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Twenty Texts

strugglingSM's picture

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.

Comments

BethAnne's picture

That sounds exhausting. Does your husband enjoy playing these games with her? If I were you I would tell him to stop replying to her, take the kids phones away for the weekend and ask him not to tell you what nonsense BM is texting about.

strugglingSM's picture

It is exhausting. He does not enjoy texting with her. I've tried to convince him "the best response is no response", which he does most of the time. Sometimes he can't resist the urge to reply to her or he's angry that she's put the kids in the middle of her drama.

Several months ago, both SSs showed up at our house and said to DH, "why do you hate mom? why don't you respond to her texts?" He basically told them that what he and their mother did or did not communicate about was none of their business.

I think he should just cancel SS#2's phone. If he takes it away just on his visitation, it will be a big drama fest about how DH is keeping SS#2 from talking to his mom.

And yes, I wish he would just not tell me what the texts are about or even show me. I'm sick of it. BM is remarried (well, not actually legally married, but they had a ceremony and refer to one another as husband and wife - that's another story) and has been since before I met DH, so I'm not sure why she needs to get so much attention from DH. Also, she's an insufferable teenager. I'm pretty certain she has a personality disorder, though, so adolescent emotionally processing would fit with that. Regardless, it's not my problem (and not DH's problem) to make her feel better about herself or her life. I really think that the divorce is the best thing that ever happened to her, because now she can blame DH for anything that is going wrong in her life.

ESMOD's picture

Honestly, I'm not sure how old this kid is but I would definitely start instilling in him the fact that going behind his dad's back to his mom is not going to work out in his favor.

My Skids tried this a few times and it is a bit of a balancing act to get them to understand that "not telling mama everything that happens at dad's" is not the same as "lying or hiding things from mama".

Basically, when the child is with their father, he is the authority figure and opinion shopping or poor meeing with mom is just going to result in more problems for everyone involved.

The result will be removal of phone privileges... removal of other privileges too.. maybe even not doing something fun that had been planned.

Basically, if your running to your mother results in ME getting a ration of crap.. I will make sure you understand how many problems you caused so you can enjoy some of the "benefits".

Basically, the result will not be what the kid was hoping.

strugglingSM's picture

The child is almost 12, so well old enough to understand that his games will not get him what he wants.

DH has supposedly told him "you need to stop trying to create drama between me and your mother."

I think we should just cancel the phone outright. The child rarely answers when DH calls him, so if BM wants to reach him whenever she wants on the four days he's with us, then she can pay for that privilege.

Also, BM regularly tells them "don't tell your father" about this, that or the other thing (mostly behavior issues or other trouble the kids have gotten into), so they are well aware that it's not necessary to share everything with the other parent. Still, I think BM grills SS#2 when he gets home about what happens.

I feel for SS#2 a bit, because I think BM is enmeshed with him and also messes with his mind on purpose to "win" against DH, but I also feel that he's of the age where he's old enough to know that he's playing games and can be told that it's not ok to play games like that.

I think DH is afraid that if he truly confronts him, he won't come around again (in the past, he's made excuses to not come to visitation), so he tries to walk that tight rope. I've (perhaps unhelpfully) told DH that SS#2's behavior makes it difficult for me to like him, because I think he's being manipulative and his meltdowns are not age appropriate.

If we really wanted to stick it to BM, we could probably take her to court for disrupting visitation time, but I don't really want to spend the money on that.

lieutenant_dad's picture

Ahhhh, some of this sounds so familiar. YSS is BM's baby, and when he is upset, she will do everything she can to comfort him. Well, I take that back - anything she can that babies him into comfort.

YSS got a detention for not turning in his work. BM tells DH at drop off. DH marches up to YSS and lays into him, mostly because he lied to DH by telling him he had been turning in his homework. Cue YSS waterworks, which were a mix of embarrassment, fear of DH, and crocodile tears, and BM swoops in to comfort him, telling him it's okay.

Geez, no wonder he isn't learning anything! He does something wrong, cries a bit, and all is absolved. There was even once where YSS BIT OSS (and this when YSS was an older child), and OSS hit him. BM tells DH what happened, and DH lays into YSS. BM got uppity and said he needed to be more mad at OSS for hitting his little brother and that he is bigger and could have hurt YSS. Um...your son BIT his brother, and the worst that happened was OSS slapped him. Didn't punch or pummel him, just slapped. Still not okay, but how about we address the kid who BIT HIS BROTHER FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN HE WAS MAD AT HIM versus the kid who hit back in retaliation for being BIT.

I keep hoping that she'll stop babying, but it won't happen. DH just doesn't address it with her. He tells YSS what he expects and hopes it somewhat gets through. It does usually because we don't get crocodile tears much at our house. When he gets frustrated, DH works with him on breathing through his anger, or screaming it into a pillow (DH has anger issues due to a medical issue, so he has coping mechanism that he tries to teach YSS). However, it's not fun watching YSS be in pain, real or perceived, and I can understand the inclination to baby. But he has to grow up, as does your SS. Temper tantrums aren't cute from anyone at any age, and our BMs are creating little monsters by swooping in every time their sons are confronted with unpleasantness.

strugglingSM's picture

My SSs are twins, but one - the one who closely resembles BM both in appearance and temperament - definitely gets special treatment. He is the squeaky wheel and she loves to hang out with the oil can trying to make things easier for him.

Two years ago, he had a teacher who would not accept late homework. This was a problem for SS because he never submits homework. One day, BM went in to try to submit a bunch of late homework on her own and the teacher said "sorry, but my expectation for my class is that they submit it on time." BM tried to make her excuses "it was a misunderstanding between her and the special ed teacher", "SS is just a challenging child" - the teacher wouldn't accept any of them. So, mid-year, she wanted DH to agree to switch the child out of class because the teacher was "too strict". DH said no, because he thought it would be too disruptive to SS's education. BM was angry about it for the rest of the term and had to tell everyone who would listen how strict this teacher was. I met the teacher and honestly didn't know what to think of him before I met him, but when I met him, he had nice things to say about SS and a good read on his strengths and weaknesses. I think if BM had not undermined him, he really could have helped SS to mature and take responsibility for himself a bit more.

Of course, not, however, because if SS doesn't remain needy, who will need BM? She will be left adrift with no one needing her. That's when I predict all hell will break loose, when both boys (but especially her favorite son) start to become more independent and don't want to rely on mom anymore. Then she will have a breakdown and probably lash out at them.

skatermom's picture

Sounds like the BM we have to deal with when she gets on a roll. Have had the texts go for an entire day and night, with an email or two thrown in.

Then when it's all over, she will text DH and say, "we need to get along for the kid's sake, this isn't good for them" When she is the one that kept texting!! Physco!

strugglingSM's picture

Yup! We get the same thing. After texting him for hours at a time (her record is sending texts continuously over a six hour period, even with limited response), usually to tell him what a terrible dad he is or to accuse him of trying to "blame her" for something or to demand he accommodate her over something, BM will still text him to say, "why can't we be civil to one another? the kids notice that we aren't friends and it bothers them!" She claims that she and her husband are always "friendly" to me and DH, but they aren't. Also, usually when she is being "friendly" with DH, she is really harassing him for money or telling him how terrible he is and the kids notice that, too. One SS (not her favorite) once said to DH after a sporting event, when she came up and stood next to him and started laying into him, "why is mom always mad at you?" The woman is clueless. As DH once told me, "my ex is really manipulative. I don't even think she can help herself, she just has to do it."

Goodluck's picture

strugglingSM...This thread should be bumped UP since so many families go thru this.

Your step kids are older 12??? and frankly texting back and forth can end now. DH can inform bm to call him and leave a message from now on. Her texting is unreasonable and IF she doesn't stop he will block her giving her only a land line telephone number to leave messages on an answering machine. IF she decides to abuse that too. she will be blocked from that.

There were times we experienced over 15 calls a day from bm and her little minions when we had dh's. It was awful. VERY VERY disruptive.

We all know in a serious emergency there are ways to reach all persons involved. All the texting and calling junk IS unnecessary when you really REALLY think about it.

Some Judges go as far as telling parents like this off and tell them to stop. DH will not loose visitation. HIs house his right to screen calls, texts and his right to ignore anything other than 911 emergency situations.

Or dh could tell bm "Yeah your right BM, Someone has to take interest in our kids as usual its me"

strugglingSM's picture

They are almost 12, so really other than communicating when plans change or to maybe try to cooperate to deal with an issue (which never happens), BM and DH shouldn't have to communicate at all. One of the problems, though is that the kids don't share things, either. BM probably told them not to and she's a big secret keeper, but they aren't good about keeping DH in the loop (e.g. when they signed up for basketball, neither even mentioned an interest).

BM used to call DH multiple times a day, but in their last mediation (which was a sh%t show because of her), he got it added to their agreement that they only communicate in writing. I'm trying to convince him to stick to email instead of texts, but he won't. Maybe I'll try to convince him to send an email to her demanding that she stop trying to take the kid home early when he has a fit.

He periodically wants to send her zingers like the last one and sometimes he does, but usually I say to him, "don't poke the bear!"

Acratopotes's picture

New rule in your house, kids hands in cell phones when they walk through the door, they can have it for half an hour a day to inform BM they are fine, nothing more and they will talk to her in front of another adult.

There's nothing BM can do about it, your house your rules, the sooner the kids learns this the better it will be, oh and I will have a chat with this little snot and ask him, why do you tell your mother to come and pick you up?

strugglingSM's picture

I may do some research about putting phones on hold and maybe we'll put SS#2's phone on hold to see how he can deal with it. DH has called him out several times about using his phone to cause drama and says "maybe I'll just cancel your phone" and the kid replies, "go ahead, I won't care." If he won't do that, then maybe we will have to institute a minimal phone rule or a no phone rule at our house.

Since he's almost 12 and he's with his dad on visitations, he shouldn't need to call his mother. He should be able to deal with things without calling her.