I envy those of you who have not been through a divorce. I’m sure that your life is not as rosey and perfect as I’ve imagined because we tend to romanticize the grass on the other side, but parenting with an ex is difficult at best for me. My divorce was ugly and painful and for the long, excruciating, painful 18 months that it took for us to fight and argue and sort out our worldly possessions, I often questioned whether leaving the marriage was worth all the pain it caused. (I mean we were seriously fighting over who should get my high school yearbooks and sewing machine – and NO, we didn’t go to the same school and he knows no one in them.) Not just to me, but my beautiful sons were pulled into the middle of it more times than I can count. I pride myself on taking the high road at every turn and I’m not being a martyr about it, but I’ve taken the high road so much that I receive mail there… I’ve bitten my tongue so much it’s a wonder I’m not a mute.
When everything was said and done, I still believe that the end result was the best for all involved. My ex and I share custody with as close to a 50/50 split as possible. I think that this is important because even though it is better for everyone that he and I don’t live together any more because children should not be exposed to that much abuse, cheating, hatred toxicity, he’s a far better father than husband and even though he didn’t know how to love me he does love the boys. I’ve watched these last 7 years as the boys have grown and at the same time, the ex has too…in his own way. The man, who never lifted a pinky to help with the boys when we were together, is now a very parent. He is more involved with them, their school, and their extra-curricular activities than I ever thought he was capable. That said, I am often faced with moments where I disagree with his parenting and the choices he makes. I can usually ignore the small stuff and admit I tend to overcompensate during “Mommy days” when I think he’s being unrealistic but I learned something last night that broke my heart. I can’t ignore this and don’t know how to address it. I’m lost and in tears and I need your help.
My oldest has been having issues at school lately. He’s a class clown and will do anything to get attention. He’s always been this way and I know that it becomes more obvious when he isn’t getting enough attention at home. He needs it and will get attention anywhere he can. I recognize this and try to help him work through his feelings when he is with me. That’s not what set me off though. In discussing (through email because we still can’t have a productive civil conversation) the ‘punishment’ for the latest set of infractions, I proposed a merit system whereby the oldest could in a sense ‘earn’ priveleges back. The ex sent back a dissertation because he can’t just send something simple – he’s still trying to prove how ‘smart’ he is – and buried in this email is the following line
“then I found out that C stole food from the pantry and now he’s in even more trouble”
At first, I was confused – What do you mean “stole food”? What pantry? Surely you don’t mean at your house because how is that stealing?
I called C – my 5’2” 10 year old in to talk. I simply asked him “Hey – what happened at Dad’s” and he started bawling. My heart broke and I pulled him onto my lap which is far less convenient now that he’s gotten so tall, and held him as we cried together. I continued to reassure him that it’s ok to cry and that holding in his emotions isn’t good so let it all out. I reminded him that he was in a safe place and that there was nothing but love surrounding him. (I don’t know if he fully appreciates the words, but I will continue to repeat them to him every day for the rest of my life.) When he finally got everything out, and took a couple deep breaths he relayed the following story:
They had already eaten dinner. He was still hungry so he went to the pantry and got an applesauce out (you know the individual sized ones that are perfect for lunches) and took it to his room. His dad walked into his room and C got scared that his dad would be mad, so he hid the empty container under the bed.
This is the point where I became FURIOUS but restrained it enough to finish my conversation with my darling boy in a positive way and explained that if he is hungry, he should communicate that with his dad or call me. We talked about the dangers of “hiding containers” of food and I tried to make excuses to C about how his dad was probably upset about that and not that he was eating… (I may have lied to my son) I told him that if he ever felt like he wasn’t getting enough to eat at dad’s he could always talk to me about it and I would talk to his dad because we both love him very much. I hope think I said the right things to him… but now I need to talk with the ex…and I don’t know how.
I recognize the signs of disordered eating. I have struggled with BED most of my life and it wasn’t until about 6 months ago that I understood what it was… I just thought something was wrong with me that no one understood. I used to take and hide food too because my parents would criticize my weight and limit my portions and I was hungry… or emotional…or needed to control something. When I read the email, all I could think about was wanting to eat. I wasn’t hungry; I just wanted to stuff the pain with chocolate…or chips… or something. I Didn’t. I ate a sensible dinner, drank a lot of water and after the kids were in bed, curled up next to my husband, and cried until I couldn’t cry any more… but this post isn’t about my struggles – I’ll save that for a later post. This is about my son. My point is that I recognize what is going on and I don’t want that for him. I want more…
My son is EXTREMLY active. They ride their bikes or walk the 1.5 miles to and from school every day – weather permitting of course. This is the remarkable young man who has done 4 Jr. Triathlons, is in swim team, and inspires me to be more active so I can keep up
I need to fashion a response from a loving place to the ex so that he can hear it without feeling attacked and in order to do that, I need information that I don’t have – this is where you come in.
What would you say?
I think that my son isn’t getting ENOUGH calories which would explain the hunger – how do I explain that?
How do you explain that the nutritional needs of a growing, active 10 yr old are significantly different than those of a 36 yr old sedentary, grown man?
What else can I say/ do to foster self-love and self-esteem in a child who only wants to make his daddy proud?
PS – If you didn’t know, I’m a finalist in the Mamavation Mom Campaign. If I inspire you, or you want to support my quest for a healthier life, Please take a minute to vote for me here. Let me know that you voted so that I can thank you personally!