Saturday, September 15, 2007

I'm Not a Stellar Dad, But I Tried

I thought I'd write here about some of my past. Particularly about my relationship with my children and how it has gotten to where it is today.

My children , a son and a daughter were born in 1986 and in 1990 respectively. Things were pretty normal during their early years as things go. They were happy normal kids and really never had to worry about things. They had more toys that you can imagine or maybe you can lol. The basement was full of their old toys as I was a packrat then as I am now. I helped them with their homework and science projects and whatever else I could.

Then came my divorce. Things are never easy in these situations. My kids were 14 and 10 at this time.

I came to find out that I was being blamed for the whole thing. As you can imagine, my kids who spent more time with there mother took the same view. Things were strained to say the least between my ex-wife and I.

After I moved out of the house there was still, in the best way I know how to say it, a hostility between my ex and I. I did however start seeing my kids once a week. My ex and I worked it out that I would e-mail her and make sure it was ok with her for me to pick them up on a certain day. So, every week I'd pick them up and we would sometimes go see a movie and do other things.

At some point in this time, I had been notified by the FOC (friend of the court) that they had made a mistake and I now was going to have what amounted to half my paycheck taken out in child support payments. This made doing things with them like going to the movies and eating out a bit much as far as available money went. I still had all the normal monthly payments to make such as insurance and phone and such.

At first my solution was to pick them up and go rent a movie and have dinner at my house. We did have the occasional fast food meal that they liked, but it just wasn't in the budget for me to do this all the time. One thing I would add here is that I tend to take budgets seriously and if I don't have the money for something, I don't buy it. This is one of the things that my ex and I had arguments over.

This seemed to work out fine with the kids for awhile. Then one week, I e-mailed my ex with the usual request to pick up the kids and the reply I got back wasn't pretty. There was a whole list of things that apparently was wrong with the way things were being done while the kids were in my charge. Just to list a few things about what the e-mail said was that the kids didn't like my falling asleep during the time the movie was playing. If any of you get up as early as I do(4:30 am) you'd understand that it's easy to take a snooze at 8 or 9 in the evening while watching movies. Heck, I do it quite often, you can ask Barb about that one lol. One of the other things that my kids complained about to my ex about was the food they were eating. My daughter was mainly the one complaining about this but my son wasn't happy about it either. One side note here is that my daughter is lactose intolerant. I tried not to fix things that had a lot of milk products in them. The gist I got out of this part of the e-mail was that they wanted fast food instead of home cooked meals. The way I saw it was that home cooked meals were much better for them than fast food. The last thing I'll touch on in the e-mail is about money. My ex said that the kids complained that I wasn't spending money on them. Well, if you have half your pay being taken before you ever see it, that might be expected.

When the divorce was being processed I had to go to a meeting that explained an ideal way things should be done when dealing with kids that have divorced parents. It specifically dealt with in one section that parents shouldn't try to buy kids love with expensive gifts. So what happens the first Christmas that I am away from my kids? My ex buys them each a DVD player and their own TV then tells me what she bought them so we wouldn't "duplicate" the things we got for them. I had no intentions of buying those kind of gifts for them. Heck, they were still kids so I bought them fun things to have.

I responded to the e-mail that I got from my ex explaining my point about all the things that were complained about. I got a reply that basically told me my reasons weren't good enough. My ex also told me that the kids didn't want to see me that week and that they would be doing other things in the next few weeks. I e-mailed her back telling her that was ok and that they could e-mail me when they wanted to see me again. Her response to that was "don't hold your breath". My kids never said any of this to me, they (so I assume) told my ex about it who wrote it in the e-mail.

So, I haven't seen my kids since then. It has been about 3 years since I saw them last. As I see it, I'm not going to force them to see me if they don't want to. I also won't play any "games" to get them to see me again. My son is now 21 and my daughter is 17.

It may not be a pretty picture, but that's the way it is. There are things that happen during and after a divorce that just aren't good. This is one of them.


Doctor Rick said...

Hey Mike:

I'd say,don't assume your kids don't want to see you. They may think you don't want to see them because it's been so long. Ask to speak to them directly, if possible. Lots of painful things happen post divorce, and not every thing said about the kids is the way they would want to be understood.

Tigger said...

I would agree with Dr. Rick

Reach out one time, to test the waters. It never is too late to try and bend bridges.

Good luck

Jeni said...

Mike - I have to agree with both the above posts here. My kids went through some really rough years with their dad - too numerous to go into here. Not to try to show what a wonderful person I am -far from that, cause I really am not - but one thing I did with my kids, with respect to their dad was to tell them regardless of what he did (or didn't do for them), they should always respect him, love him, treat him decently. I told them too if I said things about him that weren't always very nice, they had to remember that was something between him and me, not between them and him. It took a good long time after our divorce before all three of the kids and their Dad were able to develop a decent relationship. It's very long distance too as he lives in Nevada and they all live here in PA. But now, he calls them frequently, usually comes out here for a week long visit once a year now too and he also worships our three grandchildren too. Of course, in his case, most of these changes began to come about when he quit drinking in 1993! Amazing what a difference that can make. But, you do have to remember someone, in situations like the standoff between you and your kids, has to be the adult. Who better to take on that role than the true adult in the family there - you. You may be very pleasantly surprised if you extend the white truce flag first.

Maggie said...

omg. first I'm a child from a divorced family. so let me speak as a child.

There where plenty of times I blamed one of my parents for what happened. I've told them not to call me or see me or whatever. I'm so glad they didn't listen. The fights never lasted long.

Second, as a divorced mother of two small children. My kids do this to both of us. Luckily, we don't listen or try not to. My daughter for example things daddy's house is boring. She's 12 and the problem is she likes her room at my house. Well I make her go anyhow. My son is the opposite. He loves being at daddy's. My ex makes him go home with me when I pick him up. We let him sleep over extra here and there as schedules permit.

I agree Jeni. Extend the flag if not to just say hello and you love them.