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Ex-wives and kids (Caution: rant ahead)(27 posts)

Ex-wives and kids (Caution: rant ahead)BikingViking
Mar 5, 2002 5:50 AM
Just talked with my 15 year old daughter last night and she is refusing to come and see me this summer. Quite the body shot. My son is 13 and I am not sure if he is of a like mind (talked to him first, then things got "interesting w/my daughter).

She is a notoriously picky eater, (I won't bore you with the details), but I don't cater to her. If she doesn't want to eat dinner, that's her choice, but she gets no dinner substitutes or dessert. Not terribly unreasonable in my opinion. My son is not a problem in this regard, he just doesn't like to wash dishes, but what kid does? :o)

"Mom" doesn't impose any discipline on them. She lets them watch R-rated movies and stay up to all hours of the night on the weekends. On the other hand, I don't let those things occur and, as a result, suffer for it.

"Mom" doesn't tell me anything. She has known about this problem for over a year ( I was in Turkey last summer) and didn't tell me about it. She is no help in trying to resolve this, but claims to want my kids and I to have a relationship. Bull$hit!! Even when we were married, she was a notorious problem avoider.

Being that I am in Virginia and they are in Alabama, I have to call a lawyer to see what my rights are. I am fairly sure I will not make her come up, even if I have a right to. I just don't want to have to bring a County deputy with me to pick up my kids. It seems wrong to have , but on the other hand, do I need to "cave" to her desire to do anything she wants?

Once I determine my rights in Alabama, AND consult with a "Life Skills" professional, I'll decide what to do and then ask my son if he wants to come up this summer. I really hope he does...

No question in all of this. Just going through a tough time
Are you married to my ex-wife?terry b
Mar 5, 2002 6:33 AM
I've had a pretty similar experience - contentious relationship with my ex, poor parenting on her behalf, lots of crap about "relationship with Dad" that is nice in theory but a lie in reality.

About 2 years ago they moved out of state (with my permission.) Some things got better (no more dealing with her) and some things declined (time with kids.) However, even while they were here, things started to change as they approached teenager-hood. In short, they didn't want to come over anymore.

I was pretty much expecting that though. My parents divorced when I was 5, and I spent every weekend with my Dad as well as a couple of weeks of vacation each year. When I was little, I loved it. As I got older (read 13) I wanted to spend more time with my friends, and less with my parents. Finally, about that age my parents must have clicked to this as I was no longer required to do the trips and the visits. We pretty much settled into a weekend dinner, visits on Holidays, etc. The I grew up, got married, had kids and got to have the same experience as an adult.

The thing I've realized is that change, even insignificant change is tough on teens (especially girls, I have two.) They're too wrapped up in being popular, dealing with body issues, doing their activities and understanding how to get along with parents. Mine are supposed to come down at Christmas, Thanksgiving and purportedly over the summer(has yet to happen.) Last Thanksgiving, my oldest (17) decided she did not want to come. Mom of course put the burden on me to talk her into it instead of working it it on her end. My youngest (14) came anyway and we had a good time. Christmas - both came.

My point in all this rambling is this - you can drag it out with a lawyer, make a stand and force her to come. Or, you can recognize that your relationship with your kids via long distance is going to change as they get older and that the agreements you had are going to evolve with that. Personally, I've decided I am going to let a lot of this slide in order to have a positive relationship with my kids when they're adults, when it will really count.

I hope this helps, I don't want to try and tell you what to do, only offer my perspective - and my compassion. I know what it's like and it feels very bad a lot of the time.

That's the trade though for not spending your life with the wrong person.

Control issues?jk5
Mar 5, 2002 6:34 AM
You seem to have some.
Mar 5, 2002 8:19 AM
he has parenting skills. adolescent children need discipline and order in their lives. i'm not saying tie them up but a bit of order and respect for parents is necessary. he's not being controlling, he's being a good dad! that's why so many kids are running amok these days! they need to hear the word "no" now and again. too many parents seem to have lost this word from their vocabulary!
from the post, it seems that mom has no real control, nor does she want any! the kids are thinking "why would i want to go stay with dad and do what he says, when i can stay with mom and do what i want!?"
no, i'm not a parent, but i ride with juniors that have good parents and i see poor parenting skills everyday right next door! my parents were great parents and i knew what the rules were!
Mar 5, 2002 8:55 AM
"but I don't cater to her. If she doesn't want to eat dinner, that's her choice, but she gets no dinner substitutes or dessert." That is CONTROL and not a loving father who is trying to communicate.
Mar 5, 2002 9:25 AM
That's the way my parents went about things. Even stronger - I had to at least *try* whatever they set on the table. As a result, I have a very varied taste in food and I don't turn my nose up against everything I don't know.

You can always give kids what they want but they will remain (spoiled) kids forever. They need to grow up, and that's what parents are for.
one more thingterry b
Mar 5, 2002 8:04 AM
Having re-read you post and my answer, I was struck the second time by your use of the term "body-shot."

I think the fact that she does not want to come to see you has nothing to do with you, it has only to do with her. I'm pretty much convinced that teenagers have a hard time seeing beyond themselves at all. When they're little, they still think hanging out with Daddy is special. That changes quickly. My assumption is that she's weighing her friends and her stuff against time hanging out at your place, without her friends and without her stuff. Especially out of state. Having been in that situation myself as a young fellow, I remember how I chose. I doubt your feelings even entered into her equation, aside from perhaps her wish not to disappoint you. But friends and stuff always trump parental disappointment.
Bite your tonguemr_spin
Mar 5, 2002 8:16 AM
Based on some of your past posts here and this one, I'd say I wouldn't want to come visit you either if I were a 15-year old girl.

You have very strong political and personal beliefs, and that's not what 15-year old girls want to deal with. Teenagers have enough angst in their lives. They certainly don't need anymore.

I've never been in your situation and can't even imagine it, but I don't think forcing your kids to come visit you does any good for anybody. To even consider legal crap makes me wonder if it is really about the kids or is it about the ex-wife?

I'd say if they don't want to come visit you, then you should go down there and visit them. On their turf it should be a lot more pleasant. As they get older and more mature, hopefully they will want to come visit you. It may take years, but that's the way it has to be.

Trying to drag them into your life now is only going to push them away in the future when they have their own lives. You'll be lucky if they even call you. Back off, give them some space. They may appreciate it later.
this sucks...but you are to blame as wellFred Temarles
Mar 5, 2002 8:27 AM
I doubt that your wife is responsible for your failing relationship with your daughter. Look closer to home for the blame. Sorry to be harsh but you sound like you are playing the victim here. Divorce sucks and kids suffer for it. Don't make it worse than it is by involving lawyers and such. Work on your relationship withn your kids while you can. You sound like your heart is in the right place, but you can't be a dictator with teenagers. The can see through your bull$hit.
Don't let the wife issue cloud the kid issuecory
Mar 5, 2002 8:28 AM
Man, am I glad I'm not you...two things that come to mind, though, are these: First, don't let the wife issue cloud the kid issue. Your wife is gone, out of your life except for her affect on your children, and that will probably pass as they mature. Don't let your animosity toward her (justified as it appears to be) spill over on your kids. You can't win them over by trashing her.
Second, 15-year-old girls are all crazy half the time anyway, and this may be related to that (I realize how that sounds, but I'm not taking instruction on this from anybody who hasn't HAD a 15-year-old girl). It might be best to give a little now and pick up the relationship with your daughter in a year or two when she matures. My daughter is almost 17, and there's been a huge difference in her maturity and her attitude in just the past year--we were seriously considering putting her in a private school, if not a zoo. Then in the space of four or five months, she came out of it. We still disagree, of course, but we disagree as reasonable beings. As hard as this is now, it's probably not permanent, and it may not be caused entirely by your wife. Could just be the Terrible Fifteens...
'zoo' - LOL - nmMJ
Mar 5, 2002 8:33 AM
My experience. (Hope it helps).Len J
Mar 5, 2002 10:17 AM
I too am a non-custody parent of multiple teenagers with an ex-wife who has a completly different view of what is important in rearing children than I do. Believe me, I feel your pain.

Let me share with you some of the things I've learned:

-Taking the high ground with my ex always was the best solution. Be certain that your actions towards the kids are about what is best for them & not about competing with your ex. Believe me, in addition to feeling better about yourself, your kids will see it for what it is, a caring parent (as opposed to an angry ex-spouse). Trust your kids to see through what's going on.

-Change your view about what you can control. The truth is that you (& I) have very little control over what happens day-to-day in our children's lives. I know it sucks, but it is the truth. Face it. Once I faced this, I began to realize that every moment I had with the kids (wether on the phone or in person) was a chance to plant some seeds about what was really important to succeeding & being happy in life and to let them know that they were truely loved by someone in the world. My perspetive changed from a control focus to an loving influence focus. I started treating them like they were responsible for thier own actions, thier own choices, thier own lives. It took time and attention and I didn't always do it as well as I would have liked, but it seems to have worked. All of my 4 kids act as if they consider me a loving advisor, a non-judgemental parent who will love them no matter what but who also will lovingly call them on thier behaviors. They seem to want this & use it when they need it. What a gift to me.

-Teenagers are volitale. They send many mixed messages. Your daughter could simply want to spend time with her friends, she could simply not want to comply with your rules, she could feel like she has to & therefor is rebelling or she could be seeing how much you are willing to fight for her. In addition, she could be doing all of the above or none of the above. I certainly can't tell from what you wrote. Do you know? Are you sure? You have an opportunity (if you are willing to work for it) to use this incident to get closer to your daughter. How? By trying to have an honest conversation with her about the summer. Does she know what you are feeling? Are you in touch with what you are feeling? Share this with her, not to make her feel guilty but to let her know how important she is to you. Believe me, she wants to know that. The most meaningful conversations I ever have had with my children are when I am willing to share honestly my feelings, my fears and my hopes. Let her define the kind of relationship she wants (after all it is both your responsibility). Be willing to see her on her terms.

-Some of this is about priorities. How important is your relationship with her? Are you willing to be inconvienced so she can be happy? There are no right answers to these questions, you just have to be clear about where you are.

-The more I let go of competing with my ex for "super parent", the closer I got to the kids. Like it or not, she is still your children's mother (& always will be). Make your interactions about the kids, not about your relationship & your kids will benefit.

Well I've rambled on long enough. One more & then I'll stop. If someone had told me before my divorce (which occured when my oldest was 7 & my youngest was 2, they now are aged 17 thru 22) that I would go from seeing & interacting with my kids every day to initially seeing them 2 times a week & then once every 3 weeks (Ex moved 500 miles away) and that while doing this I would end up with a better relationship with them than I ever had living with them, I would have said they were crazy. But that is exactly what happened. It is possible, but it takes choosing that it is important. I had to choose that it was more important than my own ego or convenience.

Good luck & let me know how it's going.

very well said.terry b
Mar 5, 2002 10:42 AM
And my experience also. One of the hardest things for me to accept when I became the non-custodial parent was how little influence I actually had in their lives. As bad as she may or may not be, Mom is the center of their universe, especially when they're young (mine were 6 and 9 when we divorced.) Instead of trying to be something I could not be, I took your route - someone there when needed for good advice and an ear.

I also changed the content of what we do when we're together. Christmas is a good example - I try to clear the books where they're in town and spend time doing things that we both enjoy. My older daughter likes to bake so I spend at least one day of the Christmas visit working solely with her on exotic deserts. We both get a kick and we have a lot of laughs. Not catering to them by trying to be entertaining or solicitous, but trying to connect in a manner that sets the stage for the future when they're on their own and can make their own choices independent of the other parent.

As I implied in my earlier post - one of the great fallacies of Custodial Law is the assumption that visitation plans are immutable and both parents will work equally to make them successful. Utter nonsense. They will have to change as the children change and unfortunately it's almost a guarantee that the non-custodial parent is the one that will have to bend. How flexible you are will set the tone for the future.
well said lenharlett
Mar 5, 2002 11:37 AM
giving up the idea of control for understanding and communication is one of the keys to all successful caring relationships-- with teenagers we need to understand the constant shifting of emotions and temperament-- there are fears and insecurities and emotional imbalances in every teenagers life, more so with one whose family is broken through divorce-- the most important part of talking to a teenager is good listening to them-- "telling" is usually counterproductive--
adults, when loving, like to see their love returned-- there are times with teenagers when that doesn't happen-- true love seeks no return-- it just loves-- while teenagers may not say it or show it they want and need unconditional love--
Mar 6, 2002 4:50 PM
Harlett your listening being as talking is a great way of putting it! In communicating with my daughter I find the real closeness comes from my simply being open and there to let her share her thoughts and feelings. My communicating by being a patient listener has given her more insight into herself than any of my "telling" could ever do. Guidance is important but by listening is how you'll find them.

Len you're a wise man! I'm sure your children have benefited greatly from your understanding ways.
well said lenMJ.
Mar 6, 2002 7:35 PM
The Truth
You are really a loser.Len J
Mar 6, 2002 7:46 PM
Is that really necessary? Does it add any value?

Why does someone else's choices engender so much emotion in YOU?

I think it's time for you to look inside yourself & stop trying to forcefeed your hate on the rest of us.

Mar 7, 2002 7:15 AM
MJ without the .
Feeling your painStarliner
Mar 5, 2002 10:34 AM
I can match with your situation in many ways - sadness at the distance between you and the ones you love most dearly; worry that the ones you love most dearly are not being cared for in a way that you hope they would be; fear that the love you hold for them is no longer reciprocal; helplessness in how to deal with your own broken heart while living in a compassionless world.

The system is grossly unfair with men in many ways, marital matters being a prime area where inequities exist in money and child custody. It's terribly sad to see wanted posters filled with men, the vast majority of whom are poor, laborers, and transients. Recently I saw some posters and out of 67 people, 66 were men. (the one woman was an asian textile worker from the south - probably in a same sex situation --):

The fact is you're not alone in your misery; try to remember that many other men are going through similar troubles and even worse. Do get legal advice; go through normal, legal channels; and even consider talking with your ex-wife to try to get her help in convincing your daughter to see you. If you have the legal right to have your daughter see you, and in your heart your children mean as much to you as I think they do, then definitely plan on calling the sheriff to have your kids collected if your wife doesn't support you. Hopefully your ex-wife won't allow it to come down to this, and agree to work on her end to make it happen.

Bottom line is to stand up for what is in your heart. Do it legally and don't be afraid to go all the way; don't take the matter into your own hands as do a few too many men and end up by at worst blowing your own brains out.

Just realize that your children will appreciate any efforts you make from a basis of love, maybe not at that moment, but after things have cooled off enough for them to have a moment to understand that you did what you had to do because of that.
Feeling your painBikingViking
Mar 5, 2002 11:27 AM
Not gonna get extreme in this...I promise! I just need to sit and think about EVERYTHING and the bottomline being what is best for them. Going to the mat with my ex is not a problem, but I won't do it at the kids expense.

Tough decisions are not fun...


What's best for them....Starliner
Mar 5, 2002 11:43 AM
Scotty, whatever you do, don't sell yourself short with your decision. As a dad, your part in your children's lives is very important. Separate yourself from and reject the Bambi image of a father's place as being a distant, shadowy figure in their children's lives - don't buy into that cultural crap which the present system promotes.

You are important in their lives, aren't you? Then do something to be present in them, other than sending off the monthly check.

Courage, strength and love - go for it.
re: Ex-wives and kids (Caution: rant ahead)BikingViking
Mar 5, 2002 11:11 AM
Thanks everyone for all of the advice...tb and LenJ, you hit the nail on the head for me. It's just so hard to deal with. I am happy to have your clearer hindsight perspective. I really do want what's best for them (as any parent does), but I am human and I do show it from time to time.

Ex-wives are something I do NOT recommend to anyone. I am just looking forward to the day that I NEVER see/hear from her again. ( I am sure her feelings are mutual). For all the hot air about "wanting a good relationship with the kids", the action never meets up with the words.

The legal option is not an option. As I said, picking them up with a sheriff is not a picture I like (contrary to what SOME people think). I may not have been clear enough on that. I am just a person who likes to explore all options and discard them as I go. This one is discarded.

Control is not necessarily an issue. She has been a handful since she could walk and talk, so this current problem is no suprise, but still difficult to deal with. Everything has always been a battle and my ex would never fight ANY battles, so I was the "bad guy". I am sure if my ex cared to post here, her response would be much different! :o) But we all have our perspectives in life.

It's funny how some choose to say it's my fault (I do share blame for other reasons) because of my strong personal beliefs and convictions. Life does deal a lot with compromise as long as you don't compromise your beliefs. Being stronng-willed in not synonymous with being a pr1ck, as some may think.

I will certainly NOT be severing contact with her. We talk on the phone weekly and I drive to see them at Christmas, (modern day Santa). Again, I am hoping my son will decide to come up. Time and regular contact seem to be the answer

Thanks again and I'll post as my "soap opera" develops.

It takes courage.......Len J
Mar 6, 2002 7:38 PM
to honestly struggle with what the right thing to do is. It's obvious that you have this courage. I commend you.

And it isn't easy, but it is worth it, they are worth it.

"Look back on your life of honest choices...
and see the ripples in the pond,
that your actions created.

We all affect those around us.....
in ways we can't anticipate,
and effects we may never know.

From what place within you.....
do your actions come from?"

You're not alove BV, good luck & keep caring for them. They know it.


P.s. if it was against the law to be human (With all the frustrations), I'd be in jail for a long time.
Mar 5, 2002 12:43 PM
Let me start by saying that there has been some excellant advise offered here on a tough subject. As an attorney who practises in this field I just wanted to add a few things; First, it is almost impossible to get a teenage girl to do anything she does not want to do. It has been my experience that trying to force them only leads to long held bitter feelings. This situation will not be permanent and when she gets to be 19 or 20 she will start to come around and realize that maybe you weren't so bad in the first place and that her mother letting her get away with whatever she wanted was not the solution. Lastly, and I have to tell this to a lot of parents, is that even if you had not divorced, you still would not see her. She's a teenager. They want to hang with their friends, not you, her father who in every behavior positively mortifies her! It's just the way it is for now, it will get better, just don't try and force it for now. You might try for shorter 3-4 day visits during the summer. (disclaimer, this should not be taken as rendering a legal opinion on the subject, had to get that lawyer stuff in there you know)
re: Just Dont Use the Kids As Pawns..jrm
Mar 5, 2002 12:49 PM
As a means to straighten the kids out in defiance of how your X treats the kids. Be there for the kids..Thats the important thing.
Just don't lose contact with themTig
Mar 5, 2002 2:15 PM
If it turns out that one or both don't come to stay, be sure to keep in close contact to them. Try to get her to stay for maybe a few shorter visits. She may change her mind after being there with you and stay a little longer. Don't let your pain turn into blame or guilt either. That would only divide you further.

My ex is overly permissive and caters to our 6 year old boy's wishes more than I do. She avoids responsibilities quite a bit. She buys him toys and lets him eat the same old junk. I think some of it is from laziness, and some from her attempt to win him over. He and I have always had a very close relationship that wasn't natural for her and him.

We just can't put a child up on a pedestal and spoil them with permissiveness. That comes back to bite us later. Prevention is MUCH better than cure on this subject! I have a feeling that your kids will someday regret how she has raised them and resent her for it. Who knows when this will happen, but you will see them running to you if it does.

What we can't do is to try and correct the mother's bad habits by enforcing our version of parenting on the kids. We can't expect to change them so easily. Too much will cause rebellion and a lost of trust. There are more subtle ways of working on these changes, but you will have to discover what they are for your situation.

The best book on parenting I have ever read is "Raising Self-Reliant Children In A Self-Indulgent World", by H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen, Ed.D. Nelsen also wrote a best seller, "Positive Discipline".
don't force her.. but force her!colker
Mar 10, 2002 2:03 PM
don't legally force her do anything. sure, she knows you have more means and power but this way won't keep you on her side.
she needs you, she needs her father and that's why she will stay with you all the time you perceive as necesary for her.
she needs limits and both must talk aboput it. at 17, she has judgement over lots of things and watchng "heavy" programs on the tv won't harm that much being away from her father, on the other hand, is dangerous for her.
so, keep the dialogue. fight but keep talking! yes, she will have to saty with you. she is underage and won't decide over this matter. then you will dialogue and you'll respect her ideas on food (again, she is not 5yrs old and can decide waht she wants to eat...). she can't watch xrated stuff at home though.
good luck