Dear Chump Lady,
Last week my youngest son asked me to watch his dog while he and his wife flew up to spend the weekend with my older son and his wife. I enjoy watching his dog so I said sure. I was glad to hear that my two sons and their wives were going to be spending time together.
Yesterday I found out that my ex was on this vacation as well. It brought back the pain and rejection all over again, although I did my best to not feel jealous. Lately I’ve been wistfully watching other families getting together with their grown kids and it makes me feel sad. Both my kids and ex moved away and I’m the only one left in the town where we raised them. To hear that my kids were together with their dad over the weekend while I was home alone was tough. I’d love to spend that kind of time them having fun! Unfortunately I can’t afford to pay for their air flights like my ex can.
My kids weren’t able to be with me for Christmas, and I’ve not spent more than a few hours with them at a time in the past year. Since they’re newly married they tend to spend holidays with their wives’ families. They also spend the weekends with my ex at his grand new home with a 6′ wide TV. It’s all so hard. My parents are elderly and I spend the holidays with them, but I sure miss my kids.
Should I tell my kids that withholding information about who they were vacationing with hurt me? It reminded me so much of their father constantly traveling on “business trips” but not revealing who he was really with. I know my failed relationship with my ex is different than the one with my kids, but I’m so tired of people in my family not being honest with me.
I’m happy for the kids to spend time with their dad. My oldest has especially been estranged from his dad since D-day and I’m sure it helps him to have his brother there as a buffer. Still, I wish they’d have told me the truth about their trip so I wouldn’t have to hear about it from someone else.
My sister says I should act nonchalant but let them know I realize that their dad was there. She says they’ll realize it’s no big deal and be more forthcoming in the future. I’m sure they’re being quiet about getting together with their dad to protect my feelings.
What is your opinion on how I should handle this situation?
BTW, my kids are 28 and 26. Their dad left me two years ago, a couple of months after the oldest got married. The dynamics are different with adult children of divorce.
I have a great group of friends, a good counselor, and am dating someone I enjoy spending time with. I’ve done everything I can to help myself, but this situation just sent me into a small tailspin.
Before you talk to your kids, figure out what you’re upset about. Once you’ve got a handle on that, then figure out how to approach them.
Sound simple? Not really. It’s hard sometimes to figure out what we’re really upset about. Being chumps we’ve got the spackle ready, and will pounce on our truth at the first sign of discomfort.
I think you need to tangle apart your kids’ relationship with their dad and your kids’ relationship with you. The part in this story that would piss me off is NOT that they took a vacation with their father — it’s that your son took a vacation with his father, didn’t mention it, and left you his dog to watch.
Why didn’t he mention it? Because I think the odds would substantially increase that he’d be paying kennel costs. It’s a lie of omission to gain advantage — free dog sitting. It’s treating you like a chump.
Now, you might be very generous and agree to watch his dog so he could vacation with his brother and cheater dad — but that should’ve been your choice. I think you’d be completely within your rights to not want to put yourself out to accommodate that vacation. Your children are adult men. It’s NOT your job to facilitate their relationship with dad. You don’t have to remind them to send him a birthday card, you don’t have to drive them to the airport, and you don’t have to dog sit.
Where you may be spackling is thinking, oh it’s churlish of me to feel resentful, it’s my job to Be Above This for my kids and not harm their relationship with dad. No, the issue is feeling disrespected. Like you weren’t worthy of the truth.
If your son moved away, then he went to some effort to visit you to leave you with the dog. So apparently he IS capable of visiting you.
This is what I’d do. I’d tell the younger son that you learned secondhand that he was on a vacation with his dad. You would’ve preferred to have heard it from him. Then, set a boundary. Son, I like your dog and I’m happy to watch your dog, but not so you can visit your dad. You can tell him why (it stirs up resentment, I feel abandoned) or you can just leave it there. It’s your boundary.
You only control you. You don’t control their relationship with their dad. If they want to accept plane tickets, and spend Xmas in front of his widescreen TV, that’s their business. All you can do is maintain your own relationship with your sons. Invite them to visit. Or — if you’re like my mother — invite yourself over to visit them. That’s one plane ticket, or a long car ride. Hey, I’d love to see you, what’s February look like?
If you want them for Christmas, speak up! Don’t just accept it’s you and your elderly parents. Sure, your kids might have other plans, but go ahead and ask.
But you want them to come to you. You want them to value the relationship enough that you don’t have to chase them. I get it, Lyn. I think this is the push me/pull you of parenting young adults. Maybe wiser chumps will speak up on this one, but this is what I would do if I were you — fill your life up. Book a trip for yourself over the next holiday. Visit a friend. Next time son needs a Fido sitter? Be unavailable. Why? Because you’re busy with your new life.
Change the chump dynamic. Don’t be the parent who always does for them and can be taken advantage of. I think your kids might not mention dad, or visit, because maybe they too feel like you were abandoned. It stirs up their guilt. They’re busy with their new lives and new wives. Better to avoid you. (Except as dog sitter.)
So don’t act abandoned — be relieved to be rid of that cheater’s sorry ass. Hope he and his widescreen TV are very happy together. Project to your sons that you’re okay, really. Share your new life with them, whatever that is. New friends, talk of new hobbies, new responsibilities at work. Be more than the Sad Left Behind Woman. Be more than the dog sitter. Be mighty.