Thursday, January 28, 2010

Charity May Not Start at Home For The Holidays

My New Friends over at the New Wife Revolution have been posting about Ex-wives with borderline personality disorders. I urge you to go check it out (it's not as depressing as it sounds). Any readers of Trooper Thorn here on Hot Dads or over on Dogs & Jeans are aware of the hell I've gone through with my Ex, particularly her influence in turning the kids against me.

My time with my kids (14 & 15) has been spotty through the fall, partly because they have their own lives and friends and don't want to come see me on the weekends (which I understand) but also because their mother keeps telling them that my girlfriend and her kids are now my priority, which couldn't be further from the truth. I understand that they don't want to spend anytime with her and her kids (even though my ex left me nearly 4 years ago for somebody else) so I make sure our time together is ours alone. But if they want to see me during my non-access time, my girlfriend has bent over backwards to make them welcome.

What I won't do is cancel plans when my kids try and see me during non-access time. Unfortunately, this is most frequently when I hear from them, as though I am being tested.

Anyway, I hadn't seen or heard from my kids since the middle of November. All calls and emails asking to see them were ignored and I was not given any time with them over Christmas as was guaranteed in our separation agreement. In fact during the last visit, my 15 year old was calling me an a**hole for making their mother move. (The courts split the assets and she is supposed to buy out my interest in the house. 8 months later there has been no movement on this).

So now I was faced with the issue of what to do about Xmas presents. At their age, I would expect the kids to accept some responsibility for their own behavior. They were making no effort to communicate what they wanted for gifts and I didn't feel motivated to give them an envelope of cash in hopes that they would "love me again".

I decided to make a $50 donation in each child's name to an organization called SmileTrain who performs cleft palate surgery for children in 3rd world countries. I got each kid a card, included the information about the charity saying "I didn't know what you wanted for Christmas, but since you have the capacity to smile I thought you'd like to help out some kids who can't". As well, I offered to pay for lessons in their respective activities in the New Year.

On Boxing Day I received emails from each of my kids telling me I'd "blown it" and to "get help or else". My Ex sent the following email:
"You must have some understanding how your teenage children would respond. They had been surprised that you would send them gifts at all and the hope on their faces before they saw what you had sent, followed by their response to what you did send was a terrible thing to witness. Your daughter was sobbing, your son said he had no father and his whole life sucked. Cards from the hare lip foundation arrived for the children. I have not given them to the kids because I thought it would just make things even worse."

While I understood that such a gift would be provocative (and I wouldn't have been happy when I was a selfish teenager) the thing I think is most sad is that they have no adults around them to say "Did you call you Dad about seeing him at Christmas? Did you tell him what you'd like. Don't you think helping less fortunate kids at Christmas is a good thing?"

Needless to say, it's now the end of January and my ex refuses to require the kids spend any time with me.

Who else thinks I'm a terrible father?


Anonymous said...

There's not much you can do about an ex bad-mouthing you in front of the kids. I grew up with a mother who did that (bad-mouthed my father) and in the long run it ruined my relationship with her. All I can say on that is regardless of how tempting it is, don't reciprocate to get even.

But, my other thought is that you are the father and the adult. It should not be up to your kids to contact you or out of the blue tell you what they want for Christmas. It is YOUR job to contact them, and carve out and spend time with them, and ask them for ideas about gifts. If it is your weekend, then plan something ahead of time, or invite their friends over, or whatever. Don't put the responsibility on them. Call them and say you're spending this particular day together for Christmas and you'd love some ideas about what they'd like for gifts.

If your ex is not allowing you the agreed upon visitation, then there are legal ways to enforce it.

WannabeVirginia W. said...

I would have to agree with anonymous.

You are the adult, they are children, and they are angry with the divorce. Unfortunately they become collateral damage with the situation between you and your ex-wife. It is your job as a father to make every effort to re-connect with them. They are your children and you have an obligation. Donating to the cleft children and leaving them notes regarding smile was like rubbing salt to injuries.

Man Up and take care of your kids and make them your priority regardless of what occurred between you and your wife and whatever plans you have. There is nothing more important than re-connecting with your kids.

Keith Wilcox said...

You are most definitely NOT a bad father. In fact, I'd say your ambivalence about Christmas presents shows that your priorities are with something more important, namely real human relationships that transcend gifts. The fact that your ex seems to be placing disproportionate importance on gifts is sad. You are absolutely correct that while they may not be thrilled with the gift, they at least have a responsibility to say thank you and acknowledge that you tried to do something nice. Besides, think how grateful those kids who get their cleft surgery are going to be. That's a reward right there. I really feel for your situation. I've been reading you for a while now and you've always written sincerely and honestly (as far as I can tell). I wish your kids could see that and know that you aren't the bad guy that you've been portrayed as. Perhaps some day...

Lilize said...

Hi there! :)
Thanks for the follow, I'm enjoying reading your blog as well and will check out the other ones :)

anyways, this is one of those situations where you "have to laugh not to cry" hehe

i think you're a good parent by not over indulging your kids. i know people whose kids (and mind you, they're not teenagers anymore, they're grown adults) will only call or show up on their bdays or xmas because they know there'll be a generous present waiting, and of course, thanksgiving, for a free meal. as soon as the food is over and presents have been swapped, u don't lay eye on them for another couple of months or the next holiday.

it's heartbreaking to see them doing this to their parents, and u really don't want this to happen to you :)

adultfriendfinder said...

Anonymous said and WannabeVirginia W are completely f**king clueless and you should delete both of these comments.

many non-custodial parents are in the same situation that you are in right now.
your kids have taken on their mothers hate, through no fault of your or theirs.

check out parental alienation syndrome and don't blame yourself or your children.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I absolutely do no think you are a bad father. I love the idea of giving money to a charity... although as a teenager Gift card also are easy to buy and pretty painless.

But I don't think you should blame yourself if your ex is blatantly hating on you... in fact that makes her a complete douche. I mean they will be more empathetic with her because they see her everyday and she is using that to her advantage.

I'm sorry... the situation sucks all around.

TentCamper said...

Oh my holy hell Troop!!! I saw this post this morning and just have not had the time to comment ...until now as I have been going through my own version of this exact thing. My boys are 5 and 8 and I have only been able to see them 2 weekends since November and my ex just had my 5 year old call me last night to say that she was bringing them skiing this weekend and that they were going to miss my court ordered visit.

I am losing my mind!!!! I am furious and have had it with her.

I have no advice for you except to say that I am right there with you and I don't think you are a bad father!!

professional search engine optimization said...

It just doesn't happen at the holidays. Unfortunately, quite a few folks think the world owes them a living and would rather scam or beg for things then use the American way of actually working for them.

Not a soccer mom said...

My heart aches for you. I spent over 12 years attempting to get my ex to acknowledge he had any kids at all.
And I had to be the bigger parent, and spend a lifetime raising them single handedly.
I dont have a cookie cutter solution for you, and hatred and lies are toxic. But you may want to at least attempt to meet with your ex, on a one on one, and discuss how you would like to both work together to make things work.. If she truly thinks you are such a terrible man.. then what would be her idea in order to resolve that? it will be tough, because by now, you have probably built up some hatred yourself.
One the two of you can get on the same page and you have her backing, the kids will begin to see you working together and you can begin to build that relationship with them
i do wonder.. what was your relationship with your kids before the divorce? If it was good, use it for some leverage.
good luck.
Divorce sucks.
this advice may not be what you want to hear.. but what you are doing now is not working and well... you asked.

Anonymous said...

You are most definitely NOT a terrible Father. It sounds like your soon-to-be ex-wife is playing her victim status to the fullest; just like my husband's ex does. She's using the kids against you as a way to "hurt" and get back at you. I say, march straight to the Courthouse and get some temporary orders and a regular schedule for seeing your kids. If you wish to not do the every other weekend thing because they are older and are busy teenagers, then propose a schedule and have the judge make a ruling for temporary orders. Maybe you get say all of spring break or one weekend a month and one night a week to have the kids over for dinner. Whatever works for you. Getting temporary orders that guarantee you set time with your kids will hopefully deflate your exes ego a bit, and give the kids and you a chance to clear schedules and make time together a priority. I don't know your whole story, so perhaps you already have temporary orders. If they aren't working, you can petition to change them citing her "parental interference."

There is no reason your wife should blame you because the thoughtful gifts you sent your children were not what they wanted. These women are always looking for someone to blame besides themselves. The kids are old enough to take some responsibility for their own actions as well. You're exactly right, she should have said to them "call your Dad and discuss your Christmas list." But she didn't, hoping that she could make you out to be the bad guy. Totally typical of these exes. Sounds like you're a loving, caring, concerned Father, who is also fed-up with a whiny, controlling, manipulative soon-to-be-ex. Hang in there, things will get better!

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