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Parenting advice needed

HappyCamperDude posted 12/19/2019 20:16 PM

After I wrote this out I realized that I have the solution already. BUT I still posted it to hear others thoughts. Cant hurt. And as always, sorry for the length.

Hey everyone. I’m not sure if this would be right place to post this question or even the right audience. If anyone has a resource much like SI that they would share I would greatly appreciate it.

Here’s the backstory: DD16 and DD18 have been living with me permanently since the beginning of the year. No more random overnights at their mothers house. Divorce was considered “final” as of November 6th. That was 120 days from the judgement. Kids and I are pretty content and have very few issues.

DD16 spends a couple sundays a month having brunch with her mother. Almost every single weekend their is some sort of drama involving their mother and DD16. Often XWW doesn’t call about the weekend until Friday or Saturday night. I assume she is a grown woman and I don’t have to ask her myself. And those times I do ask, to be able to plan my weekend, she accuses me of “not trusting her to be a mother” or “tying to control.” So DD16 will have brunch, but when she comes home, I have to listen to how her mother makes her feel. Yes, she needs therapy. Of that I am aware. But I just listen for now, knowing she needs a trusting ear.

DD18 started college in the fall. As of that moment, she systematically began cutting her mother out of her life. She even admits to it. I quote her text message to me tonight :”I wish she would just leave me alone.”

Here’s the problem: tonight, I picked up DD18 to go to DD16 music concert at the high school. XWW was there already. DD18 walked past her to sit closer to the stage. I sat with DD18.

I receive text message asking why DD18 sat there, why she is ignoring her mother, etc. I offered an excuse (kid can’t see-which is true), but the next message was to continue interrogation of me. I ignored it.

End of concert. DD18 goes to see DD16 in music room. XWW is there, says some words to kid, kid is sad.

Later XWW pulls me outside. Chewed me out. Can’t remember for what exactly. I asked her “what do you want me to do here? What do you think I can do?” Her reply was “I’m asking you to act like her father for once.”

Lord this is long winded. If you’re still with me, I thank you.

History: a couple of days ago XWW texted me a novella. On it she asked what is wrong with DD18. Asks “why doesn’t she answer my texts.” (Note here: I always advise XWW to CALL her kids). In this long text she asks me not to “fix” anything but supply information. Basically be a spy. Also note on the last I have offered advice to her on how to reconnect to her kids.

XWW thinks kids are mad about the divorce. Truth- my oldest told me “it’s about time dad. She’s been walking all over you for years.”

The issue with XWW is simple. Until she can face herself she won’t ever see why the kids don’t respect her anymore.

Tonight I told XWW this: “your relationship with your kids is not a 5 minute fix. Nor a five day, five week or eve five month repair. You’re facing a five year minimum repair, that involves consistent behavior and attention to the kids. Not just spending time with them shopping. Taking an active role and treating them as young adults.”

She didn’t like that.

What I need: HELP!

How on earth do I get the hell out of the crossfire! I want to protect my kids, but I can only take so much bullshit before I’m going to snap! I feel as though I’m blamed for everything wrong. And when I try to help it backfires on me!

I practice no contact on a regular basis and often ignore attempts to lure me into conflict when we have to have contact.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

HCD

barcher144 posted 12/19/2019 20:25 PM

I would encourage both of your kids to work on improving their relationship with their mother. Teach them to have good boundaries, but they only get one Mom.

Both of them are old enough to do it on their own without you as the middle man. Support them... love them... be a shoulder for them to cry on.

EllieKMAS posted 12/19/2019 20:34 PM

I don't have kids, but I was your DD in my past. I did not get along with my dad at all and my mom was in the middle of it for a long time.

For your DD16 - listening to her and letting her know you've got her back is the best you can do. I agree on IC if/when you can swing it if she's willing.

For DD18, slightly different. She is an adult technically. Hard as I am sure it is for you, it is not your place to be in the middle of her and mom. IMHO, DD18 needs to set down some boundaries with her mom, and believe me I know how hard that is when you're that age. IC for her probably wouldn't go amiss either to help with that.

For your xww, I think a canned response and not engaging is probably your best bet. She's the one who fucked it up, not you. And it is on her to fix it. Honestly unless it is about health/wellness related stuff, I think you'd be fine ignoring her novellas. Not really much point to engaging when nothing you do or say is going to make a difference in how she acts.

Sounds like you are doing really well with a crap situation tho. Believe me when I tell you it matters to your sweet girls!

Marz posted 12/19/2019 21:05 PM

Stop engaging. Learn to ignore and walk away.

Your X is a big girl she needs to figure this out.

Phoenix1 posted 12/19/2019 21:37 PM

My youngest was 16 when we divorced. Two older kids were young adults. I should add that youngest was very emotionally mature for her age.

Youngest wanted nothing to do with her father. I was not about to try to force a relationship as it would have backfired on me tremendously. All I told her was that he loved her very much in his own way (honest statement) and while I hoped they could one day have a relationship, the choice was hers and I would support her choice 100%.

I told the others the same thing.

Then I stayed out of it. Completely. Yes, I was a shoulder to lean on and listened to whatever they said, but I was neutral. I wanted them to know I was the safe, supportive parent they could count on.

Xhole couldn't understand why they were so cold, especially youngest. I told him she was angry, very angry, about his behavior toward me and the family as a whole. And because it was his behavior that created the rift, it was entirely up to him to try to repair it, or not. I would not play middleman nor make any attempts to "fix it." He needed to talk to her (them) directly, not me.

He chose not to make any effort, thinking a "happy birthday" or "Merry Christmas" text was enough. Eventually all the kids cut him out of their life. It was sad to watch, but as adults (all of them now), it is their choice. I was just the bystander watching the trainwreck unfold.

Offer IC, if you can, so they have a neutral third party to talk to, but don't be surprised if they turn it down (mine did). Otherwise, make your position known to them and your ex, and stay the course. Don't let your ex pull you into it. Firm boundaries.

This is tough, but you'll get there.

HappyCamperDude posted 12/19/2019 22:02 PM

Well I was going to send XWW a lengthy text...but Mars hit the nail on the head. Funny enough, I just did my first employee review as a supervisor last week. And I told the guy “you’re a grown ass man...I shouldn’t have to go looking for you beyond your assigned area to check on your assignments....blah blah. Point is, the X is a grown ass woman as marz said. It’s up to her to figure it out. No amount of words from me will help.

Barcher, I have been encouraging the kids, but in the end it’s not my choice-it’s theirs. I agree that they only get one mom, but what happens when that mom is toxic? My oldest gets a bit of panic every time she sees a black vw Jetta because she thinks it’s her moms. I mean, this woman I married ended up Turing into a piece of work. But I digress....

This is all good advice and it leads me to believe I was headed on the right path: just do nothing and ignore it. Is XWW wants to act like a 15 year old, then let her.

I’ve always been there for a shoulder to cry on for the kids. But sometimes they say something funny yet derogatory about their mother and I can’t help it but laugh.

Now I just need the words to tell XWW that I don’t want to be in the crossfire anymore. Perhaps I say it just like that.

fareast posted 12/19/2019 22:36 PM

I don’t think you need to tell your EX anything. You are D. Any communication like that is just going to get a nasty response and try to drag you in. Stop engaging. She is no longer your problem. She’ll eventually get the picture when you ignore her forever. You will all be better off. Good luck.

WornDown posted 12/19/2019 23:00 PM

Been there, done (and still doing) that.

My kids hardly talk to my ex at all. I think my middle hasn't talked to her since my oldest's graduation in May.

Fortunately for me, my ex is 5 hours away so I don't see her (ever). But I got the texts/emails and the calls.

I pretty much just ignored my ex.

As for my kids, I told them that they are old enough now for them to decide what kind of relationship they want to have with their mom. I'll support any decision they make.

But, I am not a disinterested party at this point. I can't be. If I were to just be neutral, that would be just setting my kids up for disaster.

We talk openly about how mom isn't a good person - she lies, cheats and steals (she's done it to me, the kids (stole oldest's identity for a credit card) and even random people). (She's been diagnosed ADHD/bipolar II; one therapist thought she was BPD. She checks 7 or 8 out of the 9 boxes (each) on the NPD and BPD criteria in DSM-V)

My oldest is the one that has the most contact with her. She wants her mom in her life, but she's (DD22) realized that there are times where she has to put distance between them because mom is too much (mom's bullshit). I've told her that that's likely what she'll have to do - keep mom at a bit of a distance, and if/when mom crosses a line, cut her out until DD feels like she wants her back. All the kids have gotten this advice from me.

But, the sad part is they will NEVER have a mom-child relationship ever again. Mom has burned that bridge many times over.

The good news? I have a great relationship with my kids. Her loss has been my gain (Yes, the kids initially blamed me for the chaos at home and the divorce. They now know better - they've told me so).

I hope my experience can help you navigate this. It's not easy.

[This message edited by WornDown at 11:03 PM, December 19th (Thursday)]

dblackstar2002 posted 12/20/2019 07:07 AM

Well sense I am not a parent, But have helped to raise three nieces I can say. All you can do is tell your daughter that no matter what she thinks, She is still her mother. She should respect her But take it form me, That does not mean your 18 year old daughter will want to cultivate a relationship with her mother going forward. My niece has what I call a Disney dad. He is only in her life once in a while. Whenever she needs something she comes to me, Because I have been the only father figure truly there for her. Her mother tires to get her to call him daily, But my niece doesn't. This makes my sister mad, But I tell her kids are not stupid they make up their minds about people pretty quickly.

Catwoman posted 12/20/2019 07:57 AM

Not your monkeys, not your circus.

As long as you are not actively encouraging the distance between them and are encouraging them to have a relationship with their mother, that's all you can do. At their ages, they are figuring out boundaries and relationships. I would continue to encourage therapy, pointing out that an uninvolved third party might be a lot more helpful in giving them perspective and tools (not that you're not helpful, but you're "in the mix" with this).

It is only courteous (and adult) to try and clue the other parent in on any arrangements being made. Certainly a text or email with "Susan and I are going to go get pedicures on Saturday afternoon and she may stay for dinner--hope that is okay with you). That's only fair, and I can't believe how many parents just don't get that. If she makes a stink about it, don't react--just stick to your guns "I would appreciate a heads-up by Wednesday if you are making plans with DDs so I can plan for meals, pet care, etc." You lead by example in this regard as well, and you tell your daughters that it is only courtesy and being adult that you communicate these things with their other parent.

Stay out of this as much as possible, and if she complains, point out that she has multiple avenues to pursue, including family therapy with her daughters.

It's not your problem to fix.

Cat

landclark posted 12/20/2019 08:15 AM

It sounds like you've already determined your answer (which is perfect, IMO).

I just wanted to add that I grew up with a very toxic mother. We had almost no relationship for most of my life because of it. In her later years, especially after I had a child, she stopped being as toxic but still kept it up in some ways, often going off on me if I dared challenge her in any way. The older I got, the less tolerance I had for it. I think my lack of tolerance and my willingness to distance myself from her because of her actions helped her to keep it in check a bit. That may sound like manipulation on my part to some, but honestly, it was for my own sanity.

She passed away in February of 2018 and while we were much closer in the end and I can say that I miss her, I don't at all regret the fact that I kept her at a distance during her really toxic years. I don't regret that I stood up for myself when she was being ridiculous. Don't regret that I walked away from her crazy when needed.

I say all this to say that yes, we only have one mother, but, we don't have to put up with the toxic because of it. Do I wish I had a better relationship with my mom during my life? Sure, but I also don't have any guilt at all for the relationship we did (or I guess didn't) have.

As Cat said, you don't necessarily have to support the distance, but your responsibility is now to your kids. Your ex is an adult. Let her sort her own issues.

Muggle posted 12/20/2019 10:20 AM

My daughters councilor told me. "It's not your job to maintain your daughter's relationship with her father". She is old enough to navigate it with her father, and by doing so she will learn to establish boundaries, and come to her own conclusions.

This was a HARD lesson for me to learn, and I listen when she vents, and offer suggestions, but I always tell her that SHE needs to communicate her frustration, wants, needs direct with him.

She of course won't tell her father any of the things she says to me. She is afraid that venting, assigning responsibility to him to maintain, nurture or just generally act like he gives a damn will cause him to stop having ANY contact with her. He has minimal contact now, doesn't really engage her, and so far SHE'S been the one maintaining the relationship.

His new wife had the audacity to suggest in an email to our daughter "As the days pass, hold your Dad accountable for communicating with you. (He sucks at it) and it's on him dropping the ball with you guys. I don't want you to think I am taking him away, HE is taking himself away. I encourage him to create some regularity with your guys"

Once again, you have to set some healthy boundaries with your DD's and let them know that you sympathize with their concerns, will listen, but unless it's something that's dangerous for behavior they are able to "Choose their own Adventure" so to speak.

There's no magic get out of jail card for this. You are in the middle, because they don't want to deal with it, and neither do you. Your EX you can simply tell her it's not your responsibility to be her councilor or to "fix", maintain, or manage her dynamic with your children.

nekonamida posted 12/20/2019 10:27 AM

The older I got, the less tolerance I had for it. I think my lack of tolerance and my willingness to distance myself from her because of her actions helped her to keep it in check a bit. That may sound like manipulation on my part to some, but honestly, it was for my own sanity.

Just want to point out that this is not manipulative AT ALL. It's a boundary with the consequence of physically leaving when it's broken. Mom can choose to be as toxic as she wants and you can choose not to be apart of it when she does it. That's a healthy response.

My husband has the same relationship with his mom. She's ruined quite a few holidays for seemingly no reason. Untrue accusations hurled at other family members. Over-the-top dramatics and saying she's cutting off the family only to come back 30 minutes later sobbing. All sorts of drama to steal the spotlight. And now it's very clear cut - mom creates a problem to flip out about, everyone leaves or doesn't show up for the get together and then we try again next time. I'd love to say this works - and it did for a few years - but lately she's slid right back into it and has attempted to cause issues in more insidious ways such as telling lies to spark fights.

So now this year - no birthday celebration - ruined when she insisted everyone drive 2 hrs for a 1 hr dinner at a chain restaurant, had no reason for why it couldn't be done at same restaurant 20 mins away, and called SIL a bitch after she didn't want to leave work early to drive 4 hrs with a toddler. SIL's wedding - attempted to ruin due to her telling husband lies about his grandfather and her attempting to start a fight with both SIL and husband 30 mins before the ceremony. Luckily every one else kept their wits about them and didn't play into it. Thanksgiving - didn't happen after making plans with husband and snubbing him and changing plans 2 weeks before. Christmas - reduced to only a couple of hours that morning because no one wants to put up with her after everything else. And this is just the tip of iceberg with her these days.

HCD, I think telling her you won't be put in the middle anymore is a great idea. Expect push back from her but don't respond. "No" is a complete sentence. She wants to pull you aside in public to berate you for it? No. She wants to call you and yell at you over the phone? No and don't even bother picking up. She texts you? Crickets. She'll try for a bit but then she will take the hint that it gets her no where and give up eventually.

Hutch posted 12/20/2019 11:02 AM

This co-parenting thing is difficult even with older kids. I get the impression you are very much like myself..."a fixer of all things". So through my separation and very-soon-to-be-divorce, I have had to learn to NOT intervene in their relationship. Their relationship with their dad is just that, theirs, and my relationship with them is mine. I know you're still a parent and will naturally address things as they come up, but taking a step back and letting your daughters figure out this phase and how they want to proceed is necessary. I know it's not easy. Trust me, I struggle immensely with not fixing everything.

Add the fact that my STBXH and your EX like to constantly put us in the middle by trying to force their hand, it adds an extra level of stress. I've chosen to stop listening to it and walk away. If my kids need my help, I'm there in a second with claws out, but I think as they get older (mine are 19 and 17), it's something they have to learn to navigate and face as well. There's life lessons in everything.

Ultimately, I am learning that there will always be things that come up in the lives of our children where we may have to communicate on some level with the EX, but with personal relationships those decisions have to be made by the individual.

I'll end with this. I do truly believe that forgiveness is not for the person you are forgiving, but rather for YOURSELF. It allows you to have those chains and weight lifted off your chest and shoulders. It allows you to move on and heal. I think that is something to remind your kids of as well. It takes time but ultimately it helps you as an individual.

Happy Holidays to you. You're doing great.

ZenMumWalking posted 12/20/2019 11:17 AM

XWW's relationship with her children is HERS to figure out, not yours.

Quit reading and responding to her texts. Send them directly to spam. Ignore. Disengage.

Not your monkeys, not your circus.

((((HCD))))

FusedGlass posted 12/20/2019 11:33 AM

This is such a painful situation, and I'm sorry, HappyCamperDude. As the grown daughter of a toxic parent, I just wanted to second some of what landclark said. As a young adult, I had to cut my father out of my life almost completely, as he was consistently emotionally abusive to me and my whole family.

It was incredibly sad and I grieved for a very long time, but most of that was coming to terms with the fact that he was not capable of being a good father. It may sound awful, but my life is truly much better without him. There really are toxic people out there, and continuing a relationship with a parent who consistently hurts you is not healthy.

Lots of people will judge and shame for the decision to cut a parent out of one's life, but I suspect they've never experienced the toxicity that leads to this situation, so there's no way for them to understand. (And it goes without saying that the toxic parent will never understand, since they can't confront their own issues.)

Your daughters will have to make their own decisions about the kind of relationships they want with their mother. All you can do is support them in that and be the best father you can be -- and it sounds like you're doing a great job with that.

7yrsflushed posted 12/20/2019 15:03 PM

Divorce was considered “final” as of November 6th.

and on November 7th your EX's relationship with the children was no longer your problem.

Her reply was “I’m asking you to act like her father for once.”
I am petty, so my response would have been "and they want you to act like a Mother for once followed by I have always been a damned good Father. What you are asking me to do falls in line with husbandly duties and if I recall correctly i was fired from that job so no longer my problem."

Your kids are old enough to make the choice on how and when they interact with their Mother. It's not your job to rebuild the relationship your EX shattered with them. Live your life and ignore your EX. Continue to support your kids but I am not a believer in keeping in contact with toxic people just because they are family. Your EX has to fix that shit and you are not obligated to play middle man. Just my 2 cents.

[This message edited by 7yrsflushed at 3:05 PM, December 20th (Friday)]

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