The Dark Lord Cometh. Sorta.

Okay, he’s not exactly The Dark Lord, but it rather feels that way today.

We received a reply almost immediately to my email inviting Ex to come to Zeep’s upcoming promotion ceremony. The email was addressed to the boy and I was cc’ed. Ex wrote definitively: “I will be there.” His sister wanted to come too; and would the other children be available?

I replied:

[Ex],

[Your sister] is entirely welcome to come as are [your other sister and her husband] and your mother…. At 6 p.m. that evening, we are hosting a cookout at the house in [Zeep's] honor. You are both/all invited to come. Additionally, [Zeep] is available to visit with you on Friday afternoon, on Saturday, or on Sunday morning.

[Sissy] will be at a conference from the 20th to the 25th.  [Little Man] is saying that he does not wish to see you at all, but he would like to visit with [your sister] if it can be arranged.

Best,
Annie

Ex wrote back before the day’s end:

Flights are already booked. I’ll arrive in DC Wednesday afternoon/evening and leave Friday afternoon @ 3:30. Would like to see the kids as much as possible. What is going on between 9 and 6 on Thursday?

______________________

Upon receiving this news I had a most unattractive vent session with those closest to me. Let me take this opportunity to publicly apologize for subjecting some of my favorite people to what might be best described as a complete loss of composure. (The truth is: I lost my sh*t.)

Poor Mr. Tall, Smart, and Wickedly Witty now knows that there are certain words I might occasionally use that can ruthlessly diminish the humanity of another at a whit’s drop. He had the distinct misfortune of stepping in it with a suggestion that, hard as it might be for me, Ex’s visit was probably good for Zeep.

I texted:

[Ex] is the worst possible role model
That [Zeep] identifies with him undermines [the boy's] success
Plus the stress on everyone else
Especially me
Who picks up the pieces
[Ex] is a drunkard, a depressed, narcissistic loser with nothing to offer [the boy]

If that doesn’t scare MTSWW away… Well, anyway.

Most of y’all know the back story by now.
__________________

Sheri wrote in a recent comment:

Though I would never… advocate a kid be parent-less… sometimes I think that would hurt a whole lot less in the long run. If “dad” just disappeared, then there are no expectations and when there are no expectations the risk of hurt feelings goes down exponentially.

She is right in many respects. Ex may come through for the boy this time, but forever after? There will likely be another disappointment, another disappearance, another set of letdowns, and another, and another… until Ex suddenly finds himself an old man. He’ll probably then ask the kids if he can borrow some money because “…things are a little tight, you know?”

I have to acknowledge my own feelings here. It is ire-raising that Ex can come in for the victory lap, that he can come to celebrate a success he contributed NOTHING to, a success that he at various times actively undermined. Ex has never once stood looking over the boy’s shoulder to make sure the required homework is done and done well, as I have regularly on school nights for the last three years, often at the expense of time needed by siblings. Ex has never red-penned even a single draft to help teach a kid with a profound writing disability to learn to revise and reword such that he will eventually be able to write a college admissions essay. He has never lost sleep in support of a due assignment or a neglected project. He has never fielded emails or calls from teachers, counselors, administrators, and psychologists.  Ex has never had to make that trip to the principal’s office, the one that makes a parent feel personally responsible for the alleged transgression. He has never had to hold Zeep uncomfortably accountable for anything.

Then there is the issue of child support and such. Zero. Zilch. Nuthin.’ Of late he hasn’t even been making the $25 payments to keep his diver’s license.  Note to self: Call Child Support Recovery. AGAIN.

Ex will show up next week. He’ll puff out his chest, say how proud he is, and he’ll pretend he is a real father. He’ll probably even snap pics with his Blackberry to prove it. Maybe he’ll upload them while Zeep stands awkwardly by.

The commenter using the Fight Club alias “Tyler Durden” leveled some criticism recently:

It’s pretty telling, I think, that your analysis of the role men play in raising boys is built around comic books and superheroes. Yep, it’s no more complicated than that. Fathers are just overgrown boys, aren’t they? We like comic books, and when our boys get bigger, we teach them to love tits, cars, beer and sports. Being a father is pretty easy, isn’t it?

Holy snark-fest, fratman. To “Tyler,” the dude who takes his nom de plume from one of the most misogynistic characters in modern film—a sick figment of a man’s degenerating mental state—I say this: FUCK OFF. (I really try not to drop the f-bomb, but … I’m feeling a little unhinged.)

I have no doubt that being a father—a real stand-up father—is hard. I watch great dads in our community do it regularly. They dig deep to find patience, biting back words. They make sacrifices, standing up and showing up every single day for the a job that is most-often thankless. It isn’t easy.

It is also roughly half of what I do,”Tyler,” old boy, as a stand-up mother with a drop-out, deadbeat baby-daddy. What Ex —and too many others like him—do isn’t fathering at all. What Ex does is to claim some unearned gene prize. He gets to show up for the victory party because half of the biological stuff that started this boy’s life came through Ex’s dick. Yes, I just wrote that. On the internet.  You can feel free to leave a self-righteous comment below telling me how much I will one day regret it.  Maybe you would be right, but I don’t think so.

You see, I believe these words:

Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women. —Maya Angelou*
______________________

The Dark Lord

The other children have some feelings about all this too.  Little Man told his father on the phone last night: “I’m going to be at the party, but I am not going to see you because you have been nothing but a jerk to me for pretty much my entire life.” Ouch.

The boy did not wait for a reply, but thrust the phone into his brother’s hand.

When I told Sissy Ex had confirmed that he was coming she sighed heavily.

“It doesn’t really affect you,” I said, “you will be away.”

“It will upset everyone,” she said, “and that affects me.”

She is right.

Even so, it’s what Zeep wants and ultimately, he has to decide for himself what all these relationships are to him. Me? I just have to do right by the boy and keep my zen.

This visit couldn’t happen at a better time. We’ll be surrounded by good, kind, supportive people—likely including the kindest man I have ever known and MTSWW.

Ex, Kindest Man pointed out, doesn’t really resemble The Dark Lord at all anymore. He’s more like, maybe… Gollum?

Gollum

Bring it, Gollum.

______________________

*I love this quote and posted it on the Facebook page a few weeks ago—like the page if you haven’t—bonus content and friendly banter!

24 comments to The Dark Lord Cometh. Sorta.

  • Sending you strength. You fuckin rock.

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  • bitter divorcee – i’ve got your back – go ahead and get mad. For 17 years, I played nice with the ex. We had holidays together, we did birthdays together. But it was all my manipulations. When left to his own devices, he never ever showed up when he was supposed to. I can’t begin to tell you how many times my firstborn just waited in the drive way for a grown man to show up. And then cried when he didn’t. Fast forward 17 years. My son got addicted to pain killers – and it has taken me months – months – to realize that perhaps I was not solely to blame for this. That although I was far from perfect, I was there. My husband – his step-father – was there. And maybe a big piece of this puzzle was a man who professed his undying love – and then never showed it. He didn’t show when my son was admitted to the hospital for drugs. And the ultimate: he didn’t show for his 18th birthday – proudly six months sober – after promising he would. My son wasn’t surprised. I’m the only one who still expresses my rage. It’s now buried too deeply in my kid that he just waves it away. Here’s the blog I did on my own child’s journey:
    http://realtimemom.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/me-and-mary/
    Your ex is self-absorbed. It’s that simple. And no amount of “play nice” and arranged visits is going to change that fact for your kids. The less contact he has with your child, the less damage that will occur. Trust me. I see the entire tableau. (Although I still have discussions with said ex as needed now)
    realtimemom recently posted..A Room of My OwnMy Profile

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    • Your advice is wise and based in experience. I don’t try to find the loophole reading your story. I whisper to myself, “there but for the grace of God…”

      You wrote this beautiful passage and I wanted to paste it here because I find it sustaining: “…I will be grateful for merely the blessing of life. It’s still the greatest gift we all have – and cherish.”

      Thank you for reaching out to me. I added you to my love-worthy list and I’ll be reading along, gleaning insight from your experience.
      Annie recently posted..The Dark Lord Cometh. Sorta.My Profile

  • Liadan

    Real Time…Congratulations on your son’s sobriety. That is an accomplishment and I wish him continued success. However, don’t be disheartened if he slips. It takes an average of three times to ‘take.’ But it can be done.

    You are also right, the less time spent with a destructive person the better. When I stopped trying to force my daughter’s father to spend time with her, the happier she was. I can’t tell you how many times she sat by the phone for the pre-arranged Wednesday phone calls that never came (and him telling the judge I had caller id and didn’t answer the phone.) Or her waiting on Saturdays to be picked up and him forgetting. Or waiting for pick-up to go to his families house for Christmas (he either forgot, came late, or forgot to get her a gift for ‘Santa’ to give her).

    Bitter Divorce-Your MTSWW is absolutely right. Ex is not Dark Lord, he is pathetic Gollum.

    And you have every right to be angry and bitter and to rant, and then be the classy dame you are at Zeep’s promotion.

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  • Feeling your pain!! Allow yourself some moments of quiet to feel it and live it and then take comfort in your new, better, healthy relationship. Remind yourself when you look at Zeep on that day that although Ex is there your son knows the truth of the matter and in the end will come to you again and again and again and trust only you. Your true reward is his faith in you and his love for you, his flawless trust. You’ve earned every moment of that day so don’t let anyone spoil it for you. Congrats on all that hard work paying off! You’re simply amazing!!!

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  • Cathy

    I agree 100% with Melissa. Let Ex puff out his chest and swagger all he wants to. You and the people you hold mpst dear in the world know the truth of who has raised your children, who has loved, nurtured and protected them (often from the one person you should NEVER have to protect them from, their other parent). Most importantly, at the end of the day, your children know the truth. They know, and that’s the most important thing.

    We just celebrated my son’s high school graduation and my Ex was there. Smiling, nodding, shaking hands. The fact that he’s seen his son for a few hours each time an average of 3x a year for the past 4 years didn’t seem to dawn on him. But my son knows. And the people who love me the most know. So, while it was hard to swallow, I was able to reach that Zen of which you speak. :)

    Good luck, hope it goes as well as possible!

    Cat

    PS Love the blog– absolutely love it.

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    • Thank you so much!

      I know you are right, that the kids know the real score. It would be kinda nice if they acknowledged it sometimes though you know? I had anticipated that Ex’s coming would make Zeep nervous and anxious, but he has been so difficult! Grrrr!
      Annie recently posted..The Dark Lord Cometh. Sorta.My Profile

  • Survivant

    I recently had a similar experience … my son graduated from high school with admission to several excellent colleges. His deadbeat father made the 150 mile journey for the festivities … his first visit to this city since we moved here over five years ago. At least in my case he had the decency to say he couldn’t thank me enough for raising “our” son so successfully or apologize enough for not being around, but, as they say, it’s too little too late.

    You are right to be grateful for the supportive friends and family who will surround you while he is there. It makes all the difference.

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  • Survivant, I think it is great that you got a thank you. I never, ever—even as he draws his dying breath—expect a word of thanks from Ex. As Tyler et al. would point out, “Why would anyone thank the bitch that ruined their life?” …but I digress.

    The Good People do make all the difference.

    Also, CONGRATULATIONS! A graduation and a good college! Take your own victory lap, momma!
    Annie recently posted..The Dark Lord Cometh. Sorta.My Profile

  • Tyler Durden

    Look. Unlike you, I’m going to try to be logical here, and not just, you know, vent.

    You absolutely despise your ex-husband, who, based on your description, sounds like a raging dickhead. I get that. You’re probably right to hate him.

    I hate my ex-wife. She’s a narcissistic, angry, childish, half-bright bitch who has done more to fuck up my life and the lives of my daughters than anyone else I have ever met, or will ever meet.

    BUT I DON’T PUT IT ON A WEBSITE.

    The “It’s cathartic and true, so therefore it’s okay” argument is a crock of shit. Maya Angelou is absolutely wrong. BTW, I think her poetry is unbelievably bad. If it was just you and your ex, then I would think, fine, blast away, do whatever you want.

    But there are children involved, and you are creating a permanent, public record of your hatred for this guy. You are making it absolutely impossible for their relationship with them to evolve, for them to heal or grow, for this thing to change, for anyone to move off the dime and get anywhere. This whole mess, and make no mistake, it is a mess, is now a big, public event, with all kind of people observing, commenting, and influencing the situation. Including me.

    How does that help your children? I don’t care if your ex sacrifices infants on the altar of Molloch — the only guiding principle that you should apply (and I’m in a boat that’s similar to yours) in this situation is what’s best for the kids? And this website, this whole open venting of your rage, this entire messy pile of shit, is not good for them at all. How, honestly, do you think it feels for your son to know that there is a website out there that’s being ready by lots of people he’s never even met, about what a bastard his father is? How does that help him? What particularly pisses me off is that you don’t claim you don’t care what effect this site has on your kids — you claim that it HELPS. Bullshit. It makes you feel better for about one day.

    This is hard enough on your kids as it is. Making it public just exacerbates that. Take this fucking site down.

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    • The hurts-the-kids card was meant to cut. Even you, “Tyler,” my new frenemy, probably know that no mother is ever going to stand up and say hurting kids is an ethical thing to do. I wouldn’t. If I thought this endeavor were genuinely hurting my kids, I wouldn’t be doing it. There may eventually be some unforeseen fallout, and certainly in the early days, my writing fueled Ex’s animosity which wasn’t to anyone’s benefit. By now, I have squared this deal. The good this blog brings to my family and to me personally far outweighs whatever phantom risk you might see.

      Your contention that this body of work somehow undermines the kids’ relationship with their father is patently false. The kids’ relationship with their father is not hindered by the blog. Their relationship with their father is hindered BY THEIR FATHER. They know he is a jerk from their own experiences. They don’t need me to tell them (and I don’t). Sissy reads the blog sometimes. The boys don’t. I do run everything I write about them by them. Often this ‘running by’ leads to conversations that aid in their healing and help them gain clarity and perspective. (Perk.)

      I have said all along: Ex isn’t evil. He is ill. I don’t see a record of my hatred here. If anything, I have expressed compassion, pity, some resentment, and a whole heap of frustration, which even you acknowledge may be legitimate. I don’t hate my ex at all. I feel sorry for him. I have tried to be even-handed. At times, I have failed and I did just call him The Dark Lord, something that I hope most Readers understand was a joke.

      There are other perks of the blog. Significant adults who are in the kids’ lives every single day are better able to support them. They know what is actually going on here. They offer genuine kindness, love, and comfort.

      What would really hurt the children is if I were to ritually suck it up and do my suffering privately in some small closet lit only by a bare, flickering bulb. This blog isn’t just about me and my own sanity anymore. There is an entire circle of women, most of whom I have never actually met, who find themselves similarly situated in one way or another. We are part of an online community that lends compassion, perspective, and grace as we muddle collectively through our lives, trying very hard to do right by our children. You already know that, “Mr. Durden,” which is probably why you’re here.

      Now, I think we should get personal, because, you know, men are logical and women vent.

      Laundry doesn’t get clean sitting around in a stinky old pile. You might want to think about airing your own. Oh wait, you just did, didn’t you? Although you may not have a website of your own and you don’t use your real name here, you have certainly taken the opportunity to savage your ex-wife on my site as bad or worse as anything I ever ever said about Ex. Don’t worry. Your IP is safe with me, but be aware that there really isn’t such a thing as anonymity on the internet anymore, at least not without more technological savvy than you currently employ.

      The issue you raised is not about keeping private matters private, but about shutting women up. You haven’t said that you don’t like people talking about their personal lives and I can’t believe that you are legitimately concerned for my kids. Rather, this is a pretext for attempting to silence someone you see as a spokeswoman, an ex-wife proxy.

      You can stop reading at any time, but that isn’t enough for you. I am some uppity woman who won’t keep quiet about what is really going on. You sought to shout me down and to shame me into silence and to push me back into what you probably think is my “place” so that guys like you can do whatever they want with impunity.

      Um, No.

      Your ex-wife may well have said some vile and unfounded things, I don’t know. If she did, I’m sorry.

      Lastly, you are clearly in a lot of pain and for that I am also genuinely sorry. Probably your kids are, too. That must seriously suck. I wish you comfort and I hope that time brings relief. May you find the support you need for your own healing.

    • Survivant

      Tyler,

      By posting your comment, you are guilty of the exact accusation you’ve leveled at Annie. It would be funny, if it weren’t so very sad. You claim she writes the site in the name of catharsis, but you can’t resist throwing in a line about how awful your ex-wife is. Here. On the internet. Where it’s public.

      You don’t know her or her children, and you have no way of knowing what effect, if any, this blog might have, but you can’t help but curse and ORDER her to take the site down. Did that make you feel better? Or the dig at Maya Angelou that was completely unrelated to the topic at hand … was that cathartic for you?

      Do yourself a favor. Stop reading blogs you hate – it just breeds more angst, although I suspect that spewing vitriol at strangers on the internet is more a coping mechanism for you than anything. But if you don’t find anything of value here, stop coming. I promise, we won’t miss you.

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  • jb

    Hey, Annie,
    I’ve read your stuff for a while, and I’ve watched you with the boy. You are compassionate and caring, and you’ve done great work.

    One more point of view. My father was institutionalized when I was born. More aptly, incarcertated. He used–and abused–drugs and alcohol for most of my entire childhood. In and out of trouble, drunk or high or something else. No money to offer for child support, no time for caring. My mother kept me away from him, thankfully. Although it isn’t clear how much he was capable of offering in terms of time or energy or love. My mother worked hard–six days a week at a local racetrack on the outskirts of Boston. She worked so we could live. But it was hard living. And, wonderfully, it was a childhood that I loved.

    My father emerged when I was about 12 years old, the beginnings of sobriety, in a halfway house in the city. He was still a mess, could still barely function in society, still probably took more than he gave. But my mother took a chance and let me start a relationship with him.

    For the first few years it was slow going. And when we moved away from the city in HS, my interactions with him became more infrequent. But he would call, occassionally, and would write, occassionally, and life went on.

    But, eventually, he was ready, and could offer me what I needed. And, as it turns out, I *really* needed it. One day my life was too much . . . failed out of school, isolated from friends, no real options, no idea on how to move forward . . . and I reached out to him.

    Sobriety works in funny ways. He was ten years into his recovery, and he was ready to help. I was on the precipice of different directions to go with life, and I needed the help.

    I could not be the man I am today, the father, the husband, the friend, the volunteer, without my mothers utter selflessness and struggle to keep me safe, healthy, and loved, all through my childhood. I owe my life and being to her and the incredible sacrifices she made to care for me and nurture me.

    And one of the gifts she gave me was the ability (and permission) to go and learn from my father when he was ready to teach me, to shelter me, and to comfort me when I needed it. He was ready and I was ready. My mother was never ready for it, but that is ok, because she let it happen anyway. I know that she hated him (and still does); but she somehow found the strength to shield me from too much of her feelings. It was a great gift.

    Anyway, when you find yourself thinking that this man has nothing to offer . . . you are probably right. But we can hope and pray that one day he *will* have something to offer. And it will be a good thing, not because it will be good for him, but because it will be good for your kids (assuming that is what they will want).

    good luck and god bless.

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    • This is a thoughtful, insightful comment and I thank you for leaving it. I am especially touched by: “I know that she hated him (and still does); but she somehow found the strength to shield me from too much of her feelings. It was a great gift.”

      I hope that if my kids ever cross those same bridges, my heart is as large as your mother’s.

  • Liadan

    Tyler-

    As the child of someone like Anne’s Ex, I have to ask, do you think the kids don’t know what their father is like? Think any of this comes as a surprise?

    My father used to accuse my mom of turning me against him. Uh, I think his mistress attacking me with a knife and then running after her when I fought her off and she ran out kinda did it for me. I didn’t need my mom to do anything.

    I hope there is a happy ending here, someday…but unless there is openness and honesty about how their behaved, there is no healing. Denying what you were like to your kids is what turns kids against you.

    And Tyler, I think your rage at your wife is coloring your perceptions.

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  • Liadan, Unfortunately I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “happy ending” in situations such as these. I totally agree with you that perhaps Tyler’s rage at his ex is coloring his perceptions.

    Now on to my own little “soapbox” on this topic… lol.

    I have been both the child of bitterly divorced parents, as well as half of a bitterly divorced couple. I can tell everyone here that as a kid, you never fully get over it. I held a ton of resentment toward my mom… she often used to try to “remind” my siblings and I of what a horrible, absentee father we had. I have a ton of respect for my father for not ever doing the same thing – his negative comments about my mom (to us “kids”) have been very few and I don’t recall ever hearing the first one until after I was an adult. However, from my mom’s perspective (now that I’m walking in her shoes) – 90% of everthing she ever said about my dad, no matter how much I did (and still do) resent it – was “deserved”.

    My parents divorced when I was 6. After about a year of being divorced, my dad decided to move from Missouri to Florida. He missed ALL the “little” events in our lives from the moment he left – he was never at any sports events we participated in, he was never there for first boy/girl friends, he never took pictures of any of us before proms or Homecoming dances, he never wiped a sniffling nose, never dealt out a punishment for some wrongdoing… none of that. And when he knew for a fact that my mother was in an abusive relationship and was being savagely beaten by her live-in boyfriend, he never lifted a finger to try to “save” his children from that environment.

    However… he DOES make an appearance at all of the big stuff. He swoops in from his “tropical” home and bestows hugs and puffs his chest and proudly announces how he did such a good job in helping to raise us “kids”. When I finished 8th grade, my school did an all out “graduation” complete with caps and gowns. I was tickled to death that he came into town for that, and as a kid I was downright pissed at my mom for getting upset that I wanted to spend time with the father I never saw after my graduation ceremony. By the time I graduated high school, I had figured it out, and so I made sure to send her flowers while he was in town to collect his pats on the back. And now that I am a mother, my heart breaks at the realization of how badly I probably had hurt her. I have a very… strange/strained relationship with BOTH of my parents because of their actions during my childhood. I keep both of them at arms’ length.

    There are certain things that you should NEVER do as a parent (something my ex needs to be reminded of). First, you should never bad-mouth the other parent to the kids no matter how old the kids are and no matter how much the other parent “deserves” your hurtful words. But perhaps just as important – or maybe moreso – YOU DON’T LEAVE. You don’t become an absentee parent just because it didn’t work out with the other parent. Regardless of who has custody, you go to every single performance you are humanly able to (even if it means missing work – so long as you don’t put your job in jeapordy) and you tell your kid they did a wonderful job. When your kid complains about the other parent, you give them a tight smile and a hug and some words of encouragement. You keep your own opinion that the other parent is an asshat to yourself. I’ve read a lot of Annie’s blog and in just about every post, I envision her doing pretty much just that.

    It takes a big person to do that, and for that, Annie has my utmost respect.
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  • Liadan

    Its such a fine line: If you keep quiet about the asshat’s bad behaviour, it runs the risk of ‘telling’ the child its ok to parent like that. If you criticize the asshat and let the child know the behaviour is *not* ok, it runs the risk of alienating the child and their esteem. Somehow the child has to learn that asshat is a sick damaged person and that the behaviour has nothing to do with them. They are not the bad person here, but they have to somehow learn how to be a good mom or a good dad without an example of that.

    Its very telling that most of us have bad parents and married a person who is a bad parent. I worry about that with my daughter. Will she repeat my mistakes as I repeated my mom’s?

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    • Liadan, I don’t think parents should sugar-coat bad behavior from the other parent… but there’s a big difference between saying “your other parent is an asshat” and saying “I don’t understand why your other parent who owns their own business can’t adjust their hours so they can attend your soccer game” when the child is disappointed at yet another missed game or performance. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with being honest when the kids wonder why you can’t afford something (when you’re getting SO MUCH in child support each month… yeah right..lol) and say “your other parent hasn’t paid child support in 2 months and money is tight” instead of saying “your other parent is a deadbeat”.

      I think as long as you’re being honest about the *actions* and you’re not name-calling, and you’re telling the truth to sensitivity that the kid may feel a sense of shame about the other parent’s asshat behavior… then I think it’s all good (relatively speaking).

      And though I hate to admit it – I’m only human so there have been times they have seen me act like less of a person than I would have liked for them to see. I try to offset the damage being done to their psyche by taking them to visit a counselor somewhat regularly (at least immediately following some “big” event or when we return to court… which will be happening again VERY soon… ~sigh~)
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  • Wow!! My god woman, do you have a tough trail to navigate. Sorry your ex is such a douche! Your poor kids. I 100% agree with you that sometimes no dad is better than poor excuse for human beings that donated bioogical material. Hang in there lady!!

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  • jb

    Fantastic post, Sheri.

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