How much effort is too much?

mollymcbDecember 9, 2008

I've posted b/f about how my DSSs, now 14 and 13, no longer want to visit as scheduled EOW. (They usually cite wanting to do some activity with their friends.) DH has tried to accommodate them as much as possible, taking them back early, going to their town (4 hrs away round-trip) to visit a few hours in lieu of visitation. The situation has gotten worse and worse, to the point that the last visitation, DSS 13 LIED to DH about needing to go home on Saturday, a day early, to DECORATE AT CHURCH, which actually wasn't taking place until Sunday! (Yes, I "get" the irony that they lied about church!) EOW we go through the same "what ifs" of whether they're coming or not, holding our breaths afraid that DH will get a text or e-mail message (never a phone call) canceling. (A couple mos ago, DH got a text saying they weren't coming when he was less than an hour away from their house!) We can't make any plans because we never know if the visitations are really taking place, so EOW my life is in limbo and we are agonizing over whether we get to see them or not. My DS 7 breaks down in tears every time he learns they are not coming. Things are always sad around our house when we find out they are not coming after we expected them and planned to do this thing and that.

I told DH a few weeks ago I can't take the inconsistency. Absent an emergency, we need to be able to plan on the visits. He promised he would have a meeting with BM and DSSs and ask them to come up with a visitation schedule they could live with. Then he promptly failed to do it. My DH HATES confrontation and conflict and will do anything to avoid it, which BM and DSSs take full advantage of. He said he hates to "agree" to any schedule that gives him less visitation. He also said he has to "satisfy himself" that he gave as much effort that he could, even though they are lying to avoid visitation, and DSS 14 acts like he is MISERABLE the whole time when he is forced to visit--he stays in his room, speaks only when spoken to, and then only in syllables, etc. I go through phases where I think he should just tell them to let him know when they want to see him again and then I think he should just make them come, no matter how miserable they seem. I don't know what is right.

I am at a my wit's end. I feel like I am in a no-win situation. When I told DH recently I am getting tired of our life being up in the air EOW waiting to see if they are coming or not, he said something sarcastically to the effect that, before too long, they won't EVER want to visit, so then it won't matter. Am I wrong to ask for some consistency? What should I do here? Just keep my mouth shut and EOW open in case they do come until, as DH says, they grow up and don't want to come anymore? Any thoughts on what DH should do? Thanks for letting me vent!

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Vent away... I think we all can relate to what you're going through :)

I'll keep it short and sweet...Plan to do something yourself EOW. Let DH handle the inconsistency on his own.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 3:42PM
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I can feel the stress when I read your story! We are pretty much in the same boat, except that we do have a court order for the visitation in place. I agree with silversword that it's up to DH to handle this.
My DH also avoids confrontation whenever possible but he has learned over time to become more assertive in how to deal with his kids and ex-wife. This does not mean that now he looks for confrontation, he's just better at dealing with whatever issue comes up, and they will keep coming up!
We went to a child psychologist together to get some advice and that has helped us heaps. The skids haven't been because BM will not allow it but even for us, to just get some advice, has helped everybody, also the skids!
In our situation BM plays little games because it's all a big power struggle. For example; she'll invite my SD10's friend over for a sleepover when SD10 is with us that weekend. She'll then ring SD10 and tell her that her friend is over there. Of course SD10 comes to us and asks if she can go home (2 days early!) to be at BM's for the sleepover.
What do you do? If we say no she's upset with us and she also gets in trouble when she goes back to BM. That's because BM will then tell SD10 that she's very upset SD10 did not come back and that SD10 is not very nice to her friend etc etc. The pressure is huge and we don't want SD10 to feel miserable for the rest of the weekend and be in trouble after so we take her back.
Just imagine how crazy it is to organise a sleepover with one of your kids friends when your kid is not with you, how uncomforable and weird! Imagine we wouldn't have taken SD10 back, I wonder what SD10's friend would have thought, or her parents when they found out what happened.
Oh BM is such a user. But anyway, we hope that one day the skids will see the manipulation and hopefully things will change then. Until then we give in most of the time when their BM plans activities in our weekend, as stressful and frustrating as that might be for us, we want to keep the stress away from the skids as much as we can.
Good luck with everything!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 12:14AM
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I was a child of divorce and as I got into my early teens going to my dads house over an hour away seemed like torture. I loved my dad, but always felt like I was missing out of friend stuff while gone. My dad started letting me bring friends for the weekend. Then he would let us walk the mall or rent movies we could all watch together. It made me want to go there more.

Is this an option for you and dh? Maybe if the 14yr old could bring a friend with it would make it more enjoyable for him?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 10:06AM
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I agree with silversword. Make your own plans EOW. Don't ever promise DS 7 that DSS is coming over. Don't make big plans that you can follow through with if DSS doesn't come over.

I can understand your DH wanting to keep the EOW and keep that door open, but I can also see why the DSS doesn't want to come over. My child is looking forward to turning 18, just so he doesn't have to be stuck with a set visitation schedule. It's not a lack of love for the noncustodial parent, but keeping up with the schedule is a lot like living out of a suitcase.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 3:05PM
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Thank you so much for all of your responses. I feel a lot better just being able to talk about it. (I don't like to discuss it at home b/c it depresses DH.)

Anyway, unfortunately, it is difficult for me to do something by myself b/c DH and I have a toddler (17 mos) plus DSS 7. It is hard to take both of them anywhere for any extended period, and leaving them with just DH puts more of a burden on him.

Also, we have suggested many times that they bring friends to visitation but neither has. DH thinks that DSS 14 is "embarrassed" that he has this "other" family. Apparently, despite the divorce rate in this country, none of DSS 14's friends' parents are divorced. We just finished our bonus room and told them that they are welcome to bring friends for the weekend. Although it is family friendly for all of us, we did it w/ them in mind, thinking it would be a great "hangout" for teenagers, as it has a snack bar w/fridge, home theater, and huge leather sectional that pulls out to make a bed. We are hoping this may make them want to bring friends and encourage visitation.

thanks for your comments. I appreciate them all and would welcome any more!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 10:35AM
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if teenagers don't want to visit their father, you canot force them. they (your SSs not every teenager of course) do not connect to their father, probably don't have much in common and simply do not enjoy his company. it seems stange because boys usually love to be with dads. maybe he can just take them out once in a while instead. it is pointless to force visitations, it just makes his kids more miserable. he needs to give up on visitations and just see them when they want to.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 11:32AM
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FD, I'm not sure that they "don't connect" to DH, but funny thing is, they DO have a lot in common. DSS 14 LOVES guitars and classic rock and is in a band. DH likes all the same music and was also in a band at his age and plays guitar. We bought DSS 14 his first guitar, and DH actually found DSS's past 2 guitars, and we bought DSS another guitar for this Christmas. (DH is planning to take DSS 14 on a trip to the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame just the two of them this summer.) Although I am totally biased, my DH really is a "cool" dad, certainly unlike my own father. Not only does DH play guitar, but he rides a motorcycle, pumps iron and stays in great shape and is a professional who is articulate and has a great sense of humor and frequently cracks everybody up with one-liners. When DSSs were little, DH did ALL of their bathing and care, and he is the primary bather of our DSs--a VERY hands-on dad. He is with DSSs the entire time they visit, not like some dads I've heard about who take off with their friends and leave the SKs home with the SMs. He has over 175K miles on his 5 yr-old vehicle from driving 4 hrs roundtrip EOW as much as possible, always with anticipation and without complaint. As I said, I am totally biased, but I just can't see how or why DSSs wouldn't "connect" with DH. Our DSSs both adore him. I think DH and I are both afraid that DSS 14 (especially) will look back one day and regret that he missed out on time with his dad, but I think you're right--there's not much we can do about that right now. DH e-mails and texts him frequently to stay in touch.
It just breaks my heart. One of our staff members (DH and I are both professionals in the same company) has a DS 14 whose father hardly ever calls him or visits and even says he's coming then doesn't show up. The guy hasn't paid child support in years. (DH has timely paid every payment, and promptly sends any other money BM requests, such as DH's portion of the unpaid medical & dental bills/DSS's braces, etc.) Our staff members' son idolizes his dad and would practically KILL to see him. I guess all kids are different. DH thinks DSS 14 is a bit of a "drama king" and actually may want his friends to think that he hates having to see his dad and that things are all screwed up.
Anyway, I'm rambled on long enough. I realize the truth may still be that they don't "connect" with my DH, but I thought at least I should describe him, so you can see, he certainly is NOT a "fuddy dud!" :-) Thanks for your thoughts!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 1:54PM
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Oops--I meant to say above, "Our DSs--ages 7 and 17 mos--both adore him."

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 1:56PM
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You can't force these teens to want to be with you and their father. Maybe the BM is contributing to the drama and maybe she is just backing up her kids. They may grow beyond this phase, DH may have to accept that they are not feeling that connected to him and you right now.

You should definitly start planning your life EOW without consideration of these kids as they are not considering you and your husband. If and when they are ready, they will make time. That they do not shows that they don't want to be with you and your DH. It's hurtful to be sure but trying to force them is worse.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 4:57PM
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Thanks, lamom, for your thoughts. I have almost no contact w/ BM, so I can't say for sure her role, other than DH has said that her family is "clannish" and they believe that their tiny town is the "center of the universe," such that DSSs have been indoctrinated into that way of thinking. I am sure BM does not encourage visitation. She has told DH they are teenagers and there is nothing she can do about it. I realize that. I just wish DH did. But I certainly can't be the one to tell him to "give it up" b/c they don't want to see him (w/o having him taken out in a straight jacket, anyway!) :-) It seems the best I can do is just NOT make any specific plans EOW and just keep it open in case they come. It is very frustrating to live this way, but I don't see any other way right now. Hopefully, I can keep my marriage strong and we can just get through it. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 9:03PM
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It's not your husband's fault,nor his sons fault.Just kinda goes along with being a teen.
My oldest is 12 and it's already starting.Constantly wants to be at friend's house after school,on weekends,on the phone with them all hours...Hanging with mom and dad just seems kinda boring.It's hard not to take it personally,but it's just how they grow.

Unfortuantely,I think it's time for hubby to realize this and let go a little.Seems like the boys would have more fun if they didnt perhaps feel forced to come EOW,but when they really missed their dad and wanted some good QT.

Remember at this stage of life their friends ARE EVERYTHING to them.Maybe you can help DH to see this by reminding him of how he felt when he was that age?

Hope things work out for you.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 10:08PM
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i feel for you and i know exactly how you feel when your Dh gets depressed over this. My dh and I are in the same situation. His kids come eow. Now they're average once every 2 months or so...
It bothers my Dh alot but i told him its not his fault for several factors.
1. Its natural at their age to want to be with their friends. (his kids are 10 and 13) Especially the 13 year old is now always talking about her friends and now makes alot of plans with her friends..she skipped coming for 2 months. She showed up last visit but next visit she says she not coming..she just wants to plan something with her friends.
Your dh should not take this personal. We all didnt' want to hang around our parents at that age.
2. BM does not encourage them to come and we do know from reliable sources and the kids that she downgrades us....due ot her own insecurities etc..etc..wont waste time discussing her.
We have a toddler ourselves and yet its difficult. My son is much younger and cannot do the same activities.
The connection with their dad is an on and off one..again due to BM poisoning...but also after the years of let down my Dh also has given up and just doesnt' make much of an effort anymore either. That is his side and his fault and yet i understand the burden.
I saw show last night and it shed alot of light and these kids go through alot of pain, confusion, anger...and at their age they're also dealing with peer pressure and hormones.
The only advice i can give you is based on what i do. Support your husbands emotional needs, stand by his side and keep doing activities eow regardless if they come or not. Dont' revolve around their world.
My Sk have cancelled so many things, from tickets , to different shows, to family pictures. After a while resentment builds up. Until you just let go and say, you come eow to visit. If you dont want to be part of this family , no one forces you but its yoru decision , your loss. Life continues and you just have to plan things around your core family not counting them in 100%. When they decide to come ,you just add more people to the party. Thats it. Your core family with you, your husband and son should be your focus. Dont wait by the phone eow like i did and my husband. Its an emotional rollercoaster i got off of 2 years ago and have no intention of hopping back on. My attitude is if they come, great, if they dont, whatever, life goes on.
Your husband like mine will have a better relationship when they get older. They're growing, they wnat their friends now, its all about them. and there is nothing wrong with that. Let them breath and just let them know the door is open.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 6:50PM
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I agree with the other posters, especially organic maria, who said it so well: "They're growing, they want their friends now, it's all about them. and there is nothing wrong with that. Let them breathe and just let them know the door is open."

The distance and the divorce throw in other problems and emotions, but really, the main issue here seems to me the same as most families with teens face: the kids don't want to spend weekend time with their families, at least not as much as they used to (and someday will), and sometimes not at all.

The facts that the distance is great, their mom is manipulative, their community is clannish, their dad wants to avoid conflict, the 7 year old is disappointed -- all those things contribute to how you feel about it, but in the end, I think the main thing is just their age. It is not fair to them not to let them go through ordinary adolescence because it is inconvenient and even unfair to the rest of the family. And it's pointless to try anyway, just as much as it would have been useless to try to stop their feet from growing when they outgrew their shoes so fast!

I do indeed sympathize with you. But I agree with the others that the best you can do is go with the flow for a while and not add frustration to disappointment by expecting it to be any different. Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2008 at 4:35PM
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