A show of hands: who here doesn’t love kids’ visitation with the used-to-be husband/boyfriend/partner/side piece? Good times, huh? You get to see the old flame after your relationship has died (or been murdered) and everything is good and awkward. I just can’t imagine how else I’d personally prefer to spend precious moments of my life. Mmm. Yummy.
Between two mature folks who just so happened to not work out as a couple, the exchanging of children should be an uneventful responsibility swap of the small people you created together. But let some foolishness transpire and your kids can come back brimming with juicy details about things he had to say — about you. This observation is of course inspired by the events in my own true story.
Sure, you could cuss him out. Threaten him about his trash talking. Leave a raving, crazy-sounding voicemail that, if played in a court of law, would probably make the bailiff scoot a little closer to your side of the room and rest a hand on their taser. But there are other ways to react to your ex’s badmouthing that won’t involve you winding up as the next contestant on “Who Wants to Spend a Night in Jail?” and let you set a good example for your kid. If you’re interested in that sort of thing.
Badmouthing the other contributor to your little sperm and egg miracle is one of the ugliest things one parent can do to another and definitely one of the cruelest tricks you can pull on your child. First of all, it just makes you look bitter. And if you find that you’ve always got your ex’s name coming outta your mouth with some negative comment attached, chances are you don’t just look bitter. You probably are. It’s hard to squelch that angry distaste when someone has put you through emotional, financial, sometimes even physical combat. But it’s still unfair to pelt kids with your own personal irks about their other half.
Civility is in the eye of the beholder, but there are better (read: more creative, less lawbreaking) ways to handle the discovery that your former flame is slandering your name than doling a classic tire slashing:
5. Don’t react at all. Now, taking the high road isn’t for all occasions and situations. Sometimes the Gandhi approach just isn’t effective when some troublemaking dude is clearly leaning hard on all of your buttons on purpose. But there is something to be said for not giving him the satisfaction of knowing you’re seething inside.
4. Whip out anything embarrassing. Now’s the time to pull out those leftover baby pics he may have forgotten — the ones of him sitting on the potty with a 40-inch Afro haloing his head. Have a good laugh at his expense. It’s all in innocent fun. Snicker.
3. Send him a “thinking of you” card, and play up that you’re concerned about him and hoping that everything is OK. That’s right, make that sucka feel like a donkey’s head for talking bad about you. Here you are spending $3.99 on an unexpected Hallmark greeting to let him know that, despite your tumultuous relationship, you care enough to send the very best and express interest in his welfare. Killing him with a little guilt is better than actually killing him.
2. Call a family meeting. Airing your concerns in an open discussion with your former mate and your child eliminates the backbiting and gives everybody, including the little ones, the opportunity to ask questions if they want to (which, the older they are, is probably going to be a no). But sometimes just having both parents in one room willing to sit down and talk can work wonders for the confusion of the people at the center of all the back-and-forth: the kids.
1. Tell the truth. It seems like there are two extremes — we either have screaming matches in front of our children or we go to great, American theater-esque lengths to put on a happy face for them. Stop pretending like everyone’s engaged in a love fest. When you’re on one end insisting that you and The Dreaded Ex are pals and he’s over there calling you a cotton-mouthed hussy, it ends up looking phony anyway. Admit that y’all aren’t friends but that you try to get along out of complete and total love for them. Worked for me.
Has your ex ever said something unflattering about you in front of your children? How did you handle it?
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