Dear Chump Lady,
I’ve been divorced from my narcissistic ex-husband for almost a year. He married the OW three weeks after. In that time he has probably seen our 15-year-old son a handful of times, even though he lives less than 2 miles away.
My son has been asking for Grand Theft Auto 5; I read the reviews like a good mom and decided no, he does not need to play this, The reviews say not for anyone under 18. It is full of filth objectifying women not to mention the violence and language. Anyway, I thought he was okay with it — he said his friends weren’t allowed to have it either.
Fast forward to NOW, literally I am shaking as I write this — he has been invited to go over to watch a football game on TV. He had made a Facebook account on my old iPad; I look at it occasionally when he has plans with them to see what is going on. Really — I am so over him and have been for years. I was one of those spouses who stayed in it for the kids and to honor my vows. As an aside, we have two kids in college — my son doesn’t speak to him, and daughter has very little to do with him.
But I digress — I saw on FB messages where he asked his step-mother to buy it for him, and she said sure! She bought one of the versions for her son when he was 16 so it must be okay. If your mom finds it, she is going to be PISSED! But it is not like there is any fucking going on.”
OMG! How do you handle this???? She said she was always the “cool mom” doing this stuff for her kids’ friends and never got caught. She almost sounded giddy at the thought of doing this behind my back.
I don’t think this is her decision to make. The ex is staying out of it of course according to her. There’s a lot I could expose about him, not that it would matter — he’s the roof over her head, her medical insurance, her trips every 6 weeks to see her grandchild. He is her savior, Knight in Shining Armor — you name it. He rescued her from poverty and bankruptcy so he is perfect in her eyes. They only knew each other about 3 months before he bought her a $12,000 engagement ring. He told her he was divorced when they met on Match.com. He asked our son, 14 at the time, to lie for him if she happened to ask him if we were divorced already. (This was when she lived out of state and he took son to meet her).
I am just sick over this turn of events. I don’t want to keep them apart, but I haven’t encouraged ex to reach out either because of the awful influence he is.
CL – please work your magic to make this sound good. My thoughts are a jumbled mess right now. Thank you.
Happy at last
(Or at least I thought I was.)
Boy I’m torn on which way to digress here — my revulsion at violent video games (my teenage son plays them too) — or my extreme annoyance at the cult of the Cool Parent. Did I miss something in the previous generations? My mother would no sooner buy me a wildly inappropriate anything as a teenager than she would wear white after Labor Day. My father freaked out at nail polish. My mother once inquired about a dress (a turtleneck dress, chumps, cut slightly above the knee, which I wore when I was 23 years old and much, much thinner) why was I dressed as a streetwalker?
My grandmother (my mother’s mother) had entire rooms of furniture that were completely off limits to minors. “Grandma’s pretty. Don’t TOUCH.” They held elaborate cocktail parties. I was allowed to pass a bowl of mixed nuts around and look winsome, and then disappear and soothe myself of my boredom. (A book usually.)
There was Adult Space and there was Kid Space. I was very clear where I was in the pecking order. I conformed to their world, until I got old enough to get the hell away and have my own life. I sat at the kid’s table. I endured Methodist handbell choir and sleepaway camp and a thousand other things that Were Not My Idea. No one entertained me. No one catered to my interests. Go outside and play. Scram!
Adults had boundaries. They were a bit scary. And by the time I was in college, I would’ve rather chewed off my arm then live back with my parents again. And I’m sure they felt the same. They mortified me.
And here’s the thing — my parents are very nice people. I especially appreciate them now that I have a teenager of my own. But they were never my FRIENDS, they were my parents. They told me what to do, how to do it, and if I didn’t like it, suck up and deal. I can make the rules when I pay the mortgage. It not a democracy.
I say these own things to my 16 year old son. “It’s not a democracy.” “You don’t like it? Too bad.” “Wherever you left it.” When he gets stroppy, I explain the hierarchy. You don’t speak to your mother like that.
Oh, I’m soft and squishy and give in a lot too — I don’t want to misrepresent myself. But the point is — my kid is ready to leave the nest. Why? Because I’m not his friend. We’re not equals. I love him, I’m his mom, but I’m not chasing after him for kibbles. If you do this parent thing right, they launch, and become independent. We’re not going to smoke dope together, party, and play video games. He’s not ever going to live in my basement so help me God.
Something happened with our generation of parenting. The pendulum swung way the other way. It became cool to be enmeshed with your kid. To be their “friend.” To negotiate everything. To not be seen as the Authority. We have a whole generation of these perpetual adolescent parent friends. Cool moms and dads. (Or as someone here so brilliantly puts it, “Uncle Daddy.”)
I think chumps usually find themselves the heavy in parenting. Discipline is such a drag. The cheater gets to be the Fun Parent. They extract kibbles at your expense. They undermine. They try to get the kids to join the pick me dance. They want the kid to choose them over the other parent. “It’s you and me against the square parent chump over there. You want me to buy you alcohol underage? Okay! You want to skip school? Okay!”
Whatever Makes You Happy.
I wonder if a lot of cheaters weren’t parented this way. My precious sugarkins. The Rules Don’t Apply to You.
OW is, of course, setting a DREADFUL example. She knows what the rules are at your house, and yes, she’s enjoying thumbing her nose at them.
And here’s the shit sandwich — she can do that because it’s her and narcissist dad’s house. They can do any stupid, irresponsible, ridiculous thing they want to do so long as it doesn’t put your kid in imminent harm. You don’t control what goes on at that house.
So short answer to your question? Your son can play that stupid, violent game at their house. That shit isn’t welcome in YOUR house. Your house, YOUR RULES. He doesn’t like it? Too bad, so sad.
I know this feels hugely unjust. There you are doing all the HARD WORK of parenting, the daily slog, and those idiots never check in, never do any of the heavy lifting, but they’re totally happy to swoop in and undermine you for shits and giggles. OW is buying cheap popularity — for the price of one violent video game.
Stay the course, Happy. You’re the mom. Keep living your values. If you want to confront your son (and let him know you can see his FaceBook page), express your displeasure to your son, but acknowledge that you do not control what his father and OW do.
Teenagers are going to take the path of least resistance. Of course they want the easy, permissive parent. For awhile, anyway. But take the long view — you’re the parent he’s going to respect. You’re the parent who has his back and acts like a grown up. You’re the parent modeling the right things to him.
Karma? Some day he’ll have a teenager of his own.