This is a guest post from an anonymous author who wanted to share her struggles about her ex.
“Daddy, my other name is Johnson.” (Names changed to protect the innocent) My 4 year old son blurted to his dad on the phone the other day. You could hear a pin drop on the other end and quickly my ex rushed to say, that is not y our last name, you don’t want a name like that. If you remember that character “Anger” from the Disney movie Inside Out I could tell that Anger took over and was in control at that moment as I quickly picked up the phone and a small petty argument ensued between the adults on the line while my son continued scribbling and coloring in his notebook. After an abrupt phone call end (I miss those days of slamming the phone) I felt like a jerk for allowing my emotions to get in the way of my son’s phone call with his dad.
The Last Name Saga
When my son was born dad has already vanished with a truck in both of our names to go live his life in another state about a 19 hour drive away. Finally relief that the abuse was over and even though my family and I had to endure a barrage of voicemails filled with profanity and name calling, he never came around. So my son took my last name and there was no dad on the birth certificate. Why would he put his name on the birth certificate? He didn’t believe his son was his and after dealing with voicemails of him claiming our son was the “son of a wetback” I just stopped listening to the voicemails and kept them all for the future. So my son grew up with his last name.
Custody Battles and Name Changes
Fast forward two years later and the stress and toll of single motherhood, not getting child support and managing a career were too much for me. My ex claimed he could provide a better life. He had a new girlfriend (fiancée) who was a doctor and she had a nice home etc and I had a nervous breakdown. So my son went to live with him (Something I did not agree with) and the judge ordered a name change. The change in last name bothered me but I had no say on that point because I’d rather pick my battles than spend a big amount of money fighting something like that. So the court ordered a name change. Then things changed and I went to therapy, regained my footing and had lots of support from my friends, family and my employer. Things really looked up and I went back to court since I rarely got to talk to my son, when I asked about preschool or who was watching my son my ex gave vague answers. When I asked about where my son was living I got no definitive address either and the address my ex gave to the court was wrong. I showed up there multiple times and the residents inside didn’t even know who my ex was. This was not cheap since I had to travel and pay for all of that travel for not just myself but also my daughter yet I feel like it was all worth it. So fast forward and that original court order gets thrown out (Including the name change) and here we are today with my son back and thriving with school, speech classes and friends. While at school, the school kept calling him by his last name (My name), Johnson and he kept answering to that. I didn’t notice it until a few days had gone by and I realized people kept calling him that at school. I corrected everyone but I realize he would answer to that and it stuck. I got upset that my ex would accuse me of coaching our son.
How I should have handled things differently?
There is not much to a name since my little boy is the same little boy that is full of life and loving as he always is. Apparently a name is a big deal to my ex and after listening to him talk about courts and legal stuff to a 4 year old on the phone while my son is trying to get a word in edgewise about his day at school it’s time I say enough is enough. If he can’t keep the conversation with his son about his son then he no longer has anything to talk about.
Three Responses with different outcomes
- Be hostile – This does nobody any good since all it does is further break down the communication process. Understand your worth and with another hostile person such as the ex, less communication except what is important is key.
- Be weak – This also serves nobody because it doesn’t give children or the other party proper notice about boundaries and acceptable behavior. It leaves the responses open but isn’t firm in stating what you are or are not willing to put up with.
- Be cordial – The courts can’t force you to get along but you save a lot of grief just being cordial but firm. Name calling, vulgarity and bad language should roll of your back. Stick on headphones and don’t mind any of it. Set the example to your child of how to behave and reassure them that you will be there to keep them safe and secure.
How could the above phone hostility been handle differently?
Don’t react to it. Politely let dad know that the conversation disparaging mom is inappropriate and if he doesn’t stop the conversation will have to end. When he makes promises like he usually does without the intention on keeping them, explain to your child it is not their fault if mom and dad fight or if one of the parents doesn’t keep their promises. Then leave it at that. I think all the energy spent being angry served nobody. It can be normal for me to automatically get anxious and hostile when hearing my ex’s name or seeing it pop up on the caller ID but I have to get over that and let cool heads prevail.