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Why can't daddy stay for sleepover? How to stop exH manipulating 4yo?(20 Posts)
We split years ago but exH failed to move out until towards the end of last year. Long story but very stereotypical - functional alcoholic, feckless spendthrift, zero sense of responsibility for his actions.
DD has been largely fine with her dad living elsewhere since he moved, sometimes disappointed that he can't play all night when he visits but never terribly upset about him going.
In the last few weeks, she has started asking me why daddy can't stay for sleepovers, sometimes very tearfully. Normally, I just say that he has his own home now and his own comfy bed there. Once she asked in front of him and he said "because Mummy doesn't want me to, does she?", like a sulky teenager.
He has raised the issue and pushed to stay over himself several times to make visiting DD more convenient for him (he chose to move over an hour away). It all went quiet after I made it clear that the answer was never going to be yes but it seems like the same question is now being channelled through our dd.
DD is very sensitive and he does have form for this kind of manipulation (e.g. telling DD that he'd run out of money and had nothing to eat which upset her so much that she was trying to save him sandwiches from her nursery; or telling her he didn't have enough money to come on the train to see her so that she started trying to collect loose change from around the house. In both cases, I suspect that he wanted me to take pity on him and give him cash, sympathy or the use of the sofabed, none of which were forthcoming. He earns well above the national average wage and in both cases had just spent his salary on booze and general crap and was broke until payday.)
What is he trying to do? How can I stop him or stop whatever he's doing from distressing my DD?
Advice and experience very much welcomed.
Ugh, how horrible for you. Get this book, it will help you understand what is going on in his head and how you can help dd. It's about emotional abuse post separation too.
Do not give in to him, that is the worst lesson that you can give dd, that you need do whatever daddy wants to keep him happy. You not wanting him to sleepover is a good enough reason to keep him off your sofabed. She sounds like a sweet thoughtful girl. You can help her to understand that daddy is a grown up and should behave like a grown up - manage his money and keep his "problems" (real or pretend) off the shoulders of a child.
Tell your DD that her dad is being silly, playing games, 'fibbing', making up stories or 'pretending'... something age-appropriate that makes it clear he is unreliable, doesn't always mean what he says and she should take no notice. You could even tell her the cautionary tale about the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Children are small but not daft IME and can cope with that kind of information.
For his part, I would tell him straight that you know what he's doing, he's upsetting your DD and it has to stop. Reinforce this legally if necessary.
Why is he seeing her at your house? I think this is part of the problem as it is confusing for her, plus, not allowing him in draws a clear boundary for him
Your poor DD, I'd want to batter him personally and I abhor violence. How dare he try and put his failings on a childs shoulders. You've raised a lovely caring daughter and should be proud.
Cogito has it right.
No, contact isn't meant to be at my house although it started that way (further backstory in a previous post on this one). The pickups and drop offs are still too long and exH still finds excuses to draw me in to their contact inside or outside the house (e.g. being unable to find wellies or other appropriate clothing; putting weeping and incoherent DD on the phone and saying that she wants her mum - she's fine by the time I get there but he knows I can't ignore it).
The idea is meant to be that he collects her, takes her to park, beach, cafe etc.. and then returns her. In practice, it's a whole other thread.
Will she build up to sleepovers at his house eventually?
He doesn't live anywhere appropriate for children or with room for children and never sees himself doing so. He actually laughed when I mentioned shared residence as an eventual possibility when trying to explain to him how other non-resident parents handled contact.
Given his lifestyle and shoddy judgment, I can't say that I'm sorry or will be pushing for her ever to spend more than a few hours with him at a time.
Cogito - We do have lots of "silly daddy" conversations, sometimes instigated by DD to make sense of the nonsense he is clearly spouting. I'm quite careful not to let these descend into rants against him but I will continue to make it clear that what daddy says isn't always true. It's a fine line to tread, especially when she quotes him saying things that, true or false, are just too big to lay on a child's shoulders (daddy is broke, miserable or hungry, for example).
Then I'd just say 'It's a shame daddy can't have you sleep over, but he doesn't have any spare beds at his house'. Let her ask him about when he will be able to have her stay.
He doesn't care about her at all, does he?
She's to him just something he can use to get to you.
I suggest you stop being present for handover. Do you have anyone who can be in the house in your place and who he must contact instead of you if there are issues during his pitiful little contact?
If he realises that he can't get hold of you, I expect that he will stop with all this crap.
I think you need to be breezily matter of fact: "Daddy doesn't live here, which is why he doesn't sleep here. One day, you'll be able to go for a sleepover at his house, and AFAIAC you can do this as soon as he's living somewhere suitable.
Can you go to mediation or similar? This is really quite alarming and I don't think it will stop any time soon.
It's not on for him to say these things to her, you shouldn't have to be trying to explain it, and there's no way there should be leeway for him to be asserting his control at pick ups and drop offs.
If he's not co-operating then you need to draw a stronger boundary - whether that means you get someone else involved is up to you.
Mediation with someone this manipulative is awful. They will make the mediator feel sorry for them and twist everything to explain away their crappy behaviour. I'm not saying don't do it, just be prepared. A good mediator might be able to handle him but ultimately ex won't stick to whatever you agree if it doesn't suit him. Good to show you have tried if it gets ugly but it doesn't sound like he will be going for residency anyway.
I'd normally advocate stopping contact and letting him take you to court, because he sounds far too incompetent and disorganised to actually do so.
However I can see this distressing your DD further, so I think Hecsy's suggestion is best: cut your contact with him, get someone else to do handovers and get all arrangments to be email-only. And reassure her that Daddy's being silly and telling fibs etc. It's actually perfectly OK to point out when a parent is behaving badly. You don't need to 'present a united front' when the other parent is being an arsehole.
Thanks for all the thinking and advice on this thread.
I will be as clear as I can with DD when her dad is not telling the truth. I don't know why I'm squeamish about this at all.
I have a very good childminder who would at least temporarily be able to handle pick up and drop-offs. Thinking about this today, the idea of potentially stepping back and turning off my phone makes me face the fact that I don't really trust exH to look after DD.
Last weekend he was late, disorganised about where they were going, dressed in dirty, unkempt clothes, looking unwashed. Did the whole "DD really wants her mum" trip and I ended up escorting them by bus to a park with an outdoor paddling pool.
At the park, he largely sat around some distance from us and DD did most of her talking and playing with me. He played directly with her for around 15 mins while I read a book.
When it was time to catch a bus back, he was again lagging behind and leaving me to sort out DD. At the bus stop, I realised he was still in the park and nearly just took DD back with me on the bus alone. Remembering that I'd seen two police officers at the park entrance, I went back to see what had happened.
Basically, the police had attended to investigate reports of a strange man behaving suspiciously in the play area without a child and wanted to talk to exH. I got there just as he was telling them that he didn't know his own phone number or current address.
Seeing me and DD, and learning that he was my exH, the situation was apparently sufficiently explained and they let him go.
This is the second time the local police have stopped him for questioning this year. On the basis of his weekend appearance, ragged clothing, smell, I am unsurprised that he is attracting negative attention.
Instinctively, I don't want to leave my DD alone with exH. This is probably a big part of the reason why I keep letting myself get drawn in to contact time.
He claims that he loves her but his actions and lifestyle don't bear it out. I have images of him either dragging her into a pub for hours, ending up being questioned at a police station while she's left with total strangers, or ignoring her for most of the day while he plays on his playstation.
My advice is to stop contact, he clearly isn't able to look after himself let alone your DD, from what you are describing. His being dishevelled, dirty, smelly etc is horrifying to me, I don't think it's good for your DD to see him like that. As for the rest of it it's just emotional abuse of both you and your DD, you need to put a stop to it as it's so damaging. I am very much against facilitating contact at all costs, contact should always be of benefit to the child and what you're describing really doesn't sound that way. I think this is a case of letting him reach rock bottom in the hope he'll get help but having to face the fact that he may not. None of this is your fault, he's an addict.
Cogito mentioned legal steps. Can anyone advise on what action is open to me? i.e. His behaviour disgusts and concerns me but do I have legal grounds to act to limit or stop contact with DD?
Could I apply for a court order that contact only takes place at a contact centre for example? Or is discontinued until/unless he sorts himself out (never will...)
Would I need to speak to a social worker or GP about my concerns?
I don't have any experience of this. Every other divorce I've seen IRL has been pretty clear cut on children: either totally shared care or complete abandonment by one parent.
To top it off, I've had an odd email from one of my SILs this week and am still mulling over how to reply. It's a "something must be done about your exH" kind of email sparked by her being shocked with the latest police incident. I agree with the sentiments but (from bitter experience) think what she is proposing in terms of "enforcing standards on his behaviour" is absurd and will just drag her down. I'll probably start a separate thread on that one. She's trying to be helpful, I think.
I couldn't sleep with thinking about all this last night and found myself as angry with exH as during our divorce (when he just stayed in situ for almost two years while claiming he was moving). I resent all the time and energy he has taken from me which should be focused on DD.
One of my few regrets in life is not finding some way to end the marriage and kick him out when I was pregnant. Too busy, it stupidly seemed at the time. And I couldn't quite believe what was happening.
So much of DD's life so far has just been overshadowed by this drunken, feckless manchild at the back of everything going "me, me, me, me". What a complete tosser!
That he is sufficiently unkempt to attract attention of the police is a worry, to say nothing of the horrible mind games heis playing with your daughter.
I assume you don't have any orders in place at the moment?
From what you have said I think you would not be criticised if you said that contact would only be at contact centre from now on, or supervised by other adult until he can sort himself out so that his behaviour and appearance improve.
If he was unhappy with that he could take you to court and you can thrash it out there, or it will be a wake up call for him.
Not sure mediation sounds a runner from what you describe.
But I think you have to do something as he sounds both odd and unpleasant.
OK, stop all contact. This fuckwit is doing your DD no good at all. Have a chat with a solicitor about restraining orders etc so you can stop the man from turning up on your doorstep, stinking and sobbing. Even if he were to pull himself together enough to apply for court-enforced contact you would still be able to block it if, for instance, he turned up drunk or acting strangely. If a court does order contact it is for the benefit of the child and you would be able (for instance) to request drug/alcohol tests be performed before he is allowed to see her.
ANd tell your DD that her dad is not very well and needs to stay away until he's better. It's possible that cutting him out of your lives may inspire him to get a grip, seek treatment, turn into a reasonable human being, in which case contact can be resumed, but he may decide to drink himself to death.
And WRT the email from your SIL, tell her that this man is no longer your problem and therefore you will not be getting involved in attempts to help him.
Imagine he was your babysitter for dd and turned up as he did. Would you then leave dd In. His care a. No.
If you turned up at school and her teacher was dishevelled and unkempt what would you do ? Leave dd or report to the head teacher ? Being her dad doesn't mean he can get away with not being a fit parent.
So stop contact, stop supervising contact your self and make it clear that dd cannot see him right now until he gets better.
You can't trust him to take care of her so you end up babysitting them both. He attracts police attention.
Yes talk to your gp. Get it recorded somewhere.
In absence of court order you can stop contact on grounds he isn't fit to look after himself let alone a child. Speak to police and ask if they have these incidents recorded.
Arrange supervised contact eg the sister ? Drop dd with his sister have her supervise contact.
Or look up contact centres locally www.naccc.org.uk
If his sister can speak to his gp that also gives a paper trail of concern over his well being Mental health etc and need for him to get support if he is to see dd. it does not need to be you providing that support .
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