His arms dangling from his lanky body, his head bowed. It’s Monday morning and my 11-year-old son has to go to school. He is standing in the garden and big tears run down his prepubescent cheeks. “I’m not going,” he says. “To school, but not to daddy afterwards.” His nine-year-old brother sighs deeply. “I’ll go on my own,” he says with a tremble. “I don’t like it, but otherwise I feel sorry for Dad.”
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Upbringing after the divorce
It’s been three years after the divorce and it’s still heartbreaking. Not the divorce itself – it has recently been completed. The education of the children is a different story. Ex is quite clear: he determines the rules and the children should follow them indiscriminately. He tolerates no contradiction. I am more of the concert. We do have agreements.
Gaming is fine, but only when your homework is done, be honest, tell where you are, say thank you, and more of those obvious things. The more you let go of your kids, the closer they stay is my parenting day. Of course I don’t confuse letting go with neglect: I prefer to check ten minutes after their departure whether their coats are hanging on the school coat rack when they cycle to school alone.
My sons are very happy on the days they are with their father. But that different rules apply to mom than dad, is difficult to switch. Especially for the eldest, a near-adolescent who increasingly rebels against his father’s rules.
One of those rules: what you get from dad, stays with dad. Even if you bought it with your own pocket money. So my youngest son saves for a second PlayStation game, because he wants to play with me too. The oxboard my oldest got for his birthday gets dusted in a closet with his dad – he just lives with me most of the time. Even their bicycles have to stay with Dad, so that I have to have two Marktplaats copies. The clothes they get from daddy: forbidden to wear when they move to me. Any relaxation is not negotiable.
In a bathrobe I take a seat on the trampoline for a good conversation. “If you are there it will be very nice”, I say. “In the end it always is, and you can always text me, right?”
“Okay, I’m going,” he says. “But as long as he doesn’t think I’ll leave my laptop there; I got it myself and I am taking it back to our house. ”
When his little brother walks out the door ten minutes later with his heavy overnight backpack, I do my best to wave happily. Letting go, I speak to myself internally, that’s the only thing I can do for the boys.
We stay mom and dad
As a six-year-old, I lost sight of my father when my parents divorced. I learned one thing from that: No matter how many mistakes the other parent makes in your eyes, your kids love you both. My ex is allowed to adhere to remarkable rules; for my children he remains dad. They really want to go to him, they just don’t want to leave me. And let’s face it: I undoubtedly also make the necessary mistakes in the eyes of my ex.
“As soon as they are old enough, they decide for themselves when to go with whom,” assists friend L. when I call her. She is divorced herself and already has older children. “And in the end they are perfectly able to see what is good and what is not. Let go, stay positive about their father; they’ll get through it. Mine has dried up fine too, right? “
I keep getting better at letting go. The loss also decreases on the days when the boys are with their father. But some parenting issues and concerns remain troublesome. That I deliver them in a new polo, for example, and get them back in a T-shirt that is too small.
Or that I find leftovers of fruit sprinkles and pink cake in their lunchboxes, while I do my best to feed them responsibly and the school protocol prescribes fruit and snack tomatoes. If the children have been with daddy for three days, I can first catch up with them for two days of overdue homework. Children’s parties are structurally for me, because the only time I left it to him is the entire birthday never celebrated.
During the first summer vacation with Dad and his new girlfriend, my kids learned to dive in a shallow pool. And when our eldest decided to become a vegetarian, he was obliged to participate in gourmet food with his father.
Then let go; I’m still looking for a crash course for it. Still, things are getting better. Because my children become independent, especially, but also because it is of course annoying that they come home in worn out clothes and are not able to play with their own toys three quarters of the time, but again not of vital importance.
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Friend W. is in a difficult divorce, and struggles even harder with the parenting style his ex has. “When they return from a week with their mother, they sit at the table spinning from sleep.” His eight-year-old daughter is allowed to go to bed at half past nine with her mother, together with her twelve-year-old brother, with the result that she cannot be cured with daddy for the first two days.
“My son was allowed to drink half a glass of wine with Mum, he said. And he stayed with Mum’s sister for two nights. ” I frown at his stories, hoping not half of them are true. “It makes no sense to get excited about it, it doesn’t make the relationship with my ex any better.”
Girlfriend H. has also stopped discussing upbringing. “It is not successful: after three years of separate parenting, the children are still on the iPad all weekend when they are with daddy. And although they are with him half the school holidays, they have never been on vacation with him. Much too difficult, my ex thinks. When I go camping with the kids, he books two weeks in a Thai holiday resort for himself. He spends his time with the kids on electronics: nobody is a Minecraft pro like my seven-year-old son – thanks to his father. ”
After years, girlfriend S. is still furious when her youngest daughter comes home again with eczema, while her ex knows very well that she is allergic to tomatoes. “And I keep emailing him her nutritional schedule; he does not take care seriously at all. ”
Never good enough
The latter reproach seems like a typical female ailment, says friend Q. “I can stand upside down, it is never good what I do. How much screen time the kids get from me, when we order pizza once, the beer I drink in their presence – my ex throws it all at my feet. While you really won’t hear me about the umpteenth boyfriend she introduces to the children, or the school fees she doesn’t pay despite the sky-high child support I can pay every month. ”
He has a point, says girlfriend S. “On paper I think it’s fine that my children spend as much time with their father as I do with me. We chose them together, we are responsible together and they love us both equally. Still, I find it unnatural that since my divorce I have to give up part of my upbringing.
Our children come out of my body, I fed them all three for six months, I am the one who smells it when they get sick. Of course, fathers can also care, but maternal instinct is unmatchable. I can see a danger from ten kilometers away; my ex only when it is almost too late. He lets them run until they are exhausted and then complains to me that they are unmanageable.
Moreover, it is restless, those constant house changes. If I was in charge on my own, my daughters would live with me completely and go out with Dad on a regular basis. Much clearer. Although my ex probably wants exactly the same the other way round. ”
Remain mild and reasonable
The credo is to remain mild and reasonable, says girlfriend L. “Because even if it is a bit of a swallow every now and then, it makes no sense to get excited about things over which I have no influence. And my children will be left with nothing. It is simply the consequence of divorce. I take it for granted that on his days they run wild, game too much and don’t eat as healthy as I would like. I’m glad I don’t have to sit next to my ex on the couch for the rest of my life. It’s a matter of counting my blessings. ”
This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.
Also read: 15 Parenting issues that everyone recognizes after the divorce>