This was our visitation with SSs and over the two days, DH received no fewer than 20 angry texts from BM.
Issue #1 - Before arriving on Friday, one SS texted me to say he needed help with a school assignment that he hadn't gotten an F on. I told him, that was fine, I'd see if I could find the book at the library. Less than an hour later, DH picked him up and, of course, he forgot his school bag. He still wanted to do the assignment, so he insisted that DH contact BM to ask if he could come back to the house and pick up his school bag.
BM responded with the following - "I'm glad you're actually taking an interest in their school work. You only called for three weeks last year, but I noticed now you don't call anymore."
Some things to note:
1) The only time the boys consistly turned in homework was when we called them every day during the final term of school last year (we didn't know until parent conferences that homework was not going in because DH didn't have access to the parent portal last year). Also, when DH was calling daily last year, BM sent him a bunch of angry texts about how intrusive he was being and how he was infringing on her time with the kids. DH did call this year, but the boys rarely answered their phones and when they did, they said they don't get homework assignments anymore, they only get in school assignments.
2) This assignment SS needed help on has been due for weeks...which I know because I've logged on to the school site. Both SSs have had missing assignments all term. When they were with us two weeks ago, both had a missing assignment that had been emailed to parents and that required a parental signature. I asked if they wanted to work on it with us (even though at that point, it was over a week late). SS #1 said yes and we completed it and had DH sign it. He then passed it in (after another text reminder from me). SS #2 told me "I've done that", but according to the portal still hasn't handed it in.
But, yes, of course, BM is on top of homework. She likes to oscillate between claiming she is on top of everything and then complaining that DH never helps with anything (while then complaining if he does do anything that the way he is helping is not the way she wants him to help).
Another snippet from their text exchanges: DH also said to her, "I'm really concerned about SS's grades and I think we both need to let him know that he needs to take responsibility for getting his assignments in."
BM responds, "I'm taking care of this, I emailed his teacher to find out about which assignments he's missing. You're just trying to blame me for this." DH said, "If I was trying to blame you, I wouldn't have said we. This needs to be SS's responsibility. He needs to go to his teacher."
Back and forth again about how DH is never around to do school work and how she cares more than he does about their education. Overall, she objects to whatever DH does when it comes to education. If he's too involved, he's being intrusive. If he's not involved enough, he's "forcing" her to do all the work and "that's not fair." Dealing with her is like dealing with a teenager...everything is "you just hate me!" "you're only doing this because you hate me!" "you're ruining my life!" "It's not fair!" "This isn't fair!"
Meanwhile, SS still has missing assignments and bad grades, but BM would rather fight with DH about how he's a bad father and he expects her to do everything then actually try to partner to help SS. The other SS (SS #2) who doesn't ask for help also has missing assignments and bad grades, but we don't talk to him about it, because then DH gets texts from BM telling him that he's just making SS #2 feel bad and he's a terrible father for not acknowledging SS #2's "hard work" (really not sure what he's working hard on, but he has gotten positive affirmation from us when he tries at something).
Issue # 2 - Again this visitation weekend (as happens at least once during a visitation weekend), SS #2 got upset about something this weekend and called his mom to say "dad is criticizing me and chasing me and I want to come home." Booohooohooo.
In response, BM sent her usual flurry of texts after this saying "I want to pick SS up." "He was hysterical." "I demand to speak with him." DH just kept saying, "he's fine." And then sent BM a picture of SS out in the yard looking at a praying mantis with his brother to show her he was fine. BM responds "That's not fine! I demand to speak with him." "You can't keep me from speaking to him." Um, actually, there's no provision in the CO that says that either parent has to make the children available to speak on their time (as BM likes to use as an excuse when DH tries to talk to his kids when he does not have them). Also, she had just spoken to SS on the phone, so not sure why she needed to speak to him again - to confirm that he didn't want to come home? That's not actually his choice.
SS's outbursts follow a pattern. Something happens that SS is embarrassed about. SS has an explosion and runs away and hides to call his mother to say how DH is picking on him. This happens even if DH is not involved. SS #2 made one of these calls when he was upset because he was chasing his brother and his brother managed to trip him and he was embarrassed. BM responds with a sympathetic, equally histrionic response - which SS#2 is really seeking - saying she'll tell DH that she is going to pick SS up early. Then SS is fine - because the response he wanted was someone telling him his histrionic reaction was justified. Then after riling up BM, SS goes back to acting like nothing happened. It has happened so many times. DH told SS that if he was going to use his phone to call his mother when he was upset, that DH was going to take his phone away. SS said, "fine, take it." I told DH that maybe we should cancel it because SS repeatedly says he doesn't want it (which isn't true), but DH won't do that, yet.
You'd think that BM would want to help SS learn to deal with his embarrassment in a more productive manner than simply flying off the handle, running away to hide, having a meltdown, and then seeking a similarly histrionic reaction. I'm 99% sure that he also has these reactions when he is at her house. Instead, she's all too happy to use these incidents as a chance to tell DH what a bad father he is, thereby reinforcing this behavior in her child. SS #2 is nearly 12. It's not as if he's a toddler. She should be concerned that he is still having these childish meltdowns when he is embarrassed or when things don't go his way.
Issue #3 - In the midst of her angry texts about SS#2's latest meltdown. BM has the nerve to tell - not ask, tell - DH that he has to bring the kids home early from their weekend, because they have basketball that evening. DH obliges, but this is the same woman who always says "the parenting plan is clear" when DH makes some request for an accommodation with her, but of course, she has no qualms about totally ignoring it when it suits her. Also, when you're going to ask for a favor, you shouldn't insult the person before doing it. That's another one of BM's favorite things to do. Send DH a stream of angry texts, then demand he accommodate her in some way, and then (before he even has a chance to respond) accuse him of not wanting to cooperate with her because "you hate me." Of course, DH is accommodating, because really, he's not concerned about sticking it to BM. He's happy to accommodate when it benefits SSs. He even accommodates when BM can't be bothered to plan ahead. Still according to BM, DH is always just trying to pick a fight with her.
Issue #4 - Late on Sunday afternoon, BM texts DH to say apropos of nothing - "SS #2 doesn't want to trick or treat with you. He wants to spend time with me." She then went on to say "you tricked me into thinking we split Halloween, but we don't." A few things to note, DH didn't trick BM. He contacted her weeks ago to ask if he could have the kids on Halloween. He said he would buy costumes and gave her specific pick up and drop off times. After they were divorced, DH used to take the kids trick or treating every Halloween because BM never wanted to. It's only because DH wants to take them that BM has shown any interest. She doesn't really want to take them out. She just wants to prevent DH from taking them out.
As BM is sending these texts to DH about how SS#2 really wants to spend Halloween with her, SS #2 is walking around our house in his costume, talking about which houses he plans to visit in our neighborhood, and asking me if he should bring his "big pillowcases" from home for all the candy he's going to get. DH replies to BM and says "well, that's not what he's telling me." BM then goes on about how SS #2 is just too embarrassed to tell DH what he really feels because he doesn't feel comfortable around DH. This is another of BM's favorite things to do - to try to convince DH he's a bad father by telling him that the kids don't feel comfortable around him.
I want to scream at her and tell her that she should just let her kids enjoy their time with their dad - which they do, when she is not meddling. Even SS #2 who always calls his mother to create drama, enjoys his time with DH when he's not thinking about his mother. On Saturday and Sunday this weekend, SS # 2 spent time sitting on DH's lap watching movies with him on the couch. We also had fun playing games and carving pumpkins this weekend. And SS #2 was thrilled with the costume he bought with DH. Does this sound like a child who does not feel comfortable around his father?
I want to scream at BM, "you're crippling your child! You encourage him to wallow in feelings that people are out to get him. That his father doesn't care about him. That his father is secretly just trying to make him feel bad. That nothing is ever his fault. That exploding in anger when you're embarrassed is ok. You also would rather your children fail at school then ever work together with their father to set any sort of expectations for them. You view their father's efforts to set expectations as just some covert plan to make you look bad, instead of seeing it as a father who wants to teach his children how to work hard and to teach his children that it's important to do what you need to do in school." But instead, I just keep my mouth shut and try to disengage from all of her craziness.
It's so trying to deal with an adult woman who behaves like a teenager! It's also crazy-making to me that this woman is so intent on sticking it to her ex husband that she won't even do what's right for her children. At least put your children first, lady! Of course, BM always says that she is putting her kids first.