When I was fourteen and a Freshman in high school, I decided to go live with my Dad. My parents had been divorced for several years and while I had been living with my mothers since the break up, it was my Dad I missed. My Dad was the “other side” in the phrase, “the grass is always greener on the other side”. At least that’s what you always think until you get there and reality smacks you in the face. By the end of the summer after my Freshman year, my bags were packed and I was heading back to my Mother’s. Not because I wanted to. Because circumstances at my Dad’s with his new wife weren’t working out and he no longer felt it was a healthy environment for me to be in. At least that’s what he told me at the time. And while I was furious – so furious that I didn’t speak to him until the middle of my Senior Year in high school – my mother did nothing to help mend that relationship. She didn’t stick to the court-ordered visitation agreement that would have sent me to him every other weekend. Didn’t encourage me to talk to him on the phone and try to work it out. Nope, she subtly – and sometimes not-so-subtly – encouraged the disconnect because of her own issues with him and the history they shared between them.
Fortunately, we had the time to build a relationship again. I grew up, gained perspective about both of my parents, and did the work to repair the broken relationship that started that summer when I was a teen. I did that with no encouragement or cooperation from my mother. I won’t speak to her motivations or her reasons why; that is her story to tell or not to tell. But I’ve learned so much from being the child in that scenario now that I find myself in a co-parenting situation with my former spouse.
My girls are eleven and eight. They are busier and busier on the weekends, and the social component has not started to impact their weekends with their Dad. Yet. But I know that it’s coming. I’m going to blink and it’ll be here.
Mothers pulling this bullshit is more common than we’d like to talk about. Yes ladies, I’m calling you out on this nonsense. I have the power when it comes to where my kids go and what they do, and that includes spending time with their father. If I wanted to, I could not answer my phone when he calls for them (they don’t have cell phones and we don’t have a land line). I could make plans on every weekend that is supposed to be his. I could come up with fantastic and amazing things for the kids and I to do when he is supposed to see him so they don’t want to go with him. I could not be here when he shows up to pick them up. Yes, I’m being totally serious. I’ve seen it and watched it play out. I could alienate them from him to the point that they are scared to leave my side because they don’t know him and don’t want to know him.
You see, the courts and police systems are set up to favor mothers and to disregard that fathers play a huge role in children’s lives. If a dad pulled that nonsense – left a mother standing on the front porch and wouldn’t answer the door when it was her weekend with the kids – all kinds of hell would be raised. The police would get involved, the courts would get involved, and the dad would be in DEEP trouble for such nonsense. But women get away with this shit all the damn time and NOTHING is done. There are no consequences for their actions. I could screw over my ex-husband left and right and it would cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees and maybe he might get a judge to scold me. Maybe. But by then, how much damage would be done? How much of a disconnect would there be between him and his daughters?
Parental Alienation is serious business. Celebrity dads like Alec Baldwin and Jason Patrick have both spoken out publicly over being alienated from their kids because of a vengeful ex partner (Baldwin even wrote a book on his experience with ex Kim Basinger). Patrick’s website www.standupforgus.com defines parental alienation as “the vilification of one parent by the other – with the intent of alienating a child from the other parent,” Dads want – and need – to be involved in their kids day-to-day activities. It’s not dependent on child support either. If your ex isn’t paying you, that does not void his rights to have a relationship with his children.
I don’t care how hurt, angry, annoyed, irritated, (insert adjective here) because you are no longer in a romantic relationship with this man anymore. Live in the present. Co-Parent like your children are the priority and not your ego. Check that shit at the door. Because they people who are suffering, who spend years in counseling, who go looking for mommy and daddy figures to date, and who pick shitty people to stay in relationships with. As it is, your kids are already behind the eight ball because mom and dad split up and that comes with its own set of Samsonite luggage that you’ve handed your babies to carry around for the rest of their lives. Now your going to screw with their minds by a) shit talking their dad and b) not lifting a finger to encourage the relationship?
I’m not talking about just the obvious stuff either. I’m talking about the backhanded, passive aggressive, side-shooter manipulative nonsense that your poor kids don’t have the mental development to see that you are doing, protect themselves from, and process and move through until they are much older. If ever. You choose to have children with this man. Period, the end. Whether or not you are together, you have an obligation to continue to foster a relationship between him and his children for as long as those kids are alive. Shitty words should NEVER come out of your mouth about your former partner in front of, in the same house, hell in the same VICINITY as your children. Even when they are adults, they should see two loving parents that support them having a relationship with each of you individually.
And yes, I acknowledge that I am calling women out because women are the majority of the residential custody holders. They, like me in my situation, are the keepers of the power. They are the single greatest influencers if their children are going to have a relationship with the other parent. The fourteen year old version of myself stands here and begs you to nuture that relationship. Do what you can to make sure that it blossoms. Speak with love about their father to your children. Encourage them to do the same. Explain to them the importance of that relationship. Make sure they understand not to take it for granted and show them in your words and actions that you believe what you are saying.
These are the promises that I make to my children’s father, my co-parent for life. I encourage you to do the same.