When you are the child of divorced parents, you learn very quickly how to manipulate...errr, motivate your parents. Massage them to your way of thinking, if you will. Granted I was like 30 when my parents separated, but Minion 1 was 4 when her parents separated and she is a pro…at attempting this. It’s like this magic thing that happens to you when your parents separate. Sure, you now have to divide up holidays but you get so much more bank for your buck.
Me: Hey Mom, did I tell you that Dad got Minion 1and Minion 2 new bikes for Christmas?
Mom gave the kids a laptop that year. I’m happy because I didn’t have to pay for any of it!! (although it’s probably on the list of things I’ll be burning in hell for…but I digress…)
I notice my minions trying this:
Minion 1: at Dad’s house we’re allowed to eat hot Cheetos and candy!
Me: Really? Well let’s get your dad on the phone and explain to him how much money I spend on your teeth because of the candy. We’ll also explain to him how horribly unhealthy hot Cheetos are and…
Minion 1: I’ll just tell him I’m not allowed to eat those things next time I’m there.
Me: that’s a good idea
Minion 2: I’m allowed to play wii for as long as I want at Dad’s house.
Me: Really? Let’s get your dad on the phone and talk about the importance of reading and homework over wii time…
Minion 2: fine, I’ll go read.
What I’ve learned in recent years is I deal with my kids a lot like how I deal with my parents. Observe:
Me: Minion 1, please vacuum
Minion 1: I don’t want to.
Me: fine, I’ll have Minion 2 do it.
Minion 1: no, no, no, it’s my chore. I’ll do it!
*GT sits back and enjoys the sweet sounds of someone else vacuuming!!*
Much like the tactics that work on Mom don’t work on Dad (and vice versa), this maneuver does not work on Minion 2. He actively tries to get Minion 1 to do his chores. Motivating Minion 2 is more like this:
Me: Minion 2, go do the laundry
Minion 2: I don’t want to.
Me: fine but the laundry will get piled so high in the basement you will no longer be able to get to the wii.
Minion 2: do you want the laundry done with or without fabric softener?
*sure, many GT “dry clean only” clothes have had to be sacrificed but not only do I no longer do laundry, I get to shop for new clothes!!*
My point being (yes, there is one) when you are going through divorce and learning to be a single parent, and trying to get along with “he who must not be named”, you may not notice the subtle ways that your kids will try to manipulate you. Plus, you want to be the fun one. This is one of the most frustrating things about being the custodial parent. You are now the sole disciplinarian. They go to dad’s house for 36 hours, they play games, they eat junk, they stay up late. Then they come home and for the next 12 days you have to make them do their homework, wash behind their ears, snack on fruit…it sucks ass! Seriously! Do you know why we go to Disney once a year? Because for those brief few days, I get to be the fun parent. I get to enjoy my minions without the bounds of having to raise them to be decent, responsible human beings. We can just be as three people enjoying their time together in a magical place that doesn’t require me to send them to school on time. Oh look, I’ve digressed again.
As you are grieving, adjusting, learning, be on the look out for the subtle ways you are allowing yourself to be manipulated (by the kids, not the ex…although look out for the ex too). It’s normal to want to over compensate for Dad being gone. It’s normal to want to be the fun parent. It’s normal to want to feel loved after such a big blow as losing your marriage. But you won’t do your kids any favors by giving in. If they are going to survive as adults, they need to learn to survive on their own strengths. Besides exhausting yourself, they won’t grow their own wings if you are running around doing damage control for everything that goes wrong in their world. Just sayin’
Regardless, at least know that these little motivators can work both ways. Seriously, I haven’t swiffered the floor in months!