What About Dad?

Last Friday was a beautiful day.  At least, it was here.  After work, Boyfriend and I took a walk and when we returned, he sent a text message to his ex to find out what time Drake’s baseball game was scheduled to begin on Saturday.  (Background:  Saturday was supposed to be “Opening Day” at the ball field.  Boyfriend’s ex had previously given him a practice schedule which contained no game dates).

She responded right away to say that Drake’s game was happening at that moment.

And then she called him.  She told him the game had been in progress for about an hour and Drake had gotten some good hits.  She explained that Saturday’s game had been canceled in anticipation of bad weather and rescheduled for Friday night.  Boyfriend asked why she hadn’t bothered to let him know.  Her excuse was that she only found out about the schedule change at 9:15 the night before.  Boyfriend reminded her that it is never too late to call him (and she knows this, as we’ve gotten many late-night calls from her).  After he hung up the phone, we changed our clothes and headed to the field.

We were extremely late and there wasn’t enough light for Boyfriend to shoot any pictures.  We saw Drake get one hit, a line drive that was dropped by the second baseman.  As the opposing team fumbled with the ball, a run came in and Drake got to second base.  In all, we watched one full inning before the game was called due to darkness.  As the coaches walked off the field, Boyfriend approached the head coach and introduced himself.  He asked that his contact information added to the distribution list and explained that he nearly missed the game due to poor communication between himself and his ex.  The coach was quick to offer the same defense:  the game was scheduled at the last minute.  Again, Boyfriend stated that nearly twenty-four hours had passed and he believed that was plenty of time to have notified him.  Again, he asked to have his information added to the distribution list.  The coach made no move to record the information in his team-specific paperwork.  Instead, I pulled a business card and pen from my purse and Boyfriend wrote down his personal phone number and email address.

… This isn’t the first time we’ve endured such a co-parenting faux-pas.  It’s only the most recent in a long line of occurrences that leave me wondering, doesn’t Dad matter?  Drake’s maternal grandparents were at the game, proving that his mother wasn’t unable to tell anyone about the change in the schedule.  She simply chose not to inform her child’s father.  Such behavior is expressly forbidden in their divorce agreement, yet there is no cost-effective way to report the issue and nobody cares anyway.  Even the coach didn’t care… and what’s worse, he seemed annoyed that another parent wanted to know when he could watch his son play his favorite sport.  The vibe was the same one I’ve sensed from teachers when Boyfriend has asked for a copy of the kids’ report cards.  (In their defense, I’m sure that the coaches and teachers are annoyed that they are the ones who have to do extra work as a result of Mom and Dad’s refusal to cooperate with each other.  I get that.  Still, the answer is not to wish away the well-meaning dad!)

For years, I’ve watched Boyfriend fight to be present for his children’s events despite a lack of cooperative communication from their mother.  At the same time, I’ve heard other mothers loudly make reference to their “deadbeat” exes who aren’t their for their children.  And I’m left feeling quite skeptical.

Has anyone else experienced similar circumstances?  Moms, is it really easier to cut Dad out of the picture?  Dads, how do you feel about this?  Does anyone have any creative solutions to this problem?  Shared google calendars, perhaps??

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35 comments on “What About Dad?

  1. Erykah McC says:

    As a bio mom, I keep my ex-husband informed of everything but when that wasn’t good enough, he *demanded* that others keep him in the loop. Many people ignored him and others he threatened to sue. Approach is everything.

    As a step mom, my husband was not allowed to have any information on his daughter as his ex told the school that if he called, they were to telephone the police! Ultimately, a judge had to intervene and he made it known that he needed to be kept informed. At first he was ignored and then he played the card from my ex-husband and threatened to sue the offending parties and then and only then was he given the attention he deserved.

  2. Lori says:

    I have huge anger issues with my ex.

    And he is added to every school/team distribution list BY ME. This stuff does shift or get difficult to schedule weekly, but yes, we have to do it. Just recently I found out on a Monday that my son’s conference would be scheduled Tuesday at some unknown time. I texted the ex Monday evening and was trying locate the teacher (dang near impossible to do while they are teaching) or a friend, while I was working, of course. I was blasted for being selfish, because he would have to flex his work schedule. I was also blasted for not IMMEDIATELY telling him about my daughter’s May dance recital. That was back in February.

    I wish he could read the crap other people do and just give me a break. Scheduling things for three kids is a pain. Communicating that schedule (or God forbid, trying to schedule WITH) someone who treats you like garbage is horrific. I’m incredibly frustrated with my son’s teacher and the way she schedules things as is (sheets sent home, sent back, sent home… or at times, apparently not sent home)…

  3. Anonymous says:

    This happens to my fiance with his daughter constantly. He and her mother have joint physical and legal custody. In violation of the court order, which says they must each share all information about their daughter with each other, my “step-wife” has refused for years to tell Dad which doctor(s) SD sees, when the appointments are or what the doctor(s) said, tell him about school events or extra-curricular events, you name it. We have learned that the most effective approach is to bypass Mom altogether and go straight to the doctor, school office, dance instructor etc yourself.

    The most effective approach has been for him to approach the third party directly at the beginning of the school year or season, introduce himself, say without any rancor that he “doesn’t always get timely information from my daughter’s mom” and ask if they will add him to the mailing list. When he goes to school and the doctor’s office (the “official” places involved), he takes a copy of the court order and a government issued photo ID. People are happy to add him to the list, but you have to do it every.single.year. And you have to ask nicely and without making a big fuss that people will be afraid to get in the middle of.

    I highly recommend that you read these books ASAP for practical tips:

    Rachel Raskin, “An Umbrella for Alex.” http://www.pdan.org/store.php

    Amy J.L. Baker, “I Don’t Want To Choose.” http://www.amazon.com/dont-want-choose-middle-choosing/dp/0578003945/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303083650&sr=1-1

    Amy J.L. Baker, “Beyond the High Road: Responding to 17 Parental Alienation Strategies Without Compromising Your Morals or Harming Your Child” http://www.amyjlbaker.com/

    On related subjects, I recommend the following:

    http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Borderline-Mother-Unpredictable-Relationship/dp/0765703319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303083489&sr=1-1

    http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Family-Borderline-Personality-Disorder/dp/1592853633/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303083517&sr=1-1-spell

    “Divorce Poison” by Richard Warshak

    Original edition: http://www.amazon.com/Divorce-Poison-Publisher-Harper-Paperbacks/dp/B004TLA6KA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303086704&sr=8-2

    2010 new edition: http://www.amazon.com/Divorce-Poison-New-Updated-Bad-mouthing/dp/0061863262/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303086704&sr=8-1

    Sadly, we have a lot of experience with this. Feel free to write off-line with more questions.

    And really – stop relying on the mom. Go straight to the source.

  4. Matt Johnson says:

    My daughter is almost 4, so that’s important because she’s not into all of the sports/activities with various schedules yet. She has some activities, and also attends pre-school.
    It’s important to remember that in any standard order, the ncp has rights to records, but like a previous poster stated approach is everything.
    I talk to my daughter’s doctor, and also communicate with her preschool Director.
    As a NCP and a father I think you have to reach out to the coaches and teachers and politely communicate that you want information and schedules. If you are denied then you must document it, and follow up with a court order.
    I try to not rely on my ex for the information whenever possible.

    I also want to address your point of there being “no cost effective way” to address/report this issue. We tried in Ohio to get Family Access Motions in the legislature, but were not successful. They are a low cost solution for issues like you described, and are being used in other states successfully, without lawyers.
    Saying that, courts acrossed the land are slowly working on issues when decree’s and agreements with the Judge’s/Magistrate’s signature are not being followed by one party. Some courts will refer you to mediation, while other courts will laugh at you for something like being denied telephone time. It’s hit and miss.

    Lastly, the worst thing you can do is demand information from the other parent, or even a coach. This alienates you, and will make the situation worse, and may even bite you in the butt when/if you go for more time/custody in court, and this person is used as a character witness by the other side.
    Even if denied information you can follow up with a court order, and write a letter requesting the information.

  5. atable4three says:

    Some people think they can elevate themselves or feel better by stepping on a person they consider a threat. Getting stepped on sucks but not as bad being that small minded miserable ex. She has serious mental and emotional issues. Continue to get back up. Continue to be proactive.

    As for the coach…. Coaching is a thankless job and who knows what was on his mind at the moment. His Friday was unexpectedly rescheduled too. Maybe he is just upset BF didn’t reach out earlier in anticipation of this happening? Or maybe he simply is just a grouch? Either way, good call on handing him the business card to make it a little easier on him. Always better to stay focused on the desired outcome and not dwell on the unfairness it takes to get there.

    Will BF talk to his son? Tell him how proud he is and how glad he was to be there, and that he came as soon as he found out about the game? At some point BF should not have to be responsible for mom’s ignorance.

    • We did see Drake momentarily after the game, so he knows we were there.

      The practice of being pro-active is pretty standard for BF. He’s been doing this for years. The coach wasn’t the first to have a less-than-supportive reaction. In the fall, a cub scout leader actually complained about having “too many” parental contacts for Josh (he already had info for Mom and Stepdad). It just amazes me that the general attitude isn’t more accepting. In a culture where we hear so much about deadbeat dads… It makes me wonder if some fathers don’t fade away for this reason.

  6. Scattershot thoughts …

    –It is unacceptable for either parent to fail to share this type of information with the other parent. An occasional accidental oversight might be understandable. A systemic intention to thwart the parent-child relationship is not.

    –The post-game coach may have had a million other things on his mind, or may just have preferred to receive the request at a more convenient time, or may have been genuinely annoyed that he has to keep too many people in the loop. No matter. BF has a right to know about the games and a right to ask to be kept informed of the games. I’d say the trick is doing it in the time and manner most convenient to the coach or teacher (and therefore most likely to insure that the coach or teacher will WANT to keep BF in the loop).

    –In my personal experience, it’s worked out best for both parents to make sure they are on any communication list at the *beginning* of the school year, season, activity period, whatever. The benefits to that are many: It prevents one parent from using scheduling information as a weapon; It prevents one parent from being forced to be the secretary for the other; It prevents the appearance or feeling that the coach/teacher is being utilized as a pawn in the divorced parents’ drama by being pulled into the fray midstream; It informs all teachers/coaches/instructors from the very outset that these are TWO parents who are 100% involved in the child’s life and these are TWO parents who will be attending events and making decisions; It makes it easier for the teachers/coaches/instructors to include everybody they need to include on their contact lists at the same time, rather than having to amend it piecemeal throughout the season/year; and it prevents either parent from being able to assign blame to the other parent when a practice or game or event is missed.

    –And finally, although you may be right that some fathers (or mothers) fade away as a result of difficulties faced in trying to be kept informed or kept involved, particularly when they are not the primary custodial parent, I’m thinking those fathers (or mothers) aren’t a great loss to anyone–even the children. A parent who is so easily persuaded to quit parenting is a parent who is going to flake in a major way sooner or later. In my opinion, that’s a cop-out without any merit whatsoever.

    • Ideally, both parents’ contact information should be provided to schools/doctors/teachers/coaches/etc at the beginning of said relationship. In my ideal post-divorce vision for the future, that’s standard practice (along with respectful divorce ceremonies and jail time for alienating parents). Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. And often the outspokenness of one parent, combined with a hesitancy from others to get “involved” can make the communication even more difficult.

      I agree that any parent who would walk out because he/she didn’t get the sports schedule is probably no loss to the child. I was thinking more along the lines of consistent employment of alienation tactics combined with a lack of community support for the NCP.

      • Sure. Ideally–whichever parent is filling out any paperwork should put both sets of contact information down. I do. My ex does. If we’re at first-of-the-year open house or sports registration or whatever (and we both usually attend if possible), we’ll fill stuff out in tandem–“You do this form, I’ll do that one.” I get that if one parent won’t do that, it forces the NCP to have to speak up and ask to be included. That stinks. I guess I just meant that the earlier in the relationship that the “speaking up” occurs–preferably BEFORE there’s a conflict that may make others hesitant to get involved–the easier it might be and the more receptive to the request the coach/teacher/whomever might be. My ex and I haven’t personally run into any objection to having two sets of parent emails/phone numbers (and two sets of school forms, and two sets of whatever) requested. Educators and coaches and staff generally “get it” as long as we’re up front about requesting it and apologizing for any extra work the situation creates. We’ve never had anyone be anything but gracious about it, but maybe we’ve just gotten really lucky?

        • You are lucky. Your co-parenting relationship seems rather awesome by comparison. There have been times when Boyfriend found out by *accident* about his kids’ events/activities and then had to do extra detective work to find out who he needed to contact to get on The List. In this particular instance, though, we should’ve known better… but Mom had been on a cooperative streak.

  7. I really don’t want to hijack, but I had a thought that could help BF. I have a good divorced dad friend who has a similar “co”-parenting relationship with his ex. In response to constantly being kept out of the loop on school events and information, he decided to run for (and won) PTO president. No more worries about being unaware of school functions after that! I admire that creativity and determined involvement. Maybe BF could come up with ways to make sure he’s “in the know”–team coach, homeroom parent, play date hoster, etc. Just an idea.

  8. Also … those cooperative streaks’ll kill ya.

  9. Sonia says:

    When we first separated, I assumed my stbx would want knowledge of everything the kids were doing. I subscribed to a coparenting website that featured a calendar that not only color-coded shared custody time blocks, but also color-coded activities for the two kids. I asked my stbx to take a look at the program, and he agreed that was a great, web-based place to keep information about the kids. He subscribed as well, and that’s when I spent HOURS entering and updating every conceivable parent-teacher conference, concert, athletic meet, game, music lesson, dental appointment, play date…EVERYTHING my stbx might need to know at a glance. The program also features a databank for names and phone numbers of all important people in the kids’ life. My goal was that, if anything happened to me, the stbx would know where the children were and what they were doing. I kept this up for at least six months, keeping the calendar current with all the kids’ activities.

    One day I happened to glance at the box that showed the last time my ex logged in to look at the calendar. He hadn’t looked at it for THREE MONTHS! I sent him a message asking if he was planning to look at the calendar ever again. He said no. I did express my disappointment that he had allowed me to keep the calendar updated with reams of information about the children’s schedules when he had no intention of using it. Maybe that was his idea of a good joke on me. I do wish I could have those HUNDREDS of hours back in my life.

    At that point, I threw up my hands and figured he could just get all the information the same way I get it: straight from the source…the school, coach, music teacher. I served as his secretary (as well as valet, laundress, chef, housekeeper, governess to his children, handyman) for all the years we were married, but no more. I was willing to keep that calendar up-to-date, but he couldn’t be bothered, so to hell with it!

    For some reason, the ex never comes see the children play sports, play music in concert, act in a play, etc. He doesn’t come to parent-teacher conferences either, even though the children’s schools bend over backwards to accomodate divorced parents with separate meetings.

    In fact, he’s cancelled his last two weekends with the kids. That’s an entire month. Why? He’s “busy.” He doesn’t speak to them on the phone in between visits or text them, either. n.b.: He lives a very short distance away.

  10. ~Alice says:

    What about Mom?? I know, it’s unusual for the Mom to be considered the non-custodial parent. And I actually share joint custody with the ex. But somehow there is a distinction made because my daughter lives at his house (my old house)on weekdays, and at my house on weekends. The paperwork from school, etc, is sent there, year after year. And year after year, I have to call and make a special request to the school for duplicate paperwork. And that doesn’t guarantee I’ll get it all. It usually only guarantees I’ll get the computer-generated, automated information.

  11. ChopperPapa says:

    My ex has done a wonderful job of keeping me up to date but I have taken it one step farther and am on the email lists of the school and all of their teachers. That way I am sure not to miss anything.

    Sounds to me like Boyfriend’s ex enjoys being vindictive.

  12. Years ago, I’d set up an e-mail address that forwarded to both my then wife and myself so that we would receive our mortgage-hunting e-mails in our respective e-mail boxes, while only having to give out one e-mail address.

    As we’ve been going through the divorce process for well over a year, I’ve been using the same e-mail address when signing up for various kid-related activities and organizations. I’ve encouraged my stbx to do the same. She says it’s a great idea, and then occasionally forgets, and gives only her e-mail address anyway. So, when the opportunity arises (say, at a parent-teacher conference), I just cheerfully add my e-mail to the list in person, and everyone (so far) has been totally cool about it.

    We’ve been fortunate; we coordinate rides to our kids’ sporting events and school events, and generally work well together as co-parents. Then again, with a true 50-50 split (the so-called “2-2-3” plan), the system would fall apart for the kids, otherwise.

    And that, I think, is the real heart of the matter. If you ask yourself, “What’s best for the kids?” it becomes obvious what the right thing to do is. Whereas, if your first thought is not about what’s genuinely in the kids’ best interests, well… you can always rationalize later about why it’s okay to exclude (or withdraw).

    Cheers to the fathers and mothers who make the effort to do the right thing. It is *so much harder* than doing the easy thing. But in the long run, I am convinced your kids are better off for it.

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