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The Long Arc of Sane Parenting

When my son was in the first grade, his teacher, Mrs. Pruneprattle (not her real name) at Tuckahoe Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia told me my parenting sucked.

She actually blew a raspberry.

She said: “This is what I think of your parenting…. Phhhpppptttt!”

It was the second time I’d ever met her. I was the only single mother parent in the class.

It’s nearly 20 years later and I still burn from that insult. I wish I’d frog marched Mrs. Pruneprattle into the principal’s office and lodged a formal complaint with the school board. I wish they’d had cell phones with cameras back then so I could ask her to repeat it, and film it. I wish I’d done many things.

What I did was sell my house and get the hell out of that school system.

But back to that Bronx cheer.

My son was 6 years old. And apparently, he did not sit still well enough for 7 hours and do worksheets. He missed many a recess, because he didn’t finish his worksheets.

“He would play all the time if you let him,” she said.

I said, evenly, that in my opinion that was pretty natural for 6-year-old boys.

I thought what would follow would be a discussion about how to keep him engaged, or what to do if he was disruptive.

Instead: “This is what I think of your parenting…. Phhhpppptttt!”

And her two recommendations. First, he needed chores. Second, he needed an evaluation because he was “slow.”

Had my child had special needs, insulting us both was probably not the best way to get him help.  (It turned out he did not have a disability — he was at or above grade-level, but not “fluent” meaning, he could perform on paper, but not in that classroom. He was also about a year younger than his classmates, thanks to redshirting.)

Robert
First grade Robert

I’ve wondered a lot over the years what I did to prompt that woman to conclude that my parenting sucked. And if she thought it, why she thought she could say it.

It’s untangling the skein, I know. Did my wobbliness show? It probably did.

Here’s what Mrs. Pruneprattle didn’t know at that parent teacher conference.

  • I’d only been divorced for 2 years then, but was already well into my second custody battle.
  • That I got less than baseline child support from a mentally ill man who did find money for lawyers. (It took me 20 years to find a name for what I lived for a decade — litigation abuse.)
  • That 6 months earlier, my friend Ed committed suicide, and left me all his tools and a half-finished bathroom.

In short, my life was a shit show. But I was showing up for every performance. I slogged through that crap, bringing my mom game. The SANE parent. (Even if my sanity was marginal at times.) The only parent.

Phhhhhhpppptt!

All I knew back then was that I could not let my child internalize that woman’s opinion that he was stupid. I could not stay. Had the experience been middling bad, I probably would’ve stayed. But that’s the gift of Really Bad — I got us the hell out. New beginnings for everyone.

My son repeated the first grade at a school that had a different age cut-off. That September he told me he liked his teacher Ms. Fox. “Actually, mom, I think I LOVE her.”

*****

Which brings us to today.

That first grader is in graduate school at Penn State studying data systems. He’s taking a full course load. Four classes — he got three As and an A-. A 3.9 GPA.

Take THAT you Tuckahoe  Dolores Umbridge.

Phhhhhpppppttt!

Anyway, I’m writing this because I’m proud of my son. And I’m being that obnoxious mother today. (My son got AAAAAAAs!)

But I’m also writing this for anyone out there still in the sane parenting slog. I’m proud of you too. I’m proud of 20-years-ago me.

Keep showing up. Keep believing in your worth. In your kid’s worth.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

((Hugs))

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  • Thanks I needed to read this. I have a kid who is 18 autistic and addicted. Legal troubles and a year behind at school. He has struggled since he is 14. I left my toxic ex 2 years ago. Lo and behold my son is out of legal troubles, has 120 days sober, is going to school, is engaging with his support team, and has a job. I helped him through this and I will continue to do my best to support him and his brother. Safe and Sane is my mantra.

  • I love this!! Redshirting! Perfect term for it – didn’t know it. I raised both of my kids as a single Mom in Northern VA as the only Mom who DIDN’T “redshirt” and boy was I given a hard time by the other Moms – kids never gave a crap. My daughter graduated from the US Naval Academy and is now kicking butt in the fleet, my son graduated college with a 3.5 GPA, has a job – both are happy, well adjusted, contributing members of society which is really all I ever wanted for them. My experience close to that was when the Home Ec teacher called me to let me know that she’d walked back into the classroom to find my son leaning back with his FEET on the TABLE! “You would never let him do that at home, now would you?” she asked. No, No , I promise, never I stammered, almost bursting into tears. My son came home and told me that teacher is nuts don’t worry about it. So yes – stay sane, stay mighty and focus on the big picture!

    • I can relate. The jazz band teacher had to have a talk with me that my middle son was too chatty in band practice. He’s an economist in DC and is often on tv with economic news. Teachers can be petty and so clueless as to what parents are dealing with.
      ‘Feet on desk’ OH BROTHER!
      🤣

      • I had constant complaints from a second grade teacher. My son can be difficult, but it was like every other day. Son was in the school counselor’s discussion group so I talked to her. She said the teacher was having such a hard time with the boys in the class that the counselor was called in to observe, and it was just that the teacher couldn’t handle the dynamic in that classroom and it was chaos. When they’re completely overwhelmed I think the teachers just lash out at the nearest kid with an irritating behavior as a whipping boy. My son does need help with certain things about his behavior, but she was the one melting down, not him. I feel bad for her now, although at the time I was pretty mad she was targeting my boy even though she knew his dad was gone. Still I tried to take her notes-home in stride, and tell my son as long as he knows he’s trying his best he’ll be ok. I did consider asking to move classes, but then COVID happened.

      • If we weren’t all protecting our anonymity (and if he were single) I would try to fix him up with my daughter. College grad and owns a house within walking distance of a DC Metro station. She started her IRA when she was 19.

  • Woohoo! Congrats CL & Son! Thank you for encouraging single moms & dads (those can include ones still in relationships too that do all the work while FW’s just show up to get their participant badge)! It’s okay too to be that celebratory mom/dad after dealing with people along the way who try and pee on your parade! Don’t take it personal, you likely had the same Ms. Pruneprattle that I had who sipped vodka from the coffee flask on her desk!!

    • Some cheaters don’t even show up for participant badges.
      The x never went to one parent-teacher conference, class party, recital or field trip. Too busy with “work”. I also worked full time, but somehow I was able to show up.
      He would have had a hard time even coming up with what grade the kids were in, let alone knowing their teachers’ names.
      The only thing that he ever showed up for were high school football games for the youngest. And the only reason he did that was because youngest son was a star player who got a lot of media coverage.
      X had to bask in the glow of reflected glory and accept the praise for something he had no part in. He didn’t shuttle him back and forth to practice, buy any equipment or provide any meals for team dinners. He didn’t staff the concession stand or buy every fundraising item on offer. He just showed up for games and hung out with the dads who were drinking from flasks (at a high school game!) and cursing the refs.
      On another note: letting my son play football is one of my biggest regrets as a parent (my top regret was not leaving x way at the beginning of the marriage). Son is now middle-aged with CTE and it’s made his life pretty difficult. But that boy would have walked through fire to get any attention from his father, who didn’t deserve the sacrifice our son made for scraps of attention. I’m now firmly in the camp of those who detest football and the toxic culture surrounding it.

      • I agree with you about football. I played it without any long term physical damage, but I now recognize it as intrinsically dangerous. I can’t watch it anymore after learning about CTE. However, it does have value for teen boys. They can learn a lot about challenging themselves physically, teamwork and developing strong relationships. I know that it was important for my youngest son, especially while his parents marriage was exploding from his mom’s cheating. I just wish it wasn’t football that attracted him.

      • Dear Old Crone, I too detest football. LTC Fuckface played football. He attended University on a football scholarship. Then was a graduate student assistant coach of his University. He had so many bad hits and concussions while playing. Between that and getting percussive injury from his years as a tanker I believe his brain is damaged. It is either that or he is just a terrible person.

      • Congratulations CL and your son on such success. I also had an asshat that “didn’t show up”. As hindsight is 20/ 20, it would have been easier to do it alone. Nothing is worse than being married to someone that works AGAINST you. No help with homework, school activities, religious education, summer programs, health appointments or college applications (or even figuring out how to pay for college). Any issues with teachers were dealt with by me. As far as sports, ours was hockey. Yes, he became involved in that. It was apparent that his involvement had nothing to do with our two sons. He relished the attention he got from other moms!
        I too wish that I had divorced many years earlier.

        • I’ve worked with women who were married but appeared to me to be doing all of the child rearing. I found myself wondering why they stayed married.

  • My son’s friend was booted out of advanced math in 5th grade. He just didn’t have it, too immature, the teacher said. Dismissed. He took a photocopy of his perfect ACT score and went back to the elementary school and laid it on the same teacher’s desk. His 3 college internships were with a huge insurance co, yahoo and Facebook. He’s now a computer engineer who bought a house in our hometown for an investment, married to an an international lawyer (law degrees from US and another country), living in Paris. You should consider an open letter to the school board with your story. And cc the teacher. I had a teacher roll her eyes at me when I said I thought my son was pretty intelligent and school was not designed for wiggly 8 year old boys. He now has a ba, mha (that was free), was a healthcare fellow, was a team captain in hs, on a state championship sports team, and is now an expert – at age 29 – in Medicare and Medicaid finance. I don’t miss the education world at all.

    • My Middle School math teacher didn’t appreciate my smart mouth, so he tracked me into remedial math in High School. Within two years I was in honors advanced math group! He was just a boring teacher!

    • Something like this happened to my brother, sister and I. We were a family from the USA taking placement exams to get into a British school in Africa where we were going to live for a couple of years. The teachers all assumed we were stupid because we did not have British accents, so they were pretty annoyed when all three of us did so well on the placement exams, that we were eligible to skip a grade. They would not allow my brother to do this, saying that boys were too immature. Though they skipped my sister and me up into appropriate grades for our academic levels, the teachers there made a lot of patronizing comments about how they didn’t think my sister would be able to pass the international exams that older students in the British system have to pass (called O levels or GCE’s back then), and commented about my supposed cultural disadvantages because of having an American accent and having different handwriting from that taught in British schools. The result was that we all became pretty angry, but we quietly put our anger into doing our schoolwork (and in my case, I also taught myself the new kind of handwriting in my spare time). All of us completed all the text books for the grades they put us into after just a few months, and had to be given text books from the grades above, which we also completed quickly. My brother did this so efficiently and maturely that he ended up finishing the text books several grades ahead of his age group by the time the first year was out. And I am happy to say that my older sister was the ONLY person in her class to get top marks on the international exams, even with her (gasp!) American accent. We would have felt very lucky to have a supportive parent like CL to get us out of there earlier though–we felt unsafe and under siege a lot of the time, and my father actually made it worse for us rather than better. Luckily after 2 years we all moved to another country.

  • Congrats to your and your son! Well done!!! This is a well-deserved rebuttal to the folks who say “I can’t divorce my cheater because it’ll hurt my kids!” Truly all you need is ONE sane parent. Similarly, my kid, who I raised while suing her father- a federal judge – TWICE – for basic child support, is a happily married doctor, mother of two, on faculty at an Ivy League university. MWAH hahahahahaha. She also doesn’t take shit in her relationships, I like to think, because she saw her own mother uphold standards of behavior. Never forget that they’re watching us to model what’s acceptable and what’s not. Being a single parent is a cakewalk compared to living with deceit and disrespect, and it’s better for the kids, too.

  • As a teacher, this makes my blood boil. That woman has no business being in education and I’m sorry you had to deal with that. Bad teachers have no right lecturing a mom doing her best.

  • Congrats! Some teachers suck—my son’s 6th grade gifted teacher told me he didn’t belong in the advanced classes because he didn’t “look gifted.” Yes, he didn’t physically didn’t appear gifted to her. He was redshirted but it was because he refused to use the toilet until he was 6; another parenting fail “why does he wet his pants?”) The kid is stubborn, loyal and graduated from high school last year-6 AP classes and working full time because his FW of a father refused to pay child support and my lackluster attorney couldn’t/wouldn’t get a court order for temporary support. He took a semester off from college and his confidence grows daily-my charming x told this boy on his 18th birthday that he wished said son had never been born, all men see prostitutes, and we were holding him back from his karmic connection with a drug addict. As someone who works in education, I can say some individuals are sh!tty teachers.

    • I think it is so hard for some to admit, but yes there are shitty teachers. Thankfully most are good, some are average and some are awful.

      I had a couple nasty ones growing up, my son had a couple. We over came them, but they should have never been teachers.

      Much like any other profession or any job, mixed bag.

    • Your boy’s Dad told him, on his 18th birthday, that he wished your boy, his son, had never been born? Did I read that right??
      It completely floors me when people say such cruel, selfish things. It’s beyond my understanding that a parent could be so savage to their child. Faithful Rage, I’m so glad you are there for your marvellous young man, long may you two be happy together! ❤

      • Yes, you read that right. I’m still showing up for my son while my x sends a text once a week to him “hey man, how ya doing?” Per my PSA, I’m to rehabilitate our sons relationship with their father. They are young adults and can figure out if they want to contact him. Not my job to make the kids like him.

    • “my charming X told this boy on his 18th birthday that he wished said son had never been born, all men see prostitutes, and we were holding him back from his karmic connection with a drug addict.”

      🤬 Fucker. I hope his drug addict schmoopie gives him HIV.

  • So timely as I was just remembering this morning the teacher who caused me to drop out of the gifted program when I was a kid – she literally spoke to me with sarcasm and sneering contempt when I talked about the projects I wanted to do.

    The sad truth is there are assholes in all walks of life and although most teachers are wonderful, there’s a subset out there who are drawn to power over the vulnerable they can abuse.

    And for all of us doing the sane parent slog … yay for the kids who end up with success and a long list of achievements, but also yay for the kids who are fighting through their challenges and mental illness and addiction, and for the parents who show up everyday to support them.

    • Thanks for your wise comments. There are indeed incompetent, burned out, or just plain nasty folks in every profession, as well as stellar, inspirational ones, as well. And fighting through the challenges, and showing up, whether it’s our kids or us, is the pre-requisite for success.

      PS: I got the “girls can’t possibly be smart” treatment. In elementary school I raced through the SRA reading program so fast my teacher, who at first couldn’t believe I’d read so many units and passed the questions, put me on a restrictive timetable so I wouldn’t finish so fast.

      • “…put me on a restrictive timetable so I wouldn’t finish so fast.”

        Oh dear. It’s hard to be an outlier. Glad you persevered despite this treatment.

      • I LOVED the SRA program! I’d finish my classwork early and had permission to go through the SRAs on my own until class was over. It kept me interested, quiet, and developed a lifelong love of a wide range of topics. I didn’t know or care that the teacher was paying attention to my progress but I guess she was. She let me read my library books during class after I finished the SRA series. Thank you Mrs. Jordan, wherever you are!!

    • “there’s a subset out there who are drawn to power over the vulnerable they can abuse”. I def agree with this,Better Days.
      In teaching, in counseling, in law enforcement, medicine, government, corporate world or any employment situation, families, religions, and on and on and on. All over the place!
      Yes, there are rotten apples on every societal tree in every orchard, surrounded by all the delicious apples. Hard to cull them out sometimes and way more difficult when we have already been injured and feel pretty fragile and unsafe until we gain our feet under us.
      Woo hoo, for all you sane parents with agency advocating for your kids with kick ass strength! Yes!!!
      I think we are somehow more equipped to recognize unhealthy individuals from being in unhealthy experiences we did not sign up for . It’s one of the few benefits of surviving abuse, our eyes are wide open and can’t be closed now.
      Sane, loving parents are saving the planet one kid at a time. 😊👍🐥

    • “yay for the kids who end up with success and a long list of achievements, but also yay for the kids who are fighting through their challenges and mental illness and addiction, and for the parents who show up everyday to support them.”

      Well said. For some kids just getting through another day is a struggle, let alone academic achievement.

  • I raised my daughter as a single mom, from the time she was 3.5. Her father personified parental alienation overdrive and started sexually abusing her at 11. My daughter was his revenge fantasy sidekick and at times she really invested in the game of ‘let’s get Mom’. She’s 22 and not doing well. She has physically escaped her father, but hasn’t figured out that her Mom wasn’t that bad. She is extremely abusive and has an ever-moving bar for me to earn her forgiveness (I don’t bite). I hope she matures with time and figures some stuff out. In the meantime, I work on my sanity, learn about cult dynamics (cults can be only 2), and do my best to keep the door open. The long game takes many forms.

    • I’m so sorry. I don’t know how you didn’t kill your ex. It must take daily restraint. I hope your daughter comes around, and I hope there’s comfort that you did your best. Such abuse is beyond anything that anyone should ever have to deal with.

    • Incredible, NMN. I’m sorry. I hope your daughter gets some therapy and figures out who the real villain is.

  • Chump Lady, you are amazing!
    I had a similar encounter with an older 2nd grade teacher almost 40 years ago that still makes me angry.
    She told me that she didn’t have anything positive to say about my beautiful, smart, quiet and shy boy. I sat there stunned.
    When I asked what he was doing wrong, she essentially told me that she doesn’t like boys and only had daughters herself.
    I did speak to the principal, and was able to move him into a different classroom. There were some abusive behaviors my son reported that bolstered my request to transfer him from her class. She actually HIT some of the children.
    But she should have been fired; tenure kept her at that school for way too long.

    • This is horrible. But we all should be aware that in 2022 there are STILL some states that allow corporal punishment of students.

  • Yes, it feels like a slog some days. I’m in the middle of yet another custody battle (he thinks he should have his parenting time increased to 50% because I’m abusive. Yes, his argument is I’m abusive so I should get the standard custody amount), AND I’m invoking our binding arbitration clause to get him to pay child support based on his six-figure income. I just got his financials, and he goes to a bar/eats out basically daily. But he’s claiming financial hardship and should t have to pay the $10,000 back lay he owes me. Did I mention he has $20k just sitting in an account?

    But anyway, our son is in high school and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I did the heavy lifting as a parent even when we were at 50/50 custody while he blamed me for not spoon feeding him everything like dates of band concerts and parent teacher conferences. I just hope I can hold on these last few years.

    • Yes, FWs expect you to be their Personal Assistants, sending off the kid’s grades and dates for sporting events, for the FW to opine & decide if they want to attend, or not. Again, like you are their Secretary. I’ve told FW many times “I get the information online, just like you can. The Internet isn’t only connected to my house” 🙄

      • I’m just glad the judge called him out on it during a status conference, otherwise I’d worry I wasn’t doing everything I should to co-parent with him.

    • Oh god, the spoon feeding. When schools went virtual in 2019/20, my son was living with me full time (I worked from home and FW worked outside the home, so we agreed it was safest), the figuring out all the virtual school stuff all fell to me. FW never once asked about how it was going, if there was anything he could do, how our son was doing, etc. He did, however, have plenty of criticism when our son missed a few assignments early in the semester (because I was still figuring things out, like how to submit work). When we finally went back to shared custody, FW wanted me to tell him all the details of how virtual school worked. I did, because I’m not an asshole and I didn’t want him to weaponize that in court (the way he tried to use EVERYTHING against me, good or bad), but it irritated me to no end, because I’d had to figure all of that out myself. Why couldn’t he? He also got angry that homework wasn’t getting done, yet didn’t help my son do any assignments during his parenting days. Yet he bugged the teachers all the time because he thought it made him look like an involved parent (the teacher told me about the frequent contact, and the tone of her voice told me it wasn’t particularly welcome). Ugh.

      Not surprisingly, all the practical day to day parenting tasks fell to me (like purchasing school supplies, making doctor/dentist appointments, buying clothes, getting haircuts, cutting the kid’s fingernails, overseeing homework, etc.), while FW just hung out with the kid and played Disney dad and thought he was so great, slapping everything he and the kid did together on social media (sort of “pics or it didn’t happen” – and since I put almost nothing on Facebook because I am more private, he assumed I never did anything recreational with our kid).

  • My DS was a middle of the road student in HS. I got divorced when he was a senior. I remember the scared look on his face when we talked about college and student loans. He got better grades in college than he ever did in HS. “I can see the value in it” is what he told me. And…the best thing he ever said to me was “I know that you are the one I can count on Mom.” Still brings tears to my eyes.

    • We should be proud of every kids who persists to graduation. They are still young, even at 22 or 23, not fully brain mature. My old therapist used to remind me of this old joke: What do we call the person who finished last in his/her Harvard medical school class? A doctor. And some of them may be great doctors because they have better people skills.

  • Chump Lady – Thank you for sharing the details of a painful and pivotal moment in your chump experience. I am so grateful that you did not give up and went on to gain a life. Thanks for the instruction manual.

  • This post validates all the nights studying middle school algebra (while we’re both in tears and me explaining that I was an English major that went to law school in order to AVOID math), recruiting my Parisian friend to assist with French tests, staying up late to finish art projects, helping her to understand iambic pentameter, all virtually during a friggin GLOBAL pandemic. The ex sees his child 48 hours a year, while living 10 minutes away, and doesn’t know or care how she’s doing academically, physically, or mentally. To all of you SANE parents – keep on keeping on! We’ve got this!

  • Ok, I’m crying reading this. CL, you’re something else (in a great way). There are a lot of great teachers out there, but the bad ones can really do damage.

    Although I wasn’t officially a single parent, I feel I was in some ways because x just wasn’t around much. Yes, he had a job that required many hours of work–I don’t dispute that–but he was also absent a lot because he had NEEDS–needs to golf, play hockey, fish, go to conferences, go on fishing/golfing trips, and fuck other women apparently (which I didn’t now about, obviously. #chump). Even on family vacations, he would go off on his own. Who does that? At the time, I thought it was normal. It’s as if the dysfunction crept in without my realizing it. 🙄 🤦🏻‍♀️

    When I look back on so much of my life, I see myself with my kids. I truly enjoyed being with them. Still do! x just wasn’t in the picture, and when he was around, he was often a moody asshole–the kind of guy who could make sledding with the kids unpleasant. He is a classic vulnerable narc.

    I think we adapt to disordered people. It’s probably dysfunctional, but we do it because it seems like a good decision at the time. Example: I took advantage of his yearly, early-December, out-of-town medical conferences to buy, erect, and decorate the tree with the kids, thus avoiding the negative commentary and overall unpleasantness of doing it with him. I was so happy to see him fly off so that the kids and I could do it ourselves. Bottom line: kids and I had such fun time doing the tree! Great memories! No fights. Just cookies and Christmas music.

    In October, it’ll be 3 years since D-Day. x, who no doubt toggles between rage and self-pity these days, believes that the kids want nothing to do with him because I’ve poisoned them. He will never see/admit that he did that all by himself by being a self-centered, entitled, moody a-hole.

    He was emotionally abusive, but he will go to his grave believing he was a great dad.

    They wish I’d left him when they were young. Ugh. I feel guilty about this. All I can say now is that I did the best I could with what I had. There were enough decent breadcrumbs to keep me in the mirage (thanks, VH). And I spackled like no other. “Your father means well.” Ugh.

    For some reason, I needed infidelity to knock me to my senses. Life is calmer and better now for my entire family. Family gatherings are pleasant without his toxic presence. Christmas every day!

    Here’s to all the sane parents out there!!

    • Ugh, the “need” to play golf! I’m so turned off by that sport after being berated for asking him to occasionally reschedule a golf game so he could actually be a parent on the weekends so I could get stuff done w/o a toddler clinging to me.

      • For me to have time to myself when I had one toddler and was pregnant, I had to say i was going to the driving range. That was the only acceptable reason to be away.

        Oh god. Can’t believe I lived like that. I remember pointing out to him the ridiculousness of having to do an activity sanctioned by him. I should be able to sit on a park bench and stare off into the distance if that floats my boat.

        And yet, there I was trying to perfect my golf swing, and I didn’t even like to golf. Such wimpy behavior, and yet the funny thing is that I felt very strong. I can’t explain it. He was so shy. So socially, I ruled in a way. He needed me in social situations (I thought). But he truly controlled. It was just more insidious.

        I lost myself in that man. It was his needs, his hobbies. It was easier not to resist. Ugh. Sad.

          • Well, back then he wasn’t into fishing.

            This really makes me cringe for my younger self. Why I didn’t tell him that I would do whatever the hell I wanted, and he could pound sand, I don’t know, except to say that, in part thanks to my family of origin, I learned to please early on.

            Also, my golfing seemed to improve HIS mood, which in turn helped everyone. It’s crazy. Ugh. For the same reason, I wanted his favorite sports teams to win. 🤦🏻‍♀️

        • I feel this so hard. Coercive control is nearly impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t lived through it. He didn’t hit me, but he made life Very Unpleasant in minute and almost indescribable ways if I didn’t do exactly as he wanted. I came to be able to read that guy’s damn mind.

          • Same. Mind reader here, too. That kind of abuse is insidious. I agree that only those who’ve experienced it can truly understand.

    • Oh goodness. I recognise this so much! When I read your comment it made me feel so grateful, I’m not in that situation anymore.
      I used to pull onto the drive and sit in my car and wonder what mood he would be in. I love Christmas, but would dread the drama/moaning about it all.
      Even when I wasn’t a single parent, I did all the donkey work. He didn’t need to lift a finger. He would do the same; he would go off on his own on vacation too.
      I spent most of my time with my son and I enjoyed it. He would make statements like ‘Our son likes you better than me’. Pitiful!
      Family gatherings aren’t stressful anymore, trying to second guess his mood.
      This is life-affirming that even though he left me, it is definitely for the better.

    • “I think we adapt to disordered people. It’s probably dysfunctional, but we do it because it seems like a good decision at the time.”

      So true. Also, it’s often because we had to adapt to it as children with disordered FOO, so it just seems normal.

    • Your comment about how he’d go off on his own on family vacations resonated with me. He’d sit in a Hawaiian hotel room while I zip lined with our sons. He’d sit in a cruise ship cabin at port because he didn’t like the beach, the museum, the country. What a FW. He was miserable all of the time. I realize now I built a family for my kids by myself. Our memories are amazing. I learned to live alone long before I filed for divorce, I just didn’t realize it.

  • My son’s first grade teacher AND doctors agreed we should try ritalin on our son and that he needed special accommodations and intervention. I on the other hand felt he was being pushed to learn things beyond his current comprehension. Instead of adding and subtracting, they were doing Venn Diagrams and extrapolating meanings from stories etc. with homework that could only possibly be completed with a parents input, not on their own. What a waste of everyone’s time. I knew it was going to steal the joy from our family time with ‘torcher-homework’ instead of play at home after being in school ALL DAY, but mostly I feared if he got a whiff of the idea that he was ‘less than’ as a student it would get in his head forever, so I pulled him out also.
    He just graduated from high school Magna Cum Laude, and also earned his AA degree at the same time, Summa Cum Laude. He is off to study engineering in the Honors Program at a great college AND has a great attitude and confidence. At the time I was terrified that maybe he did need that help, and did need ritalin. Maybe I was wrong. But my ‘deeper’ gut told me to stick with my choices and be observant to see if they actually were correct. These one’s weren’t all idiots like CL’s son’s teacher, most were just following protocol I think. In the end, it obviously was their approach and material, not my son.

    • Nightly homework was torture for my 7 yo which meant it was for me as well. I repeatedly asked the teacher to teach them to write their assignments down daily or give a list of requirements weekly to them. She expected them to remember all the assignments to turn in as well as the directions on a daily basis. I learned my DD missed going out a lot.
      Our system required us to assign work outside of school. I thought it was ridiculous. I had them for 7 hours a day and if I couldn’t cover it during that time then something was wrong. I believe they considered it giving them responsibility?? WTF
      So as a teacher ,I used writing homework assignments as “ handwriting practice” and didn’t assign more than what could be completed in 30 minutes or less. Read nightly and a couple of review math problems. I knew parents were tired and kids needed a break. Some had single parents, some had both but were neglected, some didn’t have the basics that we take for granted. Some were on meds but didn’t get them consistently and I had some that suffered severe ptsd and I had to have police remove them while keeping the others safe.8-9 yo children. Some with severe diagnosed and probably undiagnosed mental illnesses. A box of Valentines chocolate. I’d never look at cumulative files comments because I wanted to see the kids myself without labels.
      There are plenty of shits in every profession but I know plenty of extremely intelligent teachers who could go into the private sector but choose to stay using their Megan pay and resources hoping to make a difference.

      • What a wonderful teacher! Yes, the ‘responsibility’ homework! What a joke. And kids this age aren’t capable of self-management at that level. After I pulled my son I would see the push and pull with my friends and their young children after school trying to get through the abstract homework, parents believing they were sending their kids to a great school that would help their child succeed, but instead it was creating a hatred for learning and self-doubt. One of my mom friends who remained behind told me she point blank said to the teacher ” so let me get this straight, you teach for 7 hours during the day, and then we home-school after”.

  • I really wish the court system would get it together. Cheaters are 💩 people and 💩 parents. Life is all about them, not the children. 50/50 custody is not necessarily the best for the children.

    • Yes! And sometimes joint decision making and co-parenting isn’t the best for kids either.

  • The gift of Really Bad: profound words.

    First grade Robert: absolutely adorable!!!

    Thank you for your wisdom, CL.

  • I am a veteran of dealing with standard-issue classroom teachers and also with special education teachers. So, with all the greatest respect to any of those here …

    Teaching is among the lowest-paid professions. Is it any surprise that it doesn’t attract the best of the best? The smart kids go into engineering, data wrangling, or medicine. Some are privately employed as teachers by people who can afford to pay them decent money.

    Similarly with special education teachers, school speech specialists etc. The best are in private practice, not herding cats in the public school system. I’ll spare you the details on how I know this.

    Happily, cream still rises to the top. Congrats, CL, on getting your son what he needed to do that!

  • Whoot! Graduation week!

    I got my son through years of splitting half his year living in a tiny, remote, community with a marginal school system and the dynamic small town with a STEM focused school that I moved him to after leaving XAss back in 2015. I had 4 extra months of legal shit and $4k thrown at a court system to get XAss to allow the kid to spend his Sr. Year fully with me to qualify for scholarships. But it was ALL worth it. Tomorrow night we find out what other scholarship awards he’s gotten, but we already know my 3.9 GPA student (would have been a 4.0 but darn Hist and Gov!) is going to U of CO to study Computer Sci and Engineering with major scholarships from the college under his wing. And it ain’t because of what his father did for him that’s for sure!

    We have the graduation event on Saturday. My whole family is coming to celebrate, and to ride buffer between me and XAss who has announced he will grace us with his presence, so I don’t have to see him, or interact with him as little as possible.

    I’m so dam proud of my kid. And I can’t wait to see what he does and where he goes next!

  • It’s hard being the sane (and only) parent a lot of the time. Ex died two years ago after the divorce was final so I don’t have him sticking his two cents in or deliberately not participating in child rearing anymore. He was mostly absent before the divorce anyway. Thank you everyone for sharing. My kids could not be any different in school. They are both bright. My 16 year old son is ADHD, depression and anxiety and has dropped out of his junior year in high school despite me trying to move mountains with therapy, etc. My 13 year old daughter is entering high school next year. Organized, does her homework, socially adept, participates in sports. My parenting approach is different for each of them because they have such different needs. Most schools are not structured to work with kids who aren’t neurotypical learners. My son’s school finally introduced a program at the beginning of this academic year for kids like him but he couldn’t be in this program because it was only for entering freshman. It made my blood boil.

    I know that all will work out in the end and that each child will find their way but it’s tough sometimes. But I know that I am a good mom and my kids are kind and decent human beings despite their dad’s influence.

    • One doesn’t like to rejoice in anyone’s misfortune, but parenting has been so much easier since my ex died. My stress level has gone down to almost nothing, and even more important, my KID’s stress has gone down. My son is autistic, and the constant back and forth between two homes was not healthy for him. Nor was the toxic environment he was subjected to with his dad, especially toward the end after OW left.

      I was very fortunate that my ex agreed to have my son change schools to the one where I lived before he died. I never thought he’d go for that (it was the magistrate’s decision, really, but my ex acceded quite quickly with no argument). The new school is so much better than the old one, and my son loves school now. And changing schools while dealing with his father’s death and the loss of one of his homes, a complete disruption to his routine, etc. would have made everything harder.

  • Yes, I’ve had to throw down with several teachers in my son’s elementary school who wanted me to drug my sons. With Ritalin, etc. Because they were antsy and wouldn’t sit still and these teachers (all older women) wanted to turn my boys into girls, as little girls can sit still for 8 hours straight, no bathroom or recess breaks and sit there quietly, while little boys are antsy & fidgety. I told the teachers if my boys were diagnosed and needed the drugs, we would explore that path, but that the behavior they were describing was normal boy behavior and that I wasn’t drugging them.

    • ” … wanted to turn my boys into girls … ”

      A fate worse than death, to be sure.

      Seriously, enough with the misogyny, OK? We all get that teachers can be jerks. Not many of them are actively trying to prevent the testicle tanning boys today apparently need.

      • And there is absolutely nothing wrong with Ritalin or other psychotropic drugs for those who need them. I know a lot of kids (and adults) whose lives have turned around with appropriate medication. Better living through chemistry, I say.

    • Girls can’t sit for 8 hours either. And frankly adults shouldn’t either. But for little kids, it’s not developmentally appropriate. I’ve only had a boy, but yes, he needed a lot of physical play time. I think all kids do and would benefit from more nature walks, in all weather, and fewer worksheets.

      • Right on. I was an antsy, talkative kid all the way through elementary and secondary school. I needed more exercise and more challenge. Back in those days, girls didn’t even have sports teams. But some kids thrive in quiet classes and time for solitary pursuits. Every kid is different.

      • Sitting all day long is the new smoking.
        Forest bathing for everybody 🌲 🌳 ☀️ ⛅️ 🚶🏼‍♀️ 🥾

      • I get so mad at these policies that have kids sitting with no breaks. It’s funny, people are so quick to want to imitate Asian schools with their advanced work loads but my friends who grew up in Asia (Taipei and Beijing) all tell me they had 10 minute recesses every hour where they would be brought outside to run races or given jump ropes to skip to children’s songs. They would come back panting and in much better shape to learn.

      • THANK YOU. You think it’s annoying that a teacher wants your active little boy to sit quietly all day, try having an active little girl who doesn’t benefit from sexist tropes about how ‘boys will be boys, they just have all that energy’.

        • “You think it’s annoying that a teacher wants your active little boy to sit quietly all day, try having an active little girl who doesn’t benefit from sexist tropes about how ‘boys will be boys, they just have all that energy’.”

          Totally.

    • “wanted to turn my boys into girls, as little girls can sit still for 8 hours straight, no bathroom or recess breaks and sit there quietly, while little boys are antsy & fidgety.”

      Nonsense. Little girls can’t do that either.
      I upvoted your post accidentally.

    • Reconsider your position on this. Older teachers have a lot of experience and offer valuable insight.

      If the teacher is suggesting that you look closer at your child’s inattention, it’s worth a closer look.

      Depending on age, it can simply be a sign of immaturity that will work itself out with age. It can also be a sign of a learning disability that won’t get better over time and result in increasing frustration for your kid that will affect learning in the long run.

      Trust me… my oldest kid is 34 and my youngest is 11 (8 altogether) and I’ve got 7 grandkids from age 11 down to 4. I’ve been the parent resistant to suggestion of learning difficulties until quite some time had gone by that we couldn’t get back. I’ve got one daughter who’s 31 and I wouldn’t listen and she still struggles.

      Get them more recess and exercise opportunities, yes….HOWEVER…. It’s worth getting them evaluated because if there is a problem, early intervention is key.

    • Um, dude I couldn’t sit still and be compliant for 8 hours, and I was an Asian little girl. I incited a mutiny in primary school. But I never wantonly destroyed things, or hassled or laid hands on the other kids. Maybe your kids would benefit from individualized education plans, more exercise, or better ways of pursuing their real interests. Maybe they are on the spectrum, as I was. But you know what doesn’t benefit anyone? Outdated gender stereotypes.

  • I so needed this today. Last week I was managing long term medical issues with my youngest and a mental health crisis with my oldest. All with crickets from the FW. And yet I still have to try to communicate with him and involve him as per the divorce decree, which adds another layer of stress. Sometimes I think he does it to get back at me, and it’s hurting the kids which causes another level of pain for me.

    Soldering on as the sane parent, and working on my reactions to stress and “self care” to be there for the kids long term.

  • CL, thank you! You have given me some hope today. My kiddo was a grump this morning and there are times I worry what direction he will go. Klootzak is a never-ending count of negativity and I fear my child has learned the same anger and nastiness. In school, he does very well. One of my lining up ducks missions was to get him in an excellent private school in the area as I already had issues with the public school kindergarten (after a seamless, wonderful private preschool) and knew in my heart it would only get worse. I knew to set up private school for my child BEFORE filing for divorce as courts tend to keep wheels in motion on things the kids are already signed up for. It was a battle I wouldn’t have to fight with klootzak later. And it paid off, as I convinced klootzak to sign the contract. My son’s school is wonderful. He is supported well and I feel the same as a parent. Communication with the staff is top notch and the principal comes to talk when he sees parents around. This is the place that is best for my son and I’m still patting myself on the back for getting him in and convincing klootzak. It was a major win. And after a rough morning, you have given me hope that my efforts may pay off in spades. I really needed to read this story. It came at the right moment for me.

  • Congratulations Robert!! And well done Robert’s Mum 😽
    I had a similar experience after ex left, when my 16yo son was failing to cope in sixth form but desperate to stay, since it was familiar and his friends were there. One of the teachers told me he was a ‘lost soul’. I agonized about my beloved boy for quite awhile until another teacher colleague of mine said she had no right to say that. I’m a Teaching Assistant myself and would never be so insensitive!

  • Showing up and being there is the most important part of parenting, or caregiving. We all make mistakes, have bad days, miss opportunities etc. The important thing is we can apologize, make corrections and move forward. Some things cannot be changed, like having a missing FW parent, or dementia, or learning disabilities. You find out what you are working with, then you do the work. If you care, you are there. You do not have to take disrespectful behavior. Adults in positions of power should know better. People with illnesses, mental or otherwise, may not realize it when they hurt you. There are consequences for bad behavior even those with problems can realize. You present options and choices, and you move on.

    I’m proud of my sons, too, Chumplady. They were a lot of work, but totally worth it. Congratulations to your son for finding his path, and to you for being the sane parent.

  • “But that’s the gift of Really Bad — I got us the hell out. New beginnings for everyone.”

    Mighty and I salute you. I became an advocate for my children and other people’s children in school systems that punished the outliers.
    My last hurrah – one mean occupational therapist got her ass handed to her at a high level iep meeting as she darvo-ed and said she felt attacked when I pointed out her intentional and obvious abuse of the children and the system. Ah… glory days.

    Anyhoo – keep rockin’ that integrity and that mama / papa bear. The real parent prevails.

  • I know there are some fantastic teachers out there. I know this. However, my undergrad degree had “Education” attached to it, so I had to do a required semester of student teaching. What I witnessed horrified me. In the school in which I taught, there were only TWO teachers I would have trusted a child of mine with. That experience was only one of the reasons I home-schooled my daughter (prior to FW’s affairs) (maybe). Also, I know that home-schooling simply isn’t an option for many people.

    My hat is off to the sane single parents. The ones who attend the recitals, the ceremonies, the conferences. You are, indeed, modeling what it means to be a parent.

    I am also aware that being a single parent means you often have to work while said recitals, ceremonies, etc. are taking place. Sometimes you can get off to attend, sometimes you just can’t.

    Having said that, I had a private student once who joined the “at risk” girls choir at her high-school, because she didn’t have time for the competitive choir. That choir was made up of girls who were in danger of dropping out for various reasons, but my student was dedicated. She invited me to an upcoming concert, and I was happy to go. The choir had about 30-40 girls in it.

    There were 8 people in the audience. My student’s parents and myself were 3 of them.

    Those girls sang their hearts out for essentially an empty room. When I asked the choir director about it, she said that most had absentee parents, or single parents who often had to work late, or just flat-out couldn’t be bothered…which might be exactly why their daughter was “at risk”.

    Remember how mighty you ARE, you single and sane parents. Remember that you are a model for your kids, not just now, but always.

  • My middle school english teacher had a horrible reputation. This teacher was unnecessarily strict with grading on the grounds we were “preparing for college” and used to read our grades out loud to the class instead of posting them with our student ID #s, even if we were failing (she’d just mouth “F” or “D” as if no one would figure out what she was saying.) Fast forward 20 years…I’m working as a Government buyer and who should walk into the Business Expo I’m working that day but my 7th grade English teacher! She had apparently left education (thank God) and started a business consulting firm. I didn’t tell her who I was, but I gave her pitch a sincere listen and determined we didn’t have a need for the type of business consultation her firm offered. I felt so vindicated, even though we truly didn’t have a need for the type of consultation her firm offered. I’m just glad I got to be the one to tell her “thanks but no thanks and maybe register your business with the Small Business office over at table B!”

    • As someone who teaches college freshmen, I often have to undo the “preparation” that middle and HS teachers provide. Want to prepare kids for college? They need to read, widely. They need to write about what they read, what they experience. They need to learn to ask questions. They need to learn it’s OK to make mistakes. They need to learn to “grind,” intellectually. That is, to stick with a subject until they have at least some mastery of it. And they need to understand research (via Google and elsewhere) as a starting point for building knowledge, not an endpoint of finding decontextualized “information.” Even activities like fantasy football can prepare kids for critical thinking and analysis.

      • I’m hoping that playing video games can provide critical thinking and analysis because my 19-year-old sure plays them a lot! Crossing my fingers… At least he was good enough to be selected for his competitive college team and he met some new people. 🙂 And I’m glad the game he’s best at is not a first-person shooter game. Makes me feel better, anyway.

        • My youngest just graduated university with a computer science degree. He taught himself how to read in kindergarten by playing video games! He went into grade 1 reading at grade 5 level.

  • Is anyone else thinking of the scene in Uncle Buck where John Candy has to speak to the principle about his niece?

  • ❤️💪 Cheers to the sane and suck it to all the asswipes who crap on single sane parents! I needed this today. Big hugs CN!

  • WTF is it with 1st grade teachers? My son had one that should NEVER have been in the classroom. She treated all the boys like demons and fawned over the girls. I had to quit volunteering in her classroom or I would’ve committed murder and neither she nor the most badly behaved little girls would not have been worth the life sentence. The American (US) educational system is extremely dysfunctional and I don’t put the blame solely on the teachers.

    Unlike Tracy’s son, my is special needs and he still struggles with school today – he’s finishing his first year of college. Unsurprisingly, he did well with teachers that worked with both of us to accommodate his special needs and failed miserably with teachers who, like this teacher that Tracy calls out, just threw the students a worksheet or an assignment then didn’t guide them any further. All kids learn differently (as do adults, said the long time software training consultant, ahem) and that needs to be acknowledged, not forced into some one size fits all approach.

  • Well done, CL, on all fronts, but especially on changing schools and getting Kiddo to repeat first grade. That was a genius move.

    This year I taught the daughter of one of the worst students I ever had during my high school teaching years. She’s a superstar, so evidently her father turned out all right. As a teacher with 40+ years of experience, one of the things I hate the most is teachers who make judgments about kids’ intelligence and abilities based on very limited information. Now, given the news from Buffalo this weekend, obviously there are kids who are truly troubled, who need intervention, who may pose a danger to the public or themselves. But in most cases, kids are all over the map developmentally and may struggle with math at one point or need more physical outlets at another. (The smartest teacher I ever had gave students a double recess for good grades on tests. It was not only a motivator but once a week allowed us to burn off a lot of energy).

    Don’t put too much stock in what kids do in high school. Even students with low grades can get into community college, where once they identify what interests them, the turnaround in terms of grades and study habits can be amazing. Most kids at 18 aren’t done growing and learning and changing. We should never write them off so young in terms of their overall abilities. And in first grade, that’s a terrible thing. My brother’s 3rd grade teacher told him he “would never be able to do math.” What did he do for a living? He was a bank auditor.

    • I was one of those kids. Could not have cared less about school and did enough only to keep me from failing and having to answer too many questions. In college, I made honor roll and Dean’s List once I knew what direction I wanted to go. School is not always an indication of intelligence or drive… for some it’s just something we have to get through with a lot of social BS to handle.

  • i was called in for a conference for my daughter, in which the teacher very seriously talked about kiddo’s scissoring deficits. she was ready to draw up an IPP for scissoring. FYI kiddo has godawful hand-eye coordination.

    i laughed all the way home.

    another teacher was very concerned that my daughter exhibited weird social behaviour because she occasionally wandered off during recess, to hang around by the trees and watch the river water flow past. “why isn’t she socializing with the other girls?” demanded same teacher. “um, because she’s a little daydreamy?” i responded.

    school’s are hermetic environments where everyone stares at everyone, and the smallest differences are seized/fixated upon. you see it in how kids are called nicknames for wearing the same t-shirt two days in a row, where teachers fixate on what’s packed in lunchboxes (“where are all the food groups”), etc. etc.

    closed systems can be problematic.

  • Sometimes you need a 504 Plan or an IEP to get the modifications and assistance your child needs. If your child is experiencing trauma, that sometimes is grounds for special assessments. My neighbor’s child got an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and special accommodations due to social anxiety.
    If you child does have special needs and either a 504 or IEP, keep in mind that you can have anyone you want at the mandatory meetings. I had a team of at least four outside professionals whenever we had meetings, and I knew they all had my back as well as my child’s.
    I kept his school up to date on major issues that were occurring. Schools and teachers are very aware that emotional upheaval from divorce will affect kids, although some are more sympathetic than others.
    As for meds, many kids benefit enormously from ritalin and other ADHD medications, IF they have ADHD. The purpose is not to stifle or sedate them (which can happen with over-medication), but to help them exert the self- control and focus that they’d have otherwise. A child with ADD-ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other conditions that impact learning may need an MD who specializes in pediatric medication management. They are sometimes affiliated with organizations that provide mental health services.

    • Susannah, wait a dang second. I thought it was an appropriate and proper response to such fuckery! Are you sure it isn’t?

  • Proud mama bear, you certainly deserve to be CL!
    And you can’t not smile when looking at that happy face in the photo, he can’t even contain his joy, lol!
    Love that!
    ( raspberry to your parenting?! so outrageous it’s almost comical if not downright criminal, what an idiot! I wonder how many kids lives she screwed up through the years with her superior and knowing attitude, one is too many)

  • CL – you go girl! You give us so much to model here at CN… from what works to what you learned the hard way, the good, the bad and the ugly. And, being the sane parent is definitely a juggling act of all 3. Congratulations to you and your son… keep lifting him up!

    For me, I was almost grateful (in hindsight) when Mr. Sparkles left and became visitation Dad (at best). No fault to my stepchildren who all grew up abandoned by their Dad and their moms (for whatever reason) struggled to be the sane parent. They all have trials and tribulations today that are a direct result of their chaotic upbringing. I was going to be able to parent my way – without his “you baby him too much” admonitions.

    I work full-time, take care of the house, book the doctor appointments, plan the camps, sign the permission slips, tuck in at bed time, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry… and still squeeze in vacations and book club. Mr. Sparkles waltzes in on the night of the choir performance or the day of the meet, but can’t be bothered with the in-between. Parenting happens in the in-between. The daily grind… and I love it, and soon I’ll miss it.

    Now, eight years out, I’m proud of my kid and my parenting. Because I took the time to listen to him talk about dinosaurs, to build legos, to read books, to cheer from the sidelines, to lay beside him as he drifted off to sleep… my kid trusts me… he talks to me… he has confidence and kindness… at 16, I can look at him and know I did my best. I don’t know what his future holds (he wants to go away to college and study Maths), but I know I’ve given him a foundation of having a sane parent… and I think it’s the best thing I could’ve done for him.

    Shout out to all single sane parents – you’ve got this.

    • or waltz in at the award ceremony as the proud parent, smiling, standing next to their child as if they’re responsible for their child receiving the award.

  • Congrats to Chump Lady and Chump Baby! Rock star mom and rock star kid! Despite the circumstances!

    My son got an award last week for making A/B Honor Roll. Through the shittiest year of our lives, he was somehow able to pull off BETTER grades than last year! There’s something to be said about having an absolutely toxic person removed from your home. It gets better, Newbies.

  • Muthafuckker! Called my son catatonic!…sent a letter to the middle school councilors stating the same. The councilors were wildly insulted for me. One in particular made it her mission to prove that jack off wrong. ( I could have kissed her) Not only did she keep regular tabs on my son but sent the offending fuck face progress reports on his progress (A all the way) and gave snarky commentary back to the dickhead. My son has had incredible success through the years and is currently a high level executive with a global entertainment company. FUCK YOU Mr Beefwobbler! Nutbag Jr. Is fine doing well and happy in spite of YOU.

  • Chump Lady, your timing is uncanny. I wake up and read your blog every day, and most days the topic is exactly what I need. Yesterday was my daughter’s 16th birthday. She is gorgeous, bright and happy. She’s without a father. His presence has slowly dwindled since we split almost 3 years ago after DDay. It seems he’s not getting what he wants out of being a dad, so he’s just done. He hated paying child support so he just paid little bits of it. During my recent mediation I just rolled it up into a lump sum and negotiated it away- I used it as leverage to make him think he was getting a good deal. He took it immediately. He’s never helped either of us financially since he left. He did nothing to help during pandemic lockdowns. He didn’t check in our well-being or offer to help at all. He and schmoops tried to have me institutionalized at first, but I was onto them and they weren’t effective, and I do not need an institution-I needed to stop being gaslighted and mindfucked was all. The level of grief I had terrified my husband and his interpretation of the situation was that I was insane. I’ve slogged every day for 3 years to keep my daughter healthy and happy while her father left to live out his sexual fantasies without the burden of his real life. Sometimes I feel so sorry for myself, but yesterday, looking into the face of my healthy and happy young woman, I felt good. She still snuggles in bed with me and tells me she loves me. I have had pangs of empathy for her father in the past because he’s missed out on those delicious snuggles with her. But yesterday that empathy was gone. I felt a fleeting sadness that her dad didn’t call her, but then I also believe she’s better off without the fuckwit who chose to follow his dick and left us both. Sucks to be him. Thanks for the post today and you are so mighty chumps!

  • This is inspiring, Tracy. Bad teachers are something for sure.

    My 5th grade teacher was constantly treating me like I was stupid. I remember she assigned some fiction books and wouldn’t let me read the one I wanted to read because “it has a lot of big words.”

    Reality: I sometimes struggled to complete work as I had a dysfunctional home situation, had just moved from Alaska to Washington state, and had very nearly been murdered the summer before. I was probably on the spectrum on top of that, and Aspergers/HFA was not well-understood in the 80s and 90s.

    But telling me I was too dumb for *Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold* by Jean Fritz was super-helpful for sure.

    I read four foreign languages now and just finished my first year of PhD work. Take that, Mrs. Umbridge.

  • If I only knew what I know today, including CL and CN and their experiences and views.

    I like to say that teachers and students are like obstetricians and birthing: most babies are born healthy with, without or in spite of the obstetrician. But you know when an obstetrician is good when a healthy baby is delivered after a complicated labor.

    Some teachers are just plain lazy or don’t have any imagination (and I am a teacher).

    I heard from my son’s 1st grade teacher that he shouldn’t be in a regular school (turns out he has a visuospatial difficulty and should have used squared paper for arithmetic in grade school). He is getting his PhD in Ecology

  • And congratulations Tracy! You must feel so good and proud of your son! Hope your move is almost finished!

  • As the resident Former-Unicorn here, I am a walking-talking cautionary tale of how big a mistake it is to stay.

    I was sure that it was better for the kids to be in an “intact” family and I wildly underestimated the damage their father’s poor example would have on them.

    Between the 3 of them, there was psychiatric issues for all 3, a surprise pregnancy, 2 college fail-outs, lots of weed, jail time and not a healthy relationship amongst the 3 of them. One kid has cancer and chooses to not discuss it with me, but from all accounts, he doesn’t seem to be dying.

    The good that came out of all that was a wonderful grandson and when my daughter was in jail for weed possession (she is the same one I would fix up with the economist in an earlier post), she hosted a book club and gave lectures on personal finance to her fellow inmates. I will also boast that I was the favorite jail-mom and they passed my letters around for everyone to read. One young gal I never met ran around waving my letter in the air.

    9 years removed from Cheaters death and 2 of them are doing really well. The kid with cancer (and likely on the spectrum) is mostly paying his own bills. I bought a condo so that he wouldn’t be homeless. They are mostly hippies who have done remarkable jobs of convincing me that their politics are morally superior to the alternative.

    Im gentle with myself in that if I he’d left and they struggled anyway, I would have blamed myself for that, so I was never going to win in the short term…Im working at winning the long game. Maybe God needed a loving jail-mom in that moment.

    • You could totally be my jail mom if I had to do time for weed possession. I can’t imagine anything nicer!

      • The day she got out, her boyfriend was supposed to pick her up. I live 60 miles of hellish highway away but I’m a mom and I needed to see her, so (even though were taking an international flight later that day, I got up at the asscrack of dawn and drove to the jail. Her loser bf overslept and wasn’t there, but I scooped her up and we went to IHOP.

        We got settled in the booth and took our jackets off and we were wearing the same shirt. I didn’t even know we both owned the same shirt. How bizarre. Does North Face know that they manufacture the perfect “getting out of jail” shirt?

  • There is a lying cheating traitorous jerk shaped hole in my life where my phony husband used to be. And right by my side is our daughter, whose trust in me is warranted and whose sense of trust and safety he and the grifting cockroaches shattered.

    He has a shifty shady skanky side piece and a big pile of ashes where his relationship with our daughter used to be.

    I definitely came out on top.

    My daughter will be eighteen in two and a half years and I am keeping my focus on her and myself. She is my priority and I don’t want to dilute my attention with dating. There’s plenty of time for that after she’s off and flying solo and I am healed enough. I really like being on my own so who knows when that will happen.

    Right now it feels right to commit my energies to healing both of us and parenting her. Even more so to mitigate and hopefully lessen the damage and trauma he inflicted on her and me.

    • Yes! Once they turn 18 there is a chance all this close time just goes away. I am SO glad I didn’t seriously date anyone these past few years now that my son has graduated HS.

  • Yay Tracey that you airlifted yourselves up and away from that “teacher”. I love and adore the good ones and used “I” messages to confront the ones who were out of line. In particular, I almost nuked the kindergarten teacher who told me to ignore a child crying when I was volunteering in the classroom. She often smelled like she’d had a lot to drink the night before. The day she told me to ignore a crying child I think my face split in half, a skull emerged, and flames shot out of my eye sockets.

    I got as close as I legally could and growled at her, “I do not ignore ANYONE crying.”

    I told the little girl’s
    mother what was going on. I learned she was crying because she was afraid to use the bathroom away from home, was in distress, AND NEEDED HELP.

    Man I was pissed. But I had that child’s back and advocated for her.

    The thing that pisses me off most about cheaters and the losers that cheat with them is the damage they do to children, which is severe.

  • I taught and loved being creative meeting my students needs. I was fortunate to train and work with outstanding caring teachers and support staff.
    As a parent, with my own kid’s education, life and home, I was married but left single and had to make every decision alone.
    When my DD was in grade school she was in a class of 8. Yes, 8 at a charter school. That would have been my dream number as I’ve had as many as 33 in a class. Wall to wall desks. She was the only one not reading. They gave her every test available without finding a disability. I knew she just wasn’t ready but the principal insinuated I leave her there until the end of the semester cause you gotta have the numbers for funding (I wasn’t stupid) and because it was going to hurt their scores. Her teacher was talking negatively about her one day without knowing I was behind her.
    Why would I leave my kid in an environment where she wasn’t wanted for being herself? They had no clue we were living in that in our own home while dealing with discard and abuse.
    I unenrolled her immediately. I homeschooled both kids through HS. Not always perfectly but with love and solutions to enhance them personally.
    The one who was a late reader graduated college and works in publishing with a great love for literature. The other works, continues to get promotions, is empathetic and kind.
    If I mimicked their dads traits and actions they would be part of the system from neglect.
    Two people lifting equally would be great. One lifting and one pretending to lift is just difficult. One lifting without distractions and with full focus can make things happen.

  • Congrats to you AND Robert—you validate the strength and wisdom of each other. Know that he is at a place that will become a part of him and change his life forever….and a message to Robert……..WE ARE!!!!

  • I have been sending kids to school since 1993. By the time I am done, I will have done it for 38 years. I have been through numerous school fads (Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind, Common Core, not sure what we’re in now or what’s next…) and I have been lectured by good and bad “educators” (the ones that rile generally start with “I’ve been an educator for X number of years and this is why I’m smarter than you…..”) and NEVER have I had one blow a raspberry at me. You were right to get the hell out of there! The sheer audacity…

    • Even teachers roll their eyes at things legislators put in place for educational requirements. Most have no idea about what goes into education on a daily basis. My take is anyone making the laws needs to spend six months to a year in class being totally responsible for their classes with teachers pay.
      As a teacher I loved learning, exploring, and implementing new concepts into the class that would actually make a concept click and add enjoyment to learning.
      Putting Willy Nilly requirements on educators that require new training only to be dropped and replaced in a few years is frustrating.
      I was extremely fortunate to spend my first three yrs teaching in a pilot program that gave teachers run of the school. We made the schedules, organized the students in classes, hired the principal, put together the curriculum… we did what was in the best interest for the kids and worked our asses off. It was low income and spent our summers putting together a book mobile traveling to homes and local stores to give them something to look forward too. During the summer we went to every child’s home that was in our class to meet the caretaker. I even met a parent at a rest stop where they worked because it was the only time we could meet. It was eye opening and brought compassion and understanding in each class. And if you measure by test scores, we among the top in the county. We weren’t paid anymore but were vested in the kids.
      Of course it wasn’t funded after the three years. It was how I got my first job. The teachers were in charge of hiring and being a first yr I made less money so more funds could be allocated to other programs. I am so thankful for that experience because it showed me what “ could be” in education.

  • Thanks for sharing this. In my case, my daughter did extremely well in school. Never had any issues… oh wait, an assistant principal did call me to voice her concern that my daughter shared what she heard on her social media when a kid threatened a school shooting. I responded that of course she interacted with her friends… there was no information forthcoming from the school. (Btw, the threat was real; someone turned the kid in and they found weapons at his house.)

    But I digress… I gave up a big career because my ex traveled alot for his work. And I didn’t want a nanny raising our kid. When we split, he actually told me I had been “sitting on my ass” for years. Yes, he was traveling and having affairs, while I was there EVERY DAY taking care of our daughter. She was 14 when we split; he said our work was done, we just had to give her a place to live. Yeah, right.

    She is kicking ass at college right now. I suppose it’s a good thing I sat on my ass all those years.

  • Congrats to your son; that was a smart parenting move. Your pride in him is evident. And because I love the help you’ve provided me and others I would like to gently note that you didn’t write that your young adult son agreed to have his grades posted or picture displayed.
    I note the discomfort some kids feel at exposure on social media.

    Keep up the great and entertaining guidance of us all.

  • Everytime I facetime my teenager who is at university elsewhere he is surrounded by plumes of smoke and his eyes are suspiciously red ~ but he is handing his assignments in at least. It’s hard when you put your heart and soul into parenting but all you can do is hope for the best.

    • I am not a fan of the weed that my kids smoke yet they have done ok and it seems to decrease their anxiety. My kids are all living lives WAY OFF the perfect path and sometimes it hurts to see other parents going to more than one graduation and hosting weddings and I feel bad that I may likely miss those milestones, but I love them and all their uniqueness. They are kind and aren’t racist or classist …they have taught me so much.

      I did have a former friend cruelly rub her son’s success in my face right when my son was in a depression so deep he scarcely came off the sofa for 6 months and I didn’t even know if he would live through it. It was her fault for being an asshole, not son’s fault for being less than (he was just being himself).

  • AWESOME work son of the ChumpLady! I knew when I first met her via LAGCAL she was a great mom! You got really lucky!!!

  • Thank you so much! I’m at the start of my sane parenting slog with my 2-year old son and this gave me so much motivation. 🙂

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