Tokyo, Procrastination
Let's take this hypothetical situation--

A man has an ex-wife with whom he had a child and the man is now remarried.

The man and ex have some pretty fundamental disagreements about how to raise the child. Let's say that neither are bad parents but are unable to agree about childcare. The child is entering the tweens.

Mom has the child extremely commited to extra-curricular sports which have become a major centre of her social life. She became a team sponsor and is a central figure in fund raising. Some games require several hours drive one-way for an hour and a half game. Also, the child is signed up to be participating in various leagues so that games take place all year.

The father doesn't agree with the amount of time the child spends in the sport, thinking it excessive and doesn't want to be committed to several hours of driving for something which he doesn't agree with, wasn't consulted about and doesn't think the child enjoys.

The child is non-commital to either parent about how the child feels about participating. Basically, the child is probably telling both parents what the child thinks the parent wants to hear. The child does spend a lot of time sleeping when staying with the father, fueling the idea that the child is over committed.


Okay, there's the scenario. Now for my questions.

1. Is the mother over committing the child to sports for the sake of her social life or does her participation in fund raising mean that she is a giving person?

2. Is the father responsible to drive the child to games when he has custody if he is opposed to so much participation and think the child secretly doesn't like it?

3. Would a social worker or a judge have the right to tell either parent that he or she is a bad parent?

4. Do parents in this situation have a duty to fulfill obligations that the other parent created if they were not in agreement from the start?

I probably have other questions, but I'm not able to frame them at the moment. If anyone has other observations feel free. I'm really curious to see what ideas people have.

Maybe there are a lot of unknowns in this hypothetical that would influence your decision. Feel free to fill in your own blanks, but let me know what the blanks are so that I can understand the reasoning better.

Thanks for your ideas.

Comments
on Oct 28, 2007
Certainly there are a large number of blanks that would have to be filled in, and many of them may be filled in with unconscious assumptions instead of conscious attempts, which means that some people responding won't be able to even identify the assumed information that they themselves have supplied into your scenario... The way I have filled in the blanks, however? Well, I'm a man with an ex-wife who has remarried, and I have children with her. She has committed our children to certain extra-curricular activities that require me to drive three hours one way (and another three hours back) and give up certain amounts of "Daddy time" in order to support them (previously it was soccer, now it's the Cub Scouts). I don't disagree with her choices and give her the benefit of the doubt that she is keeping the best interest of our children in mind when making decisions; I know that it isn't always the case, and I know that she couldn't care less about my best interest, and that our ideas for the best interest of the children isn't always going to be the same, but I find it less productive to assume the worse. I'm sort of an optimist because I feel pessimism will simply destroy me (at least in this case). I think I'll be applying that to your questions.

1. There is certainly not enough information given to draw a conclusion. It seems that you feel that the mother is doing it for the sake of her social life ("extra-curricular sports which have become a major centre of her social life"), but I don't know that to be true. If the assumption is applied that she has the best interest of the child in mind, it's still possible that she's overtasking the child. I choose to believe (without knowing the woman) that she is involved in the supervision and fund-raising elements to support her child as much as she can. Yes, it may make up a fair section of her social life now, but that's what happens when you get involved in any group, I think.

2. Is the father responsible for meeting commitments that his ex-spouse made on behalf of the child? Well, they aren't his commitments, but they are his child's. By not supporting those commitments for his child, not only is he going to look like a complete asshole to his ex and his ex's fund-raising buddies, but possibly to his kid as well (especially as the kid won't communicate his actual feelings to Dad). Additionally, he's putting the kid in the tough position of having to choose sides in a battle centered upon them, or leave them in the limbo that they seem to be in right now, refusing to let their real feelings about the situation out to either parent. I don't know if he's responsible to do it, but I believe it's in the best interest of the child to do so. If he really feels that the sports aren't in the bst interest of the kiddo, he needs to speak to his ex, calmly and rationally, without accusing, knowing that he might lose the argument regardless of how well he presents his side. Support the kid.

3. I'm not sure how this question fits into the scenario, but... yes, they have the 'right' to tell someone that they're a bad parent. If they didn't have that 'right', they wouldn't be able to exercise it. Is it just? Sometimes, I'm sure it is, sometimes, I'm sure it's not. As in all situations not specifically spelled out in a divorce agreement, I assume this situation could get taken to court, and it would fall to a judge to rule upon it. But I think legally, the father could refuse to travel for the child's sports events (meaning the child misses them) on the weekends (or during other time) that are assigned to him by the legal document (the decree). I'd keep in mind the potential repercussions of taking such a hard stance.

4. I think this question was pretty well answered with #2 and #3. The father's 'duty' is to the child. The father needs to weigh all the factors when making his final decision on this.

I understand he feels that he wasn't consulted on this, and I wonder how it got to the point that his ex was so involved in this without him talking to her about it, but that would be the first step. I think a reasonable compromise might be to give the child some time off after the current season of... whatever the kiddo is involved with. That way, the kid can wind down, Dad will get to spend more quality (non-sleep, non-driving) time with the kid, and they might be able to talk further about what level of involvement is appropriate for all of them.

Good luck to Dad.
on Oct 28, 2007
It's a tough situation, for sure. But really, the parents can't be waging battle like this over the kid. If one parent thinks the other is overtasking the child, compromise or defer to the kid.

My Mom got involved in all my youth sports, and it gave her a social life, but I was enjoying the sports, so it's not a big deal. I was so glad to have my parents at every game.

As for the commitments, they are the kid's commitments, not any parent's. So it's the parents' jobs to make sure the child appreciates what a commitment really means, by helping (read making) them see it through. If the Mom is committing for her own sake, then that's something the kid should take up with his Mom. If that doesn't work, then the Dad needs to step in as long as it doesn't become a Dad vs. Mom issue and stays a best interest of the child issue. Your child's interests should rule your social life through the child, not your social life through your child ruling their activities.
on Oct 28, 2007

Kids sports can take over your life whether you want it to or not.  I do think many parents overcommit their kids.  Sometimes just one sport can be an overcommitment. 

That being said I think that once you commit to playing for a team, you should participate unless sick etc.  The rest of the team depends on you and it isn't fair to let them down.  

I really don't think that a judge or a social worker could call either a bad parent but I think if they put the kid in the middle of a battle over sports they're not putting the kid's best interest first. 

I really think that mom, dad, kid and any steps need to all talk together about what is expected. 

on Oct 28, 2007
Certainly there are a large number of blanks that would have to be filled in, and many of them may be filled in with unconscious assumptions instead of conscious attempts, which means that some people responding won't be able to even identify the assumed information that they themselves have supplied into your scenario... The way I have filled in the blanks, however?


Thanks for taking the time to respond, Psuedo. I did leave a lot of blanks. I know of a situation similar to this but I left out a lot of details. I was curious about what people thought about the issue but didn't want to "out" or judge anyone. I'm not friends with anyone involved in this situation but it seems kind of crazy to me. So I am curious.

By the way, your response was exactly the way I hoped people would respond. Thanks for sharing.
She has committed our children to certain extra-curricular activities that require me to drive three hours one way (and another three hours back) and give up certain amounts of "Daddy time" in order to support them (previously it was soccer, now it's the Cub Scouts). I don't disagree with her choices and give her the benefit of the doubt that she is keeping the best interest of our children in mind when making decisions; I know that it isn't always the case, and I know that she couldn't care less about my best interest, and that our ideas for the best interest of the children isn't always going to be the same, but I find it less productive to assume the worse. I'm sort of an optimist


I think you are pretty generous in this regard.
Is the father responsible for meeting commitments that his ex-spouse made on behalf of the child? Well, they aren't his commitments, but they are his child's


While I understand what you are writing here, I'm finding that I'm not sure if I agree with it. I think it's good for kids to understand the concept of commitment and go to a game even if they would rather stay home and play video games. But until the child is able to meet those commitments on their own (transport, etc.) I see them as parental commitments.

If the Mom is committing for her own sake, then that's something the kid should take up with his Mom


Interesting idea. I think that is a hard thing for kids entering the tweens (as in 10-13). I think that would be a hard conversation for a 16 year old.

My Mom got involved in all my youth sports, and it gave her a social life, but I was enjoying the sports, so it's not a big deal. I was so glad to have my parents at every game.


That is really cool!

I do think many parents overcommit their kids. Sometimes just one sport can be an overcommitment.

i think some parents are not realistic. Coaches, too. I hate the way a lot of coaching happens here in Japan. They expect this huge adult-type commitment from kids. It annoys me. I think it burns out a lot of kids, too. The superstars will make it through the season but that doesn't make the system right.

I hate the idea of forcing people into other people's agendas. It really annoys me. Divorce is it's own weird entity and I have been lucky enough to avoid any involvement in it.

If you sign a kid up for that activity, I think that you take all responsibility for it. If that means that when the other parent has custody and doesn't want to do that activity, so be it. If the kid is not begging the parent to attend all games then I don't see a problem. Sucks for the team tho.
on Oct 28, 2007
I'm going to try to be quick!

1) Mom has overcommitted her son.
2) Dad should help the son to keep his commitments. If he doesn't, what will he be teaching his son? Even if he doesn't agree!
3)Should any of those come into the picture unless the child is in danger? I dont' think so! The discussion shoud be between the three, mom, dad and child to sort this all out!
4)I answered in #2 And dad should let mom knows how he feels and they make a new arrangement or a better arrangement for the next year!

I've got to run! If I have anything else to add, will do so tomorrow!
on Oct 29, 2007
"While I understand what you are writing here, I'm finding that I'm not sure if I agree with it. I think it's good for kids to understand the concept of commitment and go to a game even if they would rather stay home and play video games. But until the child is able to meet those commitments on their own (transport, etc.) I see them as parental commitments."

What if the kid was begging the parent to go, but the parent didn't want to go? Any kid committment is a parent commitment. But it's also a kid committment, and the amount of importance the parent places on those commitments is the amount of imporance a child will place on their own commitments later in life.

"Interesting idea. I think that is a hard thing for kids entering the tweens (as in 10-13). I think that would be a hard conversation for a 16 year old."

Yeah, it would. Bring a third party in, maybe? A coach that realizes the kid is burning out, or a teacher, to help out? If the Dad comes into it without the kid it becomes a Mom vs. Dad battle, when really it should be about the kid.

"I hate the idea of forcing people into other people's agendas. It really annoys me. Divorce is it's own weird entity and I have been lucky enough to avoid any involvement in it."

You're right. I've avoided it too, lucky me.

A car ride with a sports game on one end of it is practically the perfect dad-son time, if you ask me. So I don't know what they're complaining about.
on Oct 29, 2007
Opinion time: The child is sleeping allot at Dads not from being over committed but from boredom and not wanting to confront Dad about something Dad is so dead set against. Bad dad!
on Oct 29, 2007
The sad fact is, when you split the family, you split the decision making for the child. Yes, parents should be adult enough to set aside their differences to provide the kids with some consistancy, but well, if the two can't agree on something, then the kid is left putting up with the rules of each house. Of course, if the kid talks with each parent and lets their wishes be known, that would help, but in the end, as usual, the biggest price in divorce is paid by the kids.
on Oct 29, 2007
Thanks for taking the time to respond, Psuedo.


your response was exactly the way I hoped people would respond. Thanks for sharing.


Sure thing. I hope that I provided some sort of insight into it, and I'm glad I didn't sound like a jerk.

I think you are pretty generous in this regard.


Thanks. I just feel that it's easier to think positively about the potential motives of my ex, especially since I can't figure out what her motives are at times, instead of assuming the worse... especially since she has primary physical custody (theoretically we have joint custody for making choices about the children), and I'll look a bit of an ass if I simply buck against her decisions. Honestly, I'd rather be the one making the sacrifices for the children, instead of them, so that they grow up knowing that I care about them.

in the end, as usual, the biggest price in divorce is paid by the kids.


I'm just now getting around to reading about some of the psychological effects of the whole thing, prompted by the fact that my children are old enough to ask questions about the situation now. I was a bit taken aback that my oldest didn't know that I used to be married to his mother. Anyway, there are a number of books written based on a 25 year study done awhile ago, and I happened to pick one up for $3... it's been added to my ample reading queue.
on Oct 30, 2007
you split the decision making for the child


I can't imagine just signing up my child without consulting my ex. Several reason come to mind even before my child's enjoyment;

1) does the ex's job allow enough time to take the kid to these events? Some of the divorced parents I meet spend most of their time trying to pay bills or meet child support.
2) is there enough money to pay for the transport and other incidental of this event?

Not consulting would end up in causing lots of logistical problemsat the least. I suppose that in cases where money is not an object these problems are non-existant. It's hard for me to imagine having so much animosity for my ex that I might plan something like that. In cases where the ex is never around or out of contact, then fair game. I do what I think is best and the ex has to fit in around it.

I can't imagine just signing up my kid and saying to my ex, "hey, Kiddo wants to do this event so now I've given you this time and financial burden."

would judge them both immature and unwilling to compromise, making a court hearing necessary in the first place.


then what happens? do they have to go to some kind of communication class?

on Oct 30, 2007
Would that be such a bad thing in this case? Surely a little family counseling wouldn't hurt


I wasn't being sarcastic (in case I sounded it) I genuinely wanted to know what the next step would be.

I agree with having things done on one's own terms before they snowball.

Once a judge orders it, you may find your entire private life an open book...to the courts, to DFS, to CPS...all of which have a vested interest in compelling you to avail yourself of whatever 'services' they determine your family needs. That's how they make a living, after all, and there's no justification like self-justification.Resist, and yes, you may find yourself labeled a bad (and uncooperative) parent, and this sort of crap has been known to snowball out of control rapidly



Scary. A good reason to be reasonable and mature.
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