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Son's relationship with his Dad

(15 Posts)
thisparentingstuffishard Fri 07-Oct-16 13:25:47

Help! My 12 year old DS doesn't want to go overnight to his Dad's any more but doesn't want to tell him (or for me to say anything either).

Separated and divorced 4 years now. 2 DC's (8 and 12). EXH moved in with younger OW who he married 18 months ago. Saw our kids little and often eg for tea or day out or their activities for 2 years but he wouldn't do overnights then (wanted to wait to buy a house). He works shifts so harder to find a regular pattern for overnights eg same day each week or weekends. He does have them during the holidays during the day and has taken them away a couple of times but doesn't phone or skype them in between visits and hasn't encouraged them to call him either - they know they can any time. It's ended up being a once a week overnight and maybe once after school for tea which the kids seemed to like until recently.

To be honest when he left I was completely shell shocked and just wanted to minimise the impact on them day to day if I could. I was the main carer so they were used to him being at work a lot so we sort of rolled on like before just in separate places and he's got on with his new life and seen them when it suited him to be blunt . I know how bitter I must sound - I'm more angry than anything about how crap he's been (I'm letting rip here but the kids have no idea as I have always been very civil). I think they deserve better.

I work FT. To be honest I NEED the one night a week just to catch my breath. When they first started going overnight the plan was to do 2 nights a week but they hated the one time they did and went back to 1.

Now DS1 doesn't want to go overnight at all. I've asked why and he says there's nothing to do there, they don't go out or do anything just watch TV (which to be fair isn't a world away from life when he's with me albeit he has friends just round the corner). And that he doesn't like his dad that much really and would rather be here.

Ex isn't easy to discuss this or anything with. Any reluctance from DS is met with "well it's not an option, you're coming" so I totally understand why DS1 doesn't fancy a casual chat with his dad about it. And he's worried if I bring it up then it will make his time there more difficult.

Feeling a bit torn. Want them to have a decent relationship with their dad but also want to support DS1 and am glad he's felt able to talk to me about it. No court order for contact.

Sorry it's long, but any suggestions?

qwom Fri 07-Oct-16 13:32:46

I'm afraid in the eyes of the court a 12 year old is usually capable of deciding whether they want to go or not. So even if there was a court order your DS would be able to say he didn't want to go anyway.

You're DS is getting older, your Ex is going to have to accept that his son doesn't want to see him all the time, there may be times that he does and times he doesn't.

My only suggestion is to make excuses for your DS not being able to attend any more...

I feel for you on your free one night a week. I have nc with my DC 'father' so I rarely get any time!

nicenewdusters Fri 07-Oct-16 14:23:07

I've had a very similar situation, my son is a bit younger than yours. Our compromise is that he still goes there that evening, but either I (or ex, usually me!) brings him home. It's a 15 min drive, don't know if that's an option for you.

My ex was hurt/sad/upset (according to my dd) when my ds started telling him that he didn't want to stay over. They had a reasonable relationship before we split, but he never really "got" our ds. I started saying that he really ought to stay, and he does if I have plans. He generally comes back because it's an earlier start the next day, or he says he's bored.

I decided that if he would rather be here then so be it. If his own dad wasn't enough for him to want to stay then, to be honest, tough luck on my ex. He's Mr Victim, and I can imagine not always a barrel of laughs, so if his son would rather be here then that's his problem.

As for telling your ex. I think you should take the responsibility out of your son's hands. Say that you understand why he doesn't want to tell his dad, and that his dad is entitled to be upset. However, by the same token his dad needs to understand that your ds gets a choice, and that you will be telling ex not to make an issue of it with him. None of my contact is court ordered by the way.

What's the worst that can happen after you've told your ex? He says something unkind to your ds next time he sees him. You can then say this is exactly why he doesn't want to stay with you, because you're like this. If it affects your ds' relationship with his dad that's your ex's problem. You can't micro manage that side of his life. Your son has every right to comment upon his contact with his dad, you have every right to tell your ex how he feels, and to be his spokesperson.

And no, you don't sound at all bitter. I bet your ex wasn't worrying about his relationship with his dc when he met the OW?

You sound like a great mum, and your son will thank and respect you for being the better parent.

Clarinet1 Fri 07-Oct-16 15:14:27

Just a thought - in terms of giving you "Me" time is there anyone besides EX who could have DS overnight at least occasionally? GPs? Auntie? Uncle? Friend whose parents are perhaps also separated and you could may be return the favour by having the friend?

donners312 Fri 07-Oct-16 15:53:46

You don't sound bitter at all. Yes maybe see if someone else could have DS so you can get a break?

I would just let his Dad know that DS just want's a bit of a break and that you will continue to try to encourage him to go and stay (honestly! ;0))

adora1 Fri 07-Oct-16 16:18:14

I'd not make him go and I'd tell my ex he doesn't want to, he's 12 so tough, it's a really sad story on here about how useless these men are that their own children don't even want to spend a night with them......

thisparentingstuffishard Fri 07-Oct-16 16:30:35

Thanks everyone. Really helped reading your replies. It's helped me to decide it's not absolutely not fair on a 12 year old to have to try to have that discussion - he needs to want to go, it's for him after all, and if he doesn't ex will have to suck it up and make more of an effort with him.

I'm going to have a chat with DS later and then I've asked ex to make some time to discuss contact now DS is getting older and has other interests and stuff outside of home - not that I think that will happen (my fantasy of amicable co-parenting went south a long time ago) and if he shrugs the idea off I will just have to tell him how it is. Maybe using donners suggestion! Ex lives a few miles away and yes I could pick DS up if he wanted me to.

I feel really selfish for wanting the odd night off - the kids are great and I love having them. I'm lucky that I do have family who help sometimes but my job means I have to keep those favours for times I need to work late or away. Hats off to those doing this 24/7 every day for years.

nicenewdusters Fri 07-Oct-16 16:43:38

Don't feel selfish. You were left with a 4 and an 8 year old. He didn't want overnights for 2 years until he had a house. Could that also be that he didn't want two young children spoiling things in his new set up with the OW? I bet he didn't worry then if his dc were thinking why can't we stay over night at dads. So tough luck now that they may not want to stay over with him - and her.

I probably do sound bitter, but am actually not. Just hardened and a bit battle weary. So many threads on here where women are trying so hard to co-parent with foolish, selfish men. You may wish to join us on the current thread Support for those trying to co-parent with a narc or difficult ex!

Hope your chats go the way you want them to. It's good your ds felt able to say what he wanted out of the relationship.

GeorgeTheThird Fri 07-Oct-16 16:50:18

If you think about teenagers as they get older they often spend most of their time in their own rooms. The room at his dad's isn't his own room, not really. I think that's often the root of it, to be honest, nothing more. Your ex needs not to push it. My teenagers only stay over about once a month, but they see their dad for dinner most weeks. That's all they want.

Joysmum Fri 07-Oct-16 17:02:12

Personally I'd gone down the route of asking your DS if there's anything his dad can do you make him want to carry on with the overnights?

If there isn't, fair enough. My experience of my DD at that age was that she still wasn't always able to say how she felt so not to take things at face value and learn to ask the right questions. It's just as important to be sure of why, as to know he doesn't want to.

Cary2012 Fri 07-Oct-16 18:01:38

I agree with Joysmum about finding out why if you can, rather than just accepting it.

My DS is now a strapping great 6'2" 19 year old. He was 13 when his twunt of a father buggered off. He's never stayed overnight, and twunt, rather than accepting that his son might be angry with him (which is exactly why he's never sayed overnight) decided to adopt his default setting, which is blaming me for turning him against him. This could not be further from the truth, I have bent over backwards encouraging DS to stay at his dad's. Then I realised, when DS was about 16, that I was being unfair on him, he didn't want to stay, so fair enough, he doesn't.

What I'm saying is put your lad first. I think he's growing up and starting to see that he doesn't like the way his dad treated his mum. The mother/son bond can never be underestimated. So there may be anger there.

When twunt left, he took a huge gamble with his relationship with his three kids: he thought he'd just carry on fine with them. He has lost out with all three although he has an ok relationship with his 2 DDs, he's lost his son. It's the price he paid. He was arrogant enough to think his kids would be happy for him and the OW, they're not, as they grow older they've seen him for the selfish man he is. I've never run him down to them, but I haven't covered for him either.

Put your son first. He's growing up, respect his choice. Put your flak jacket on because his dad will probably blame you, but like me you've got broad shoulders, so just rise above it.

Cary2012 Fri 07-Oct-16 18:04:48

Oh, and meant to add, he's at the sleepover age, does he have a friend who could stay over, then he could stay over at friend's to give y a much needed break?

instantly Fri 07-Oct-16 18:17:24

I'm having exactly this with my DS at the minute except he's only five. I've been putting him in the car crying hysterically and it's horrific.

I too have come to the conclusion (even with such a young child) that forcing him will only damage the relationship long term. I think for them to have this reaction shows a weakness in the foundation of the relationship. All you can do is take it right back to basics and look at it as an opportunity to rebuild the foundation. If your ex doesn't want to then that says it all really.

Take it back to what your son IS comfortable with, and just do that for a while. Then work on building it back up.

I hear you on the losing your down time too - I'm secretly struggling between being pleased my DS wants to spend more time with me and disappointed that my only night off a fortnight has gone south!

thisparentingstuffishard Sat 08-Oct-16 18:58:33

Thanks everyone, lots to think about. I have asked a lot more around why he feels this way and think it's a combination of a lot of things - definitely yes to having his own space and stuff and friends around him - I do think he feels like a visitor at his dad's. He gets on fine with his step mum so it's not that and she does let them have time together without her being around.

I also think he resents having to go to and fro.

This might be the time to revisit the whole thing and give him more say in what happens I think. Hopefully it will prompt his dad to step up.

Dusters I read the thread you mentioned - yes I might have to shuffle over there as can totally relate!!

nicenewdusters Sat 08-Oct-16 19:07:13

Sounds like a plan OP, things do need to change as they get older.

Maybe see you on the other thread.

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