Dear “And You Will Have Kids”:
My ex and I had a horrible divorce. Now, he’s trying to “buy” our kids affections. Whatever I do with the kids or buy for them is constantly upstaged.
For example, I got them MP3 players for Christmas. They came home from his house with iPods. I made arrangements last summer to take them to a local amusement park. He took them to Disney during his vacation.
I simply can’t compete with him as he makes quite a bit more money than I do. What do I do?
Sad and Irritated
Dear Sad and Irritated:
Most divorced people I know deal with issues like this to some extent. It seems as if one parent is trying to out buy the other parent in an effort to win the affections of their children.
I personally feel that the only real way to handle situations like this is to let go of your sadness and irritation! You can handle it best if you simply refuse to play the game.
In my own situation, I realized that not only was my ex trying to “buy off” the kids, but he was trying to make me feel bad too. For a while, it worked. They’d come home to my house with the latest gadget and would be thrilled! I’d feel hurt and upset and I’d tell them so. They would immediately take that back to their dad, and I’m sure he loved every moment of it!
The kids were thrilled because they were benefiting from the “dollar war”, and he was thrilled because I was upset. There seemed to be no way out until I decided that I was going to stop “caring”.
The next time my kids came home with a great gadget, I said, “Isn’t that wonderful?” and went on with what I was doing. I continued the same routine over the next few months. I have to say that the “dollar war” has almost ground to a halt since I’ve started to minimize my reactions.
All kids love stuff. Another key to ending the “dollar war” is to get the kids to realize that while the stuff is nice, there are other things more important than iPods, video games, cell phone, name brand clothing and expensive trips. Sure, it will take time for the kids to really understand what you are saying, but eventually, they will understand. They’ll be better off because of that important lesson too.
I sat down and explained to my children that my ex and his family may be able to afford to buy them expensive things, but who tucks them in at night? Who takes them to the doctor and cheers them on at their school functions? Who volunteered at the school and made cupcakes for parties? They admitted to me that they never thought about those things. They also admitted that they were important to them.
Parenting is NOT a competitive sport. Do the best you can and don’t try to compete with any one else, including your ex. I wish you the best!