First of all I’d like to thank those who commented on my last post about the voicemail I received from M. It’s been a difficult couple of days mostly spent in shock that a 12 year old speaks that way, let alone my 12 year old.
I’ve decided not to engage. For now. As one of my friends noted, he needs to learn that type of behaviour will not be tolerated and will not garner any response because it is completely unacceptable. I’d thought of reaching out to my ex to discuss the situation but I know he wouldn’t respond, or would respond quite negatively towards me. That means I’d have to reach out to ex’s wife and I’m not in the mood to deal with her at all. So for now, I’ll sit with it. I plan to bring it up in my next session with T and perhaps he can help me hash out a plan as to what, if anything, I should do about it.
I know some of you thought that M should be involved in some sort of therapy and I couldn’t agree with you more. The problem is that M’s father and his wife refuse to believe it’s a necessity. Before M went to live with them I had him in counselling and he was approved for ITS (Intensive Treatment Services) but both of those fell through the minute he started living with them. I was so exhausted by that point that I didn’t even have the fight in me to disagree with them. Now I’m kicking myself in the ass over it all because I know the child needs help.
I’ve known for years that M’s father has been feeding him lies about me and this voicemail is proof of that. Those aren’t words of a child. They are words heard from an adult about another adult. I just can’t believe they feel that it’s alright to speak that way in from of him. While I hate my ex, I would never talk that way about him in front of our children. I just wish he would offer me the same consideration.
I did some research and I think what’s happening is something called Parental Alienation which occurs when one parent manipulates a child to reject the other parent, whether out of hatred, fear or disrespect. Symptoms of parental alienation include (all of these are currently happening in my relationship with M):
- The relationship between the alienated parent and the child will shift seemingly overnight. While there was once a positive relationship, the child now shows constant hostility or unfairly criticizes the targeted parent.
- In the child’s eyes, the parent who is doing the alienating can do no wrong, but their feelings towards the alienated parent are wholly negative and critical.
- The child will deny that any ideas came from the alienating parent.
- The child will act ungrateful, spiteful or cold toward the alienated parent and appear unimpressed by any gifts or favors offered by the targeted parent.
- No matter the alienating parent’s position, the child will always take their side over the targeted parent. The child is unwilling to be impartial or hear out the alienated parent
- Alienated children will often borrow adult language or ideas from their alienator that they do not appear to understand. The child may also make accusations about events that never happened or that they cannot support with evidence.
- The resentment an alienated child feels towards the targeted parent can also extend to their relatives. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that were once loved may suddenly be despised and avoided.
I knew that things had been happening since the divorce. I could tell that every time M would come back from his father’s and the behaviour would escalate until I finally gave in and let him live with my ex. Honestly, there’s been so little contact between M and I that the voicemail literally took my by surprise. Something had to have happened that set him off. Perhaps my ex lost his job again–he has a hard time keeping his jobs–and is complaining he has no money. I don’t know and I’m not going to drive myself crazy trying to figure it out.
All I know is that my heart hurts. While I know children will often say they hate you in the heat of the moment, when M said it and told me he wished I would die, I felt it right down into my bones. It wasn’t just a heat of the moment comment. He felt it. He meant it. And I feel awful about it all.