is to be respected. She is important because she is there to enhance his happiness so we need her on board with the co-parenting dynamic so she doesn’t disrupt the flow of things.

Oh. Hell. No. For the record, I have no objection to them running to the other parent; however, the “new love” is not my replacement. She is not “the momma of the house”. She is not their momma. Period. She can be pleasant. She can be nice. She can take them to the movies. Hell, my wallet would appreciate it if she would take my daughter shopping. But she does not take over as momma. Even when I’m not there. Even when I’m dead she will not be momma.

Plus, I thought it was important to vet your dating partners. Why is her participation necessary for their co-parenting dynamic? How can she disrupt the flow of things? It is my belief that the other parent might be a little less than stellar if she has that much influence. Then again the man didn’t believe in paying child support so…

Also, she advises that you never be envious of the new love because “he/she is your ex for a reason.”

Sometimes that reason is because your ex is a lying cheater who tries to skirt child support. Sometimes that “new love” is the whore that knowingly fucked your then partner with absolutely no regard for you or your children.

She does wisely advise those who are dealing with a physically abusive person not to try to follow along with this. I think it should go even further.

You are not a failure as a person or a parent if you do not have the blended, happy model that is portrayed on television comedies. You are not a horrible person if you don’t want to pose for “divorce selfies” (dear sweet baby Jesus, yes, that’s a thing) on the courthouse steps. You do NOT need to get together with your ex and the new love to discuss “your” children. You no longer need to behave as your ex’s secretary; it is not a failing to say, “No more.” Your kids will be fine if Mommy and Daddy don’t vacation together or spend the holidays together. You don’t need to fool the world into believing you’re still a happily married couple even after you’ve divorced. You can have your own schedule, parent your own way, have your own set of cleats or tennis rackets or school uniforms and learn to rely on a new support system. That’s all fine if that’s what you want. Hell, I would encourage it.

I’ve also said many times that if being cooperative works in your situation then excellent. I’m happy for you and would never try to talk you into being uncooperative just for the sake of screwing with your ex. HOWEVER, what the author preaches is not the gold standard for co-parenting. Sometimes it’s just not going to work. Sometimes you are co-parenting with a person who does not have your best interest at heart and certainly doesn’t have the kids’ best interests at heart. Sometimes you are dealing with a person who hates you more than they love their kids. And sometimes you’re dealing with a person who just doesn’t care and doesn’t place a priority on their kids. Figure out if you’re in one of those situations and take it from there.

You do not need to act like a doormat in order to co-parent. I would argue that modeling such behavior is actually harmful to your children. You teach them to let people walk all over them. You teach them their needs are not important. You teach them that pleasing others is so much more important than anything else- like standing up for yourself or your principles, or demanding what is rightfully yours.

Remember, cooperation and civility are nice bonuses, but they aren’t necessary in order to raise some damn fine children. If you are willing and able to do that with your ex, good for you. But if you’re dealing with a toxic person there is no shame in walking away and letting them pick up their own mess.

I’d Take a Bullet For You

Oh, the interesting conversations I have with my kids.

Conversation #1

A few weeks ago my daughter called me to thank me for raising her to be a strong, independent woman. Apparently a bunch of people she knows have chosen to return home instead of remaining at college. The reason cited for the return? Homesickness.

She went on to say that in almost every single case the person returning home didn’t get involved at school. That was my moment to jump in and take credit. “What did I tell you?” She agreed that I had indeed begged her to get involved, to go out and participate in everything she possibly could at least that first week. As I wisely pontificated, “ Please give it a chance. Take advantage of every outing, every get together, every event planned for the first week. After that first week if you decide you just want to hang out in your room and watch Netflix, fine. But get out there that first week.”

She decided to go through recruitment (what was once known as “rush”) and has never once looked back since.

Conversation #2

I have come to the conclusion that I am a very bad driver. I didn’t used to think this but it is becoming more and more apparent.

I picked up Picasso from one of his after school events. There are a lot of stop signs with cross streets that don’t stop. I was at one such stop sign and began crossing when halfway across the road I realized there was a car coming towards me. I put the pedal to the metal and made it across.

Now, keep in mind the driver didn’t have to slam on their brakes. The driver didn’t have to swerve to miss me. I cut it close but we were in no danger of almost crashing. Even so the driver was not pleased and laid on the horn.

As we continue down these narrow streets, stopping every block for the stop signs I’m pointing out to my son how all of these houses look newly refurbished, which is something I was talking about with him recently. I was almost at the end of the block and ready to turn and, of course, coming upon another stop sign when I hear a car honking furiously behind me. I’m thinking there’s no way I have taken too long so what the hell is wrong?

That’s when the driver of the car from earlier pulls up beside me! She’s yelling and gesturing to me to roll down my window. I’m thinking, “No.” I’m not getting into it with some stranger that is obviously crazy enough that she’s willing to chase me down on a residential street.

I pull on up to the next stop sign and she’s still behind me, honking. I think it was at this point Picasso told me I should have a gun. I told him I had mace and he told me that wasn’t going to help if she pulled a gun. “Well, no, but if she doesn’t have a gun then my mace will be just fine,” I replied.

I turn right with the crazy bitch behind me. She begins to pass me on the right, trying to come up alongside me.

Again, I remind you, she did not have to slam on her brakes. She did not have to swerve to miss me. It wasn’t like we almost crashed and died.

As she’s pulling up beside me I decided I had had enough. I punched it once again and she was either going to have to slow down or run up onto the sidewalk or into the cars. I really didn’t care which one she chose. I did blow through a stop sign after I sped up.

Maybe she figured I was crazy at that point, or she felt she had completed her mission. At any rate she gave up the chase.

Once home Picasso told me that’s why I needed a gun. Eh. Probably not the best idea under the circumstances. Nonetheless, he told me he was getting into a defensive posture in case she did pull a weapon. “I was ready to take a bullet for you, Mom.”

I was touched. I also let him know that it was my job as the parent to take a bullet for him, not the other way around.

It’s sad, though. He can’t stand his father, refers to him by name, and wants nothing to do with him. He’d take a bullet for me, though. And he wasn’t just spewing shit. He really thought it was possible the situation could escalate to that point and he was getting prepared.

CF doesn’t have that with his kids. I tell myself all the time I am the real winner in all of this, no matter what, because my kids love me; they think the world of me. Yet, I also realize CF doesn’t care about stuff like that. Those are my values. That’s what is important to me. Harley and money is what is important to him.

Conversation #3

Picasso spends a lot of time in his room playing games on the XBox with his friends. Sometimes I feel like I’m failing him because I don’t drag him out of his room. There have been times when I’ve asked him if he wants to go get something to eat and he’ll reply, “Nah, I don’t really want to go anywhere.” There have been times when I’ve asked him if he wants to go see a movie and he’ll tell me there’s nothing out he really wants to see.

I know he’s much more of an introvert than his sister so I don’t push. Plus, it gives me a chance to decompress as well. But I do end up feeling guilty some days.

We had a rare day when he was out at the table and we were talking so I asked him how he felt I was doing as a parent. He’s a very literal kid so I find him very funny most of the time.

“On what kind of a scale?”

“What kind of a grade would you give me? A, B, C, D, or F?”

“Oh. Well, an A. You’ve kept me alive.”

“I would think the standards would be a little higher than just simply, ‘I kept you alive.’ Do you feel like I’m around enough? Give you enough attention? Am I engaged enough with you?”

Everyone should be pleased to know that I passed with flying colors. He feels I’m doing a bang up job of parenting him. I’m around plenty and he knows he can talk to me. He also assured me that he’s not barricading himself into his room and being a hermit. He’s playing with friends. He’s laughing and having a good time, which makes me feel a lot better.

We’ve been to two movies since that conversation and get this! He’s agreed to go see “Gone With the Wind” with me!

My Mamaw loved that movie. My mom used to say she believed she was Scarlett O’Hara. Close to twenty years ago she was visiting me down in Olive Branch. The local theater was playing “Gone With the Wind” on the big screen so I took her, knowing how much she loved the movie. It was the first time I ever saw it at the theater.

I never thought I would be carrying on the tradition with my son but hot damn, I’ll take it!

Conversation #4

The day Rock Star returned to school after winter break was rapidly turning into a disaster. She was picking on her brother and he was almost in tears. I was upset because we were out to breakfast before heading to take her back. All I wanted was a nice meal with my two children.

I barely said a word for the first 2 1/2 hours of our 2 hour and 45 minute trip. After I pulled over at the rest area to go to the bathroom and came back to the car I decided to break the ice.

She immediately burst into tears. “I miss you! I miss you so much! It’s not fair. I only get you for this one day and he gets you for the next two years!”

I was gobsmacked. She is loving college life. She loves her sorority. She loves the girls she’s met through AOPi. She is beaming and thriving. I reminded her of all of this.

“I know. And I do love it. But I still miss you!”

Maybe I shouldn’t be pleased that she misses me still. Perhaps it is a very bad sign that she will never launch because I have created such a dependence in her on me.

I don’t care, though. I know she’s having an amazing time at college. I’m still pleased to hear she loves me and misses me and wishes I were around more. When you hear all the negative stories going around about kids who can’t stand their parents I’m glad mine adore me.

Conversation #5

You may find this one a little sad. It is another conversation between me and Picasso involving his father.

I know I have written about not forcing a relationship on your kids and to not try to smooth things over between them and the other parent. It’s not your job to spackle. I don’t but I also don’t want my kids to feel like they will be betraying me by having a relationship with their dad.

On yet another chatty night we were talking about CF. Picasso was holding a small box and he remarked that the only thing CF had taught him was how to fold a box. At that moment I decided it needed to be said. I would suck it up if either of my kids wanted to see their father and there are times I worry that they feel I’ll be angry if they ever did choose to have a relationship with him. I very seriously told Picasso: You know, I won’t be upset if you want to have a relationship with him. You don’t have to worry that I will feel like you are betraying me.

“Oh, I wouldn’t feel like I was betraying you. I would feel like I was betraying myself,” he replied. “I abhor him.”

He went on to explain that he once felt sorry for his dad because he seemed so sad and so broken. He bought into the PTSD explanation his dad was selling the last few months before DDay. But, once he realized his dad was faking he became very angry. He said it was sick to do something like that, to pretend you have a very serious mental health diagnosis and to use that to justify your behavior. He also said he didn’t appreciate his dad cheating on me or him leaving the state and not saying a word to them. He ended his explanation by saying, “It all culminated in a perfect maelstrom.”

I was as impressed with his explanation as I was with his vocabulary.

“Wow, nice use of the word maelstrom.”

“You like that? I like that word but it’s hard to find an occasion to use it in a sentence. I’m surprised you didn’t say anything about me using abhor.”

“Eh. Not that big of a word. Maelstrom impressed me, though.”

Like I said, I have some interesting conversations with my kids.

Stop Feeding Your Kids Shit Sundaes, Part 2

I treat it the way I do because I’ve seen enough from the other board where I used to read that I know it does more harm than good to try to convince a kid that a neglectful and/or abusive parent loves and cares about them. I’m not accusing Cousinfucker of being abusive. I guess he is neglectful in the sense that he hasn’t seen his own son in almost 3 years now. He’s neglectful in the sense that he walked away from his two kids and that he didn’t give a shit when we were barely keeping our heads above water. He’s neglectful in the sense that he doesn’t communicate with them regularly and he makes up bullshit stories about not knowing how to get in contact with his son. Really, I think he’s just self-centered. It’s all about him and what he wants. No one else matters and he’s always the poor picked upon victim. Not exactly the kind of person you would want in your life, huh?

I don’t even care for: He/she loves you in the only way he/she knows how (or the best that they can). What kind of bullshit is that? Seriously? We’re really going to try to justify an adult walking away from their kids and then playing the pouty brat because those kids are upset with them? Or try to convince a kid that the best their parent has to offer is subpar and they should embrace that?

I believe kids can sometimes see with a clarity that escapes adults. It was my 13 year old nephew that saw something in Cousinfucker’s eyes when we came back from our family vacation in Florida. CF had opted out of the family vacation, choosing instead to go first to Tennessee and then to Kentucky so that he could participate in a mini family reunion that excluded his actual immediate family, and then turn around and fuck his cousin. I do believe he said he could see evil in his eyes.

I still remember the mom who was realizing as her son turned 16 that he would have been so much better off if she had never pushed for a relationship between father and son.

The story was this: They had been friends with benefits (maybe had even dated at one point). She got pregnant, kept the baby. They didn’t marry. He paid support but didn’t have much of a relationship with his son although he did have visitation and she supported them having a relationship. He went on to marry another woman a few years later, had two kids with her. He was supposedly a great dad to the two kids he had with his wife, but remained a largely disinterested father to his eldest. He basically went through the motions and did the bare minimum. I remember a story about the father giving him a special dice set for his 16th birthday. I think that was it. Nothing else. The straw that finally broke the camel’s back was a family trip that was planned for DisneyLand. It was to be Dad, his wife, their two kids, and this boy. He broke his ankle so wouldn’t be able to get around easily. Instead of trying to reschedule (and I believe the younger kids were not yet in school) Dad was practically giddy at the thought of going on this “family trip” with his wife and two kids, leaving the oldest son behind. It was quite obvious to the boy that his father really didn’t care about him. In the end he (the son) chose to cut off all contact.

I recall the mom who eagerly advocated 50/50 custody. She had offered it to her ex and constantly talked it up as the gold standard. Her daughter had both parents in her life and there weren’t too many transitions compared to a child seeing a parent every other weekend. Her daughter had no problems with it. She had four parents. She would never force her ex to be a peripheral part of his daughter’s life. Life’s a funny thing. Stepmom had a child of her own and no longer had time for her stepchild. The daughter got older, had her own teenage life, and wanted to spend more time with friends. Despite the 50/50 custody Dad was not willing to accommodate her. The relationship broke down because Dad was more concerned with his own needs than his daughter’s. That child is now 18, hates her father and has an eating disorder. There is some suspicion of sexual abuse and stepmom definitely contributed to the eating disorder. The mom now says if she knew then what she knows now she never would have agreed to 50/50 custody and she would have fought to end 50/50 custody long before she did, which was when her daughter was somewhere between 14 and 16.

Yet another mom dealt with an alcoholic ex who, by her description, makes CF seem absolutely delightful. He was entitled, rude, weird, and unreasonable. Mom worried about what a judge would say if it got to court so she was always, as she said, busy keeping her halo shiny for court. She didn’t think she could support her daughter in not visiting her father because that might cause him to take her back to court. She went along, hoping for the best. Yet another situation where the mom now says if she could she would do things completely different, because the father was extremely toxic to her child, once again to the point that there was some abuse involved. I think it was mainly emotional abuse; I don’t think he beat his daughter. But she was asked to keep a lot of secrets and he laid a lot of guilt trips on her. That poor girl ended up with severe mental health issues and has no relationship with her father.

Another mom worked hard to support her son’s relationship with his dad only to watch it disintegrate once the son turned 18. Once her son became an adult Mom left them alone to manage their own relationship. Left to their own devices and without having her there to guide them, the relationship crumbled.

So many of these women look back as their children grow up and are only now realizing the damage that was done.

It wasn’t always a case of telling the kid Daddy loved them when he didn’t. Many of the situations came down to them either believing having a dad in their life was very important, or not knowing how to keep a kid from a toxic parent.

I prefer Chump Lady’s motto: You only need one sane parent. That parent can be a mom or a dad (hello, Mobster!), and while it’s always nice to have both parents be sane, you can raise a perfectly functional and fabulous human being with only one sane parent.

I will never forget the woman from the first story saying that her son’s therapist had told her to stop telling him that his father loved him/cared about him whenever he would say his dad didn’t. As the therapist explained every time she told him that she was reinforcing this idea that he couldn’t trust his own feelings. She was basically telling him that he didn’t know the truth. The therapist went on to say that he was eventually going to be pissed at her because she kept lying to him. He was also relying on her to be a safe space. That safe space should be helping you navigate painful truths and validating your feelings, not encouraging you to believe lies.

With that in mind I don’t tell my kids their father loves them. Truthfully I don’t think he’s capable of it. Perhaps I should say I don’t excuse his behavior by assuring them that he loves them very much or that he loves them but he’s just broken and can’t express it very well. I do, however, share stories with them. They’re usually sappy stories which paint him in a good light. I may not think he’s capable of putting them first but at one point in time he did do nice things. Plus, I have always said I will give him credit when it is due. Like the time he came home from work and Picasso asked him to take him to the new Star Wars animated movie on opening day. Mama doesn’t do opening day crowds; however, I suggested he ask his dad and his dad did indeed put his stuff up and take him directly to the movies.

I do admit I don’t know why he does the things he does. I have offered to pay for counseling. Rock Star went for a few weeks. Picasso has no desire to ever go. As he says, he has nothing to discuss. He’s fine with his father’s disappearance. It’s just the way it is. No use crying over something you don’t have; it’s not going to change it. I don’t push. I’ve heard that’s not a good thing to do.

In a similar vein I don’t push a relationship between the kids and their father. He’s their father; if they wish to have a relationship I can accept that. I don’t find it odd to think that they may want that at some point. But I’m also not forcing it down their throats. We don’t have conversations that revolve around me telling them they need to call their dad or give him a chance. I have told them both they need to text him and thank him for the Christmas money. I’ve also asked if they’re interested in seeing him again. On a few occasions I’ve asked some “What if” questions. One time I did ask Picasso if he would see his dad if he showed up on our doorstep (I was curious because CF says one of the reasons he doesn’t drive to see his kids is because they would refuse to see him). I may have even asked once what it would take for them to develop a relationship with him again. But that’s as far as it goes. I let them lead. If they say, “No,” then no it is.

I do my best to validate their feelings. When Rock Star says that her dad is always playing the victim I sympathize and usually agree. When Picasso says his dad is scum I don’t admonish him; I listen and sympathize. Hell, sometimes I even say, “Do better than what he did.”

I think we do our kids a disservice when we push an unwanted relationship on them. Look, we ate a shit sundae for years in our quest to keep a relationship going. Shouldn’t that stop with our kids? Why lie to them and tell them someone who is actively hurting them loves them and cares about them? Again, I’m not saying that you vomit up all of your ex’s bad behavior. But I am saying that you reinforce this fucked up version of love when you try to convince your kids that someone who does such shitty things really, really loves them. Stop it! I think kids tend to have better boundaries and better instincts when it comes to things like this, and we as parents are doing them no favors when we teach them to ignore their guts.

That goes for the stupid affair partner as well. I believe in naming them and letting your kids set boundaries. Hell, I believe in telling your kids that they can have boundaries when it comes to their parent’s affair partner.

Why do some people insist upon torturing themselves by insisting that the kids get along with or meet the AP? I realize that when you’re dealing with very young children they don’t have much of a choice. But as teens or older? They absolutely have free agency. I have no problem admitting that I told both of my kids that they didn’t have to meet Harley if they didn’t want to. They are both at ages where they can decide that for themselves. I’m not going to lie to them and tell them they have to!

I also most certainly told them her name. I was not going to let him pass her off as some new love when the reality was he had been cheating on me and draining our bank accounts to do so. His kids did without so that she and her kids could have even more. He more than likely moved us across the damn country and took us away from everything and everyone we loved to get closer to her. I think they have a right to know all of that. I think they deserve to know what kind of a person she is.

I remember a relative telling me I couldn’t expect my kids to not have anything to do with Harley but think they would develop a relationship with the mobster. I assured her that I certainly could because the mobster had not been the reason my marriage ended. He had absolutely nothing to do with it. I met him almost two years later. She, on the other hand, had stepped right into the middle of it. She was perfectly aware of what she was doing and she didn’t care.

My kids like the mobster. He is good to them. He cares about them. Harley has never done a single thing to show my kids she even realizes they exist. Unless you count when she blocked Rock Star on Facebook because Rock Star saw her idiotic post whining about missing the comfort of her married lover in her bed, and confronted her father over it.

I have even gone so far as to tell both of my kids that they are perfectly within their rights to insist that if they see their dad that he meet them alone. There is nothing wrong with wanting to spend time with your parent and not have the person who directly contributed to your life imploding tag along.

I find the argument that they can’t have a relationship with the parent unless they have a relationship with the AP to be ridiculous. Of course they can! If the parent is any kind of parent at all they will meet their kid at their comfort level. And if the parent says, “Love me, love my AP,”? Well, then your kid has all the information they need about pursuing a relationship with that parent. You as the sane parent are doing them a disservice by teaching them to accept such shitty treatment.

Admittedly most of my research comes from my circle of friends and commenters on Chump Lady, but those commenters on Chump Lady are a chatty bunch. It seems that the majority of the time these cheating parents weren’t very good parents when they were married to the child’s other parent. Usually they are painted in a very selfish, unflattering light. A lot of times the cheating parent abandons the kids, or they just don’t put the kids first. It’s all about them and what they want, what makes them happy. The kids are given any leftover scraps. My question then is why on earth are we painting them as these amazing parents, half saint/half god, that are going to leave deep, festering wounds if they are not around to dote on the children? Chances are they haven’t been around much anyway! Stop rewriting history! Stop shoving the shit sundae laden spoon down their throats!

If the kid’s boundary is, “I don’t want to meet that whore,” or “I will not be around that whore so if you want to have a relationship with me leave it at home,” then respect that. Stop teaching your kids to make their needs smaller to keep somebody that doesn’t give a shit about them in their lives. Stop teaching them that their boundaries aren’t important.

We got into our situations by telling ourselves that our needs didn’t matter. We were taught that the only thing that mattered was that lying cheater. Keep him or her happy at all times and at any expense. Look where that got us.

Help your kids break that cycle.

 

Stop Feeding Your Kids Shit Sundaes, Part 1

Quite the provocative title, huh? Eh, what can I say? I’m feeling a bit sassy today.

As long as there has been cheating and divorce I’m sure there have been varying opinions on what to tell the kids. The overriding opinion seems to be you keep your mouth shut, you don’t answer questions about what happened, you simply tell them both parents love them and everything is going to be okay and you do everything in your power to encourage a relationship with the other parent, regardless of what kind of a person that parent is. Also, never ever mention child support. Ever.

I am not impressed with any of this. I also strongly disagree. Here’s what I believe: You tell your kids the truth in age appropriate terms. You state the facts; you don’t editorialize. You answer their questions honestly. You don’t tell them that the parent that walked out on them and hasn’t called in two years loves them. You don’t excuse shitty behavior and try to smooth it over. You don’t force a relationship when the kid isn’t feeling it, and you certainly don’t sell them that bullshit that they must accept the affair partner, especially if they want to have a relationship with their parent. I’m also not a fan of acting like child support doesn’t exist and money magically appears in your bank account at random times.

Before the torches and pitchforks appear I shall explain further.

Tell your kids the truth. If Daddy went to prison because he killed someone, or Mommy went to prison because she was selling meth, I think most people would agree the kids should be told the truth. Depending upon the age the child might only be told something so basic as, “Mommy/Daddy did something that was against the law so now they have to stay in jail.” Older kids would probably know more details, like what they actually did to break the law. I’m not saying they would be given crime scene photos and walked through the actual murder/meth production, but they would have the basic facts: Dad killed someone. Mom was selling meth.

Similarly if you divorced because your spouse was a lying cheater then I don’t see the problem with admitting that you are choosing to divorce because of infidelity. Younger kids would get a much more basic version: When your dad/mom and I got married we promised we would live together and we wouldn’t date anyone else. Daddy/Mommy broke that promise so now we are getting divorced and we’ll be living in separate houses.

I’ve read a lot of comments over on Chump Lady from people who didn’t tell the kids about the infidelity and it has come back to bite them in the ass. Either the kid is angry that this information has been kept from them, or, in other cases, they don’t understand why the betrayed parent isn’t mourning the parent’s death or is ready to date once again. They see the cheating parent as a victim of the betrayed parent because finally that person has drawn boundaries and is enforcing them. I suppose that’s the risk you take when you try to protect a lying cheater. I advise not doing that.

My kids were 13 and 15 when this all went down. What I told them was this: You’ve been asking where your dad is this weekend. He’s in Kentucky. With his girlfriend.

I remember my son correcting me, “You mean his ex-girlfriend, right?”

“No. His girlfriend. Your father is having an affair.”

My daughter wanted to know if his family down there knew. When told, simply, yes, she asked in a horrified voice, “And they’re okay with it?”

I replied that they were indeed okay with it as far as I knew. That led to me telling them that this was not the first time he had been involved with this woman. I reminded them of the summer two years prior, the summer that Rock Star had complained was so boring and they didn’t do hardly anything. I explained that I had been working through that all summer, only to find out in August that he was still messing with her. I went on to tell them that according to what I had been told Tammy Faye called Harley and encouraged her to call their father. And, I let them know that their Aunt Jezebel had been actively encouraging him to leave me.

When asked if that’s the reason we had moved to Virginia I was honest. I truly did not know. I told them I did know that their dad had set the wheels in motion to take over this plant when he got involved with Harley the first time, but I didn’t know if he was involved with her again by the time he was offered the job. I think I might have even gone so far as to tell them I wanted to believe that he wasn’t involved with her when we made our move.

I’m sure the people who run those mandatory parenting after divorce classes would be aghast at my answers. I don’t really care. What exactly did I do wrong? Nothing. I told them the truth. I didn’t editorialize. I didn’t go on to say that their dad was a big, fat jerk or that he never appreciated me and what I did for him. I didn’t tell them about the financial shenanigans he had engaged in. I didn’t call him a whore loving pox upon humanity and I didn’t call his cousin a cunt face cum dumpster with a rap sheet. I was very concise. Your dad is in Kentucky with his girlfriend. Yes, his family knows about it and yes, they’re okay with it. This is not a new thing; he was involved with her once before and that set the wheels moving for our move out here.

I think I could make the argument that even if I had told them about all the financial shenanigans I would have been within my rights. It most certainly affected them and it was the truth. There was no editorializing needed. Truth was he was buying puppies and engagement rings. He spent as much on the whore’s kids for Christmas as he did his own kids. Editorializing would have been: Nice that he could go to the mall with her and Christmas shop; he never did that for you. Nothing but the best for them! Or: He’s more concerned with buying their love than he is with maintaining a relationship with you.

And lest anyone thinks I whitewashed my own behavior I did tell them about the alternate Facebook page I had that their father saw and which he used as his excuse to do what he did.

The fact of the matter is this move had completely uprooted my kids. They both had lives they enjoyed back in Utah and we made this 2000 mile move for their father. A year into rebuilding and he was taking aim at their new lives with a flame thrower. They had every right to know whether or not he had done that just to be closer to a piece of ass. I didn’t know for certain so I didn’t say he had, but I was honest about his actions. He did put his plan into motion when he began his first affair with her, and in doing so he didn’t give a single solitary fuck about his kids; he cared only about his dick and his whore cousin.

The truth was his family absolutely supported him and the whore being together. If her husband is to be believed (and I did say this was what I had been told) his mother did reach out to her and ask her to call. His sister had been begging him to leave me. Everyone was very, very concerned about Cousinfucker. No one gave a shit about his two kids who were going to have their lives shredded once again.

The bottom line was I had two teenagers who had been watching their supposedly distraught father who hibernated in his room and couldn’t even manage a family dinner at Olive Garden without dissolving into sobbing fits, hop into his car every weekend and drive off into the sunset. I wasn’t going to be able to pull off this fucked up version of Where’s Waldo for long. I certainly wasn’t going to lie to them. Nor was I willing to fall on the sword for him. Fuck that! If you’re big and bad enough to go fuck your cousin, then you should be able to handle your kids knowing about it.

I was honest at every turn with them.

Do we have to cut our grandparents out of our life? Of course not; they’re your grandparents. I don’t wish to have a relationship with them because they didn’t treat me very well, but I completely understand if you want to see them.

Do you think he’s crazy? Eh, probably not.

If I didn’t know the answer I told them so. Are we going to have to move? I hope not, but I don’t know. I won’t know until I find out what I will be getting in support payments.

I vividly recall the time I took one of the lawyer’s advice about not involving the kids and telling them everything would be okay. Picasso wanted to know if I was going to have to get a job and I responded as I had been coached, telling him not to worry about it, that I was the adult and he was the kid and it was my job to take care of him. His response was that it was his life, too, and whatever I did would affect him. I couldn’t argue with that so I did what I felt was right and I told them the truth.

I even went so far in the very beginning as to remind the kids of good times we had together, like when Picasso commented that his dad couldn’t be bothered to go to Disneyland with us. He did go with us. Don’t you remember? He went on Space Mountain with you, and that one night when I was getting so irritated with you he took over and had more patience with you than I did. Granted, that was in the beginning and I feel like I was correcting misinformation more than anything. I don’t bother with that now, but I have always said I am willing to give him his due when he has done something right.

There have been times these past three years where either of the two kids will start a conversation about their dad. I listen. I commiserate. Sometimes the things they say are funny and I will laugh along with them. Picasso imitating his dad and talking about the horrors of the “Soccer Squadron” comes to mind (CF hated soccer with a passion). Or Rock Star talking about her reaction to his faked breakdown in Olive Garden.

My talks with Rock Star are usually about the way he always portrays himself as the victim, or how no one in that family has ever once reached out to apologize for any of it. Hell, even a simple, “I’m sorry you lost so much,” would be appreciated, and a sign that they realize what he did was selfish. She also talks about the various ways in which he tries to manipulate her and make her feel guilty. She leads and I listen. Sometimes I interject a comment of my own.

Picasso doesn’t say much about his dad although he seems to have a fascination with his own graduation. He honestly doesn’t think his dad will even bother trying to come. He’s asked about the ticket situation and how he could get one. I did tell him that if he didn’t want his dad at his graduation ceremony he needed to be absolutely clear with me on that. Don’t give me the Rock Star treatment where you tell me you don’t care and then go on to say, “You handle it!” and then tell me after the fact that you didn’t want him there. If you don’t want him there, tell me that and I will leave it alone instead of texting him and offering him a ticket.

I will go so far as to say that we actually have conversations, ones with give and take, about these topics. I don’t treat them as taboo, nor do I treat their father as the sacred cow which must be worshipped. We’ve laughed over some things. They’ve made some good points. I’ve used their father’s behavior as a teaching moment, i.e. You don’t cheat on your spouse; you divorce them. I don’t hush them whenever they complain and I don’t pretend that I have no feelings or thoughts on what they are saying or feeling.

Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t insult their dad and I rarely speak of Harley. I don’t feel like we’re ganging up on him but I also don’t sit there quietly all of the time and pretend I have no opinion. I’ve even apologized to them on his behalf because of everything he’s put them through.

 

Finally! Christmas Comes For Picasso

It’s only two weeks after Christmas. My son finally got a card from his dear old dad. At least he didn’t neglect entirely, I suppose. Thank goodness for small favors.

Is it me? Am I really expecting too much to think that a person might send Christmas cards to both of his children at the same time instead of sending one card and then waiting another two weeks to send the other? He did this at least once before. I find it bizarre.

I can understand the Easter thing. You go online and order something for one kid from one site; then you order something different from a different site for the other kid. You have no control over how quickly each package reaches the child. But this isn’t something purchased online. This is a Christmas card with a Visa gift card tucked inside. How difficult is it to put a stamp on both of them and drop them off at the mail box together? I will never understand it.

I asked him if his dad wrote anything to him. He said that he did. He mentioned something about him writing that he would like to see him or talk to him again. I asked Picasso if he ever thought about doing so. He quickly replied, “Nope.”

There was no anger. No bitterness. No hesitation. Just, “Nope.”