If you get divorced in New Hampshire and you have children under the age of 18, you are required by the state to take a seminar in co-parenting before they will sign off on your divorce. This is a fabulous class filled with wise tidbits about why you shouldn’t call your ex an asshole in front of your kids, and they show little video snippets of “what not to do” wherein actors guild rejects scream at each other while little Johnny sits on the step and cries.
I was awarded primary custody of our two children, and my ex–oops, I mean, my co-parent (positive lingo helps the process, dontchaknow)–has very generous visitation. For any faults he may have, he does love the kids more than life itself, and always wants to maximize his time with them (which is usually a good thing).
This weekend the children are at Daddy’s, but it just so happens that our church is having a girls’ tea this morning. I carefully broached the subject with the ex weeks ago, offering him extra time at another point in exchange for “borrowing” our daughter for a few hours so that we could participate in the tea at church. At 6, this little girl still pretty much lives for any mommy-daughter stuff, and as she’s had a very rough time of it with the divorce (6 going on 16, this one) I thought it important that we go. The ex agreed.
Well, I’m out at a friend’s house last night (I do not socialize on the evenings/weekends when I have the kids unless it’s a family thing, so this is a rare treat), having a good time, when my cell phone rings from my ex at nearly 10:00. I answer the phone with great trepidation and ask if one of the children is sick. No, he says, they’re not sick. But they won’t go to sleep. (Cue overblown “peace-shattering global event” music here.) I bit my tongue, tried not to laugh, and asked him what exactly he wanted me to do about that.
“Well,” he says, “I just wanted to let you know that I just said if she doesn’t go to sleep in the next five minutes, she’s not going to be allowed to go to the tea tomorrow.” Oh, my. What is wrong with this statement? Let me count the ways:
- Our daughter had been threatened with a huge consequence, while our son was “just having trouble settling down.”
- Our daughter has a slight cold and even the ex admitted that perhaps that was part of the problem.
- She is acting up for her father so the punishment is to be less time with her mother.
(I’m not even going to touch the fact that I parent these kids 24/7 without calling him to whine about it, and I certainly wouldn’t be calling anyone on their cell phone at 10:00 at night on a rare free evening unless there was blood or fire involved….)
So, what did I do? I was calm. I suggested he give her some cold medicine. I asked him to call me in the morning to let me know how it all worked out.
This morning I took a deep breath and informed him that he is not to threaten my time with the children in response to misbehavior with him, that he’ll need to find another way to deal with it and if I ever did such a thing (“You kids better knock it off or you’re not going to Daddy’s!”) he’d probably haul me back into court, and that I was very disappointed with how he chose to handle this. Like the gentleman he is, he responded with… complete silence. When pressed with “Do you disagree?” he said that no, he didn’t. He didn’t apologize. (Huge surprise, that.)
We’re going to the tea, by the way.
Okay, I will need to continue dealing with this until the youngest graduates from college… so that’s only… 18 more years… ooooohhhhhh yeah… I think I need to go outside and dig in the dirt for a while… maybe bury myself completely….