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.

A Hex on Hax

I don’t know what your Google newsfeed looks like but mine is filled with news about the royals, some television, Ted Bundy, as of late, sharks, the Kardashians and Duggars, for some strange reason, and advice columns. So many advice columnists. I’ve got Dear Abby, Dear Prudence, and Dear Amy, and Carolyn Hax.

As you might be able to surmise I have a bone to pick with Ms. Hax. One of her latest columns featured a woman who had been married for 33 years. From what the letter writer writes it seems she was a stay at home mom to 3 children who are now all college educated adults. Husband traveled for work quite often. Letter writer held down the fort. She has “a feeling” one day and spies only to find out her husband has been cheating on her; the affairs go back at least 20 years. The entire time he’s been cheating he’s also been having sex with his wife. Wife quietly gathers proof- she’s downloading emails and texts and dating profiles. She’s got a GPS tracker. She is prepared. And then little by little she methodically divulges this information to the husbands, boyfriends, and families of the people involved.

I don’t want to speak for Carolyn but I think what upset her so much was the very matter-of-fact way the wife went about this and the fact she seemed to have no remorse. As she stated at the end of her letter: Shouldn’t all the players’ lives be altered as the wife’s life has been? Shouldn’t these people, without concern for wife and children- whom some met- be exposed for what they are?

Please don’t advise karma, therapy, divorce, the price of revenge. Whatever wife decides to do about the marriage isn’t relevant, this is about leveling the playing field.

It was probably the whole, “Shouldn’t all the players lives be altered as the wife’s life has been?” 
That sounds way too much like vengeance and as we all know, vengeance is bad. We must accept being cheated on and humiliated with a smile on our face and a song in our heart. We owe it to all the other parties to keep our lips closed and to let them wander about with no consequences.

This was Carolyn’s response:

You suffered a devastating pain, which no one deserves. I’m sorry that happened to you.

You responded, though, by inflicting pain just for the sake of inflicting pain, which nothing justifies. You leveled the playing field with firebombs and calculated fury.

And without apology or apparent remorse.

Even though such payback never affects only the guilty, but also the people who love them. Innocents all.

He did this to you, with them, yes- but you ensured that everyone affected got the most information in the worst way possible.

Yet I can’t talk about karma, therapy or the price of revenge?

Does that mean you’ve written only to invite applause?

I have none. I have only dismay at reading of a person who apparently worked hard for an entire lifetime to build good things, and then, under the influence of incendiary rage, turned destructive as if these were movie people and feelings, not real ones.

I know you don’t want help.

But I hope you cool down enough to see the wisdom of getting it, professionally and soon.

Huh. I guess we are once again back to the old adage, “It’s not what I did that is the problem; it’s your reaction to it that is the problem.”

I find it interesting that Ms. Hax seems appalled at the idea that the wife’s response was more severe than the injury inflicted upon her. I guess if there was a way to measure how devastated this wife of 33 years was by the information she uncovered then her response/revenge could only be equal to that. But how do we measure that? And what is an equal response? If you find out someone you know is fucking your husband are you entitled to call her a big ol’ poopyhead but telling her husband she’s a whore is out of bounds? I’m not sure of the rules here. Perhaps Ms. Hax thinks it’s better if we just go about our lives as though nothing is remiss. Smile and wave, ladies. Smile and wave.

I have this philosophy. It’s pretty simple. Probably too simple. It goes like this: If you don’t want your spouse or significant other to be told you’re sleeping with other people’s spouses, then don’t sleep with other people’s spouses. Crazy simple, right?

I also find it interesting that Ms. Hax seems so bewildered by the fact the wife is not remorseful or apologetic about blowing the lid off of these secret affairs.

If I’ve made the choice to tell someone’s husband that his wife has been fucking my husband I’m not going to apologize for it nor will I feel remorseful. I obviously feel like I’m in the right in doing so. I may feel terrible for that duped husband or boyfriend, but that’s not my shame to bear. Me telling him his wife/girlfriend has been sleeping with my husband isn’t what hurt him; her actually fucking my husband is what has hurt him. Period.

I will also take issue with her statement that the wife inflicted pain just to inflict pain. I think the letter writer can easily argue that she wanted to let these clueless men know what they were dealing with so they weren’t blindsided like she was. She’s offering up information. What they choose to do with that information is their business. At least they are fully informed.

I did love this gem: Even though such payback never affects only the guilty, but also the people who love them. Innocents all.

Are we including the betrayed wife’s children in the tally of innocents? Or just the families of the women who cheated with her husband?

Carolyn, I know you didn’t ask me but here’s my take on this bullshit. I really don’t think any of the guilty parties’ loved ones are suddenly going to turn against them. Their mommies and daddies will still love them. Their siblings will still invite them over for Christmas. Their children will more than likely still think the sun rises and sets by them. What we’re really talking about in this situation is the fact that the person who was sleeping with the wife’s husband may suffer a moment of embarrassment. Oh, the horrors!

It’s possible you might have an irate husband or boyfriend, but even then I’d lay 50/50 odds that he won’t leave her. I’m not sure if all of these people who were contacted were the significant other when the affair took place (they did go back 20 years) but in the case of a boyfriend who didn’t even know the hussy when she was doing the wife’s husband, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he didn’t care about her previous affairs. She didn’t cheat on him…

Plus, I’m still going to offer up the idea that if you don’t want the people in your life to find out you’re a husband fucking whore then don’t fuck other people’s husbands. If you continue to do so then that’s the price you may pay.

He did this to you, with them, yes- but you ensured that everyone affected got the most information in the worst way possible.

Information is bad. It’s horrible. Let’s keep everyone in the dark.

Again, Ms. Hax insists that the problem is not what the cheaters did; it’s the fact that the betrayed wife lets the other spouses/significant others know what they did. Fucking around on your partner isn’t bad. Telling someone their partner is fucking around is downright evil. You need professional help immediately!

I think my favorite part though was when Carolyn admonishes the betrayed wife for turning destructive because these people were real people, dammit! Not fake movie people. And their feelings were real. Their families’ feelings were real, too. Unlike the betrayed wife. She was just a movie prop. She had no feelings. No one needed to consider her. Or her family.

All those women who met her and her then minor children and then went off and gleefully fucked her husband certainly weren’t treating any of them like they were real people Nope. They were simply props in their affair-y tale world.

Quite honestly her final remarks were condescending and arrogant: I know you don’t want help but I hope you cool down enough to see the wisdom of getting it, professionally and soon.

Really? Why does this woman need professional help? Because she isn’t taking crap from the cheaters who felt entitled to cheat behind her back? Because she didn’t shut up and sit down and remain silent when she found out what was going on? Because she decided if some woman wanted to ride her husband badly enough then her family could damn well hear about what their lovely wife/girlfriend/daughter/mom/sister was doing? Because she dared to speak up? Because instead of remaining passive and having things done to her and her life she took charge and started being proactive? Because she dared to push back against entitled cheaters?

Hell, I wish I had half her moxie when I found out what my dear cheating husband was doing. The only thing I did was file for divorce and take all the money. I had no one to tell because I was the one that was contacted. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again for the record. I am enormously thankful that The Saint contacted me. If he hadn’t I probably would have gone on to pay off the pool and the kids and I would have been living in utter poverty from day one.

To hell with you and your worthless advice, Carolyn Hax.

 

Stop Feeding Your Kids Shit Sundaes, Part 3

Now, about that child and/or spousal support… What is the big deal with this? On the other board I frequented there were many debates about child support, dads not getting credit for what they did, and how maybe more dads would step up if they were able to buy directly for their kids.

Hmmm… so when Dad’s money goes to buy the new cleats and pay for the class trip you’re supposed to make sure the child knows that it was Dad that made it possible. Yet, if Dad doesn’t send child support you’re supposed to shut up and take the blame for any of the things your kid misses out on or can’t have. I think we call that having your cake and eating it, too. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say Daddy gets all the credit when he sends child support but then turn around and say you should never mention child support if it’s not appearing.

Again, I’ve been honest with my kids. They’re teens. They’ve been raised a certain way. For all of their life, up until the time their dad decided to fuck his cousin, whenever they needed something I was able to go out and buy it. No questions asked for the most part. No tough decisions to be made. Oh, you like both of those? Go ahead and get them both. When I used to take them shopping I didn’t really have a budget in mind. The same could be said about our outings. You want an ice cream cone? Sure. You want a bucket of fries? Of course! You want a souvenir from our trip. Why not? So, when the money tree dried up and I suddenly had to budget I let them know we couldn’t do those things anymore. There were no more shopping sprees. No more expensive makeup. No more game systems. We didn’t go to very many places. Our big outing was generally lunch after church on Sunday back when we still lived in Virginia.

Later, when I was working two jobs and still didn’t make enough to rub two nickels together I told them we were dirt poor and I didn’t have it. No, I can’t take you shopping. No, we can’t go to the movies. No, no, no. I also told them that things might change once he finally began paying support; until then, when he wasn’t paying a dime, I did indeed let them know our finances were extremely limited. Why? Because I didn’t make very much money and Dad wasn’t paying anything.

I have let them know my job pays my bills and that is it. I have told them that their dad’s child and spousal support lets us do everything we are able to do. It allows me to buy the things I buy for them. The way I see it I give CF all the credit. Conversely, he gets all the blame when he decides to play games and send his support whenever he feels like it. Sweetie, I’ll help you with books when your dad pays me. I can get you a new pair of sneakers when your dad sends me some money. Once your dad sends his final support payment I can pay your tuition. I can’t pay your sorority fees right now because I haven’t received my spousal support. I’ll give you your allowance once your dad sends me what he owes me. I’m low on funds until your dad comes through.

I believe I’ve pointed it out before but I have never once complained about the amount of support I receive, nor have I ever asked him for additional money. I have also never said, “Go ask your dad for the money for that.” I plan around what I’ve been court ordered to receive. In none of those instances do I ever say, “Well, I would do x, y, and z but your dad doesn’t pay enough support so we can’t.” I’ve been very honest, though, about my dependence on him and the support he pays. I think of it no differently than my paycheck.

I don’t think anyone would have a problem telling a kid, “I can’t go buy a new pair of sneakers for you until I get paid on Friday,” or “You’ll get your allowance when I get paid.” Yet for some reason it’s a horrible thing to say that about spousal and/or child support. I see no difference.

I’ve never understood the big secrecy regarding child support. Now if I were to go on and detail all the money that he spent/spends on the whore and her kids… Eh, facts are facts. I figure so long as I’m not editorializing I’m golden; however, I would not do that. Not because I’m protecting him or think I owe him or even because I don’t believe you should discuss such matters with the kids. I wouldn’t do it because it would only hurt my children.

Yes, I know. It does seem that I’m somewhat talking out of both sides of my mouth. I do believe you should be honest with your kids. I do believe they are owed the truth. I don’t think you should cover for the other parent, or lie to them. I also think that you don’t have to go out of your way to tell them every horrible thing their other parent did. I believe there’s a big difference between having honest conversations and simply blurting hurtful facts out.

For example, the first month after Cousinfucker and Harley were discovered Cousinfucker cashed in almost $6200 worth of stock, took out a $5000 loan on his 401k, and now had $5000 a month just for shits and giggles. He put it all into their joint account. That first month when I asked for more money in order to buy Rock Star’s Homecoming dress (less than $100, btw) he told me he didn’t have it this month. Yet, he bought the whore a $4200 engagement ring. He put down payments on not one, but two, puppies for her kids. She spent almost $200 at Vera Bradley, over $400 at a sporting goods store (for her own kids, I’m assuming), and hundreds of dollars on eyewear that month. In addition, a few months later a dress was purchased for just over $300 for Harley’s daughter.

Did I run out and tell my kids all of this? No. Why not? Mainly because I didn’t know any of this for certain until I opened the American Express bills or he was forced to turn over his bank records. Her husband had talked about her wearing a new diamond ring and him putting a down payment on the dog he promised her kids, but I didn’t have proof until later. When I did have proof I didn’t blurt it out because there was no context behind it. Oh my God! That sonofabitch! Can you believe all the money he spent on his whore and her kids? Let me run down the list for you!

No, that did not happen. However, when Rock Star began talking about buying her next Homecoming dress online from China because she could get it for a really cheap price I did tell her not to worry about. Her dad would buy her a damn dress. If he could buy Harley’s daughter a $300+ dress he could damn sure buy his own daughter something decent. Yes, I did tell her that.

Another time she threw something in his face about her being “his real daughter”, or something like that; I know it had to do with the fact that now he had a “replacement daughter”. His response was that he and the whore’s kid weren’t that close. I remarked, “Wow- maybe you should go for a ‘not that close’ relationship. He paid for her truck to be repaired, offered to buy her a new car, bought her a puppy, got her a new iPhone and paid her cell phone bill, and spent over $300 on a dress for her. Must be nice to be ‘not that close’!”

I suppose for me the line is this: Does this information add anything to the story? Does it substantiate whatever is being said, or being felt by my kids?

It’s one thing for me to find out my daughter is trying to get the cheapest dress possible because she’s worried about me not being able to afford anything and telling her “No, you are not going to buy some $40 dress because you’re worried about money. You go to your dad and you tell him exactly what you want. If he can spend all that damn money on some teenage girl that he’s not related to and has known for less than a year, he can damn sure as well buy his own daughter a decent dress.”

It’s a completely different thing to just out of the blue tell either of them, “Oh my God! Did you know your dad went on vacation with his new family? Why couldn’t he do that with you two? Oh yeah, that’s right; he did go with us a couple of times, didn’t he? I wonder if he ruined their vacation, too.” Or, “Hey guys, look at the fantastic new house your dad and his new family live in! We live with Nana because he let our home go into foreclosure, and they have a pool and a clubhouse.”

That’s my line. Yours might vary. Regardless, don’t be afraid to tell your kids the truth. You aren’t the villain because you refuse to cover up their cheating parent. Being honest doesn’t make you a bad person. Put down the shit sundae. Grab a juicy burger or a big slice of chocolate cake instead!

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.