Encyclopedia Brown and The Case of The Mysteriously Disappearing Dad Weekends

There are times I wish I was a bit more fastidious about record-keeping. Actually, at all fastidious would be nice. Time was, I uSersed to keep track of when the kids were with their father. I was, in all truthfulness, a wee bit fanatical about it. If he was 10 minutes early to pick them up, I'd jot it down. Late dropping them off by more than 10 minutes? That would be duly noted as well. Why? Well, why not? I was told by my attorney back then, to "keep records". And so records were kept.

For about a year or so, he was pretty good about taking the kids for "his" times.  The kids went without a fuss, at first. They'd hug me goodbye and I'd wave to them as they sped down the street and tried my hardest to not cry as the backs of their heads grew smaller and smaller and then, disappeared around the corner.

At first, those weekends were awful. As moms, we are so conditioned to chaos and noise and sheer BUSYNESS that to be faced with a silent house, and 48 hours of alone time is shocking, to say the least. But I am nothing if not adaptable, and soon I actually started looking forward to these little breaks twice a month.

I think things started disintegrating around the time Charlie had his troubles. He didn't go to his dad's house for a full year after that. And once he did start going again, it was sporadic. Molly followed suit, and over the past year or so, the two younger boys have been seeing less and less of their father.

I haven't had one of those chaos-free, kid-free weekends in so long. I can't remember the last time they were all over there, with their father, for more than a couple of hours. It's been at least three years.  

Do I miss those quiet, peaceful weekends? Those four days a month when I didn't have to schlep people around, didn't have to feed armies of children or fight for the remote?  

Yes. And, no.

Yes, because who wouldn't want just a few blessed hours of QUIET each week? I'm not a big enough martyr that I want to starve my soul that way. I need silence once in a while. Not long stretches of it, of course, because that's when I start talking to myself and my dog, but a few hours here and there are absolutely RECHARGING.  I remember those Me Weekends fondly. Catching up on my Netflix queue, sleeping alone (or sometimes, sleeping with someone other than two or three flailing kids). Ordering take-out and actually taking my time to eat it. Cleaning a bathroom and having it stay clean for HOURS. And the parties..oh I loved those first few hen parties. 

But...when the kids are here, I am whole. I may be crabby some of the time, may be harried, but I am complete when they are near.  When they're gone, I miss them. I miss laughing with Molly, debating with Charlie (because he's at that age where I am so utterly stupid-how I manage to breathe on my own, let alone get through a day without assistance is beyond him)...I miss hearing Henry and his friends and their ever-deepening voices as they whoop it up down in the mancave. I miss the Sunday morning donut-runs for the kids and whoever has slept over. I miss taking walks with William and Walter and discussing what he wants for his birthday this year (it's a toss up between a red eared slider turtle and a couple of XBOX games...I'm leaning towards the turtle).  

When they're gone, I miss being a mom.

For the past year, I haven't missed them much. They almost never go to their dad's house, not for the Tuesday/Thursday dinner nights, not for the every-other weekends. And it leaves me feeling uneasy. Confused.

I want them to see their dad. They NEED to see him, spend time with him. It's essential for them, and dare I say it's pretty darn essential for him, too. I encourage them to go. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, when I'm at work and the Dad Pick Up Time draws near, I'll start to feel my phone vibrating with texts from them. They don't want to go to dad's house. They start coming up with excuses. 

"I have too much homework"
"I'm hanging out with friends"
"I don't feel good"  and lately:

"I don't want to see him"

That last one always gets me. Hits me right in my gut. I'll admit here, that there is still some tiny shrewish part of me that gets a sick bolt of self-righteousness from this. Some vindictive bitchy Jenny who cackles "SEE, ASSHOLE? THIS IS WHAT I WARNED YOU ABOUT WHEN YOU FIRST LEFT!". But she is quickly silenced by the New And Improved Me. The Nice Me. The me who still remembers this man as the good dad he was, and maybe, still could be:  I see him mowing the front yard with a toddler several paces behind him pushing the Fisher Price Bubble Mower. I see him playing games with Charlie on the second-hand Nintendo GameCube. I see the kids running out to greet him as he pulled into the driveway after a day at work. 

I see these things and I start to hurt for him. Yes, I hurt for the man who hurt me so much. I cannot fathom what it must feel like to be him, to have these four kids out there in the universe and not have relationships with them. How awkward it must be when people find out he's the father to four older children, other kids besides his new one, and they start to ask him questions. Questions that he might not know how to answer. Names of teachers they've had, what his daughter got on her ACT, what days William has hockey this summer. What they like to do, what books they're reading. Who they hang out with.  Can you imagine not knowing these things about your kids?

There are other, less-generous reasons that I hurt, too. It hurts me, to my core, when I find myself handling crisis moments alone. When I check William's grades online and see that he's failing a class. When Charlie confesses to me that he's not feeling "right" and I'm so scared all over again.  That's when I wish they would spend more time with their father. Not so I wouldn't have to handle these and other issues that arise, but so I wouldn't have to handle them by myself. I'm not fantasizing here, either. I don't picture Big Daddy and me, huddled together, working out a plan to help our kids get through life's labyrinth. No. That's not going to happen in this lifetime.

But it would be nice if just once, or twice, or every other weekend, he was the one they went to when they needed to unload or confess or gripe.

I think he owes that to them. And to some degree, he owes that to me. We made these babies together, I was under the assumption that we'd both be in it for the long haul. To leave your wife, your marriage...that's one thing. To leave your kids? That's something entirely different.

This is when the confusion sets in, when I'm hurting for both of us, for ALL of us, and the hurt turns to anger and resentment. Do I remind him? Do I nudge him to take his kids, the way you nudge a slacker friend to take her turn in Words With Friends (yeah I KNOW...I'm in Ruzzle land though...I'm sorry!)...or do I just let him be, let this grown man make his own parenting choices while I trudge behind him with a broom and clean up whatever messes those choices make?  Part of me wants to demand that he take them, all of them. I want him to man up and get authoritative with these children. I want him to raise his voice with them, I want him to grow a set of big old brass balls and get with his kids. I want him to act like a dad.

But the other part of me sees that my kids don't want to go. They have their reasons, some of these have been shared with me, others are kept closer to their collective vests. The protective momma bear thinks, "They shouldn't have to go where they don't feel wanted, welcomed. Loved." That's when I suck it up, I put more gas in the car and get out my old-school giant paper calendar from OfficeMax to see who has to be where at what time.

I guess there really isn't a mystery here, is there? Children know more than we give them credit for knowing. Their feelings are just as big and just as real as ours.  They know where they want to be, they know where home is.

And as badly as I need or want that elusive, seductive tramp called "Alone Time", I know my kids need to feel at home even more.


  1. I am not an expert AT ALL but I kind of think you need to make them go spend time with their dad. Send them, all four of them, with a note that says where they need to be and when, and a bit in there that says they didn't want to spend time with him but they need to. He needs to know that he's slacking - not because you need a break, but because they need him to step up.

    The more time he spends with them, the closer they will get, the easier it will get, for him and for them. It's too important and children don't always know what is best for them.

    Just my four unsolicited cents... Candace

    1. Hey Candace!

      I agree with you, absolutely. I guess my dilemma (if there is one) is, do I have to be the one to initiate this stuff between my kids and their dad? He's had so many opportunities to be there for them over the past few years.

      But right from the start, when he went away to get married and didn't even TELL them about it, he's done nothing but put up walls. I wonder if I did just drop them off at his house one day, what kind of reception they'd get.

      It seems as though any suggestion I make to him regarding parenting time is met with opposition.

      I do think they need a strong relationship with their dad, absolutely believe that. But I don't know if it's ever going to happen :(

      Thank you for reading, and you are welcome to contribute your cents ANY time.


    2. Thanks for being so receptive to outside thoughts!

      I think yes, drop them off at his house on his designated days, every time if you must. Be there to pick them up when the time is up. Let him be faced with his first four progeny on a regular basis, let him be forced to 'man-up' and be their father.

      You know, unless he actually is neglecting their needs or being abusive.

      Your kids may protest and think you are being mean but that man is not going to live forever and your kids will not be kids forever. There will come a day when they look back and they will appreciate your efforts and either respect or disrespect him for his.

      Best wishes for you all! Candace

  2. I'm going to go and give my perspective on this as a child of a divorce who eventually requested to stop being forced to go see my dad. My reason? Rampant drug use at his house. Another example is my half-sister's half-sister (oh yes, if you don't think our family is complicated...hah) who begged her mom to stop being made to go see her father (not my dad). Her reason? He was molesting her. A friend of mine's cousin's children asked repeatedly to not be forced to go to their dad's house anymore. Their reason? Severe physical abuse (rape and beatings). She made them anyway. The result? Her 4-year-old son was killed 3 months ago as a result of a head bashing that caused his death, and the coroner found traces of semen in his rectum. Not even kidding and she's facing charges herself.

    So, when I read something like this, all I can think is how none of the things you want are going to come out of making your kids go. If they don't want to be around him, they're not going to confide their deepest secrets to him. If he doesn't make that extra effort to get them to stay in his life, he's not going to go beyond that extra mile to figure out what he can do to help them through the rough patches in life. And when kids speak up and say that they don't want to be around someone...please, PLEASE listen. There may be more than meets the eye, and even if it's just as simple as being around him makes them feel neglected, depressed, or unworthy, well then why on earth would you want to force them to do it?

    Just being around their dad isn't going to magically make a relationship between them work. You forcing them to be physically near each other isn't going to open the floodgates of love and affection. That two way street is between your kids and your ex. He's the only one who can make it better, unless your kids decide to take responsibility for the relationship. But you? No, lady. All you can do is your best to keep your street open to your children so that at least they have one parent they can talk to and be loved by.

    1. Hey there:

      I almost changed my settings so people couldn't leave anonymous comments...but comments like THIS are the reason I can't do it.

      Thank you, first of all, for laying it all out there. Sounds like you have quite the interesting life story, my friend. I hope you are living a good life. Sounds like you made it through the rough stuff with all of your smarts intact.

      Secondly, I'm so, SO so very sorry about your friend's cousin and her dear sweet baby. What happened to him is so wrong, on so many levels. Nothing I can say about it will make any difference, so all I have is "sorry".

      I love your comment because it is directly opposite of the first comment. This is why I love having my little blog, and hearing from people like you. I get different opinions, and different perspective.

      Big Daddy reads this, so I need to be very clear about this: I know my kids are not being abused at his house. I know they aren't being treated like family, like loved and honored members of a household, but abused? Nah.

      But I am listening to them. And when not one, not two, but all FOUR of them make it clear that they don't want to go, I listen even harder.

      This is where I'm torn. Do I do what I know is "right" and "good", and MAKE them go, or somehow cajole my ex into manning up and taking them, or do I respect their feelings and say screw it?

      Ay, there's the rub.

      I had a conversation in the teacher's lounge today. Over lunch, I discussed some worries I'm having about my youngest. And how I wished his mother-effing dad would be a part of his life, so I had some help, another adult to take some of the stress off of me.

      She said: "That is up to HIM, Jenny." And she's right.

      I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story, and for giving me some pretty kickass advice.


  3. No, I can not imagine not knowing my children's teaches or everything about them that I can. It's just wrong that they are not as invested in their own children as we are. I do not think that it's up to you to try to cultivate a relationship between your kids and their father. That's up to him to do. And its his loss if he does not.

    My husband hasn't called or texted my kids since he moved out. He's seen them a few times. I could put the phone in their hands and tell them to call him but they know the phone works both ways and since he's the one that moved out I think they feel like he should be calling them...or maybe that's just how I feel. http://dowehavetotellthekids.blogspot.com/

  4. You know what sounds like the biggest pain in this situation to me? It's that you don't know the situation. Limbo of any kind pretty much sucks. Like the time between finding out about the affair and actually knowing the marriage was over. It's like if you KNEW he was bailing on the kids completely you could just move forward with that as your new reality. But it sounds like every week you don't know what the deal is. Maybe you should go to mediation with him (is that too hopeful of thinking?) to establish a new visitation schedule. Maybe the one you have now is too complicated and the exchanges are too frequent. You could even get some constructive feedback from the kids. You, your kids, and even he all deserve some consistency to the schedule. That way you can all plan your lives. And I do think you should make the kids go. It's like making them eat their vegetables... you know it's good for them even if they complain about it. And if they all go together, at least there's strength in numbers!

    My now-ex becoming like this is one of my biggest fears... I can, and mostly have, gotten over him doing shit to me, but abandoning my kids would REALLY REALLY piss me off. He's pretty good so far, but it's early days and already he talks the talk about them more than he walks the walk.

    It sucks to have to be the grown up all the time. To have to be the responsible one and point these things out while he likes to pretend everything is fine. But don't cut your nose off to spite your face. I think you need to say something. Tell him it's not fair to you or the kids and something needs to change. You need to work together to figure out what is best for them. And if you need an objective 3rd party to help you do that, I say do that.

  5. This is one slippery slope you have to navigate here. It's so hard to say what the right thing to do is. Obviously, the RIGHT thing would be for Big Daddy to man up and actually be a father and take an interest in his kids lives. But you can't make him do that. I could go on and on about my own daddy issues, how after my folks were divorced the visits were few and far between, and I certainly had those weekends where I dreaded going over to my dad's. But that would take a lot of wine :) Sorry, I digress......I guess I don't really have a point. Just wanted to share that growing up, my dad never took a real interest in me either. And now as an adult, we have a pretty superficial relationship. I'd like to say that I wish we were closer, but sometimes I just don't care.

    Just remember, home is where the heart is. And you are their heart, Jenny.

  6. Just read your reply to Anonymous who posted about the baby who died from abuse. You stated you were positive your ex was not abusing your children. He is not abusing them physically. He IS however abusing them MENTALLY. For them to feel "unloved, unwanted, not a part of his family" is definitely mental and emotional abuse. Don't underestimate the impact that has on a child's life! Whether he is doing it intentionally or not, this is how your children are being made to feel. Please, don't force them to go into that environment.

  7. My 17-year-old daughter hasn't seen her father in over 2 years. She spent a week in a psychiatric hospital because of depression, cutting, and feeling suicidal. My ex did visit her in the hospital, and came to the family counseling session (which turned out very badly IMHO). She partly does not want to go because she does not feel welcome and like she belongs. He's busy with his new wife and step-kids. Her home is my house.

    My ex would send her a random text message every few months, but those have stopped. He hasn't given her a birthday gift in two years, and last year she did not get a Christmas gift from him. Her brother did. My son still talks to his dad and sees him, but I don't know how much.

    So, I am not going to force my daughter to go to her dad's house. She's 17, has her own car and her own life. And she's bigger than me ;-)


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