It’s all about perspective folks. I know you’re ex repeats stories back and you wonder if that’s actually what happened. Maybe your ex thinks one child does no wrong while the other child cannot seem to do anything right. Maybe your ex exaggerates or understates. Maybe you are told a story and you think “that never happens when they are with me, I call bullshit”.
There are a few things at play here. Your ex is going to actually see things differently than you, interpret them differently, and relay them accordingly. If you two agreed on everything, you wouldn’t be divorced remember? Additionally, your kids act different in their other home. It’s a different parent, different family members, different rules, and different dynamics. They are going to act differently and they will do things that perhaps you haven’t seen.
Two examples off of the top of my head for you. I picked up my daughter from daycare one day and her teacher asks me in passing, “How do you handle temper tantrums at home? You know, when she throws herself on the floor.” I, do not have an answer for this. I finally respond in my usual tactless way, “I have no idea because she doesn’t do that shit at home. That is absolutely unacceptable.” I’m sure she thought I was full of crap because apparently, my then three-year old had DAILY temper tantrums complete with biting her peers. On one hand, I desperately wanted to help and on the other, how do I assist with a behavior I do not see and I am not present for?
Fast forward one year. Same kid, different teacher. I hug her goodbye as she is about to leave. She bursts into hysterical tears and clings to me. She says, “I forget what you look like when I’m at school. I want to stay with you Mommy.” We go together and find a picture of myself and both girls. We put it in her lunchbox so she doesn’t “forget what we look like”. This appeases her and she goes off to school. I shoot a text to her teacher and explain so she knows she is having an “off” day. Both the teacher and her father have never seen this behavior. While they were both polite, they both had the vague tone of, “that’s weird we’ve never seen this, perhaps you’re full of shit”.
Your kids act differently in different places. This is just the way it is. Just think of yourself. How you act at home vs. work. Or at work before the boss gets there and after he or she arrives. How you act at Thanksgiving with family or in the absence or presence of a certain family member. Remember your kids are people too. You cannot let it hurt your feelings or feel like you are doing anything wrong. Our kids are very well-behaved and we are complimented often. But, sometimes they are terrorists, and we do not negotiate with terrorists.
Sure, I thought it was weird that she was throwing tantrums at school. I even had a “and what would you like me to do about that”, moment. However, I also know my kid. She gets overwhelmed easily and hates chaos and excessive noise. Hmmm, let’s send her to a brightly colored room, with a ton of screaming, snot filled monsters, and then just for fun, try and talk over each other all day. I would be rocking and singing to myself in the corner. She comes by it honestly. My youngest is VERY attached to me. She follows me everywhere. I mean, wants to do laundry and scrub the floor if it means being with me, attached. It is not strange that she would want to stay with me and I would be the one to see this behavior.
When your ex relays something that seems strange, listen attentively, and respond kindly. You may not see the behavior but if it wasn’t there do you think they would feel the overwhelming desire to call their ex to explain it in the first place? Or even better, to explain something only to be treated like they are stupid or lying? No, they wouldn’t. Hey, I know what would be fun today! I should call my ex and talk about the kids so they can treat me like an idiot! That sounds fun. After that, I’ll strip down naked and roll in broken glass. Hooray!
They are calling/emailing/texting because they love their child and want to deal with something and that means they have to deal with you and vice versa. So, what to do? Go back and forth with ideas of what works in your individual houses. Alternately, go over well-I-haven’t-seen-that-but-here’s-something-similar-and-what-I-tried. Not there yet? Then, try the smile and nod. Lastly, if none of that works, explore how much you could get for a really cute kid on the black market.