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To think my children are having a shit childhood and not know what to do about it

(93 Posts)
Lunaluce Sun 17-Dec-17 21:58:43

After another stress-filled weekend I'm sitting feeling a failure again and don't know what to do.

Dc are 10 & 8 yr old boys and I am divorced. The think I struggle with so much is the fact that they are so different and argue so bloody much. Every weekend I negotiate a minefield of squabbles and bickering until I finally flip at the end and a horrible shout ensues leaving us all in tears.

They never want to do the same thing. I read threads on here about people playing board games and snuggling watching films etc and wonder why there's no harmony like that in my house. Everything is a tortured argument about whose turn it is to choose, it's not fair etc etc and I hear myself snapping, saying negative things to them and feel so awful but it all makes me feel so shit it's so hard to sound positive and be patient. They did play Monopoly tonight but it ended in tears as usual - I don't know why we bother. National Trust place was shit really as they kept trying to make each other laugh making fart noises in the café and they didn't want to run about and let off steam which I think they need.

Bloody screens are a nightmare - it seems to be all ds2 wants to do and ds1 is writing a politics book so seems unfair to limit him, but 'it's not fair!' yet all sd2 wants to do is watch videos of other people doing stuff he won't bloody do!

I work f/t in a very stressful job and I honestly think I'm taking it out on them which is awful - I don't snap at people at work and cry randomly like I do at home and that's awful. But at weekends I feel I don't stop. I have low standards and have done no real cooking this weekend yet I've barely sat down either and there's so much I haven't done.

They spend Mondays at their dad's and a small bit of weekend time too and he does nothing with them. Ds1 complains of being bored there (to me, wouldn't to dad) and ds2 loves it as there's no limits on screen time. I think that's why he never wants to do a lot at home - it's like he's forgotten how to play and when he does do other stuff it's annoying shit like get every paint pot out, pour out a lake of it, paint a tiny lego doll, then leave it all or be nagged by me to clean it up after 5 minutes of 'craft'. I feel ex doesn't interact with them an awful lot, and if I try to put routines etc in place to adjust their behaviour it all goes to shit because of the time they spend there. But I can't cut it back because I need to work - he gives me nothing and has very limited earning potential.

I just don't know what to do. Their childhoods are nearly over and I'm fucking it up. All they'll remember is me shouting and none of the stress is their fault. Their dad is shit and there's nothing I can do about that either. It's a pointless post anyway but it did feel good to vent...

Sunnyjac Sun 17-Dec-17 22:03:18

Don’t know how to help but flowers

grannytomine Sun 17-Dec-17 22:07:36

Mine were active and into lots of stuff but they still fought constantly, nearly as bad now they are all grown up. They wouldn't let anyone else do it, would stick up for each other regardless but oh God the fighting. I've left instructions that when I am dying they aren't allowed to sit round the bed as I don't want to leave this world to the sound of them arguing yet again.

Farontothemaddingcrowd Sun 17-Dec-17 22:11:32

I feel the same OP. I didn't know parenting would be so hard. I have three who squabble constantly.

Nettleskeins Sun 17-Dec-17 22:34:31

They sounded as if they were having a good time in the cafe making fart noises, even if it was a bit gruelling to be their mum at that moment! I so get the depression you can feel when your children appear to be quarrelling all the time. I didn't work, and wasn't divorced and mine still quarrelled all the time, so it is not because you are giving them a shit childhood, really it isnt.

Going on outings, playing board games, craft activities, all tend to take an enormous amount of time and cause a lot of stress in proportion to their "rewards" but don't stop now, you will find it gets slowly better when they get used to it. Dcs used to fight continually playing board games, both my dsons have SNs to do with social communication although average IQ, but it is slowly got better and now they can play Monopoly, Poker, etc happily. Games like Articulate and Charades (board game version) were very helpful and lots of laughter too. Ds now enjoys Scrabble too although he is dylexic. The same with outings, over time they have got used to trips together and fight less.

I think it is just tension to do with not quite knowing how things are going to work out. Often children of that age, like everything very structured in the sense of knowing what happens next, even in play. So we eat at same cafe if we go out, or go to same cinema outing. It makes everyone relax.

Goodness there have been some horrendous scenes though, one where ds2 stormed off in the middle of Kew Gardens aged 10 because his brother was being "mean" to him. Endlessly wearing and stressful times.

I think you should start giving yourself an enormous pat on the back for coping with them singlehandedly and working FT. Maybe just being at home with them at the weekends is all they really want atm, in these dark winter days, with possibly one structured activitiy so you can have a bit of a break..perhaps a indoor sports session, like football or perhaps drama club? Stage coach sometimes has good classes, 3 hours on a sat (singing dancing and acting v g way to let off steam)

Perhaps just walk to local park, cup of hot choc, bit of climbing is enough, no need to go anywhere fancy even. Most kids like a cafe as part of the deal though, just to have a reason to go out, walking for the sake of it is seldom appreciated!

thanks Another tip is a big Lego set (before Xmas) to occupy them building it, or a cd of a musical, in our house Joseph and Matilda were very popular to sing along to, dance to. Or a friend used to get her kids to chop pics out of the Argos cat to make a list for father Xmas (not necessary to buy any of it, the cutting and sticking were fun and bonding)

Crispbutty Sun 17-Dec-17 22:37:39

Do they not have friends they can go and play out with?

BikeRunSki Sun 17-Dec-17 22:40:59

My two 6 and 9, b and g, squabble, argue, criticise and undermine each other constantly. Sometimes I can ignore it, but sometimes - like today - I really loose my temper!

AmateurDad Sun 17-Dec-17 22:43:24

I feel so sorry for you OP and I would just like you to know that this feels so, so familiar. When my eldest was small it was very easy but it’s got harder and harder as the kids have got older to keep them entertained ... and the fights are terrible, and very frequent. I sometimes wonder how on earth I thought I could ever be a father.. but all you can do is your best - and don’t you forget it X

Nettleskeins Sun 17-Dec-17 22:43:52

Also there is a lot of crafts that I would absolutely avoid at that age and when I was overwhelmed with other stuff/housework/mess. Anything with paint for one. Anything with glitter. Anything with flour.

But cake mixes (you find them in supermarkets) sticking and gluing projects, paper chains, lego (dry!!) colouring flags, football stickers (expensive but v harmonious activity for two boys in our house) planting bulbs on a large plastic tablecloth in coloured pots. Making a photo frame out of cardboard and decorating with stickers or jewels also went down well. Or painting leaves gold (one colour of paint only)

Nettleskeins Sun 17-Dec-17 22:46:42

Or maybe just accept they like different activities indoors but compromise on brief outing together every day and meals together? ds2 liked aeroplanes and playing with them, ds1 only interested in music and films, ds2 hated films and hated even things like Dr Who. Later became more interested in same stuff as ds1, although still not really into film or serious music much.

Lunaluce Sun 17-Dec-17 22:48:33

It's good to know I'm not the only one - flowers to us all!

I think maybe they do want to be at home rather than go out, but I get tired and grumpy if we stay in and have jobs I should be doing staring me in the face all day! It also gets hard to keep them off screens, especially ds2 and ds1 seems so dissatisfied with everything. He wants to be talking to me a lot, which I am happy to do, but he'll say "what shall we talk about" which is a not great conversation opener... I constantly feel I'm letting him down.

Friends are another failing of mine, as we have no one we meet up with They seem fine at school but rarely get asked anywhere - playdates are not really possible for me and I cut off a few other people wed knew following ex's infidelity. It's another source of guilt tbh.

Tawdrylocalbrouhaha Sun 17-Dec-17 22:48:56

It sounds exhausting but be reassured that things like the farting noises and board games that always end in chaos are key parts of the sibling experience. They will laugh about both in future years, and won't feel that they had a shit childhood at all.

Also the younger one is at that age where they grow out of playing but unless they are into sport, not having anything to replace it with. Tiresome but normal.

It all sounds tough on you, and exhausting, but you don't need to feel guily or helpless. They are just at a graceless age!

stella23 Sun 17-Dec-17 22:49:24

I can really relate to the bickering, it really gets me down, it's almost like they wait for me to step out the room and then it starts. Muummmmm he did this, he did that. I'm starting to dread the Christmas holidays

HelenaJustina Sun 17-Dec-17 22:54:39

If they need to run it off but won’t, what about organised sport? Football, squash, rugby or something a bit different like archery or fencing.

Sign them up together, they’ll have to rely on each other/feel comforted at the others presence if they don’t know anyone else. Facing adversity or a challenge together always bonds my DC a bit closer.

Or swimming, drop them off at one of those inflatable sessions and sit in the cafe with a book and a cup of tea. Be the best Mum ever by having food to throw at the when they come out!

HeddaGarbled Sun 17-Dec-17 22:55:58

Honestly, this all sounds perfectly normal to me. Competitive games with children will generally result in tears and tantrums from the one who is losing and insufferable crowing from the one who is winning. Even adults can't get through a game of monopoly without wanting to stab at least one other player.

National Trust places are not the first choice entertainment for 8 & 10 year olds. Making fart noises in the cafe is probably the only way they can get through such a boring day out.

Give up with the middle class educational pursuits and enforced family togetherness. Invite their friends round, send them off to friends' houses (separately), go swimming or to other activities at your local leisure centre, enrol them in activities of their choice (separately), allow them to follow their separate interests at home.

Siblings need space from each other and to pursue their individual interests and friendships. Being given that space enables them to be more tolerant of each other as they grow older.

peachypips Sun 17-Dec-17 22:56:01

You aren’t fucking it up bless you. Or if you are then so are most parents!

I find pre-emptive parenting works best. You could start the weekend off every week on a Fri dinner time by eating a meal at the table together and deciding as a three what you are going to do for the whole weekend. Negotiate sharing control of it. Say to them something along the lines of ‘Right. From now on we are going to plan the weekend on a Friday together. You will each get a say in what we do, but if we are doing something that the other has chosen then you have to make the effort to get on board with it. Then everyone gets to do something they want to do with the full agreement of us all. We will only use screens from - til - on Sat and - til - on Sun as they make us grumpy...’

I think kids like plans and boundaries and for things to be the same so they know what to expect. It makes them feel safe.

Take it or leave it obv! Good luck x

ssd Sun 17-Dec-17 22:56:42

op, you are giving yourself a really hard time here when it sounds like you're holding it all together and doing it alone, so you should be patting yourself on the back for this and this alone.

so what your kids fight, so what they don't have crafts and shit at home, so what not every meal is home cooked from scratch, they've got a mum who is holding down a job, keeping them fed and watered and doing this with no help from their lousy father

as time goes on your boys will get more independant and get out from under your feet and see less of each other and the constant fighting at home will lessen

hang on in there, keep talking to them and try not to fret that you're doing it all wrong, you're doing what you can and thats all we can all say at the end of the day thanks

Miloarmadillo2 Sun 17-Dec-17 22:57:36

Is your DH having one at a time to give you some one to one time with each of them ( even if it's only a few hours or alternate weekends) an option? I have two boys 11 and 7 and they constantly squabble. They both need adult attention but trying to keep the pair of them happy is very wearing. One tip for conversation openers is the game 'Sussed' which gets you to think about what the other person would do in various real or hypothetical situations. There is a family friendly version for ages 6+ ( as well as more adult versions so pick carefully!) Might help you chat to DS1 or even get them to consider the other sibling's point of view!

Babyroobs Sun 17-Dec-17 23:00:33

Do you have friends/ relatives that you could meet up with for part of the weekend, perhaps with kids of a similar age ? It might just diffuse things a bit if there are other kids around. Or could they each do an activity - are they into football/ rugby/ martial arts anything like that ? It may involve running them around a bit but might be worth it if it's something they really enjoy. Hope things improve for you soon .

ssd Sun 17-Dec-17 23:01:07

things my boys hated

any national trust stuff

and crafts or reading or school related stuff outside of school

any veg/fruit....

any organised playdates or clubs that weren't of their choosing

family walks

I could go on

ssd Sun 17-Dec-17 23:03:32

oh and any waiting around for the other one to finish something, esp the oldest waiting for the youngest

anything that had them both competing in something together (cue fighting)

the youngest beating the eldest in something (cue more fighting)

HeddaGarbled Sun 17-Dec-17 23:06:10

"What shall we talk about?" Ah yes, I had one of those! Often, when she'd got in my bed at some ridiculously early hour on a weekend morning.

SchoolNightWine Sun 17-Dec-17 23:06:44

I loved this bit that you wrote, and think it proves that you're obviously doing a much better job than you're giving yourself credit for:
He wants to be talking to me a lot, which I am happy to do,
We have a tin with questions written on slips of paper for times like this. Kids come out with some awesome answersgrin Check out this website for ideas for questions -

LovingLola Sun 17-Dec-17 23:07:47

Screens are the work of the devil.

annandale Sun 17-Dec-17 23:07:53

TBH it sounds like you are doing an amazing job.

Sending them off to separate things they can make their own friends at might be good. Or just to separate friends' houses if you can find any. Might be nice to send one off and just have a bit of time 1:1 or even a complete break. Look out for parents of only children who should bite your hand off to have a playmate for their child.

Have they got a chore or two each? We were never brilliant at this but pick 2 chores you hate doing and allocate them?

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