When is the right time to talk to kids involved in divorce and custody issues the “truth” as you see it?

I’m still not sure if it’s ever the right time, but if you ever figure it out, please let me know.

Tonight, we had to have a conversation with Rowdy about this – again.  I don’t know if you remember or even read about it, but at one point around a year ago, we did talk to the kids about why we asked the courts to look at changing custody.  That blog post regarding the conversation is here if you’re interested in reading about it.

Tonight though, tonight, we went into a little more detail with Rowdy.  While we didn’t have to, he was almost daring us to.  When I discovered he was refusing to back down, I asked him if he was ready, if he was certain, if he was mature enough, to hear our side of the story.  I pointed out to him that if we went down the road he was asking us to take, he would not be able to un-hear, un-know, what we tell him.  I also pointed out to him that asking us to talk to him about this meant we were telling him our truths, our opinion and our beliefs why we took the road we took.  That I would not allow him to later use the information we were going to tell him against us in the future because our beliefs were ours; we believed then and still believe now that what we did was right and nothing said in the future would make us change our minds.  So he needed to be darn certain that he was ready to take that step.  The hesitation in his voice and body language said he wasn’t sure, while his words and attitude said he was.

This all started tonight because Rowdy has been giving us attitude over the last couple of days about being punished over the fight he was in at school 2 weeks ago.  I’m not going to go into everything, but the gist of the matter is he thinks our punishment of no electronics until he is out of alternative school is too harsh and too heavy.  Why is it too harsh?  Because we didn’t bend the punishment just because we rented a movie he wanted to watch.  He’s been fine with our decision until this point.  So, he’s gone on strike from the family, from doing his chores and from all rational reason.

Hun and I refused to bend to his whims.  I’ll admit, I also made a snarky comment to him tonight in relation to his attitude (yes, I’m bull-headed, probably not my best trait, but it occasionally serves me well).  Apparently, that snarky comment “sent him over the edge”, so, his response was to refuse to eat dinner and tattle to his mom, Jetsam, about how unreasonable we are being.

Jetsam in turn attempted to speak with Hun about how unreasonable he was being in relation to his son.  I heard Hun’s side of the conversation only, but was able to figure out most of what she was saying based on his responses.  After talking for more than 30 minutes and going over and over and over and over the exact same things – Hun finally got fed up and hung up on her.  Surprise – she called back and Hun asked me to answer the phone.  Glutton for punishment that I am, I did.  She attempted to talk to me “mother to mother” and get me to understand her side.  What she didn’t count on was the fact that I agree with Hun, not her, not Rowdy and certainly not his current attitude.  After several minutes of me rationally explaining why we are following through with our decision and finally outright telling her that, “I totally understand what you are telling me, repeating it multiple times isn’t going to make me agree with you” caused her to call me a dirty name and hang up on me.  Awww…..I’m heartbroken I tell you!

Back to Rowdy daring us to tell him the truth; that we only wanted custody to spite his mom and to keep him somewhere he was miserable because we HAD to be right regardless of the consequences.

Hun started out talking, but quickly deferred to me and my memory to fill in the details.  He sat there and sprinkled comments throughout the conversation for clarification to what I was saying.  I started slowly, speaking of how *I* had to speak with all of the court counselors, lawyers and judge about how I had to agree to the custody change.  That if I hadn’t agreed to the change, it never would have happened; that I had to sign off and that if I didn’t agree, if I didn’t want them here, all I had to do was say NO.  But I said yes, because I was upset with the things I was witnessing them going through as young children.  That I loved them and wanted the best for them, knowing that taking the step of asking for custody would sentence us, specifically me, to all of their hate for taking them away from their mom.   I told him I was okay with that choice, still okay with it, even now, because as I saw it, the alternative was worse.

I asked him if he was ready to hear more – the attitude rolled off him as he stated, “That’s what you’re supposed to be doing, telling me more.”

We talked about the multiple moves his mom made with them over the course of 3 years – that they transferred schools 6 times, over 4 school districts.  Yes, that played a big part of us asking for custody, but that wasn’t the only thing.  We pointed out to him that we were being told by his mom of her boyfriend “disciplining” hard enough to leave bruises, doing drugs and Jetsam being afraid the house would be attacked by his druggie friends.  How we begged her to leave the boyfriend, but it took custody of her kids being taken away before she acted on leaving him.  I told him point blank that the stories about the drugs scared me so bad that *I* called CPS about the situation – that I was scared to death that the stories HIS mom was telling us would result in one of the kids being harmed or killed – that I couldn’t take that chance.

Again, I asked him if he wanted me to go on, or if he had heard enough.  “I’m not done listening to you, am I?” was the sneer I got.

We talked about the sudden moves, how we were never sure where they would be from one visitation to the next – not because their mom chose to move, but because they were being evicted and locked out of the house, unable to go back for anything more.  I told him about the situation with Monkey packing up all of her things every time visitation came around (see my previous post – Being Left Behind).  I told him how sad that made me; that no child should be afraid that the things they loved wouldn’t be there when they came home.  We spoke of all of the kids, including him, telling us at the visitation pick up after the moves about what they had lost, what they wouldn’t see again.

I paused and asked him if he still wanted to hear more.  A much meeker voice answered, “Yes.”

We talked about what the judge said in relation to Jetsam receiving custody of the kids back.  Rowdy was erroneously told by Jetsam that it was in the court papers that custody was only for one year.  The reality is that was never in the papers; that the judge verbally told Jetsam, “I can tell you love your kids, but you have made some serious choices that affect your children negatively.  I am awarding custody of the kids to the dad.  (Side note – both Jetsam and I broke down in tears at this declaration.)  However, I will tell you that if you will get rid of the loser boyfriend (yes, the judge said that!), stay in a stable job and home, a year from now; I can see giving you custody of your kids back.  I can’t say that in a lot of cases, but I can in yours.”

The further we went into the conversation, the more my voice cracked as I tried to keep my emotions in check.  I asked him one last time if he wanted us to go on – all I received at this point was a nod of the head.

We told him one of the regrets we had was not filing for custody sooner.  Another was how we were sad we couldn’t do more for Flounder (Jetsam’s youngest by another man); that legally, we couldn’t help him like we could help Rowdy and the girls.  We discussed the early years how we expected CPS to call us any day about the kids being removed from their mom – we weren’t the only one who called on her – at least 3 other times they were called that we know of.  How Hun and I discussed what we would do if we were asked to take ALL of Jetsam’s kids – including Flounder.  We would have taken him in as well without hesitation.

I pointed out to Rowdy that it has only been in the last year or two (at most) that Jetsam has tried to pull her life together.  That she’s finally doing what the judge asked her to do 5-6 years ago.  I commented that if us asking for and being granted custody was what allowed Jetsam to get her life together; then it was a good thing for both her and for the kids.

At this point, Hun received a phone call and had to leave.  He asked Rowdy to please behave and be respectful towards me while he was gone.  I stated I was done with the conversation for now and that if Rowdy wanted to talk some more, it needed to happen when Hun was available again.  Rowdy agreed, although, he looked a little shell-shocked to me.

After Hun left, Rowdy took his shower (something he had refused to do for the previous two days – not a good decision for a pubescent boy!).  As I was doing a project in the kitchen, Rowdy walked in and proceeded to do the dishes (another thing both he and Jetsam was arguing was too harsh a chore for him to do) – all of the dishes, something that he never does without an argument.  I thanked him and pointed out there was still dinner available if he was hungry, which he was.  After eating, he cleaned his dishes without me saying a word, so I pointed out there was cake for dessert if he wanted a piece.  He ate a slice and washed those dishes too.

As he was beginning to leave the kitchen, I stopped him and told him thank you.  That I know he’s trying to figure out who he is and his place in the world.  I reminded him that we DO love him, no matter what.

He nodded, brushed his teeth and went to bed – another thing that usually doesn’t happen without an argument.

Is it a full moon?

(Sorry for such a long post – but thank you for sticking it out to the end – I appreciate it!)