What Every Divorced Parent Dreads Hearing "Well, at my DAD'S house..."

I had the kind of day yesterday where a big cry probably would’ve helped, but I just couldn’t seem to do it. I was too tired, too worn down, and I didn’t want the kids to see me cry. Not because I hide being sad from them; I don’t. I just didn’t want to manipulate them. My son, Franz, was pretty much a beast yesterday. And I keep seeing this stupid Facebook post:

Screen Shot 2013-01-12 at 7.16.46 AM

First of all, it’s not funny. Secondly, most people who are posting this either don’t have kids, or had kids a long time ago. Parenting has changed. The world has changed. And it angers me that when someone sees a child misbehaving, they automatically blame the parent for everything. What makes you assume that the parent isn’t doing everything they can to raise a kind child? What makes you have the authority to be so judgmental?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

Why are my kids so bratty so much? Is it me? Am I not strict enough? Is it the world? I was well behaved when I was a kid, but we were poor and I was afraid most of the time of being hurt by a parent. Is that what a modern parent should do? Raise their kids in fear?

I have structure in my house and rules. There are consequences to bad behavior. The kids are never afraid of me. But…I don’t know. They still throw fits and act out and are mean.

Yesterday, my son was throwing a fit, even though he’s too old for that. I did what you’re supposed to do. I got down to his level, in his face, lowered my voice and said strongly “This behavior is not appropriate”. He then pointed his finger in my face, screamed at the top of his lungs that I was a terrible mother and he hated me. I dragged him into the Time Out spot.

He recovered. We made up. He apologized. But it was awful and embarrassing.

Later Franz couldn’t sleep and kept getting up. We took away the iPod. Spoke firmly. It did nothing. Then I said, very calmly, “Franz, you don’t behave this way at your dad’s. Why is it appropriate for you to behave this way here or treat me the way you do?”

His answer: “At my dad’s, there are people to PLAY with. You don’t have anyone here for me. I play all day at my dad’s, but there’s NO ONE here.”

And that’s when I lost it. I was sooooo soooo close to saying things I’ve wanted to say for a long time. I did not say them. I WANTED to say, your dad got in a serious relationship two weeks after we split up. He was engaged four months after we split up. He was irresponsible. I waited. I tried to take time! I tried to find the right partner that I was sure would love me and love you and we'd be safe with. I’m sorry that I don’t have kids here for you, but I wanted to avoid forcing other kids into your life. I wanted to keep you safe. I didn’t want to give you step-siblings that might or might not like you. I’m sorry your dad does everything better. But while you’re playing at your dad’s and having fun, where is he? Is he there? I’m here with you. I’m HERE. I talk to you. I give you attention and feedback and love. Why isn’t that enough?

Instead I took a breath, left the room, went downstairs into the bathroom and just…shook. My body just shook on tears I couldn’t shed. On words I couldn’t say.

I don’t have a bunch of playmates here for the kids. We can’t have pets because the kids are allergic. I try to discipline and be firm, but I still can’t get them to behave. I’m afraid of taking them to a restaurant or a friend’s house because they might be rude or throw a fit. So, in essence, their behavior controls us.

When I was a kid, I used to play outside on my own, but I can’t let my kids do that. The world has changed. I can’t just let them out unsupervised and I don’t have friends with kids in the neighborhood. We don’t all get together for cocktail parties etc. I don’t have animals for the kids to play with and I chose a partner who didn’t have kids partly because I love him, but I also didn’t want my kids to feel replaced by another family. I’m not a sports person. I don’t enjoy playing outside, so it’s an effort for me to constantly plan things to tire the kids out.

Parenting is hard. I’m doing my best. I wish my kids knew how much I’ve given them. I wish they were perfectly behaved and kind all the time, but they’re not. Some times, they’re mean little dinks.

It’s hard not to compete with an ex, but at this point, it certainly feels like he’s winning, especially with a house filled with playmates, whereas ours is filled with just me, Kealoha and a few too many toys. But our house is also filled with time and attention and love and Kealoha and I doing our very best to raise two loving, empathetic kids.

Sometimes, though, it’s overwhelming and just plain hard. And those stupid Facebook posts can cut right to the heart sometimes.