I am 8 years post final D-day and divorce and, while it still makes my head spin at times that I knew so little about a man I was with for over 20 years, I finally live firmly in the land of “meh.”
For the most part I am okay with him and our kids who are 13 and 15 too. He is not terribly attentive and not at all parental, but he shows up for limited visitation a couple times a month. (Which is an improvement over the past.) And, while he no longer has supervised visitation with the kids, he can’t take them to his home or have other adults with him on their visits so I feel like their contact with him is safe. Yes, he will occasionally do something like text my daughter a picture of a naked man holding a record album in front of his junk suggestively, “because it has a link to a really cool DJ she should listen to.” I delete it and tell her it is not appropriate, and she could get in trouble if she forwarded it to people at school. He calls me a prude. Done.
The problem is social media. My daughter just got a Facebook account. I knew her dad had very inappropriate content on his page from a previous custody trial and asked him to block her and told her not to friend him because he had an “adult” FB page. She didn’t, but when I checked her computer she had searched for him (out of natural curiosity) and was able to see his public profile pictures. Which are designed to get sexual attention. Professional shots of him (who couldn’t afford to make his support payments) in skimpy underwear or shirtless flexing his muscles. And sexual attention they get: dozens of men describing what they want to do to his hot, muscular body in detail. While he kept up the pretext of being monogamous with his last partners (and got booted for cheating, no surprise), he is clearly no longer doing that with the current one.
I am so sad for my daughter that she had to see this of her dad and can only imagine how confusing it is for her as she goes through puberty. Both kids know that being a father is not his priority, that his “partner” and “friends” are very important to him, that he can be abusive (both because of what they have seen with me and because he and his last boyfriend were arrested for assaulting each other in front of them), and are generally realistic about what they can expect from him while still loving him and wanting to spend the little time they have with him.
They do minimize his faults, which is what they need to do to make sense of things now, and I feel proud that they have made a peace with a really difficult situation that used to torment them.
The chump part of me wants to say “oh well, maybe he’s right and this is okay.” But I’ve had enough of a chumpectomy to know that, while I may be a prude, it is also true that no 13-year-old should see photos of her dad on the virtual prowl and the catcalls he is inspiring even if that is okay for consenting adults. And God forbid my teenage daughter or son’s schoolmates somehow stumbled on the page because the ex tagged them in a photo. Middle and high school are hard enough. I know he is not going to voluntarily block them, and he has said he thinks there is nothing wrong with it for the kids to see (and as a narcissist probably both believes this and likes that it gets at me).
So what do I do at this point? Do I take them off social media entirely though they have done nothing wrong? Do I block him from their accounts and knowing they will find a way around it as curious, tech savvy teens and try to talk with them about it? Do I let them just see what they will and figure they have to deal with the reality of their dad eventually anyway? Even at 13 and 15 when they are already confused about who they are and how romantic relationships work (or don’t)?
Thanks for any advice you can give,
Keeping MY Shirt On
You write that the kids have made peace with who their dad is, even if they minimize his faults. In my opinion, don’t block any social media access they have to their dad. Let them get the um, full picture as it were. Teenagers know how the block function works. If he embarrasses them, they can shut that down pretty quick. Your job as a mom is to help them with boundaries and let them know it’s OKAY to enforce them.
Look, I’m not saying your glamour shot bear cub there isn’t being inappropriate. He is. I’m just pointing out, as I do with all of our wingnuts exes, there’s not much you can do about it. You have full custody, he has limited visitation. From where most of us sit, you’ve got a pretty sweet deal. I’m sure many a chump would trade a naughty DJ pic for having their kids around their parents’ latest Ashley Madison flame.
Anyway, it all sucks. But take heart, if teenagers excel at anything it is brutal sarcasm. They might not tell you they find his middle-aged come on pics pathetic, but they’ll probably tell their friends. Ridicule is a good way to take their power back and make sense of grown up crazy. Let them have that.
Teenagers excommunicate for a lot less. Mine is mortified if I call him “pumpkin.” He got off Facebook all together when his grandmother posted “IS THAT YOUR FRIEND?” at an acquaintance of his.
Let them tweet and FB with their dad. Where I would shut shit down is if dad or one of dad’s friends ever tries to hit on them. And I would discuss your concerns about this with them and communicating with adults on-line in general. Gay people aren’t pedophiles (generations of homophobia to the contrary), but blatantly sexually inappropriate people can be. The most worrying thing about your ex is that he doesn’t understand boundaries between public and private. That could hurt a lot of relationships, not just with his kids — dude, your employer can Google you too.
Demystify him. Let your kids get as much of dad’s shirtless, paunchy torso as they want. If they’re like other teens, they’ll eventually ignore him. Good luck!
Hey, I’ll post the Valentine winners later today!