Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | July 22, 2010


My (our) oldest son turned eight years old yesterday.

This morning, I drove him to the airport for his first cross-country trip without his parents. He is going to spend a week with my parents, who are taking him to a fly-in that they go to every year. It’s a big to-do.

He has been acting a bit aloof lately. He’s been fighting with his five-year-old brother. He’s been out of sorts. Penny, as I may have mentioned here before, tends to see things in terms of blame. She blames his recent moody behavior on anticipation surrounding the trip. She resents my parents for scheduling this so close to his birthday, even though she knows that this annual event always happens at this time of year, as does his birthday, and none of us have any control over either, but that both my grandparents and our son have been wanting to share this event for some time. Penny says he’s got too much going on — which, by the way, is certainly true. I mean, if you add up all of his gymnastics practice (three days a week for three hours each session), that the house if up for sale, the normal phases that any 8-year-old boy would be going through, not to mention his actual birthday coming to pass, and the normal stresses of having to share with two younger brothers, and the fact that his father is now always at work and rarely seen at home during daylight hours… yes, he has too much going on.

And look, *I* am stressed out at seeing my little boy leave the nest for the very first time. So of course, Penny is stressed by this, too. But the trip is the scapegoat for everything — every act of defiance, every whine and every pout. Never mind that he has gone through phases like this before when such a trip was not looming on the horizon. Never mind all of the other new stressors in our sons’ lives. For now (and the foreseeable future), any and all calamities can be blamed on the trip that he is taking to visit his grandparents. My parents.

Penny said something the other day (yesterday) about how annoyed she is about this whole thing. I didn’t respond. I wasn’t in the mood to fight, especially in front of the kids (which I won’t do). I won’t be baited. But it bothers me.

I’m reminded of a scene in the movie The Terminator, when the psychologist describes Sarah Conner’s “delusion” as being airtight and perfectly self referential. Any and all outcomes can be used as evidence to support the delusion. In Sarah Conner’s case, the “delusion” was that a robot from the future was sent back in time to kill her. In Penny’s case, it’s the notion that anything that ever goes wrong in any behavior exhibited by any of our children can be blamed on something I (or my sphere of influence) did or allowed to happen.

Of course, in the movie, Sarah actually was being chased by an assassin robot from the future. Maybe Penny is right, too. Maybe no matter what goes wrong with the kids, it’s all my fault.

Dear Son:

 I hope you have an amazing adventure these next eight days.

Dear Penny:

I won’t be back.




  1. Sounds to me like this trip is causing Penny a lot of anxiety and stress and she’s projecting it onto your son.

    She’s making this trip (and by extension, you) the scapegoat for his behaviour when it could very well be the combination of everything going on right now. Kids just sometimes act out like that, particularly when they’ve got a lot going on. His behaviour isn’t out of the realm of “normal” or “expected”, and it’s not going to kill him. He will have a great time with the grandparents, I’m sure. And hopefully he’ll return home with that attitude adjustment he sounds like he needs. 😉

    heh. Maybe you should send Penny away for a week or two. 😉

  2. Um. Why are you expecting Penny will behave appropriately? Aren’t you divorcing her because she doesn’t do that?

  3. Nine hours of gymnastics? Not judging. Does that cut into the amount of time for sleeping?

  4. ugh. sounds trying. sorry to hear it. but hopefully the trip will do the little one some good.

  5. Do you think he (and the rest of your kids) senses your impending divorce? Even if you haven’t told them yet, they can probably FEEL the disconnect and may be acting out in response to that…kids are smart in that way even if they’re young. I hope he has a great time. I mean no offense by this, but I wonder if dragging out your separation/divorce is harder on the kids rather than easier. Good luck to you.

  6. Yo yo! I have to agree with Jane, your sons can probably sense the tension and whilst I know you aren’t purposely dragging things out (they do take time), it may be better for you to try and get on with it. Just one thing though, this is going to sound contradictory to what I just said, but by moving things along quicker, still take the time to plan it out enough that the transition will be smooth for your boys so there’s not so much confusion around them. And also, don’t just hit them with it, as in “you’re moving to a new apartment with Mommy TODAY”.

    I also have to ask about the 9 hours of gymnastics… I’m sure he enjoys it, but if *he* wanted to go down to 6 hours, would that be possible?

    Also, in regards to Penny… she’s probably freaking out because she’s in the midst of a divorce (her entire life flipping upside down) and now her little boy is leaving home for the first time. As a fellow woman, I can understand that she is probably feeling very much like her life is out of her control. She’s not handling it well, but I get the feeling. Maybe try to show her that you understand. Being divorced doesn’t mean that she can’t express to you how she feels… in fact, it would probably be good for the healthy relationship you’re going to need to have until your kids are grown.

    One last thing- never feel guilty about the time you’re spending at work. I know you haven’t had much time with your family, but you are doing it for THEM. Maybe a family meeting is in order to explain to them why Daddy has been working so much, in a way they can understand.

    I’m never far away if you need to chat!

  7. I have to agree with IntrigueMe on one point…please don’t feel guilty right now about having to work as much as you do…it’s the way it has to be right now to give you and the boys the life you need post-divorce…and everything will slowly fall into place…I promise.

  8. Jane and Jolene get my votes for thread wisdom. They make a lot of sense to me based on the topic.

    But you puzzle me on your closing comment: “I won’t be back.” I get the reference to the movie plot, but how does it apply to you?

    Despite the desire for a clean break, you share parental duties. You will always be back. I suspect that Penny knows this and doesn’t want to admit it. Hence, she has to fight you for dominance over the kids in any way she can. There might be things she’s saying to your sons that aren’t helping them deal with your situation. They won’t be in any position to understand what’s really happening until they are older, and only really know that one parent is belittling the other. Younger kids tend to side with mom.

    I saw much of what you present happen between my parents (they never divorced, but maybe they should have). My mom poisoned our attitude toward my dad and his extended family, yet the blame for the poison she felt emanated from her. She sent a “Dear John” to a guy serving in Korea to marry my dad, who literally lived on the wrong side of the tracks. My grandmother never let my mother forget this inconvenient truth. So everything mom missed, or lacked, or wanted and couldn’t have, was all his fault. She would belittle him in front of us, and we never held him in the esteem he really deserved. We became aloof toward him, and we never developed any kind of a relationship with him that meant anything. He committed slow-motion suicide with tobacco, chain smoking anything he cold get – even cigars.

    Now I don’t know if my suppositions regarding Penny are correct, and I’m sure you don’t either. But as I read things, the signs are there. The kids can’t answer any questions you might have, and you know that Penny won’t even if she is conscious about doing something like this. All I can advise you to do is listen to what your kids say. If I’m right, you will hear them say things you know came from Penny. If I’m wrong, no harm was done.

  9. I agree with all the above. And I am wondering if you could maybe take Penny out and have a few drinks and just “talk”. (I mean, as “co-parents”, not husband and wife.)
    Maybe she’d enjoy that. Who knows? Sounds like all you two do is “co-exist” and wish the other was gone already.
    Could it hurt to try to connect on a new level?

  10. You know what I think. It is simply going to be painful until the split is official. And it is going to be painful after the split while everyone adjusts. And depending on how everything is handled, it may settle down.

    Patience, friend. It will all work out.

    Big hugs.

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