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Who Loves You, Baby?

December 6th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  3 Comments

JP has entered an interesting phase of his development. A couple of weeks ago I received an irate phone call from his mother. She told me that JP had refused to do something she had told him to do, and his rationale for telling her no was that he always got to do exactly what he liked at my house, and furthermore, he liked my house better than hers. That this was delivered with a smile seemed to have no impact on my ex. She was furious and wanted to know just what kind of show I was running.

Of course, this was all a crock. JP may not receive the discipline of a Iowa farm boy milking the herd at sunrise, but he is certainly not allowed to call his own shots. He had, however, figured out a pretty solid way to hurt and anger his mother. She calmed down when I explained that JP was messing with her mind, but clearly we both now have to be cognizant that our sweet boy is playing a more sophisticated game than we were previously accustomed to (although this kid has always been a crafty one).

Now the shoe has been shifted to my none-too-comfortable foot. Yesterday, JP was in something of a mood: wasn’t listening, wouldn’t finish his dinner, throwing his toys around. We had a few discussions, and eventually I had to send him to bed. Earlier in the day, when I took away one of the offending toys and opened a discussion about an embargo on his Nintendo DS, JP had announced that as of that moment he loved his mother better than me. Again, smiling when he said it, but said nonetheless. I’m not entirely sure what would have been the best way to react to this, but this is what I did: I reminded myself to stay calm and just said that it made me sad for him to say that. And I took the toy anyway.

Now to the evening. When the final moment came and JP’s punishment was announced and the crying began, he yelled that he wanted to go to his Mommy’s house. Immediately. I don’t want to downplay the importance of this kind of stuff in a divorced household: it hurts. I didn’t sleep well last night. It pushes up against one of the key insecurities that one can feel as a parent in a divided household; namely, that your child can be taken from you, and worse, that the child can be the agent of that departure. Nor does the emotional discomfort release you from your responsibilities: I have to put aside the urge to convince him that he loves me and still go ahead and just parent. He can say what he wants, but I still have to send him to bed, even if some part of my brain is saying, “He’s going to run away and never come back.”

Right now, JP’s young enough that his attempts to play his parents against each other are easily read and countered. What’s more, he doesn’t get to choose much these days. He can say he never wants to see me again, but he still will. Later, though…

It’s a game of chicken with my ex. We’re both heading down a road full speed, awaiting the collision of JP’s developing desires, our own ability to be good parents, and the urge—always there—to hold him as close as possible, no matter the cost.


  1. karen says:

    December 6th, 2010at 3:59 pm(#)

    I feel for ya, but can’t even imagine it. When my husband is away on business, for TWO DAYS I get that kind of stuff … and we’re not splitting. It would really rock me to have to work my way through that kind of kid noise … but I think you are right. Ultimately, if you are living in the moment … you must parent for the moment. And you’ll be glad you did. In, oh, 30 years. I plan to be senile by then, or at least faking it soooo …

  2. Judy says:

    December 7th, 2010at 5:16 pm(#)

    Ouch & sigh. As True’s teacher told me, he’s experimenting. Stay the course and parent…that’s the best you can do. Don’t know about JP, but my boy is attaching himself to a bunch of friends who are a bit more devious. He is bringing what he’s observing home and testing my patience. Let’s just say, I don’t believe in everything that comes out of his mouth.

  3. Jeanette says:

    February 10th, 2011at 3:06 pm(#)

    I’ll echo, ouch and sigh. My kids pull this once in a while, and their dad and I are together (working mom, SAHD). It will change. I believe kids learn to love (and to fight) in ways equal to the way we teach them to – and it evolves and changes over time.
    Dare I say “it’s just a phase” which is totally overused and maybe even not true. Developmentally, I think the idea of pitting parent against parent has the ability to be diminished (not eliminated) over time. But maybe that’s my own insight. Alas, keep up the good work – It sounds like you’re doing a great job with your son.
    By the way, first time visiting your blog, and its great.

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