There are many, many heartbreaking and difficult aspects of getting divorced. There is shock, sadness, fear of change, loneliness, frustration, the feeling of failure, anger resentment, and so much more. But there is one thing that I believe might be the hardest part of getting divorced: lack of control when your kids are with your ex.
This blog post was spawned by a Facebook message I saw from a divorced mom, talking about how her ex refuses to put a helmet on their 8 year-old son when he is riding his bike at his house.
The ex knows that putting a helmet on the kid is very important to his ex-wife, so why doesn’t he do it? Three possible reasons come to mind:
1. He doesn’t care about the safety of his son.
2. He is lazy.
3. He wants to get back at his ex wife by making her worry.
I don’t believe #1 is the case. Of course this man cares about the safety of his son. #2 is a possibility, although how hard is it to put a helmet on a kid? It takes 30 seconds. So, that leads me to #3, the passive aggressive way to get back at the bitch who left him. (obviously I am not calling her a bitch, I am referring to the way he might be feeling, and what is leading him to put his son at risk.)
Here’s the thing. I don’t know anything about why these two people got divorced. For all I know, the wife cheated on the husband, left him for another man and took him for tons of money. The whole situation could be really unfair and the woman could be the biggest conniving bitch on earth. That is an extreme scenario but the point I’m trying to make is, even if this woman is that horrible, why would the guy put the child at risk by not putting a helmet on him? Does he hate his ex-wife more than he loves his own child?
The next part of this story is that there are really no good options for the ex-wife to take action. Here are some choices she has. She can go to her attorney and complain. What will that do? The attorney can draw up a court order to have the kid wear a helmet. By the time it gets to court, summer (and probably fall) are both over, (so it won’t matter anymore until next spring). The guy’s attorney will respond and the lawyers will go back and forth talking about it. Nothing will get done, or the guy will agree to have the kid wear the helmet and both parties will end up with attorneys fees of $2000 or more. Furthermore, even if the woman spends the two grand with the attorneys, and her ex has a court order that he must put the helmet on his child, he STILL might not adhere to it.
Versus going to court, the woman could also try talking to her ex and asking him in a nice way to have the kid wear the helmet. But if the guy really hates her, that conversation will make him not put the helmet on the kid even more!
That is why the hardest part about getting divorced is lack of control when your kids are with your ex, especially when they are really little. It’s scary and unnerving, mostly because if you got divorced, there must be a reason, and in so many cases that reason is lack of trust or an addiction problem or abuse. Now, unless a judge has ruled in your divorce that your ex can’t see the kids, or he or she has to have supervised visitation, you have no other choice than to hand over your kids to your ex when it is his or her day/weekend.
I find that what goes through people’s minds is, they are feeling like they aren’t there to protect the kids, and it causes tremendous anxiety and stress, not to mention incredible guilt.
But here is the point I want to make. In order to live a happy life, you have to relinquish control and wipe the fear and guilt out of your head. It’s not easy to do, but that is the best choice. It is a frustrating and horrible feeling, but what are you gaining by being worried and stressing out every time your ex picks up the kids?
Now, if you truly think they are in danger, you have to contact your attorney. In your heart, you will know. And, a lot of times, people tend to take their own baggage from the relationship and transfer those worries onto their kids. For example, your ex might have been mentally abusive to you, but he or she loves your children and will not treat them the same way. In your gut, you know whether or not that is the case.
On a side note, if you do feel the need to bring up charges against your ex—claim that he or she is abusing your kids or putting them in some kind of danger, it takes months (even years) and tens of thousands of dollars to get results. In this regard, I feel like our legal system has failed people in this situation. It is a devastating thought to me, and I have seen many, many injustices in divorce cases, just because the people didn’t have the money to fight.
The good news is, things tend to get better with time, as the divorce becomes more of the distant past and the kids get older, more independent, and more self-sufficient.
Like so many things in life, we have no control over what happens when we aren’t around, and no one on earth would tell a man or woman not to get divorced so that they can watch over their children 24/7, (making sure they wear a bike helmet.) So, all you can do is make wise choices, listen to your kids, listen to your gut and maybe try communicating with your ex if you can. (It’s worth a try.) Of course, if you ever think your kids are in real danger, you must take action. But barring that circumstance, the best life is a life with minimal stress, (and by the way your kids feel your stress too so it’s better for them if you are without it) so get rid of toxic thoughts and have a little faith. Those are things you CAN control.
Like this blog post? Check out my post, “Divorce Advice: Keep Hating”