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Don't want to be the bad guy on Christmas Day :-((38 Posts)
I know this isn't necessarily a relationships issue. My stbxh left us in February, it was his choice to leave us. All he cared about when we were together was running his business, money and doing whatever he pleased. we have one ds nearly 3. I have always encouraged him to spend time with ds as he hardly ever saw him when we were together. He sees him every other weekend (stbxh's choice as he 'needs' to focus on his business) sometimes not even then when business needs him to work over the weekend.
Ds is usually a lovely well-behaved boy. He is bright, loving and had an excellent vocabulary. However, when he comes back from his dads house it takes me at least 3 days to get him back to being himself, because he comes back a stroppy, difficult child. I know this is 'normal' behaviour for many toddlers, but this isn't hi normal behaviour and family members/friends have been surprised by the transformation. It has actually come to the point where I avoid seeing people for the few days following his return. I have spoken to stbxh about sticking to routines and how he can discipline ds appropriately when he behaves difficultly.
He says all the right things but I'm not convinced he follows through. I believe he spoils ds (he has left us in financial difficulties but yet has the money to buy ds designer clothes) because he feels guilty for not spending enough time with him. He regularly posts photos of himself being the model father on fb which I find quite hurtful, because they are things he would never do with us as a family before he walked out on us.
Sorry i digress... Anyway ds is due to go to stbxh house the weekend before Xmas, coming back on Xmas eve. I really wanted to give ds time with his dad, but don't want him to be a pain in the neck come Christmas Day when I want to enjoy spending time with ds and the rest of my family without constantly having to put ds on the naughty step or remind him how to behave . I'm currently signed off work (I'm a teacher) because I've been trying so hard to keep it together but finally seem to have lost the ability to cope. I know this is a really selfish act to be considering, and I have never stopped him from seeing ds before ever! But could/should I?
He's having him for a few days over the new year period and has just spent 5 days with him at centre parcs. But ds has been truly appallingly behaved today as a result.
Help, I don't know what to do.
What the hell is your ex doing to upset your son so much? He's showing signs of distress.
Cut the time down, seriously. Your boy is suffering, and he can't tell you.
My ds truly loves his dad and seems to enjoy spending time with him, when he does get the chance to. I don't really want to cut the time down as I dont think he spends near enough time with him at the moment. However I worry that stbxh is pandering to him and spoiling him - letting him have his own way all the time, when he throws a wobbly, which means he thinks that's acceptable behaviour here, until we set things straight again.
I think he feels guilty for having left us and for not spending enough time with ds (in my opinion he should feel guilty but he's making life so difficult for me when ds returns and I'm already finding everything e.g. ft work as a teacher/house/garden/ds too difficult to balance). And it's already distressing knowing that this will be our first xmas without stbxh.
Could it be that your feelings of being overwhelmed by being a working single parent are causing you expect too much of a nearly 3 year old?
Is your ds required to be unnaturally 'good' when he's with you? I'm not in favour of the naughty step and I'm wondering what other methods of 'discipline' you use on your son?
If he's indulged, spoilt, kept up late, fed
rubbish treats, taken hither and thither then he is going to be difficult and fractious as his routine is upset and his boundaries have been extended
Unless you can make your ExP see that this indulgence isn't doing the lad any good, then it will carry on.
I'd also be mindful of cutting visits - can you imagine in court if he goes to establish access rights what you will look like for stopping him seeing his son and giving him a good time? You will be painted as jealous and spiteful.
I agree with the pp who suggested you might be expecting too much - especially the bit about how to discipline your ds (I have a 3 year old DS BTW).
He might be like this regardless because it's a stressful change for him.
Why not shower your ds with love and ignore the bad instead of overdoing the discipline to get him back in line?
Does your ex live close by?
The advice I had was "little + often" for contact with the NR parent, for young children.
It may just be the case that he is overtired, but even so it sounds like its too much for him, and he's not old enough to express that.
Can you negotiate shorter, more frequent visits? Tea + play for an hour, one or two nights a week, plus one weekend night / day, maybe?
My DS didn't want to spend more than one night at a time with his Dad for the first couple of years after we split (he was 6), but because he was older, he was able to say so.
I have never stopped stbxh from seeing ds before. I want him to see his dad so they can develop a good relationship, but I don't want to have to be hard on him at Christmas - selfish maybe but I've had to cope with a lot since he left. I didn't take a single day off work during the split in attempt to keep life as normal as possible (teacher/parent guilt is the ball and chain I bare). Stbxh always gets his own way, always has. He is a bully and a manipulator I'm intimidated by him. He sees ds when it is convenient for him, even if that's less than I would actually like. But I just want to have a nice xmas, with my lovely boy feeling happy and able to be his true self.
People may think I expect too much of him, but he is 'unnaturally good' most of the time. I know my son and I do shower him with love (I'm not some Trunchball type disciplinarian). But the real change of character I see is a shock, not just to me but to others who have noticed the difference.
I agree totally with you HollyBerryBush. We haven't started divorce proceedings or anything yet as I simply cant afford it and don't qualify for legal aid as I earn too much (but I have been left with lots of debt and we live on 90 quid a week). I know a court wouldn't look upon this favourably, but I don't intend on doing this all the time. Why should stbxh call all the shots? He literally hands me a piece of paper with the dates he can do written on them and thats what we do as I have no say in the matter.
He literally hands me a piece of paper with the dates he can do written on them and thats what we do as I have no say in the matter.
Why are you letting him dictate? Have you tried handing him a bitof paper with when it is convenient for you? Be that every other weekend and perhaps a tea one night in the week?
You need to take back some control of your life, once you do that, you will start to feel a lot better, less steressed (if a teacher can ever be unstressed).
90 quid a week? Off to the CSA with you - are you getting what you should be from your ExP?
I live in Swindon, he in Newbury so it's about 40 minutes away down the motorway. Stbxh wouldn't come over one or two nights per week as he's too busy running his company. It's a sad fact that ds sees more of his dad now than he did when we hwere together as I took him out to do fun things but he never came along - always too busy. But I do agree Hatpin - maybe it is too much for him to manage atm.
Is your 3yo in regular childcare/nursery? Play that card, you've paid for it, it cannot be irregular, therefore ExH picks up Friday night and returns on Sunday afternoon. If Friday night is out - then make it just an overnight Saturday thing.
But you dictate on your terms.
STBXH is paying £400 a month + half the childminder's fees. He is paying a fair amount, but it isn't enough to pay off the debt I took on as he had a bad credit rating (the stupid things you do when you marry a selfish ba stard). We struggled financially on 2 incomes before he left. I had to return to work when ds was only 4 months old (much earlier than I wanted to) because we didn't have enough money - this still upsets me as I missed out on many things like ds first steps (still makes me cry thinking about it). The house is mine and in my name only (shared ownership - so can't rent it out either). Now I can't afford to live here and cant afford to sell it as I cant afford to pay for the upfront fees needed to move.
My Depression and anxiety scores are high but I'm not going to start taking my a.depressants until after xmas as I dont think it's fair on ds to have me go through the bad side effects during his special time.
I hate my life - its such a mess. I cant change one shit thing as it's all interlinked with all the other shit things that are going on. I seem to live my life by everyone else rules and standards - all I want for myself is a nice xmas to remember fondly - selfish i know.
Well if ADs generally take 2 weeks to kick in, then I don't think you are doing yourself any favours by delaying taking them if they are prescribed.
Secondly, perhaps you are overthinking the whole Christmas Day thing. People expect small children to be excited. You have enough adults about the place to entertain him by giving him attention and playing games to divert any demanding behaviour.
I know it could be difficult with childcare arrangements, have you thought about supplementing your income with private tutoring? or marking exam papers in the summer. The boards pay upto £8 a paper and you would get 2-3 schools worth.
Maybe I am over thinking the Christmas day thing. But I've had a hard day and cant bare the thought that it might be like this when he comes back from his dads on christmas eve.
I did start tutoring again and I do enjoy it. The extra money has been my petrol money to get me through the month. Im not doing it while im currently off work.
I can't take on too much more as I'm already overloaded with school work (one of the reasons I ended up completely burnt out). I'm seriously considering whether to keep teaching - Ive never wanted to do anything else, but my headteacher has been on my case for about 18 months now and despite having 2 outstanding observations last year she turned down my pay rise application and Im spending every moment not with ds working as it is (before I went off I was getting up at 5am to finish marking before getting ds up at 7, then I'd spend from 7-10/11pm working every night and still not get everything I needed done.
Despite being off work ill, I've loved having the chance to spend more quality time with ds and it has allowed me to stop rushing around and enjoy things more fully.
I'm sorry I know I seem so negative about everything. I really hope things will get better but at the moment ds is the only thing keeping me going.
I think you are expecting way too much both of DS and of yourself.
When you say telling him how to behave - how do you mean? He is only three. And I say that in the kindest tone. I have a 3 year old myself. When you're finding his behavior challenging, think about it from his perspective; why is he doing it? What is he trying to gain from the situation?
If you have been prescribed ADs then please start taking them. Seriously. They take a few weeks to get into your system, but they can make such a remarkable difference to every aspect of your life.
Your ex sounds like a selfish arsehole. I'm so sorry you're dealing with all of his crap. Can you get some advice from the CAB or similar?
Does your ex have the same standards as you, by the way? Do you think DS is maybe coming home frustrated with his dad being too strict on him? It sounds like he is a controlling knob, so it wouldn't be surprising to see this extending to how he interacts with DS.
This probably sounds obvious but would it be worth speaking to your stbxh to set a routine in place? It does sound like he still has the power.
Defo start your anti-depressants asap. It's much worse for your son if you don't because you'll shut down. Trust me on this, I have tried to soldier on so many times only to realise that my son knows I'm struggling and it's upsetting for him.
It may be a case of your son not feeling comfortable enough with his dad to express his feelings and/or behave badly; after all, it sounds as if he has had little contact with him throughout his life. This is clearly a very distressing time for him- transitions are difficult from most 3yos, let alone those going through a family breakdown.
I would suggest leaving the usual disciplinary methods aside and allow your son to be angry (whilst keeping him safe, of course) for a while when he returns from his dad's. His anger is normal and justified; he just doesn't know how to express it. I also second Hatpin's advice to reduce the contact to little and often, as this amount of contact all in one go is having a detrimental effect on your son, for whatever reason- and his needs must come first. Don't tie yourself up in knots trying to do the right thing by future him and do the right thing by the boy he is now.
It should be fine on Xmas day, no one is going to expect anything of a three year old other than tO be completely manic. Certain boundaries yes but be relaxed...
What specific behaviours does he display after coming back. From dad?
And why do you think it is due to ex spoiling him? To a degree that he gets attention from dad is good.
It doesn't sound right to cut contact when there are. No signs of welfare issues per se.
I was recently told by family therapist that actually kids can cope well with differing parenting styles and switching between parents. (and you can't cut contact with a parent for spoiling them can you ? )
So it may Be a case of trying to find a way to handle the transition differently? What happens when he comes home? (dd is older and there are issues over contact which had been cut for long time, it is slowly starting but when she sees dad she comes back in a state and I have to allow a certain amount of leeway for her to express her frustrations.., )
Do you have set routine ?
Is he given a bit of leeway to adjust back to home with you again (maybe allowing for a certain amount of expressive behaviour Let him run around etc whatever it is , before implementing naughty step... ) , maybe establish a set coming home routine, maybe he actually is expressing missing dad who knows ? Or having missed you he pushes the boundAries to test you ?
Let ds express himself and lay off naughty step if he is actually showing behaviour to say get attention or expressing the transition , rather than being naughty wilfully..
All behaviour is communication. Look at what you use naughty step for and whether you can let it go a little or distract or focus on positive reinforcement...
. If you are anxious etc take the meds and get more support from your family.
I'm sorry everything is so shit for you right now
I would talk to your ex and explain to him that your DS is suffering from tiredness when he gets home and he's miserable. Explain to him how small DS still is and how much rest, down time and stuff he needs. Tell him that you want him to be with him as much as possible, but that if DS keeps coming home this upset, tired and miserable then you will have to look at 'little and often' contact instead.
Stop letting your ex dictate your life. Don't cancel plans or let DS go for longer than you think is good for him just because it suits your ex.
As for DS - up the hugs, the explanations and let some stuff go. Impulse control is quite hard when you are three and even harder when you are tired, confused and can't really explain how you feel. I'm not saying let him do as he pleases, but just try to remember why he's acting like that and be a little bit more lenient with him. Try to think of it as not punishing DS for what your Ex has done - if that makes sense.
I would tell your ex that DS is not available on the Sunday/Monday and that he needs to be back by tea time on the Saturday. If he doesn't like it he can piss off - he cannot have it all his way - picking and choosing when he sees DS irrespective of your or your DS's plans.
As for Christmas Day, don't plan to spend it with anyone who can't understand that your three year old has been through something very stressful and is confused/upset/tired and showing it the only way he knows how.
Thank you so much for all your support. I've really felt on my own for quite some time and although I have a very supportive family, it's sometimes hard to ask for help (I'm terrible at it).
We've had a lovely morning so far. DS seems to be back to normal self so far. He 'made' me a cup of tea from his pretend kitchen and when I said thank you replied 'you're most welcome mummy', which made me smile. He's also told me that its a great day to do nothing, so hopefully he had enough rest yesterday to put him back on track today.
Massive thanks again.
Before I wrote on here yesterday I sent stbxh a text message telling him how difficult ds was being and how fed up I was of having to deal with it every 2 weeks. I said that we needed to sort out a consistent approach and that I didn't want to ahve a difficult Xmas day, following ds being at his for the weekend.
He has only just sent me backa message, it reads:
We'll talk about it when I pick him up (he means Friday 21st December). When he's with me he doesn't get away with anything, he spends a lot of time in time out until he says sorry. When in centre parcs his response to being told off was to ask for you, which frankly makes me think he gets away with too much at yours or the childminders.... I'd appreciate you not sending me messages like this, it's not the first time. Next time you do I'll be totally despondent. See you in a couple of weeks, hope ds' behaviour improves.
I now just want to send him another message telling how much of a tawt he is and that I don't care about relations between us being good (this wont help matters I know, but I never get the chance to have my voice herad when he is around), I must refrain.
The problem is, I only send him messages, because when he is here I don't want to have a conversation with him. I just want to get him away from me as soon as possible. My mind goes blank and I don't get to say what I want to say. I'm now worried he's being too strict with my poor ds. He really is a narcissistic pig! Grrrrrrrrr!
Sorry - rant over.
Don't be too quick to blame your DS's behaviour on a lack of consistency or getting away with stuff at his father's.
It's quite possible- likely even- that your DS is just very confused and upset by the family breakdown and is behaving in this way because he doesn't know how to handle his feelings. He loves you both and cannot reconcile this with the fact that you no longer love each other. He will, of course, but it will take time.
It doesn't mean that anyone is doing anything wrong. Break ups are painful; as adults we deal with them by shouting, crying and drinking too much. Children tend to misbehave. It could be that he's testing you both to see if you will stop loving him like you stopped loving each other. It may be that he is just very angry- you know him best.
Either way, the answer is not necessarily to be firmer (although firm boundaries are a good idea) or blame each other, but to acknowledge and validate his feelings, letting him know it's ok to be angry and that angry feelings won't last forever.
Oh Wookie, you come across as a good and and conscientious person who is trying so hard to do what's right, with no help, that you've exhausted yourself from the effort! Worse, some people in your life seem to be trading on your good conscience, to make things easier for themselves. And much harder for you. I hate to see good people put upon and worn out in this way.
So I'm going to suggest something. Ease back, and stop trying so hard. Then, take a breath, and move yourself to centre stage in your life.
Some suggestions to help with this. ...First, your wellbeing is suffering if you've been prescribed ad's and you're not taking them. Please think about taking that first dose, today, so you can deal with any possible side effects right now, instead of later. You might be surprised at how much it clears your thinking. This will help you and your son.
Second, try modelling someone who is a bit selfish and irresponsible. Yes, really! Try on the persona of someone who is nice, but couldn't care less. Can you see your way clear to pushing your own agenda a little, if you do that?
So for example, in your mind, tell people what you're going to do at Christmas. Don't try and fit in with them. Tell them what you want and what's going to happen.
How might that feel. Could you do it in real life?.....
I'm not suggesting you become selfish, just try on a 'me-first' attitude for a change.
Thank you. I'm tired of crying all the time, but ladywordy, that just sent me over the edge again (in a good way this time) Thank you everyone for your kindness, feedback and support.
It's true, I don know how to say no. I don't know how to put myself first. I've even forgotten how to chill out and just enjoy myself. I've even made myself take up cross stitch (sad i know but i feel like I've not achieved anything by sitting in front of the tv). It's not easy to have lower expectations of myself. When you're a teacher you're told to work harder, do more, be better - it's never ending and it's pretty toxic sometimes, but all I've ever wanted is to be a good role model to my class and my son. At the moment I jus feel like I've let everyone down.
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