The ex and I split up when the kids were about 7, 9 and 11. They are now 19, 17 and 15. They are some pretty fabulous human beings, if I don’t say so myself. Any details I share with you are things that my kids have already dealt with firsthand, they lived it, so it’s not new information. I insist on being honest and straight forward with my kids, no matter what. Honesty and open communication with age appropriateness…you can’t go wrong with that!
Cliff notes version here…I meet my ex, yada, yada, yada, we get married. He adopts my girls and we have a son. (The biological father of my girls and I split for good when I was 2 months pregnant with my second daughter.) He signed his rights away, and disappeared off the planet. (It’s a Jerry Springer story I will save for another time.) Three kids and 10 years later, I can’t take anymore of the lying, cheating and stealing.
Divorce sucks. Even when it’s necessary and the right choice, it just sucks for everyone involved.
Marriages fall apart for a million reasons, however, I don’t believe those reasons should be shoved into your kids’ faces. It’s your job as a parent to help your kids get through the hard stuff without throwing your baggage on their backs. I have spent a significant amount of time, since the divorce, swooping in and doing damage control. I’ll tell you something, it’s a wonder I have a tongue at all considering how many times I nearly bit that thing off. One of my very best friends gave me the best advice when I was going through my divorce and the kids had a million questions. She said to tell them, “I will tell you everything you need to know when you are 30.” Honesty and open communication with age appropriateness…you can’t go wrong with that. I wish my ex would have kept that in mind. My kids found out too much damaging information (NOT from me) very early on that left me scrambling to pick up all of the pieces of little broken hearts.
The worst part of my divorce was how my ex went from a great dad to…lets just say…a not so great dad. The most accurate statement would be that while we were married he was a great dad, but a horrible husband. I mean this is a man who took on two kids as his own and didn’t miss a beat. He never, and I mean never treated those girls like they were anything but his from the beginning.
When our marriage fell apart I took extra care in making sure that all of my short people were able to spend as much time with their dad as possible. However, what I didn’t expect, was to battle with him on this subject. It was like I was suddenly dealing with a person with dissociative personality disorder. He would tell me over and over how much he loved and missed the kids. He said he wanted to spend time with them, and then he made a million excuses why he couldn’t, or wouldn’t. It made my head spin, let alone the kids, who’s lives were already turned upside down. He just checked out! Quite frankly, its been 8 years and I’m not convicted he is ever going to check back in, at least fully. I hold onto a glimmer of hope, because my kids deserve the best from him.
I was left to deal with his dishonest communication, emotionally manipulating the kids, and another baby mama in (and now out of) their lives. The most frustrating part of co-parenting is convincing the other parent to participate. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make people do what they need to do. The only person you can control is yourself. I fantasized about taking a 2×4 to his head and knocking some sense into it. For the better part of the last 8 years, attempting to co-parent with my ex probably looks more like FEMA doing damage control after Hurricane Katrina.
He had turned into a fraction-time parent. I ended up dealing more with his current girlfriend/baby mama #2. It was few and far between and not a pretty sight in the beginning, cordial in the middle, and is currently unnecessary because she is now an ex with another child of his, and he has another girlfriend in the wings. It’s a struggle for me to communicate with someone I don’t respect.
My co-parenting situation has consisted mostly of communication between myself and the kids and him trying to play one side against the other. Yes, I realize this is usually a position the children adopt from time to time to get their way. Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe this scenario. I still catch myself shaking my head at the ridiculousness that I have had to deal with. Who was this guy? Where did that great father go? I was failing to understand this turn around, so you can only imagine the emotional turmoil those kiddos went through and are continuing to deal with. The best thing that has come from all of this craziness is that the relationship I have with my kids is probably the strongest I have ever seen. It’s real and easy and they know our bond is safe, reliable, respectful, honest and loving.
Just putting in my two cents here, but if you want to be respected by your children, you have to give it to them first along with straight-forward honesty. I’m telling you right now, you give that every time, you will get it back. Be prepared though…sometimes they tell you things you didn’t realize and you probably didn’t want to know (but needed to know).
I tried everything I could think of to keep communication open. I quickly reached a point where I had to just face the fact that I was back to being a single parent for the most part. I handled their daily lives, taking them to doctors appointments, school stuff, work, dentist appointments, summer activities, and everything else that came up. I helped them get through the bad days and enjoyed the good days. I was there for the ups and downs in their relationships, you name it, I had it. Fine by me. I had experience with being a single parent, so we figured it out. Lucky for us, my hubby of 4 years now, Jeremy, has been a fantastic, supportive, and loving addition to our family. (More on that dude another time as well….aahh the love!)
That does not mean I gave up trying to communicate with my ex. I kept informing him of everything, including, at one point, emailing a calendar outlining every single detail. As long as I knew I had done my part in the co-parenting process, I had to think of that as a small victory. Sometimes it works out well and he does what he promises and shows up to school programs. Other times, not so much.
Things are slightly better in some areas, some of the time. There you go, that was my attempt at throwing sunshine on it. Was it believable? Look, not everyone gets a cooperative co-parenting plan under control. I wish that were the case. That would certainly be ideal, to say the least. I guess the most important thing to remember is it is NOT about you. It’s about raising those little munchkins into responsible, thriving young adults. If you can be a team…fantastic!! If not, so what. Keep doing what you are doing and maybe one day it will work out. Don’t stop the one-way communication. Maybe one day it will turn into a two-way street. A true parent, biological or otherwise, never gives up!
My ex came to pick up my son today. He got here early and I told him to come on in and have a seat until the, not so little anymore, little guy got home. We sat here talking for about 45 minutes. We seem to have reached a point where we can sit and chat and I don’t plot his death. I even pointed out how I hadn’t tried to kill him and hide his body in the back yard. He said he appreciated that. We have had conversations about how disappointed I am in the father he became. He knows where I stand on that subject. He vow’s to do better and I tell him I will believe it when I see it. He understands that. He doesn’t argue because he knows that no matter what, I’m honest with him just like I am with everyone else. Honesty and open communication with age appropriateness. Ha ha …..couldn’t resist. Even my ex would laugh at that one.
Sometimes I think maybe he got stuck when we split up. His world with the kids went into a holding pattern of them being 7, 9 and 11. Maybe he didn’t know how to have a new family and maintain his relationship with the kids he already had at the same time. I’m with them everyday. We talk all the time and share our lives so we are always on the same page. We work at that. The kids’ view is that he stopped working at it and we all kept going without him. I’m not making excuses for him. He made his bed. He’s made some bad choices. He has made some good choices. I just wish he hadn’t dragged the kids through all his muck. They deserve better.
That is what drives me; to give my kids the best of me. Hopefully one day, before it’s too late, he can give them the best of him again.
A true parent, biological or otherwise, never gives up.
Kat Smith is a 39-year-old insanely busy mother of three fantastic young people. Married to an amazing hubby Jeremy, a man 7 years her junior (he had to be younger to keep up with the fun at her house).
She is a full-time working parent dealing with a sometimes debilitating nerve disease, and a part-time ex-husband. She has been writing for decades yet she is new to blogging. She writes to expose her truth, shares her hobbies, feelings, struggles, triumphs and daily survival. She loves a great gel pen, photography, DIY projects and she tries not to let her OCD make other people crazy. Follow her on Twitter: @MrsKatSmith.