Your ex husband is late for his visitation pick up. This is not the first time and you are getting tired of the disrespect and negligence. Besides, you have has things to do and your two children are getting uncomfortable.
In this scene, you have had it, and need to say something.
Here is the wrong way:
Mom: “He did it to me in the marriage and now he is doing it to you. Your father only thinks about himself.”
This is the right way:
Mom: “Dad appears to be running late.”
Mom: “Some people run late. I am sure he will get here OK.”
Child: “But it bothers me.”
Mom: “You may want to let your dad know how you feel.”
It’s easy to understand why a mother might be outraged: her tardy ex- husband is doing it again, but this time he’s doing it not just to her, but to the kids as well.
She is angry that she has to continue to deal with her ex-husband’s apparent lack of respect and she identifies with her kids, feeling that they are being hurt.
This is a case where over identification is very easy to do. The mother can project her own feelings on the kids. In a misguided attempt to protect them she may make the error of not allowing the kids to have their own relationship with their father.
When she responds incorrectly, she is responding out of her own hurt and anger, imposed it now on them.
The kids in turn are then forced to take sides.
But is it possible their dad’s lateness is not really a big deal for them? Maybe they already accept their father for his many flaws, but enjoy him nevertheless?
It may be too much for them to identify with their mother’s outrage.
But when the mother has a sense of perspective and feels well centered, she can acknowledge his lateness in a factual and neutral way: “Some people run late.”
This gives her the opening to inquire just how his tardiness truly affects her kids.
She can then suggest they share their feelings with their dad at some point.
She can also, when she has cooled down, and definitely not in front of the children, bring up the problem of tardiness with the children’s father. He may not have had a chance to reflect on his behavior, and understand he might be hurting his kids’ feelings.
Sometimes, these quiet and persistent interventions work. After all, he has to look at himself in the mirror every morning. On the other hand, some people are just habitually late.