2012/2013 during the divorce process
names have been omitted in this post
this post contains strong language
Anyone who has had to go through a divorce with a toxic individual knows that it is pure hell. A normal, amicable divorce it is not. Instead it is like a flaming case of hemorrhoids that never seems to go away. If you've gone through a divorce with such a person you know when the court rules that you must attend co-parenting classes it's going to be an oh so lovely experience. If you're lucky you will get a time slot when your soon to be ex isn't also attending... but considering the limited spaces typically available you likely will have to endure not only the class but also their presence as well. The thing about these classes that I have come to learn firsthand is that in my experience the people who teach the classes don't recognize any type of toxicity or personality disorder. If they do their approach is to sweep it under the rug. These people are like something out of the body snatchers they have been so brainwashed and programmed to believe the most ridiculous poo fed to them you likely wouldn't believe it unless you witnessed it yourself.
After I paid for the class (oh, yes, you have to PAY for it as well... and believe me, this is such a joke they should be paying YOU to take it. Plus throw in a free lunch) I chose the class time that worked for my schedule and then arrived the day of. Much to my irritation who do you think was there that day? My soon to be ex. He initially approached my table on the first row and after glaring at him he chose a seat in the back. I was so angry that I had to take this class I probably had steam coming out of my ears... it was already a toxic situation and I really (rightfully) resented the fact I had to take the class with him.
The class begins and the two women teaching the class (I'll use the term "teaching" loosely as I really think someone could have read co-parenting for dummies if there's such a book and done a better job) begin talking about how important it is to really hone that working relationship as now you are co-parenting and from here forward it's best to keep all communication business-like... just about child-related issues and nothing more. They also began their long admonishing of any potential bad-mouthing and how that should not be happening. I felt like they were admonishing us for something some of us hadn't even done. Yet at this point in time my soon to be ex had already long begun his brainwashing statements starting with the first night he'd been served. What about him? I felt like we were all being treated as criminals when some of us hadn't done anything wrong.
I raised my hand "So what are you supposed to do if one parent is behaving poorly? If they are doing things they shouldn't be around your children? What are you supposed to do then?" I asked her. My ex's bedroom door had already been a revolving one and each time the children returned to me I heard horror filled accounts of the types of women he was picking up at bars and bringing back to the loft he lived in during the divorce process. And there was nothing I could do about it. The family court system doesn't penalize a person for behaving without a moral compass.
One guy at the table beside me raised his hand "Yeah... I mean, my soon to be ex wife and I are sharing custody but she's already moved her boyfriend in our old house and I think they are doing drugs. What am I supposed to say to my daughter when she asks me about all that?" He asked with concern.
The "teacher" or whatever she is spoke "And those are both valid questions.... and in those situations you have to not say anything. Because that is her mom. And so you have to communicate to mom and say 'Hey, in our child's best interests it's best if you don't do those things'. And then you speak to someone about it, your attorney, the pediatrician, for example." She told him.
"But what if my daughter asks me about it? What do I say to her?" He asked, needing some guidance.
She spoke, "In that case you tell her you both love her very much and that's grown up stuff and you will take care of it."
I rolled my eyes and sighed with exasperation, "Yes, but don't you think the child is smart enough to know that her parent is not doing what she's supposed to be doing? Kids are pretty smart. I mean, what are we supposed to do? Just ignore it and then eventually we run the risk of them thinking the behavior is okay?" I demanded.
She looked over at her fellow teacher as if to silently say this one is going to be a real pain in the arse.
"What I'm saying is that in order to protect the relationship between the mother and the child he shouldn't say anything. That is still her mother. Do you understand that?" She asked me with an edge to her voice.
I wasn't having it or backing down. "I see... so it's not really about what's in the child's best interests... it's you saying that the mother can just do whatever she wants and he's not supposed to say anything about it. What you're saying to me is that it's okay for his daughter to grow up thinking moving someone new in, having sex outside marriage and doing drugs is okay. That's what you're telling me is it not?!" I demanded again, my voice rising.
A sigh released from her lips and she snapped "What was your reason for divorcing?"
"He cheated. He's sitting in the back row." I gestured toward the back of the room. Everyone in the entire class turned to look at the cheater sitting on the back row. I spoke "Look, growing up my mom told me what my dad was like... and it was all true."
She nodded "So do you have a relationship with your dad?"
"No." I told her.
She made a sad puppy dog face of pity at me. "Well, that's sad. And just think if your mother hadn't talked about your dad you might have been able to form your own opinion and still have a relationship with him." She said to me.
How dare she. "Are you fucking kidding me???!!"I exploded, my Irish roots igniting. "Have a relationship with him? He's a piece of shit the way he treated us! Do you think I'm too FUCKING stupid to figure that out on my own? That I couldn't see it day in and day out how he treated all of us??? Really?! I can't believe this is the BULLSHIT you are teaching in this class! This is the biggest bunch of shit I've ever heard. You aren't doing what's in the child's best interests. You're enabling the bad behavior and telling the GOOD parents to keep quiet!!!!" I practically screamed with fury. I was beyond upset that children were being mistreated and apparently no one was supposed to say "Yes, your mommy (or daddy) shouldn't be doing that." Or at the very LEAST "Cheating and drugs are big no no's. We don't do that." For goodness sakes... this was partly what was wrong with the world. Yes, maybe my approach hadn't been the best and I shouldn't have cursed but the intent was good... and needed on some level. Today, anything and everything was okay and we were just supposed to turn our heads. For goodness sake, someone stand up and do the right thing. For just once.
"Ma'am, you are going to have to lower your voice or I'm going to ask you to leave!" She admonished me glancing nervously over at her comrade of injustice who had her hand on her phone. I was about to be escorted out by the police officers downstairs. It was a "no tolerance" classroom. I was vaguely remembering now why I'd hated school. What a load of crap. I was done. I closed my booklet, crossed my arms and glowered at her the rest of the sessions. I had no tolerance for their bs. I had to return a certificate of completion to the court showing I'd finished. But I was outraged. They could take all their "teachings" and cram them where the sun don't shine. I would never forget that day, that misguided witch(!) nor the now very worried face of that father sitting at the next table.
There is nothing wrong with telling our children some behaviors are not acceptable. If our ex (man or woman) is having one night stands in the presence of our children, if our ex is drinking every night and not adequately watching our little ones, if our ex is choosing irresponsible behaviors like leaving young kids home alone, in the care of negligent partners, babysitters, etc.... or worse choices than those... we have every right to tell our children:
"That behavior is not okay", "That behavior is unacceptable,"
and "God doesn't condone those choices."
If we don't, who will? We are not under any obligation to paint our ex's behavior as pretty when it's anything but. We are under no obligation to sweep ugliness under the rug and pretend it didn't happen. We are under zero obligation to act like their other parent is doing a wonderful job when they are a detriment.
Obviously we can't say "Your father is a real piece of slime" when we hear via them how Daddy had another lady in his bedroom last night. But we can say "You know, God really doesn't condone men and women sleeping together that aren't married. That's called sin."
We can also ask our child "So how does it make you feel when Daddy does that?" More than likely it makes the child upset, sad, etc that their parent is already with someone new when they are still struggling with the very real aftermath of a painful split of his or her parents... children aren't stupid but exceptionally bright and it adds insult to injury for a child to know that a mom or dad's prime focus is his or her sexual satisfaction and emotional happiness when they are still trying to come to grips with their family being torn apart. It is a mark of selfishness that doesn't escape a child's acute observations.
It's not your job to clean up your ex's mess. It's not your job to throw a pair of rose colored glasses on your child to wear 24/7. No, it's perfectly fine to tell it like it is without bashing their parent. In fact, it's vital. Otherwise we run the long-term risk of our child believing all this bad behavior is okay... the abuse, the lying, the cheating, the shady behavior, the inappropriate choices, the drinking, the drugs, whatever it may be... we have to state what is okay and what's not... otherwise we run the very real risk of our children believing they too can behave the same way... after all, their mom or dad does it... and shockingly seems to get away with it... so why shouldn't they? We do our children a huge disservice when we don't speak up. And although I wouldn't recommend yelling it in a co-parenting class I can say do speak up... speak up regarding the injustice, speak up regarding the court system... speak up and write the truth. Write letters stating how co-parenting classes need to be overhauled; that we also need informed teachers teaching classes on how to counter bad parenting, lacking morals and overturning brainwashing and the "Disneyland effect"... keep speaking up... don't be afraid. Because when we let fear take over we lose the war on what's truly in our children's best interests.