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What do you think of this suggestion?

(34 Posts)
breaktheroutine Wed 10-Apr-13 12:15:38

DSSs are 17 and 14. Since the court order was issued 11 years ago (DH had to go to court because his ex who had left him after her having an affair, wouldn't let him see the children), access has been strictly adhered to.

The children are "not allowed" to see their father outside of the strict access rota. So this means that DH collects them at 6pm on a Friday, EOW, and returns them at 6pm on a Sunday. They live 4 miles away and both DP & I and their mother live almost next to a bus stop on a main bus route (buses every 5 mins).

So clearly the children are still being treated like very young children. They have no social lives at all and so the access has remained unchanged since the youngest was 3. It is worth including that the children are very frightened of anything that risks annoying their mother (such as being 5 minutes late home on a Sunday evening for example, which apparently sets her off into a mad rage).

The routine has become so entrenched that no-one (except me!) seems to question it any more. So it appears out of the question for example that DSSs are more than capable of, heaven forbid, getting the bus to our house instead of DH driving there and back and collecting them. Sundays in particular are a continuing problem - like most teenagers they get up late and so breakfast is often not until 10 or after for them. Meaning it's silly to have lunch earlier than 1 for example. So in order to have the evening meal eaten on time and all their stuff ready to go home etc., there is usually a mad panic to get the meal made and eaten. This means that often they are hurridely gobbling down their food, not finishing it, leaving the table while I/DH/DS are still eating to run around stresing over being late home.

Now, whilst clearly an option would be to start making dinner earlier, this makes it virtually impossible to do anything in the afternoon such as go out. (worth mentioning that on a "non-access" weekend, we would usually have a light tea at say 6pm/6.30pm. So we change our our routine to suit the mother's insistence that the teenagers are returned to her at 6pm).

Another thread this week has made me question this silly regimented routine on a Sunday. Why on earth are we rushing and stressing out on a Sunday, disturbing a family meal just because their controlling mother insists on having a 17 and 14 year old home at 6pm.

So I want to set about finding an alternative less stressful solution and intend discussing this with DH. Before I do, I wanted opinions on this.

How about we offer DSSs 2 alternatives -
1. We all share a relaxed family lunch as usual, 1ish for example. We then have a light tea as per our normal family routine at 6 or 6.30 (depending on what we're doing that afternoon as a family). DSSs stay to eat with us, but accept this means they won't be home until relaxed meal is concluded, which may mean they're not home until 7.30 sometimes.


2. Lunch as usual, say 1ish, as above. If DSS's don't want to do option 1 in fear of their mother, then they accept this means DH bringing them home before our family tea. This would in reality therefore mean them leaving at say 5.


buttons99 Wed 10-Apr-13 12:29:07

My thought would be do a bacon butty type meal when they get up, then a roast about 3 - 4 pm for everyone. Then they get a light snack back at Mums in the evening. I would then do the going out etc on the EOW you don't have them.
My honest reaction is their Mum should be more reasonable but ExW seem to hold all the cards so I would go for what makes your life easier.

willyoulistentome Wed 10-Apr-13 12:41:11

Wow - their Mum sounds like a nightmare. Does she let the oldest one out on his own on her weekends? He'll be 18 soon. I guess he can do what he likes then. I think button's suggested mean plan sounds like a good idea, but then you will be stuck in all afternoon while the mid afternoon meal is cooking I guess. What do the DSs want to do? Have you asked them?

Do they do homework at your house? If not, getting homewrork done is the only reason I can think of that they would need to be home early on Sunday night.

NotaDisneyMum Wed 10-Apr-13 12:45:21

Why not place responsibility on them to prepare "Sunday tea"? They could take it in turns, be given a (small) budget and gradually learn the skills needed to function as adults!

OnTheBottomWithAWomansWeekly Wed 10-Apr-13 12:48:21

I think Button's suggestion is good, will take the pressure off you and them for the evening meal.

On a separate note, they seem awfully dependent on lifts etc (due to the DM's insistence, it sounds like).

When you have them on a Sat can you/their father encourage them to make their way independently (with appropriate supervision where needed) to friends/activities? It could be one of the best things you ever do for them.

My DD is 16 and has been shooting all over the place on public transport for at least 2 years (train and bus to friend's houses, trips to town and large shopping centres with mates). There's usually a lift needed at my end because we live in the arse end of nowhere, but once I get her to a bus stop/station she's off by herself, to her own schedule, and I get a nice call/text at the end of her day "can I possibly collect her from the train station at X o'clock" when she's done. I see it as essential training for when she goes to college - I'm not doing taxi then!!! Apologies if you're doing this already though.

Kaluki Wed 10-Apr-13 12:56:57

Would the ex agree to this change of time? Would it be worth asking her direct rather than giving the boys the responsibility of incurring her wrath!! Could you also discuss the bus possibility with her too.
Either option sounds sensible to me but all sense goes out the window when dealing with some ex wives doesn't it.
My DSC's Mum is the same although they are younger. If they are 5 minutes late back on a Sunday she will make DP wait outside for 5 minutes the next time he picks them up to compensate!!! Crazy woman!!!!!

theredhen Wed 10-Apr-13 13:24:57

This is about control isn't it?

The ex wanting to control DP whereabouts to the minute rather than teach the kids to be independent. She "wins" if the kids come back at the time she decides. If your DP is complying for fear of the kids getting upset, then he is also teaching them that he is not an equal parent, and his ex is in charge, as well as denying the kids their independence.

I think what you are suggesting is reasonable and the kids can make their own decision.

Petal02 Wed 10-Apr-13 13:29:28

BTR – you have my sympathies. I commented in an earlier thread that it was only six months ago that we finally ceased having to return DSS18 home at 6pm sharp on a Sunday night (EOW), showered and fed (I’m surprised we didn’t have to put him into his pyjamas too, to be honest).

Our access Sundays were virtually unusable, as by the time DSS got up, it was usually 1pm, and we couldn’t then do much with Sunday afternoons as we would have to be back in time to cook, eat, get DSS to have a shower, and then take him home.

As with you, this situation started when DSS was 11, and in the absence of any social life, initiative or growing up on his part, there was nothing to break the cycle, and so it continued to be strictly adhered to.

The recent thread you refer to also made me question why we did this for so long; DH’s response always used to be “it’s what we’ve always done” but that wasn’t a satisfactory answer.

So what do I think of your suggestion? Firstly, I’m really pleased you plan to break the routine. In your position, I would consider having your ‘main’ Sunday meal at lunch time, and then (if they still want something to eat later) they could have a sandwich or something light before going home.

Or you could try what I tried ……. I told DH that 4.30pm-ish was far too early to eat dinner/evening meal, so we’d feed DSS a light-ish meal before he went home, and then DH and I would have a ‘proper’ dinner when DH got back from taking DSS home. This worked for a few weeks, until DH decided that he wanted DSS to be included in our dinner/evening meal, even if it meant having to eat it practically mid-afternoon. My final (ill-advised) comments on the subject were “why the f* should we have to eat at such a weird time to accommodate an out-dated rota?” Fell on deaf ears though.

I think the main thing, is that you plan your meals to suit YOU AND YOUR DH, not the ex and the rota. I know what it’s like when a rota is followed almost like a religion, its beyond frustrating.

breaktheroutine Wed 10-Apr-13 13:46:28

Thanks all for the quick responses

kaluki she wouldn't agree to a later time. DH and her have no contact - she refuses to speak to him and indeed won't allow him past the pavement of the property. He literally parks outside and phones the children to say he's there when collecting them hmm. Don't think she'd be bothered about them being early in particular, other than using it as another reason to slag DH off to the children about DH not caring about them.

*Onthebottom" "When you have them on a Sat can you/their father encourage them to make their way independently (with appropriate supervision where needed) to friends/activities?" - neither of them seem to want to see friends. This isn't just during weekends at ours, but full stop. Literally everything they do at home is with their mother. DH is trying to encourage them to branch out, but the standard response is "we don't have time" or "we're not allowed". DH has made DSS1 get the bus on the occasional times he's done something during access time. But DSS2 is terrified to get the bus (he's been told to "fear the world" hmm

NADM DH often gets them to make their own lunch - mostly because DSS1 eats such a resticted diet that they don't eat the same lunch as us. With DSS2, trying to take small steps does work to some extent, because he likes independence and doing his own thing. I do like the idea of giving them a budget because they have no clue about money - neither of them have ever had pocket money. DH has considered giving them some but they do no activities and don't do out so have nothing to spend it on hmm and also their mother "fines" them when they're naughty hmm (she takes their birthday/christmas money for this purpose).

willyoulistentome "Does she let the oldest one out on his own on her weekends? He'll be 18 soon. I guess he can do what he likes then". The problem is there's nothing else he wants to be doing. He's seemingly very happy spending 24/7 with her/DH. They do most homework during the week but DSS1 does some at our's as well. They're not rushing home to do homework though. The 6pm rule is just purely to exert control. The court order says she has to allow DH to see them until 6pm so she won't allow a minute more.

Buttons the thing is I work FT and so weekend family time is quite precious. Especially coming into spring and summer the thought of not getting out on a Sunday isn't that nice, plus DS often has parties etc. to go to and loves being outdoors

Petal02 Wed 10-Apr-13 13:52:46

Does she let the oldest one out on his own on her weekends? He’ll be 18 soon and then I guess he can do what he likes

Fine in theory, but my DSS (age 18) is very similar to the OP’s eldest DSS, and all he wants to do is hang out with his Dad. Turning 18 didn’t make any difference to life whatsoever.

breaktheroutine Wed 10-Apr-13 14:04:07

Sorry missed a couple

theredhen yes it's completely about control. This has gone on long enough and if we don't put an end to it at some point DH could be ferrying a stressed out 20 year old back to mummy's house by 6pm on a Sunday just because a court order once said so. She doesn't want the children to be independent at all, this would be a direct threat to her control. It suits her for them not to have friends/activities they enjoy because then they need her more.

Petal yes I'm happy to have a "main" meal at lunch time and they're definitely welcome to help themselves to a sandwich later. I would still have a sit down tea later though as would want DS to have one so would still want no ferrying around between say 5 and 7.30. And I'm definitely tempted with the "why the f* should we have to eat at such a weird time to accommodate an out-dated rota?” !

willyoulistentome Wed 10-Apr-13 14:09:46

What do the boys actually want though. Surely a court would amend the court order if the boys stated what they wanted, now they are older don't they have a say too? A court order won't apply to an 18 year old will it? He will be an 'adult'. Not that the result of a change would necessarily make YOUR weekends any easier.

breaktheroutine Wed 10-Apr-13 14:17:01

No of course you're right a court order isn't meant for the 17 year old (think it expired for him at 16). But if mummy says so, then this is what he does. It would simply not occur to him to think otherwise. Unfortunately (and quite worringly actually) he doesn't seem to think himself if an actual separate person to his mother capable of any sort of independent thought. I know it sounds strange if you've not come across it - I found it helpful to read some material on "adult children of narcissistic parents". His behaviour is really well explained in some of the articles. Much of what he actually says is straight from her mouth. He used to start many of his sentences with "mum says....". Now he's learned to delete the "mum says" part of the sentence but regurgitates her words in the way he always has. If anyone disagrees then he'll say "mum is always right about these things"

willyoulistentome Wed 10-Apr-13 14:24:38

Poor kids. Is the eldest planning on going to Uni?

breaktheroutine Wed 10-Apr-13 14:29:28

Yes, although he's already been told he has to go to the one nearest home and live with mum

Petal02 Wed 10-Apr-13 15:07:36

It’s one of those situations where the ex doesn’t really have a leg to stand on – I can’t imagine a court taking much notice about a 14 and 17 yr old (the latter being too old for a court order) who get their Sunday meals at times which don’t suit the ex ……


The only real chance of common sense winning the day, is if you’ve got your DH on side. Without that, you’re wasting your time. My DH used to be terrified of rocking the boat. What he really meant, is he didn’t want upset his ex. God knows why, because she had no power or sanctions available to cause problems. He kept saying she could make things difficult, but when pressed he couldn’t give examples of anything she could do. She never did lifts, so it’s not like she could cause problems there, she’d NEVER withhold access (quite the opposite in fact), and if she tried to increase the amount of time DSS spent with us, all DH had to do was say “no.”

But there’s this huge, imaginary, completely unfounded fear about What Might Happen If We Upset The Ex. Although in my darker moments I’ve suspected that DH is simply more keen to please her than me (but that’s one for another thread). So whilst the ex may hold all the cards, the cards only exist in your DH’s imagination.

breaktheroutine Wed 10-Apr-13 15:13:17

She manages to control the situation by instilling such fear into her own children that if DH rocks the boat then its the children who react and get stressed. So indirectly she's controlling the situation, because DH clearly doesn't want the children to be stressed.

I'll let you know how I get on. I think the earlier drop-off is the best outcome. The children won't be stressed about that. If she insists on them being home by 6pm then she can have them at 5pm and do them tea herself

breaktheroutine Tue 16-Apr-13 08:08:01

Update - I discussed this to DH last night

Not an entirely fruitful conversation, will give some excerpts:
- he agreed that it is disruptive to the family day having to stop everything and plan around cooking dinner at 5pm
- he agreed that Sunday evening meal itself is stressful due to the rushing around etc etc
- he agreed that the arrangements for Sunday evening are age inappropriate

But also said
- I'm backing him into a corner
- I have alterior motives
- The children will be stressed

I countered the latter by saying that we are giving them a choice. I also asked at what point in the future he himself would find it appropriate to put an end to his exes reign of terror and the control over our Sunday evenings - when DSS1 is 18/19/20/never?

I countered the alterior motives by saying one of my suggestions was for DSSs to actually go home later rather than earlier on a Sunday evening. Just that the current option doesn't suit anyone except the ex.

I said the current situation also doesn't benefit the children because it was so rushed and stressed and they inevitably forget stuff in the mad rush out the door and then she gets mad anyway.

Went round in circles for a bit, but I think hmm it concluded that he would give them a choice this Sunday coming

NotaDisneyMum Tue 16-Apr-13 08:41:23

She manages to control the situation by instilling such fear into her own children that if DH rocks the boat then its the children who react and get stressed

Yes. This. What IS it with these mothers?!

I get exactly where you're coming from - what scares me is how long it's been going on for your DSC sad

breaktheroutine Tue 16-Apr-13 08:44:26

Yes, exactly, they've both now apparently been told "not to ask her any more to see their father" outside of the strict access rota. And despite being 17, the eldest complies unquestioningly

Petal02 Tue 16-Apr-13 14:15:36

Hi, glad to hear you’ve had a chat with your DH.

I’d like to comment on some of the objections he put forward:

You’re backing him into a corner (translation: he knows you’re right, but he’s terrified of upsetting the ex/boys, and he doesn’t have any decent arguments to counter your suggestion).

You have ulterior motives (but you’re suggesting the boys stay later to make things easier, so this disproves his comment)

The children will be stressed (but the present regime already stresses them (and everyone else) out, which is why you want to change it).

But I’m glad he agreed that the present arrangements are not sensible, and not appropriate for the age of the boys. Although my DH often used to agree that various arrangements were silly, but would still refuse to change them.

I also completely understand your comments about the ex controlling the situation indirectly. We had years of this, and it’s very manipulative. My DH knew that that if he upset the ex, she’d give DSS a hard time, and the fear of this happening was enough to (usually) make DH toe the line.

When you asked him the time frame for ending the ex’s regime, ie when DSS1 is 20/25/30 – what was his response?

But as someone who lived with an insane rota for far too long, I totally feel your pain and will NEVER understand doing ridiculous things just for the sake of rota compliance and/or “not rocking the boat.” I wish someone would sink that f***ing boat !!!!

NotaDisneyMum Tue 16-Apr-13 15:00:34

I wish someone would sink that f***ing boat !!!!

Brilliant! Love it!

breaktheroutine Tue 16-Apr-13 16:54:10

grin YY to "sink the boat"!

Petal I really think you're right with this
"You’re backing him into a corner (translation: he knows you’re right, but he’s terrified of upsetting the ex/boys, and he doesn’t have any decent arguments to counter your suggestion)"

As for his response when I asked him what he would do as DSS1 gets older i.e. is an adult - well in short, he had no response hmm. Except when I said DSS1 is 17 his answer was "well he's not really 17 is he?" (i.e. recognition that DSS1 acts like a young child but no ideas of how we should encourage more age appropriate behaviours hmm)

breaktheroutine Tue 16-Apr-13 16:56:31

Just remembered - I asked what did he think would happen when DSS1, heaven forbid, meets a friend or a girlfriend, would he reasonably expect to have to be home by 6pm because this is "what mum says" and no-one, not even dad, has ever questioned it as ridiculous? Would he have to abandon a date before it had started because he has always been home at 6pm as demanded?

My argument was partly that if we don't lead by example and question silly rules, then why would DSS1 ever question them, given they're sold to him by his mother as the law?

ladydeedy Tue 16-Apr-13 21:09:08

We had exactly this situation - 6pm on the dot and not 5 mins early or later or woe betide!
In the end we said, well we can return them at 6, but we dont have our dinner till 6.30pm or 7pm so they wont have had a meal. We returned them at appointed time, they would have had late breakfast/brunch and snack mid afternoon but no main meal.
EXW soon got fed up and decidd she'd rather they stayed later with us and got fed, rather than her have to bother about it herself.
This, despite the fact she still got them to do the week's ironing (including hers) on a Sunday night on their return...

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