Yes, your kids have it tough. They have to be responsible at a younger age. But hey, at least they aren’t coddled. I once dated a 24-year-old guy whose mother still made his bed and wrote his checks for his bills (gee, I wonder why THAT didn’t work out). THIS will not be the fate of your child, because children of divorce have to suck it up just like you and take care of business.
This was very hard for me to learn when my daughters’ father and I split up. Prior to our split, I had recently returned to the workforce and prior to that, had spent 3 years as a stay at home mom. Relinquishing the girls for extended periods was really hard for me. After one night of a bubble bath and a glass of wine with no interruptions, I wanted the girls back.
When we separated, I couldn’t always be there to do everything for them. It was no longer my place. My girls were 9 months, and 3 years old. I have experienced many stages of difficulty with this. I cannot be there to make sure they take their vitamins every morning and I often find out about a project the night before, because I simply wasn’t there to receive the form if it went home on a “dad day”.
My daughter takes daily medication for ADHD. She is in the gifted program and gets straight “As” but basic skills are difficult without her medication because she cannot concentrate to complete them. When she does not take it, she struggles to complete tasks at school, gets frustrated easily, and often forgets things such as pushing in her chair, thus getting in trouble (yes, she has actually gotten a note home for not pushing in her chair, but that’s a whole other rant). Her father sometimes forgets to give her medication when rushing in the morning. Is this his fault? Only kind of.
My daughter needs to remember to ask for it. It’s not his medication, it’s hers. This is not a cardiac drug and she won’t die, she’ll just have a bad day. I have picked her up from school and had her tell me, “I got on red today (they have green, yellow, and red to indicate their behavior) because I forgot to push in my chair 3 times but it wasn’t my fault, dad forgot my meds.” My response, “It is your fault and when you are in trouble, I don’t want to hear anyone else’s name other than your own. Only you, are responsible for you.” Is this hard to say to a child? Hell yes, especially since in the back of your mind you are thinking, “would it kill him to remember the damn meds?”
This is her path and I cannot help her at 6:30AM when she is at her dad’s house. She has to help herself. When he is struggling to get the younger one to PUT ON HER FREAKING CLOTHES (ask me how I know), get everyone fed, out the door, and simply remember to put on pants of his own, he is not always going to remember. That’s life, and no one is perfect. I forget shit all the time.
What does this mean for your kids? It means that you cannot wipe their ass from your house. They have to learn to be self-sufficient sooner than children who do not go back and forth. They have to learn two sets of rules. No matter how open the communication, there will be some different rules because each parent has different priorities and belief systems. They have to remember to think ahead. If something is due on Monday and they switch houses on Friday, they have to remember to pack it Thursday night or go without it. There are no last-minute “oh shits” because we don’t have keys to their other house and they may not have access to it. They have to learn to plan. When they actually did the work but got a zero for a failure to plan ahead and turn in their hard work, they will be more likely to remember the next time.
Yes, as a parent it is hard, but it is possible. What I’ve noticed is how fast they learn when they have to. They are more capable than you realize and they will be fine. So, what should you do? We discuss the things they are having trouble with at each house. It’s amazing to see what they think they can get away with or when they think you’ll clean up their mess. It only takes once for me to say, “I know your father doesn’t do that for you and neither am I. Do it yourself.” Amazingly, they are capable. Above and beyond that, take a deep breath and sip your wine. They will survive and so will you.