I recently realized that one of the hardest things about being divorced is my inability to communicate with my ex in-laws. It’s now inappropriate for me to let them know how disappointed I was when they went against our wishes and pumped my boys so full of junk food that one of them spent the rest of the day vomiting caramel popcorn and M&Ms. Every time my kids sleep at their house, I hear about the sugary cereal they had for breakfast, the giant cookies they were given at lunch and see the bags full of toys they bring home from the toy store. I was angry about this latest junk food incident for several reasons:
- My ex-husband has already spoken to them about not giving the kids junk, but because they no longer have me to arrange more frequent visits with the kids, they feel it’s their job to spoil my kids when they do get to see them.
- One of my boys is especially sensitive, at age 5, about his weight. He recently spent an hour crying about how embarrassed he was to go swimming because he feared everyone would laugh at his tummy. It was heartbreaking.
- I have lost the power to deal with this issue myself. I wouldn’t have yelled or thrown a tantrum, but I would have liked the chance to stress that my kids love their grandparents regardless of how many spoons full of sugar they feed them. I would have liked the opportunity to explain the situation and stress clearly and firmly that I do not want my kids overdosing on junk or even toys.
I realize the situation with paternal grandparents can be especially challenging. According to Maaike Jappens, a researcher at Interface Demography, Free University of Brussels, “Divorce, largely because of residence arrangements, often reduces contact with paternal grandparents, compared with what happens during marriage, and also compared with maternal grandparent contact after divorce. About 10 per cent of grandchildren from divorced parents never saw grandparents on their father’s side of the family.”
I came across this finding through Child and Family Blog, which will be posting a full report about the issue on April 11.
Though this report finds that contact with maternal grandparents remains largely unchanged after divorce, I’m sure my ex-husband has at times felt frustrated when it comes to my parents. I’m sure lots of divorced parents feel similarly frustrated when they lose their inability to speak up for their children.
The only take-away from numerous experiences fighting with my ex-husband over issues with our ex in-laws is how important it is to be a team. It’s essential to communicate, without yelling or threatening to deny children access to grandparents in these cases. It’s not always been easy, but we have tried to describe our feelings and concerns and find a way to resolve issues in a way that is ultimately beneficial to the kids.
With this latest junk food fest so present in my mind, I have to work on trusting my ex-spouse in his promise to speak with his parents once again. And I have to hope they will listen. Though it might not be ok for me to call them, at the end of the day, I still know where they live . . .