Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Don't Want To Go, Mommy

Last night, my ex took Jake for the entire weekend (the custody arrangement is Friday-Sunday) for the first time in many months. We've had an alternate schedule, with only Saturday sleepovers for some time now, mostly because Jake voiced wanting to come home. And to give his dad a lot of credit, he obliged. Some men wouldn't. Power struggles. Wanting their time. I understand this.

But yesterday, Jake didn't want to go. I told him we'd take it one day at a time. He held on to me, and Jesus, I can see how Parental Alienation happens. I don't ever bash my ex in front of my child, and we always are polite and civil in front of him, but you could see how this would make any parent feel crushed. You could see how someone might want to lash out. I know this sounds extreme, but I felt as if my baby was being ripped from me.

I wanted to sneak notes in Jake's overnight bag to tell him I'm still here. How much I love him. That everything is going to be okay.

"Let his father handle that," Andy said when I called him after Jake left. I was so distraught, maybe due to separation anxiety. Maybe due to the legitimate fact that I miss my kid when he's gone. Because as I've said to people many times, I don't care that he's driving me crazy, I want him driving me crazy in my house.

"He'll be back," Andy said.

It is important for his father to soothe his son, so that it's not me stepping into their relationship. So that I'm not the third wheel. So that he doesn't have to look for mommy's notes or mommy's calls when I'm not there.

Me? I had to soothe myself, which I did.

When Jake was about 3, maybe close to 4, he had his first melt down in not wanting to go to his father's. There is no reason I can think of that Jake might not want to go to his dad's house. Except one. His dad doesn't have Wii. It sounds silly, but it's not to a small child. (Though at the time we didn't have Wii, so there goes that theory.)

Jake was hysterically crying. As in full melt down, "I don't want to leave!"

"I'm not going to take him like this," my ex said. "I'm not going to scar him like this." And I agreed. How can he go when he's like this? Won't it make his time with his father negative instead of positive?

So we sat down with the co-parenting counselor who we had been seeing since the separation. "You have to force him, physically if needed, to see his father," the doctor said.

"Does this mean dragging him out of the house screaming?"


We found this hard to comprehend. But his feeling about it was this: a child cannot dictate life. A child of divorce has to deal with divorce.

"You have to be very matter-of-fact about it," he said. "You have to tell your child, 'It's time to spend time with your daddy.' Then you walk out the door."

So things calmed down. But he still complained about going. He still wanted to stay home.

Then, one day, my ex came to me and said, "Well, now I see how it works on the other side. Jake doesn't want to leave my house either. He took a fit when I told him it was time to go home."

We realized about our son, that transitions were hard. That it wasn't about us. That it was about the leaving.

Today Jake is at soccer. Last night, just before they were pulling out of the driveway, I said, "I'll see you at soccer tomorrow, okay?" I'm not necessarily inclined to go to soccer on my ex's weekend, especially because the ex is the coach. In this situation, I thought it would help Jake feel better because had had been so upset.

"I don't want you to go to soccer," Jake said. A little smile on his face went a long with it. I'm betting he wondered if it would hurt my feelings.

It didn't.

"Okay, honey," I said. "I don't have to go to soccer." I kissed him again. "I'll call you tomorrow, how about that?"

"Okay," he said.

I kissed him again, then again, then again. Then they left.

And he'll be back tomorrow.


  1. Lovely post, Hayley. I've read the same advice your co-parenting coach gave. So often children of divorce are given too much power due to their parent's guilt and no one really being sure of how to navigate the new terrain. And it's critical for children of divorce to be able to remain just that - children. And kids don't get to dictate to parents where they are going to be and when.

    The repercussions of power imbalances can be far reaching as well. Mainly because the child is put in the position of making decisions that they are not mature enough to take responsibility for. In the end, we as parents need to shoulder the responsibility and all that goes with that.

    Good work in figuring out what the real problem was and helping your son to work through it. You are a wonderful co-parent example, Hayley.

  2. On the top of Jake's writing assignment it states, "always do your best." I'm trying, that's all I can do. Thanks for your support.

  3. I know this is cheesy but I am so PROUD of you guys. Damn that was good parenting.


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