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Oh no! 5 yo ds wants to live with ex mil. Does he mean it?

9 replies

WideWebWitch · 03/11/2002 17:59

This is a bit of a strange one I think. My situation: separated from dh, I left when ds was 2. He?s just turned 5. Have pretty much since been living happily with dp and ds. They are very close and it?s a great relationship. No problems there.

Every other weekend ds goes to his dads? and mostly stays with ex mil. They are very close. He does see his dad too but at ex mil?s. As I?ve said on another thread, (mixed race parenting) she is wonderful, loves him as much as I do and I trust her completely. However, her ideas and mine about parenting are fairly different. Examples are: she is lax with discipline (there is none), freely gives sweets and treats (I do sometimes but ds mostly has a healthy diet), and there is no such thing as bedtime (7.30 in our house). But it?s always the weekend or half term when he stays with her and I do think it?s OK that her rules and mine are different. He seems to understand this (wouldn?t dream of pushing it with bedtime etc here) and I think it?s way too late to lay the law down with her, even if I wanted to, which I don?t. So this difference isn?t the issue, but is relevant I think.

Anyway, to eventually get to the point, I have just brought ds home. He spent some of half term with ex mil and some with my mum. On the way back in the car (3 hour journey) he said he wanted to go and live with ex mil and go to the school his daddy used to go to. Although he?s said this before and I?ve brushed it off, today I was really, really upset. My initial (and childish, I am ashamed of myself) reaction was to say ?Oh, OK, go on then!? in the sort of spiteful pathetic way you might say it to a friend if you were a small child. He was absolutely jubilant, not getting the inflection above, obviously, as he?s only just 5. When I then said: Actually, No Way: you are my son, I love you, you are only 5 and you can?t go and live with her because I don?t want you to and I?d miss you and I think my house is a better place to grow up than hers? he was distraught. My own fault? Probably. When I told him why: most children live with their mummies; I don?t want you eating junk all the time; I love you; I think you?d soon get bored if you were there all the time - mentally stamping my foot as I said it ? he was still distraught and said I?d broken my earlier promise. OK, I handled it really badly but:

Should kids be allowed to choose? Or is that completely ridiculous? At what age legally can he choose?
Does he mean it (dp says no, he?s just had a nice time and doesn?t want to go back to school tomorrow) or did he just have a nice time away from my rules etc?
Should I consider it for when he?s older? When?

Its? not even as if he wants to live with his dad for heavens sake, it?s his granny! And I have NEVER felt any jealousy or resentment towards her in the past, just joy that she loves my son, plus gratitude for the childcare! I get on really well with her but I am worried that she has been saying things to him (where would he get the idea that he wants to go to the school that daddy went to?) like ?I wish you lived with me? - she probably has and wouldn?t see anything wrong with that. She is wonderful and I do genuinely love her but this has really upset me tonight. Am I just a neurotic old cow who should accept that if you?re separated one parent always has to do the hard bringing them up properly thing and the other parent/in laws have the fun only bit? We do have fun here too but I probably can?t compete with MIL?s house of pleasure. Any experience? Tips? All views welcome. Thanks in advance.

OP posts:

SoupDragon · 03/11/2002 18:19

I'd say he enjoys the more "relaxed" environment at his grandmother's. Who wouldn't? No strict bed time and lots of sweets - it's a 5 year old's dream! I doubt he realises the full implications of his request at all.

Yes, children should be able to choose, but not at 5! It's difficult to say at what age they are able to make this choice but they need to be able to understand the consequences of their choice.

No wise words on what to do though I'm afraid. Could you discuss it with your ex-MIL to see why he's suddenly come up with this request? You could tell him that he can choose when he's older, but 5 yeat olds have very little concept of waiting for any length of time.

Sorry I can't come up with anything!


Viv · 03/11/2002 18:41

WWW, I wonder if this just a kick back from having an exciting time with mil, being spoilt etc. If she is lax over bedtimes etc, then maybe he is also overtired? If he is anything like my dd (and me) the littlest things suddenly get blown out of all proportion and maybe this is why he over reacted to your saying he lives with you.
Please ignore this if I am wide of the mark.
We all handle things badly at times especially over such emotional subjects (I know having been there with dd on a number of occasions recently due to my own emotions being in turmoil) so please don't kick yourself there. I would just show ds loads of love and affection as normal and maybe make him his favourite tea as a treat after his first day back at school?
Also when it comes down to it and he is feeling low or hurts himself isn't you he wants. Yes mil's is fun for him, but its like a holiday isn't it and at the end of the day it is your rules and way of bringing him up that are helping shape him as a person. Surely it is the confidence in himself that you have obviously given him that enables him to relax and enjoy himself so much in other environments.
I'm not sure if any of this helps but thinking of you.


Chinchilla · 03/11/2002 19:15

Viv hit the nail on the head. I think that your ds loves you so much that he feels confident to be away from you. That is good. I know that you feel hurt by his request, but I don't think that 5 year olds actually think before they speak - they don't understand consequences of their desires. If he did leave you, he would be asking to come home as soon as the 'holiday' phase was past.

My nephew keeps telling my sil that her cooking is 'disgusting'. He doesn't mean it, but knows that it gets a reaction! Don't worry, it means that he loves being with your mil, which is also good. At least you have someone you can trust enough to leave him with. And, it could be your ex that he wanted to live with, which could be more serious couldn't it!


tigermoth · 03/11/2002 19:19

I think you've already analysed this correctly po yourself - it's always holiday time at MILs while it's bread and butter and school time at yours. To the superficial brain of a 5 year old, on that long and boring car journey home, yes, perhaps he'd rather be at MILs.

If I were you, I'd harden myself to his commets, and not let them get to me at all. Ask him the if he still wants to go after an especially nice day with you and I bet he'll look horrified.

My oldest son periodically says he wants to live with his grandparents, he intends to work down that way as soon as he's older, wants to go to school there, etc etc. He sees them for holidays only so of course he gets a skewed idea of life there. He also says he wants to live with his dad if we ever split up. Yes, that hurts if I let it, but I tell myself it reflects the different relationships we have with him - I tend to do more of the day to day nagging and homework checking, and small outings, while dh storms in for major tellings off and major days out.

Basically my ds takes me for granted, but I know, just know, he's miss me like h* if I wasn't around, just as your ds would miss you.


SofiaAmes · 03/11/2002 19:38

www don' feel bad. It is really normal for children from divorced/separated families to express a preference for one household or the other depending on the "goodies" going that week. The most important thing is that the two parents act together in dealing with it, particularly as the child gets old enough to make a choice (not before teenage year imo). My stepkids have all packed their bags on numerous occasions and announced to their mothers that they're "going to live with Daddy!" It always gives us a bit of a giggle as I'm far stricter with them than their mothers are and they wouldn't last 10 min. with my rules. Also, don't beat yourself up about your reaction. It's hard work being a parent and children can have really moments of NON-appreciation that would try even Mother Teresa.
As others have said, I would have a word with your mil to find out why he's talking about his daddy's school and make sure that she isn't putting too much pressure on him to divide his loyalties. I really feel that kids have to believe that it's ok to love both their parents even if they are divorced. You will never be able to compete with mil's house of pleasure (it's a grandparent's job to spoil their grandkids), but I don't think that most of the time your ds would want you to. Kids need and like rules and stability. Good luck.


ScummyMummy · 03/11/2002 19:55

WWW- I completely agree with Sofia and Tigermoth and Viv and Chinchilla and Soupdragon! Please, please don't get too upset by this or take it too seriously. One of mine has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the bus stop shouting: "Go without me! I want to stay at Nana's forever and ever and ever!" after w/ends at his grandparents. Very occasionally I find that hurtful or annoying and have to bite back a "Do you really think she's want you full-time?!" so I can see how you'd be upset but I think you might be reading more into your ds's outburst just because of the family situation. I know youe ds is bright and fantastic but he is a kid and kids are pretty stupid in some ways- e.g. they just don't realise how hurtful their words can be on occasion! Ds is definitely not old enough or wise enough- who is at 5?- to choose who to live with and it would be very scary for him to feel that he had that kind of power. What's more, he would miss the pants off you if he lived with his nan- please don't doubt that for a second.
p.s. Cyber hug- sounds like a difficult day. xx


WideWebWitch · 03/11/2002 23:04

Thank you everyone. Feel better now after chat with ex dh who said "hey, he just lives in the moment and he's spoiled at my mums, he knows very well he doesn't have a choice til he's 18, so don't worry, he'll be different tomorrow" and dp, who said while we were eating tonight (after ds was in bed) "I know what it is: the playstation has been out at ex mils" (see "help, my 4yo is turning into Kevin the teenager" thread where I admitted that some of his bad behaviour was down to Ps2, now removed from the house). Ex dh also pointed out that although he and ex mil phone here regularly ds rarely wants to speak to them! It was great to get some outside views, I feel so much calmer now. I'm sure he will be different tomorrow and I am sure that he loves me and feels pretty secure. Thanks all x

OP posts:

monkey · 04/11/2002 11:40

Hi www - not read other answers so hope I don't repeat/offend.

As a child my mum worked full time & my aunty looked after us - after school, holidays etc. My cousin was the same age, aunty was lax & I loved it there.

I remember very clearly asking mum if I could go & live with my aunty, although I must have been very young. She just told me matter of factly that I wasn't allowed because of the 'law'. I obviously didn't understand, but just accepted it and never mentioned it again. (btw my aunty never instigated or encouraged the idea, although I remember asking her if I could live with her before I mentioned it to my mum & she said I'd have to ask my mum!!! I wish to God she'd just said No, of course not, and left it at that.

Looking back, it must have really hurt my mum, as I would feel devastated I'm sure, if 1 of my sons asked this. I would've reacted just the same as you, I'm sure.

I think you've done the right thing and said no to your son, and given the reasons.

I don't want to say anything to upset you further, but I suppose I'm just covering all bases. There's definitely no chance mil would actually want custody - the comments like daddy's old school must have come from her tales, but the idea of living there could absolutely just come from ds. You speak so warmly of her, I'm sure there isn't any chance of this. If you are sure this isn't a possibility, then maybe it would be worth having a long conversation with her about it, becasue she could surely help by dropping the odd comment to ds about how lovely it is when he VISITS & can subtely reinforce your point of view, or even just have an open heart-to-heart with him herself about the current arrangements.

Sorry, this hasn't been much help, probably, but I hope you don't feel so upset by it, and your ds accepts the idea pdq.


Marina · 04/11/2002 11:43

Came late to this but so glad to see lots of good advice and that you are feeling better www. We are just embarking on the "don't want you, want (other parent)" routines at home so can just imagine the extra emotional overload your situation provides.

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