So what does this have to do with your Ex showing up late? Don’t we all know how long 10 minutes can be when you’re the one who’s doing the waiting … and also how quickly it flies by when you’re running late!
Watching your clock for the past 45 minutes, you’ve just managed to finish it on time. You’ve got your kids to help you transform the house from the play-ground bomb-site it was, into something that looks like you’ll enjoy it for the child-free-weekend that’s about to start.
You wait, they wait, you look at your watch and think, hurry up will you! Don’t you know I can only hold this tidy home for so long before boredom sets in and they start playing again?
20 minutes has now passed and you’ve heard nothing from him. The kids are wondering, you’re dreading and the realisation that your child-free-weekend is about to become only a wishful thought.
You phone, text, or try and get hold of him – nothing. What do you do?
Worse yet, you’re the one left having to tell the kids that they’re not seeing their father tonight – and you can take a fairly good guess why not too.
What you’re about to learn is how you can avoid the no-shows. You’ll learn what to do with consistent lateness and you’ll learn the answers to if, when, and how to talk to your children about it.
Let’s clarify here, what we’re talking about here is when this happens frequently, so it’s almost habitual. The slip ups now and then are understandable, and really, that’s part of life. We need to allow our Ex’s to be human after all and not cain them if it’s rare. This is when it’s a regular issue.
First up, you’re quite right, it’s very frustrating. It’s also very hurtful.
Part of the reason it happens is because you’re providing the back-stop so your Ex knows that the children will be safe and he’s not leaving them on the sidewalk alone.
Another big part of it is that he simply doesn’t respect you – and part of that is your plans.
This is not because he doesn’t love the children, or that he’s a bad person. It’s a lack of respect for you and that can often be part of what you’ve tolerated in the relationship where you’ve made things very comfortable for him so he’s oblivious to what difference it makes for you anyway.
After all, if you’ve kept things positive for the children, when he does turn up 45 mins late, the kids run out, arms wide to greet him, all excited about him turning up.
He doesn’t know that it took you an hour to get the house tidy and now that’s going to take another 20 minutes to return it to how it was if he wasn’t late.
He doesn’t necessarily care what plans you’ve got to juggle. Especially if it’s competing with his important work function that took longer than expected.
It’s not to get at you – it’s just it’s made easy for him so he’ll take the bad mood in favour of the recognition at work.
“All very well ‘n good”, you say, “what do I do about this?”
The good news, there are several things you can to make this change.
Since it’s usually not a malicious act, it’s more just thoughtless, take the time to think through a way to remove yourself from being inconvenienced by his sloppiness.
In other words, place a gap between you and your Ex for handovers. Don’t even try doing it at the neutral meeting place because otherwise McDonalds will start becoming your second home. Remove yourself completely.
In one of the emails I sent out a few days ago I talked about the strategy that many after-school-care providers do. They’ve learnt how to compete with the ‘poor prioritised person’ and they hit where it hurts. They sting them a dollar for each minute they’re late … imagine how quickly that add up!
Very quickly they grow respect for the rules because they don’t like parting with the money.
I’d like to add here, you’re not in a position to do this. You’re emotionally and biologically connected to this person through your children so to try and sting them financially is going to end poorly.
This is why it’s important you remove yourself from being the one who has to ‘be the backstop’ for their sloppiness.
What about when it’s a No Show all night yet they turn up the following day and expect to take the kids then?
This is harder because you’ve already had your weekend plans stuffed up – and now you’re powerless when they confront you.
Usually the kids still want to see them, so you look really bad having it out with them in the drive way saying ‘Nup, you can’t have them because you didn’t show up yesterday.” Depending on the ages of the children, they may even agree, but it’s a hard one to fight.
So, instead have a back-up plan of your own.
Make sure you’ve told him that the next time this happens you will not be here with the children for the entire weekend so he’ll miss out until the next weekend when it’s his turn. Be non-threatening in your tone. It’s a statement you make while you’re sure you’re not defensive about it.
The next time it happens, pack up the children and go away with them for a great weekend of fun together. Take a tent somewhere and roast marshmallows, sleep out under the stars and have some time back in nature. If it’s winter, find a warm place ahead of time so you know what you’re doing. Yes, you’re inconvenienced, but you’ve got to remove yourself from any confrontation while you send a strong message to him.
Avoid going to your parents place or a friend’s place that’s a logical place for him to come and start the quarrel. If the kids need to miss their sports for the weekend, do it for just one weekend. You need to be strong, to break the disrespectful cycle. Remember it needs to be a place that you feel safe and that lends itself to a good time together.
You may do this a couple of time before the message gets through but to most, they get it after that. Of course there will always be exceptions, however most fathers who genuinely want to spend quality time with their children will get the message and change their behaviour.
If you’ve got questions, suggestions, or comments to this, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at Questions@ComplexFamily.com
There is a lot more on this topic obviously, and I go into more detail inside my “Routines that Rock” program where you’ll be able to watch a series of videos that will help you develop good strong routines in your family for the benefit of you and your children.
Before I sign off though I’d like to cover another point that is very important.
Do you cover up your Ex’s problems with your children? Many people feel that they’re left to lie or cover up over what their Ex should have to explain themselves. It’s a hard position to be left in and one that builds large resentment.
The point is, you know the ages and stages of development for each of your children – and the answer to this very much depends on both of these.
If your children are young, you should never lie to them, but you should most certainly protect them. These are adult issues, not child issues. To heap these sorts of problems on young shoulders is unfair to them.
The biggest gift you can give your children is for them to be given the freedom to love their other parent fully. Sure they’ll have to deal with the let-downs, the frustrations, the disrespect, and so on, that you’ve had to deal with in due time, but let them be mature enough to have enough context developed to deal with that.
Your children need to know that making mistakes, being human, and stuffing up will have it’s consequences but not a slammed door in their face.
So, while it’s important they are told the truth, it is what version or what part of the truth that needs to be told that you’ll need to develop wisdom over.
The best strategy here is to keep 90% of your explanation on what you know, how great it is that they get to spend the weekend with you, and what you’re going to do with them now. Avoid 90% of your conversation on your frustrations or everything that you’ve got to reschedule now you’ve been dumped in it again.
Keep positive and remember, it may take time – year in fact – but this too will pass.