I'm dealing with one child who seems to have an enmeshed relationship with BM.
1) When BM is angry with DH, all of a sudden this child is. DH wanted to pick the kids up before going to the school science fair. We were going later than BM because DH needed time to get home from work and change, but were still going to be there during the fair's open hours. One child worked on his project with us, so we were actively involved in science fair prep. BM texted DH when she was at the fair - "are you coming? We've walked around the whole fair and we're leaving now." DH replied and said "yup, planning to be there around 6:30pm. I'll drop by to pick up the boys around 6:20pm" BM launches into an attack about how DH "just forgot about their science fair and now you're trying to blame me." Then said he was "disrupting her schedule" and he "should have planned in advance." He was like "fine, I'll go without the kids." She knew that she didn't want DH to tell the kids he went alone, so she then said "I'll bring the kids back to the school myself" because "I don't want you coming to my house." DH always just waits outside in the car when he goes to her house, so I'm not sure why she was so concerned about that, but she was. After her flurry of texts, DH gets a call from one SS, who angrily says "dad, why are you picking us up?" DH says "because I'm going to the science fair and I want you to show me your project." SS says "you've already seen my project. I don't want to go with you." DH says "fine, I'll take your brother." There are other examples, but that one is the most glaring.
2) BM tries to make SS feel as if he can't survive at our home because she is not there. SS - who used to be able to fall asleep just fine - had a meltdown (he is 11, so too old for meltdowns), about how we had too many rules and he couldn't sleep at our house. He called BM (at 11pm) and demanded to go home. He then told me he had to call his mother every night before going to bed because "I have anxiety like my mom." He then called his mom (which he was with us) and according to her, asked her to text DH to ask him to get melatonin for SS because SS "didn't feel comfortable" asking his dad to get it for him because he "knew he wouldn't get it for me." Even if SS does not call, BM will call or text him multiple times a day when he is with us. The kids are only with us EOWE, so it's not as if they are away from her for extended periods of time. Last visitation weekend, she texted to ask him how his football weigh in went (this was after she told DH that she was going to go "in case SS needs me", but then decided not to show up), when he responded "fine", she replied "what's wrong?", he replied "nothing" and she kept pushing the issue to find out what was "wrong" with him. She typically calls this SS at least twice, sometimes three times during his weekends with us, while not calling or contacting the other SS at all during that time. They are twins, so it's not an age thing.
3) BM tries to undermine DH's parenting when the kids are with us. Recently, DH told SS that he did not approve of his participating in videos that his friend was posting online because in those videos, they were swearing, saying racist things, and saying sexual explicit things. DH put SS on the spot and asked him to explain what something he said meant. SS become embarrassed, had a meltdown, ran off and hid and called his mother demanding to go home because "dad is being mean to me." BM then sent DH a string of angry texts saying "I'm going to come to pick him up." "He's always unhappy when he's with you." DH just said "he's fine", because after his initial meltdown and storming off, he went inside and was fine hanging out with his father and brother.
4) BM mirrors SS's inappropriate emotional reactions back at him. During the last school year, SS was upset about his report card (not sure why, since he doesn't work hard at school at all). According to his brother, he started crying that "I got all 2s" and called his mother all upset. In response. BM sends DH a series of long texts. "I need to talk to you immediately." "I'm dealing with a frantic child and I need to talk to you." DH and BM have it in their parenting agreement that they only speak to one another in cases of emergency. DH called both SSs to find out what was going on. The SS in question told DH he had a "bad day", but told DH he was fine. DH texted back "I talked to both boys and they seem fine. What's the issue?" BM sent him seven long texts about how he was so unreasonable for not talking to her on the phone. How he was being a deadbat dad and how could he expect to be included in anything if he wouldn't talk to her on the phone. I said to DH, she could write all those long texts to you and she couldn't just say "SS had a bad day at school. I'm thinking of changing his medication. Could we talk about that?" Instead, she just ratcheted everything up a million notches because she was frantic in response to her child being upset. According to DH, she's done this in the past, where she can't deal when one of the children is upset and needs someone else to comfort her, instead of her comforting the child.
I'm not trying to fix this situation and have worked to disengage myself, but I'm interested to hear about others' experiences with enmeshment. What are some resources that better helped you to understand, cope, or disengage. What are some future pitfalls I should be on the look out for? My SS is just now entering middle school, so I'm only expecting this to get worse, as his own lack of emotional coping mechanisms will make his turbulent adolescent years a wild ride, but combined with his mother's lack of emotional coping skills, I expect them to be unbearable. I'm also just looking for moral support from others who have made it to the other side of similarly overly dramatic situations.