Time away from parent with residence

(25 Posts)
Bythebeach Thu 21-Apr-16 11:29:31

I feel a bit of a fraud posting here sometimes because I have a lovely supportive husband and don't feel like a 'lone' parent but I don't know where else is appropriate to post with issues related to parenting my eldest who is my ex's and dealing with the particular trials of trying to negotiate with an ex and co (though there isn't much co!) parenting.

So a bit of background - split up with ex when my 11 year old was a baby. He's always lived with me. Initially ex and I lived in same city and he saw son twice a week including one overnight a fortnight as a toddler. When son was 4, ex moved hundreds of miles away (could get door to door in 3 hrs on train and tube) and contact with son dropped to approx fortnightly weekends and around that age ex started to have him a little longer in school holidays - 4 nights or so. 18 months after ex's move when son was nearly 6 we moved in opposite direction but quite close to ex's parents and son saw ex every 3-4 weeks - about half the time at ex's parents who live about an hour and a half away from us and about half the time at ex's place with us doing half the travelling. Ex subsequently married and now has 4 & 2 year old and after their birth dropped weekend visits to his parents' so son since then has seen him a week each holiday and half-term and two weeks in the summer.

Son skypes and talks to father - over recent years contact has been erratically initiated by his dad and weeks have gone by culminating in an 8 week period when ex did not contact son at all (I asked son if he wished to Skype/call a couple of times but son not keen). I have recently pulled ex up on lack of contact and son not being so happy on recent visits and ex has religiously skyped once a week and phoned once a week since then.

So the issue - last summer, ex requested son for 3 weeks. I didn't feel keen but son said okay so I sent him. On return, son said he didn't want to stay that long again and he had been very homesick. He also said he found it hard to call when he was there as he thought ex (or actually ex's wife) didn't like it. He has also said more recently that he only said okay to 3 weeks because he did not want to make his dad sad. So ex has asked for son for 3 weeks again this summer -I have said I don't agree. It does seem a long time for a child to be away from home but I don't want my maternal protectiveness to be making me do the wrong thing.

How long do kids spend with the non-resident parent if parents live far apart when kids are 10/11? I can understand ex wanting to see more of son in summer holiday (although it riles me I have to do all the donkey work of everyday care and he can scoop all the half terms and large chances of the holidays) but I don't want to destabilise my son feeling at home here in his own home. He gets very jealous and angry with his younger sibling here when he comes home from most of his visits to his dad and I find it hard to ensure younger siblings have a nice time when son is away as he gets so very jealous if he feels left out of nice things.

Help!

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 21-Apr-16 16:59:37

Ex lives a couple of hours including a ferry ride away. DD is 12 and two weeks is too long for her. She nows goes for several shorter periods so Easter just gone 3 week holiday she was 6 days then 4 days.
What about two 10 day periods?

Kinderegg50 Fri 22-Apr-16 22:40:11

I'm not in this position myself as sons father isn't too far away. But I do agree 3 weeks is such a long time. You aren't too happy about it and it seems your son is struggling with it. Although it's his dad, it must feel odd for him as he doesn't see him that much and I can imagine he might feel second fiddle to the wife and other kids.
Shorter visits as suggested above sound like a much better idea. When your son is older he will be able to make confident decisions about how and when he wants to see dad. But for now I think you are right to say it's just not in your sons best interests to do this. I used to cry like a baby and feel sick to my stomach if I stayed away longer than say 5 days from my mum. This was prob up until aged 14!

Bythebeach Sat 23-Apr-16 16:48:21

Thanks. It is helpful to have other perspectives. I feel really bad for sending him last year. I felt sick to the stomach when it was requested but was so worried that my personal reaction would stop me doing the right thing by son/ex that I didn't pay enough attention to it really being a very long time for a kid to be away from home. When he came home, my son said he never wanted to stay that long again and. The problem is that he also dislikes the long journey - when he was younger he used to do two separate weeks in the summer but we merged them into two weeks together because he disliked the journey. My ex is quite pushy about the 3 weeks - I think he finds it hard to stomach that his home isn't DS 'real' home if you see what I mean - which I do understand as I would hate it if DS felt that way about my home. But then again, I'd never choose to move hundreds of miles from my son. I think it's perfectly natural not to want to be away from your primary home and family for so long and will stick up for DS - last year he agreed to go but afterwards told me he only agreed because he didn't want to make his dad sad.

Bythebeach Sat 23-Apr-16 16:55:40

More perspectives also welcome. Any personal examples of visiting patterns for say 8-13 year olds who live several hours from the parent without care/residence would be really helpful. Thank you!

dulcefarniente Sat 23-Apr-16 19:14:15

Hi my xh left and moved a couple of hundred miles away to be with OW when dd was 4 (she is now 8). Since then she has seen him once a month (generally he books a hotel near me or sends his parents to bring her to him). We alternate half terms so I either have dd for Feb + Oct or just for May. Easter/Xmas/Summer is split down the middle. He insists on having her for 3 straight weeks in the summer because of the travelling. I find the summer hard although it does mean I can work v long hours to offset sports days etc. Dd finds it hard because he and his family go overboard with endless outings booked without seeing if she's interested in them and she feels that she can't say anything because her GM has paid for it all and wouldn't react well if she told them that she didn't want to do half of it.

Xh also insists on having the first half of the summer so dd generally arrives home just wanting to chill out and stay firmly at home. So that means either staying at home doing very little other than going to the park or going on holiday/days out that she's really not keen on doing having had her fill of them during her time away.

I have tried to alternate who gets the first half of the holiday but he makes life very difficult if he doesn't get it, refusing permission for other things.

Bythebeach Sat 23-Apr-16 19:33:05

Thanks dulce. We Thats sounds hard-does your daughter miss home very much in the summer 3 weeks? But I like the idea of alternating half terms - we never get them and it means the term scan be very tiring for my son.

dulcefarniente Sat 23-Apr-16 20:23:04

Yes she does particularly misses her pets. It is a little easier than when she was 4 but she is already asking when she can decide when and where she goes. As she gets older missing her friends and what they are up to is going to be a much bigger issue. Also her grandparents might not be around and xh expects them to look after her for at least half of his time.

SofiaAmes Sat 23-Apr-16 20:33:03

Your ds' father should have just as much right to spend time with him as you do and although it may not be your ds' regular home, he is staying with his father, not a stranger. Having said that, your ds is also old enough to be consulted about how much time he wants to spend with his father. (Note that I say this with the caveat that when he's a teenager, don't let him do the choosing as a way of setting his parents against each other and getting away with murder.) Can you have a conversation with your ex about how ds isn't wanting the 3 weeks, and suggest other solutions instead. You haven't expressed any reservations about time with his father being unhealthy for your ds, so it sounds like it would be important to figure out how to make it happen. Maybe he could go for a shorter period and some of that could be time away, just him and his dad. He's at an age for that. Your ex should think of these things, but just because he doesn't, doesn't mean that they wouldn't make your ds happy and perhaps it's worth your encouraging something.

Bythebeach Sat 23-Apr-16 21:34:50

Well Sofia that reply opens a can of worms for me! I understand the law couches it as child rights and parental responsibility! And morally whilst I agree the presumption should be the father has equal rights to the mother to spend time with his son, I think the action of fathers can negate that. If the dad chose to move hundreds of miles, away thus precluding the frequent regular contact he had with his son in toddlerhood, if the dad takes diminishing interest in his son's day to day life and has been erratic and neglectful with Skype and phone contact and doesn't contact his kid for weeks on end and if he reduces the contact frequency and drops weekend visits because of the birth of his other children and fails to pay maintenance, does the dad really have equal right to time with the child? I think that my son shouldn't be punished for having a rather irresponsible father and so I protect his right to see his dad and have generally agreed whatever contact his dad proposes but sometimes I'm not even sure that's in his best interests - he may be better off being less close to someone who has shown clearly that our son isn't their priority in life.

And as for time away with just his dad - he would love that and has asked for one on one time and I have suggested repeatedly to his dad that a day or a weekend would make our son so happy! But his dad has accused me of trying to undermine his new family and make his younger kids feel left out!

My son loves his dad. His dad is okay but has been really disengaged with my son's actual upbringing and has been the one responsible for reducing his own contact time. As a consequence of his moving away and reducing his contact, our son is less comfortable with him than he would have been otherwise! So then wanting long contact in the summer puts undue stress on my poor boy.

dulcefarniente Sat 23-Apr-16 22:10:02

I think the child's desire for one to one contact with the nrp is a big issue for many of us. My dds experience is not unusual. She's desperate for loads of 1-2-1 with her dad but he chose to move away knowing that it would inevitably mean less contact. Dd prefers weekends near me when it is just her and her df. When she goes to him she ends up spending the majority of time with grandparents while he is doing other things. According to her he will expect her to entertain herself whilst he tries to find girlfriends which sounds very plausible, but unfair on her when he already spends very little time with her.

SofiaAmes Sat 23-Apr-16 22:18:38

Bythebeach I completely agree with you that the action of the father (or mother) can negate equal rights. In my own case, my children don't see their father because he abused them. But if you have a father who is not abusive, but rather just emotionally immature and/or stunted, then I think (just my opinion) perhaps it's worth trying to maintain some contact, even if you have to do all the work. My ds is 15 and is definitely missing the contact of a male father figure and I wish I had something to offer him, even if not ideal. I certainly am not advocating that you send your 11 year old someplace for 3 weeks that he doesn't want to go (even if it's his father's), but I think that it's worth trying to see if you can still salvage some contact out of the summer, so that some contact is maintained so that it's there if and when your ds needs it later on. I completely understand the irritation and frustration of having to do all the work for your ex in the maintenance of contact with his own child, but I do think it will be beneficial to your ds in the end.

Bythebeach Sat 23-Apr-16 22:59:56

Dulce - It's such a shame one to one time is an issue. Especially when some of these dad's have infrequent contact - you'd think they'd jump at the chance to spend a little exclusive time with their child. My son's dad is married with a 2 and 4 year old and the feeling I get is that his wife is jealous/worried their kids will get sidelined which seems really unlikely as they live with their dad 100% of the time and my son would be grateful for just the odd couple of exclusive weekends a year.

Sofia - my son will definitely see his dad over the summer and contact (barring abuse and there is no suggestion of that thankfully) will always be maintained at my end. I have always agreed to whatever he asked for out of fear of denying my son a relationship with his dad but for this summer will not agree to 3 weeks but will suggest 2 weeks which I hope will be okay and has been historically. I don't think my son will want 2 10 day trips because he hates the journey but will check that with him too and if he is amenable, suggest that too.

SofiaAmes Sun 24-Apr-16 00:11:15

Bythebeach at least it sounds like you have a new partner who is there for your ds. I wish I had that for my ds.

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 24-Apr-16 11:40:32

I think at 11 years old it is a time when you can discuss compromise with them and what the agreement is.
Be honest with your DD explain that the agreement is that he spends half the holidays with his Dad. State that you understand that he dislikes the journey and dislikes being away for 3 weeks. However, we need to reach a compromise that eve tone can agree on and keeps to the spirit of the agreement. This how we ended up with the couple of shorter trips. Additionally ExH has now compromised and no longer takes her back to his home for weekends in the term time they stay with his parents.
I am not saying these compromises were reached easily I spent a lot of time talking to DD about fairness etc. And emphasising to ExH the compromise I was making in extra journeys to make this work.

Bythebeach Sun 24-Apr-16 14:27:36

Yes Dulce, I am very very very lucky. DH has a really natural relationship with DS and I can never be grateful enough for that. He just sees himself as dad to all 3 of our kids - and so do I really but I also want to do right by DS in relation to his actual dad.

Lonecatwithkitten - we've never had any formal or informal agreement with visits - just a gradually evolving pattern which has mostly been dictated by what ex has proposed over the years. We have never actually agreed half the holidays and now I don't want to if son doesn't want to.

starry0ne Sun 24-Apr-16 21:13:30

How long is it since he last actually saw him?

I can't figure it out..

I think at 11 he should have some say...What would he like to do?

As for the poster who said equal rights to spend equal time.. I completely disagree..My DS;s dad has not seen him raised him since he was 3 .. knows nothing about him so no IMO he doesn't have equal rights..

Bythebeach Sun 24-Apr-16 22:23:15

starry - he sees him each holiday and half term - so saw him for a week at Easter and 6 days at Feb half-term etc

DS wants to see his dad but not for 3 weeks. He thinks he could manage 2 weeks although not super keen.

starry0ne Sun 24-Apr-16 22:31:31

What about suggesting 10 days..Seems more reasonable than pusing himself to the limit.. Would give dad 2 weekends

MissWimpyDimple Sun 24-Apr-16 22:59:17

DD is nearly 10 and has always seen her dad a lot. She can't really cope with more than a week away though and luckily he understands that.

I think since he had other children she really feels the lack of 1-1 time too, but there isn't much we can do about that. She gets me all to herself so I think that has something to do with it.

Bythebeach Mon 25-Apr-16 17:20:02

Thanks for all the input. It seems he's not unusual in struggling with a longer time away. Will talk to his dad and try to reach agreement. Will report back when decided.

Bythebeach Tue 26-Apr-16 11:39:36

So I spoke to the ex and he's agreed summer half-term Sat to Fri (6 nights) and summer holiday 14 nights. I think this is principally because my son had spoken to him earlier in the week and said he didn't want to do longer than two weeks. I'm glad my son is more able to tell his dad what he wants and his dad is actually listening.

Thanks for all the advice.

SofiaAmes Tue 26-Apr-16 14:03:59

That's a wonderful resolution.

dulcefarniente Tue 26-Apr-16 19:36:18

Pleased that you've managed to get a good solution

Bythebeach Wed 27-Apr-16 10:00:15

Thanks Sofia & dulce.

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