Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lies, Myths, and other Good Intentions

"I'm coming to get the kids for the weekend." Okay, I say to my ex-husband with very little enthusiasm. While there is no conversation necessary between myself and the ex husband, I will let you in on the reason for the disbelief in my responses.

Part of divorced parenting is working out a visitation schedule that allows both parents to be a valued and valid part of the children's lives. In our case, that schedule works in accordance to our children and their needs, plus extracurricular schedules. Factor in the teenager who refuses to step foot into the fathers house as long as the wife is there, and it works out pretty simply.

Our son is younger and more forgiving and forgetful of the past. He has visitation every weekend, supposedly on Friday evening or Saturday morning through Sunday at around 3:00 p.m. He also goes to the barber shop biweekly, and spends at least a week in the summertime. The daughter is a little more difficult to work out, so when visitation is scheduled with her, it is very important that it be kept. She does Father time only, which she will share with her brother and on other person on the face of this earth , and/or in Cleveland, Ohio. If this rule is broken, she will not do visitation for the next 3 months. Both kids do daily phone calls.

Even knowing all of this, my ex husband makes visitation promises that he doesn't keep. Initially, he made them all over the place - to me, to the mistresses, to family, and to our children. He is saved now, so he is a work in progress. That work has not been miraculous. While his intention may be to follow through on his promises, it is my goal that our children not become casualties to his attempts to get it right.

He and I have talked about how each time a promise is broken, trust disintegrates just a little bit more for that child, and what kind of damage that does. We have talked about how our teenage daughter may not trust men to do what they say they will do; and how she may feel like his word is no good. He is praying about that and trying to figure out how to restore it. Who wants their daughter to think their word is garbage? Yet, there is no overnight cure.

This takes time, and rebuilding of relationship, and keeping your word to your children, no matter what the cost. And I find myself trying to help him do that, which I should not be doing. So when he calls and says he is going to do something, which I know is a good intention and probably not a complete truth, I don't tell them. That way no trust is broken between them. I don't trust him anyway, so no damage is done there. 

So, when he says he is "coming " to see the kids, get the kids, take the kids, I have learned to insist he make these promises to me, and not to them. I don't even tell them what he is planning, so that if and when he shows up, they are pleasantly surprised. That, to me, is much better than often disappointed.

Oh, he slips a few by me, and gets directly to them. In those instances, I do not make excuses for him. I hand the phone directly the child to which he has made the promise and allow him to explain why he cannot keep it. He gets to hear not only the disappointment in their voice, but how each time he breaks a promise, they believe him a little less the next time he makes one.

Every time he has to look at them, and disbelief is reflected in their eyes, he understands a little bit more how much work he has to do to repair the broken trust of the past. Until his progress is complete, I continue to shield them from lies, myths, and other good intentions.


  1. Yep... That pretty much sums it up. Your approach to letting the kids be pleasantly surprised instead of often disappointed is exactly what I've done for my sons. I also never make excuses for him when he doesn't keep his word to them. He and I argued once upon a time because he felt I should build his relationship with them on his behalf. I told he to 'kick rocks'...that's keeping it as PG as possible.

    Great article! I can definitely relate and concur.

  2. Tiff, I feel as if I do enough already, spending time building his relationship with our kids is not in my job description. They are going to face disappointment in life, and they are going to face the truth about people they love. He is going to face the truth about himself. Let's start now. Be who you say you are - this is not the rehearsal.