The Shock that Shouldn’t Have Been

shocked woman computer

I often debate with myself on what’s right to share on a public platform and what isn’t especially after one of my Aunts told me she worried about our generation’s penchant for “oversharing” and the trouble that causes. And she’s right, you know?

There are things that come up that I want to talk about but I don’t because I feel like it’s too much, too private. And there are things that come up that I do share because even though I do feel they are pretty private, they’re important to talk about, especially in regards to single parenting. It’s those posts that vary– some are easier for me to write and share than others. I have written, and deleted before publishing, many posts on this blog.

I was going to write this post on Wednesday when it happened. Instead, I reminisced about my childhood and at the same time I made a private post on Google+ and got some support and encouragement that way which helped deal with the initial sting of it. But the situation is having longer lasting effects than I thought it would and is, although difficult, worthy of being discussed publicly.

On Wednesday, an email came in from K-Fat (Kids’ Father).

Hey, I’ve been waiting on my tax return for a couple weeks now and I called to check on it again today and I was told my entire refund was taken for child services.

Mute, I’ve been counting on this money to get back on my feet with rent, car payment, bills, etc… and get you sorted out. Can we please split the refund. I need this money to survive. I appreciate it.

K-Fat

The email triggered a tsunami of reactions. I had actually just finished when one of my closest co-workers happened to walk into my office, took one look at me, and said, “What’s wrong? What happened?”

In December, I got a letter from the IRS telling me they had gone ahead and received the notice from Child Services to proceed with this method of enforcement. They also told me the letter I got was a copy of the notice that was sent to K-Fat. When I read the letter, I had two thoughts in my head: 1) He’ll probably have his tax return rigged so he gets nothing back OR 2) He will ignore this letter and when they do garnish his tax return he will ask me to return it. He has asked for child support payments before when they were ones he had not planned for.

Even though I had gone through that thought process in December, my stomach dropped to the floor when the email came in. Not only that but, I haven’t gotten any kind of payment from Child Support and when I checked the account online, the only payment they show as being received is the infamous $100 payment from January. I didn’t see it coming.

I could not reply to the email. I dragged it to the folder I keep all the emails from him and left it there. I’d occasionally go back and read it because I am masochistic that way but for the most part, I just let it sit and discussed the email and what my response should be with those close to me.

He texted me yesterday informing me he had sent an email. I still didn’t reply.

This morning, when I started writing this post, he texted me again

You’re not even going to respond?

I am. I’m just really not sure how because that email really gets my emotions cooking.

My dad has given me, what I think the best response is. It pays to have a psychologist in the family. He suggested I respond with something along the lines of:

It has taken me some time to respond because I am surprised and disappointed by your request. Child Support has not sent the kids a payment since June with the exception of a $100 check in January. If the IRS did garnish the return, the kids have not received it. I would think that someone who has been unable to contribute to their children’s well-being in a dependable and meaningful way for eight months would be relieved and happy to finally have the chance to do so. No, I will not violate the court orders and return any part of any child support payment.

I dread responding. I know that I am right. I do not feel an ounce of guilt in using every cent of that money, whatever amount it may turn out to be, for my kids and my kids alone. And yet, I dread it because I fear what his response to my response may be. And maybe I dread for nothing. At this point, gauging from his last text message, he must know the answer will be no. But I feel like he has become even more desperate, more irrational. I fear this may come out to the kids and that they will lay the blame at my feet. Like they did with the thermoses.

On Wednesday morning, I packed the kids’ lunch boxes with a sandwich and  snacks and, as a treat, chocolate milk boxes my mom had sent just for them. Usually I send my kids with thermoses filled with ice cold water. So hooray treats! That day, their father picked them up and took them home. The next day, he took them to school. My mother was told after school by Daughter that they were not given anything to drink for lunch that day. “Oh? What happened?” my mother asked. “Mommy forgot to pack the thermoses,” Daughter replied.

Mommy. Forgot.

Later that night, the kids were with my Dad and it came up again– Mommy forgot the thermoses. My dad said, “Wait a minute. Mommy packed your lunch boxes?” He basically went on to explain that when the kids are with my parents, my parents are responsible for caring them. That if they are at my parents’ house for a sleepover and I didn’t send the lunch boxes, my parents have to figure out how to fix that problem. They could call me and ask me to bring them, they could find a different way to send the lunches, or they could give them money so they could buy lunch at the cafeteria. It’d be their responsibility to take care of the lunches, not mine and if they did not send the lunchboxes, it would not be my fault, it would be theirs. He explained the same thing applied when the kids were at my house. Their dad is not responsible for something I do or don’t do. Eldest objected to this way of thinking at first insisting that if I had sent the bottles, their father would have sent them drinks. My dad kept talking with them and when it seemed like they understood, he asked them if they understood that, if they were ok with that and they said yes.

Eldest apparently wasn’t.

Last night during dinner I was telling the kids how I saw this cute thing I wanted to do where you dye the bottom tips of your hair a pretty color like pink or blue or purple. Eldest got very angry. Plugged his fingers into his ears, balled up, and covered his eyes with his knees. I tried to get him to stop and to just talk about what was bothering him. Daughter and Baby were looking at the pictures I had pulled up on the Nexus to show them what I was talking about and they were exclaiming about how awesome they were which made him angrier and before I knew it, big fat tears were rolling down his cheeks, he was refusing to talk to me, refusing to look at me and I sent him to his room. We kept having a huge back and forth as I had to go in there to get Baby’s things for the bath and it was just not good.

Later when I had calmed down, and talked with my dad some more (if he charged me, I’d be bankrupt) I went back to his room. I basically told him there was no way he was so upset about something like hair. And to prove my point we drilled it back with a bunch of questions. Ok he doesn’t like funky hair colors and he’s not thrilled that his mom wants to do something to her hair he doesn’t like but that was not the reason for the tantrum. He said it was the only thing that he really hates that has happened in his life and it’s the divorce. He hates that it happened and some times things happen that make him think about it and he can’t help it and starts to cry because he never really cried about it when it happened. And that’s why he cries so easily. He said his dad and I don’t even talk to each other. That we could at least be friends. He said it doesn’t seem right that I was with his dad and now I’m with somebody else. He said he doesn’t like that he doesn’t see his dad that often.

Speechless. I tried clobbering together some inane responses that felt so hollow to a kid in such deep hurt. I also asked if maybe he’d like to speak to someone about the whole thing. I explained what therapists were and what they did. He was weirded out by the idea because, as he put it, They would be a stranger. But he warmed up to it and I did mention his grandfather does that for a living and he could always talk to him. His grandfather doesn’t tell me what they talk about. So, I don’t know. Maybe my dad will talk with him and evaluate the need for an actual professional to step in.

And this is what is playing in the background as I have this email pending in my inbox. My kids know their father and I are not on good terms because we don’t speak to each other on the phone. They probably feel the tension acutely when he and I are forced to be in the same room together no matter how much I think we’re hiding it.

And this came on the heels of Baby getting upset because he asked me if I loved Daddy and I honestly responded, “No.” I explained that we were parents and it was different but there wasn’t love there and boy did that go wrong. It was in the car and Eldest and Daughter were there. They didn’t say anything, but they were there listening and seeing their little brother cry.

Why does it feel like things are falling apart now? This has been something we have been dealing with for five years. Why now?

Could it be the finances? That’s the only thing I can figure. There must be some really crazy tension on both ends because of finances. And maybe they are thinking things would not be so stressful if their mom and dad were together instead of apart. Which I know that isn’t true, but how could they? Especially the youngest two who have very little memory of a life with both parents together.

And now I’ve been put in this ridiculous situation by their father with this ridiculous email and I’ve got my kids on my mind and I swear to god that I really wish, I just really really wish, that I could say “Keep your f@%^&# money” and be done with it.

But I can’t. And even if I could, I just shouldn’t. The money, it’s the kids’ money. It’s their money and they have a right to it plain and simple.

In classic avoidance style, I am going to wait until 4:59 PM to send the email from my work address which I do not have access to until Monday. Not that it will stop him from responding to me in other ways but at least it delays one until Monday. If he responds at all. Which I doubt he will.

And so there you have, my overshare of the year. Internet, give me strength.

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36 thoughts on “The Shock that Shouldn’t Have Been

  1. I come from a split home myself. Much of my approach as a single parent comes from my mother’s grace and my own, adult understanding of what happened when I was younger.

    While your kids may have blamed you for the thermoses this time – as they grow up and see things for themselves they will eventually understand. I promise you this. Keep your head high, do your best, love them. Be there for them, never speak ill of their father and one day they will truly grasp the reality of the situation. They will.

    I was a Daddy’s girl. It was painful being separated from him. I remember planning to run away, saving for a bus or plane ticket. I remember telling my step father (who really IS my dad to me now) that he wasn’t my father. I remember being that angry child.

    But as he let me down year after year I began to understand. I was probably about 13 when I figured it all out.

    Go a bit easier on yourself. You can’t control how he reacts – and you have to find a way to stop worrying about that. Just do the best you can for your kids, give them your time and your love. Kids learn from what they see. You’ll be just fine. :)

    Reply
    • Some times, and I know this is going to sound god awful, but some times I wish I had come from a split home so I could have a better perspective as to what the hell it is they are going through.
      I think what stung about the Thermoses was how casual was. Oh mommy forgot. And in a way, I understand that it also shows they count on me to make the world right more than they count on him. But it also means they will automatically hold me accountable when things go wrong.
      I have a co-worker with two daughters. Her eldest is 19 and is just now starting to come to terms with how little she can depend on her father for. The younger one, who is 15, is not there and frequently lashes at her mother, blaming her for the bad relationship her father has with her.
      I really do have to find a way to not worry about how he reacts even if it means he says something to the kids. I just have to keep showing them that I love them dearly and that’s more substantial than saying it. Thanks!

      Reply
  2. Ouch. I cringed and felt a chill when I read this. It’s totally unfair and unreasonable for your ex to request a child support payment back. I mean, really? Who’d even ask for that? Ugh.

    I just read some of the posts you linked to. WTF is going on with him and Child Support Enforcement and omg this is so not cool. I’m going to bake you something yummy and sent it off to you because I’m Greek and if I lived in Miami instead of Los Angeles, I’d just show up with coffee and cake. Actually, this calls for wine and pie. <3

    Reply
    • He is a piece of work my friend. And you wouldn’t know it if you saw him.
      It’s been a mess. Just a giant stupid mess that has had me sick for too long. If you showed up with coffee and cake or wine and pie I think you’d make me cry! XOXO

      Reply
  3. I feel for you. I really do. It sounds like you are too hard on yourself (as most of us are). My ex did the same thin last year. My son is 11 and I sporadically get child support from him- usually very small amounts (still better than nothing I know). Last year the IRS or the State or whoever confiscated his return and gave it to me (it took several weeks). He called several times asking for it, and I was speechless for quite a while. It took ten years for me to begin getting payments on a regular basis, and I’ll be damned if I was going to give him anything back. I told him that I had been counting on child support for 10 years, and wasn’t getting it, so sorry about his luck. It’s not easy to tell people what you know they don’t want to hear (at least in my case anyways). I hope you don’t get a lot of grief from him for doing whats right for you and your kids :)

    On another note, I fell for your eldest. No matter how good of terms the parents are, divorce is hard for a child. I hope that you find the strength and wisdom you need to get through this next hurdle.

    Reply
  4. No way. I mean, I understand he feels that he needs the money, but you have been documenting the hours and hours you have spent trying to get the child support to come through, and he could have been paying it slowly instead of losing his whole refund. In addition, it’s not your problem that he budgets his bills around a refund check. Remember when he was getting paid under the table and buying new TVs with that money??

    Reply
  5. Deep Breath.

    Ex has alot of cojonas asking you for money back that he has owed you. I thought your dad’s suggestion was very appropriate. He fathered these children, and even though the relationship with you didn’t work out, he is still their father and obligated to take care of his family.

    My heart breaks for the kids. I know they feel caught in the middle, even though you are doing everything you can to NOT put them there. You don’t know what Ex is saying to them that they may not be sharing with you. I certainly hope he isn’t “blaming” you for his problems and making it sound like you are at fault to the kids. You wouldn’t do that about him (saying it is his fault).

    Stay strong my friend.

    Reply
    • Yeah it hurts me to not be able to know what to say to them to help them not hurt when they do. I just keep trying to fill their days with good moments but it’s not always easy!! If I really get started on thinking about what goes on during his time, I get ill. I just can’t go there. Thanks Mysti :)

      Reply
  6. To the baby I would have said–I love you and Daddy loves you. We did love each other, but that has changed. We will always love you. The child may fear your love may go away for him.

    I would forward that email to lawyer, family services, someone. Court?

    My ex convinced the children I was spending their money when he sent it for them. They harbored this animosity for 30 years. Now, divorced daughter agonized that she should not be spending child support for rent and gasoline. It took me a long talk to show her she could live in one room, not three bedrooms; that she did not need a car in NYC if she did not have to carry them to school and doctors and beach and such. Finally, she understood the money was hers to spend responsibly for their benefit, even if the whole check went to rent.

    Your kids have a father who is poisoning their minds against you. The thermos incident is just one you heard about.

    I would not even respond to the email. Why should you? What do you owe him?

    Reply
    • That is a good one. I’ve said things like that in the past to them but it bears repeating I guess.
      I definitely saved the email. It’s worth keeping just in case something happens in the future.
      That is a really interesting side effect of their dad’s effects. One thing I did was think, “Ok if we were roommates, they’d have a portion to pay of these bills.” And I actually split the bills that I pay by us 4 and figured out what their cost was. Just to know. I also did it with the health insurance I pay. She could do something like that to help her understand what portion of her money is actually hers and what portion is theirs.

      Reply
  7. Oh this sounds so hard! Your dad’s advice is excellent. Perhaps your kids are starting to hash out some of their feelings now because they are getting older and are more able to articulate their questions. Or, perhaps they went through a couple of years of denial and grief and are now at anger. Hopefully acceptance will come with time (and I hope I got those stages in the right order).

    Reply
  8. Whether you gave back a nickel or all of it, it still would not be enough. Keep it but be prepared for him to manipulate your kids against you because of it. My dad did it with me and it wasn’t until middle school that I realized what he was doing. It was pure evil and the bond between my mom and I has never been stronger since that point. It’s really sad but thank god you have a psychologist in the family to be able to explain to your kids what he’s doing and why in a nice way that doesn’t make it sound like he’s bad and you’re good (even if that’s the reality…your kids don’t want to believe that dad is bad).

    Reply
  9. “Whether you gave back a nickel or all of it, it still would not be enough.” This hadn’t even occurred to me. You’re right. He will never be back on his feet.
    I really can’t get over the fact people actually DO that. I bite my tongue so much! We are all human and I am SURE some things have slipped but geez do purposely say and do things to manipulate your kids? Come on! Glad it worked in favor of your mom though.
    Yes, my dad is invaluable. Seriously invaluable.

    Reply
  10. My sister who is just 10 months younger than me went through years of this with her ex husband. She also has three children and her husband was chronically financially unstable. The only difference from your situation is that she got a really good job and reached the point where she did not need any financial support from her ex. This allowed her to move on; whenever he behaved badly she would gently remind the kids who was paying for everything (he paid for absolutely nothing in spite of many court orders). As the kids got older (they are now 18, 16 and 14) they developed a very clear picture of what happened. All the anger and resentment they threw at my sister when they were younger has turned into admiration and gratitude for her steadfast support. Her oldest is now a freshman at a fancy college; my niece recently said to me “I am SO grateful that my mom can help me with college…so many of my friends have no financial support at all.” [Not a word about her Dad.] I agree with other comments–do not speak badly of him in front of the kids, although I think it is fair as they get older to be clear that you are providing for them with little or so support from him. (Who paid for those new shoes and fancy jeans, the ipod, school trips and so on….) Also, I think the language your Dad suggested is excellent. Finally, as First Gen American notes, he is NEVER going to change and get back on his feet. Take whatever you can get from the IRS and just keep going. You owe him nothing–he owes you!

    Reply
    • This is an excellent comment. Thank you SO much for taking the time to leave it. I am actually working hard to get myself to a place where I can get a great job too. I’m studying program and trying to get out of the muck of the jobs I do qualify for because they just don’t pay well no matter how good you are. Your sister sounds amazing and I am really happy that turned out so well. You’re all right, the trick is to not speak ill about him and to just keep on keeping on.

      Reply
  11. I feel so much for you and the kids, it seems so hard. I can see you are strong, and I know there’s a lot of resiliency there and I know you’ll teach that to your kids as best as you can. But, the process is undeniably challenging.

    If it were me, I’d probably write back with an email which simply said “I feel the kids need it more than you. I’m spending it on X for them”.I don’t know if that approach would *help* anything though. Can you imagine yourself in a financial position where you can get everything you need and the vast majority of what you want for your kids? How would you feel about the money then? If your emotion comes mostly from the needs you see for your kids, let him see it. Maybe even let the kids see it, a little. But if it comes from frustration with him for his fecklessness, well, that’s why it’s good to have a psychologist in the family ;-)

    NB: I would likely feel *extremely* exasperated with the K-Fat if I were in your shoes. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s worth trying to process separately from assessing your kid’s needs. As I understand the situation, their needs are unambiguous. Your feelings of frustration are not driving that assessment, it’s simple fact. And it’s sad K-Fat doesn’t see it that way. But it seems like you want to respond based on their needs, not on your emotions alone. And I find that admirable, for what that’s worth.

    Reply
    • Thank you for this! It is sort of a schizo experience dividing my feelings from what is at stake but at the end of the day, logic helps me and the math gives me the guidance I need. This + That = What They Need and What They Need > My Income Alone. There are three of them to provide for, it’s three times more complicated and three times more expensive!

      Reply
  12. I had a huge deja vu moment reading this entire post. It was like I was reliving 20 years ago. I’m not sure it would be much comfort now to say that it does get better. In time. My older daughters do not speak to their father today. I never worried about child support — that was paid. It was more about ‘custody’ issues, and fighting to have my kids. My ex’s e-mails were horrible. Contact with him was horrible. I wish I had your Dad back then when I had no clue how to respond.

    I so understand where you are right now. I believe your kids WILL realize everything you have done for them and appreciate it when they are older. Right now it’s conflicting for them. They love you both.

    Stay strong, sweetie. It really does get better.

    Reply
    • The contact thing is the hardest part. When we split I really thought at the very least we’d be able to be friendly. I thought he’d pick up the phone when I’d call and that he’d call me without a problem. It’s come down to emails and text messages and just garbage. I’m glad that the very least the fight about who has them and when and for how long is not one we have to have. Because if we were fighting about that too, I don’t think I’d have anything left in me!
      I also think things will improve with time. The child support enforcement process is a new one for him and for me so it’s not surprising that it’s coming with its own upheavals. I get the feeling that this whole divorce thing is really stripping away his facade– at least as far as the one he set up with me goes. And he hates that. And he fights that. And maybe he is worried it is stripping away at facades he built for others based on his being a father and such and that comes with its own anxieties. But what is becoming crystal clear is that none of this is my problem anymore. The kids are problem. I’ll take care of them to the end. His relationship with them is not my problem either. I am not working against it existing. I don’t keep them from him, I don’t speak ill against him or his girlfriend.It is getting better. Not easier, but better.

      Reply
  13. I really can’t add to what @Nicoleandmaggie or @Maria O’Brien Hylton said, but they are right.

    My mother stayed married to my father until we kids were adults and my sense is that that was the “right” thing for us kids (but not for my mom, independently) because our dad would have dragged us through horrors (think custody fight, etc., etc., think small town + “respected professional” (my father), not that the respect was deserved) had he been able to (moreover, he’d have believed he was doing “the right thing”). But that too was tough and we know who our responsible parent is/was (though I am not sure, honestly, exactly when we figured that out). Hang in there. Your kids will get through.

    Reply
  14. Firstly, {hugs}. Secondly you are so lucky to have such a wise Dad. You are a much better person than me, when I read your email response I added an ugly line about maybe it went to his “other” kids.O_o I feel for you. He is a special special guy. It is not easy being the only good parent as I like to call myself. Your kids will realize your value but it will not be any time soon. Mine are 13 & 14 and it is only in recent years that they have stopped telling me they might go live with their Dad. It is very hard having angry kids. Kids who can only look at life through 9 year old eyes and can’t see that apart is the better situation. Oh my friend the road ahead may be long and hard but the pay off is so worth it. Never stop fighting for what’s right. Stay strong. Keep your head up.

    Reply
    • It’s funny, I was just talking with my co-worker about that. The divorce may not be the best answer to everyone’s problems, but it was the best answer to ours. And I am better off for it but I also truly believe my kids are better off for it. Yes they have their anger and their anxieties, but all kids have those too– just different kinds. And the environment that would have sprouted from us staying together? No way.

      Reply
  15. Wow… he has quite the set on him to have the GALL to email you and ask for money that is rightfully for you to raise HIS children. Un-be-lievable!! Seriously. Do not let him pass go, do not give him $.20,. lol!! Not your problem, it’s his! Hope you sent off that email, your dad sounds like a saint! :)

    Reply
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  17. Now that a few days have passed, my advice for the issue of his wanting some or all the money back from you is this: if he responds or pursues this in any way, your only response should be along the lines of ‘it’s our children’s money and not mine to return’ with no qualifiers or additional explanation. Just say or write the exact same thing every time he raises it again, like a broken record. And, if you find out he’s tried to pull your kids into the disagreement, someone needs to let him know directly, in no uncertain terms, that this is between the 2 of you & it’s inappropriate to involve these children in your grownup issues. [As he had with the whole 'you don't get a drink for school today because mommy forgot the thermos' scenario.] Neither parent should be trash talking the other to the kids, no matter how tempting or how trivial you think the comment might be. Kudos to you for helping the kids express their true feelings in a safe environment so they can work through this.

    Reply
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