What goes on at Daddy’s house

My children have been hesitant to say what’s happening at their father’s house, opening up gradually to me and my daughter’s therapist as they grow trust that they can tell without it being conveyed to their father.  I’ve often wondered what’s going on that causes their stressed behavior and continual protest in having to spend time with him.  They’ve given me bits and pieces and clues, but nothing forthright.  The other day, I wrote a child’s story book in an app on the ipad.  It was a story of a little girl and her brother and what happened when they told what happened with their dad.   We read it together and they giggled at how much they were like the two characters (duh!).  I wanted them to know that they would be safe too.  Then a few days later, I chose the approach of writing down a list of things that might be going on, in a check the box format for them.  They were very engaged in the conversation, and added more detail as they were going through.  It worked well, as it was indirect and less pressure than being asked directly about something.

Here’s the statements they were given and how they answered them:

When I’m at my dad’s house:

√ my dad yells (“check”)
√ my dad yells so loud it is scary (“check”)
√ I am afraid he will hurt me (“check”)
√ I am not always sure why he is yelling (“check”)
√ my dad spanks (“check”)
√ … spanks so hard it hurts for a long time (“check” – enthusiastically said)
√ … not sure when you will get spanked (“check”)
√  … leaves a bruise from spanking “(sometimes”)
√  … squeezes arms or legs or hands HARD (my 5 year old son: “all of them”; my 8 year old daughter: “yes” – both adamant answers)
√  … squeezes so hard it hurts for a long time (both kids separately answered with a strong “yes”)
√ …. squeezes so hard there’s a bruise or finger marks left there (check, my daughter said “Yes” with head bobbing)
• grabs ears (“not really”)
• pinches (sometimes he pinches when he squeezes but not because he means to pinch)
• pulls hair (no)
• Hits other parts of my body:
√  head (check)
• face (no)
√  back (check)
√  has squeezed my neck and choked me (“every once in a while”)
√  my dad has done other things I feel uncomfortable about (“check”, but they didn’t elaborate)
√ drinks wine or grown up drinks when I am there – A LOT (“check” – enthusiastically) (and my son says: “and cooks grown up food” – because he won’t let them eat ‘kid food’)
√ drives scary when he is mad (check. “and sometimes will also smash on the car”,  imitating a punching hand into the steering wheel)
• calls me names (no)  (note – during other times she has said he calls her a jerk or “fucking” when he is mad, but I think she realizes that this isn’t name calling – she also says ‘he says I look like a jerk’)
•  says mean things about me (no) or my brother (“no., but he does about you, Mom”)
√  my dad tells me that things that happen with him are private (“a little”)
√ I wish I could sleep in my brother’s room (adamant “yes”, and “I have been sneaking in there, but then while I am sleeping, Daddy moves me back to my bed)
√  Nana has done things which make me feel uncomfortable (check.  examples: verbally disregards what I believe in or what I tell her i think is important.  Speaks badly about my mom)
√  Papa has done things that make me feel uncomfortable (check. same as how Nana does) — I asked these because of the picture she drew of Papa naked with a penis, and because I know that my ex’s parents are abusive
√  I don’t want to get my Dad in trouble by telling about what happens (“true and also not true”)
√  What is more important… (a) that I don’t get my dad in trouble, or (b) that me and my brother are safe and happy. (My daughter said: “That my brother and I are safe”.  My son added “and we never get lost”)

They then shared a story about a time when they “weren’t staying close to daddy in a wine store, and we got lost from him.  We were looking for him and he was looking for us”.


2 Responses to “What goes on at Daddy’s house”

  1. Jess says:

    Wow, that is a FANTASTIC idea! I’m going to borrow that one. I would be horrified if my 3YO identified some of those behaviors on your checklist – I wouldn’t know what to do. So, that begs the question – what are you going to do now, if anything? At what point do these behaviors warrant intervention? I mean, to me, that point is “as soon as I hear about them,” but I guess really what I mean is, at what point will the court take intervention into these behaviors seriously?

    What was the app you used for the children’s book? I’m totally stealing these ideas, BTW. My 3YO’s dad is really more BPD than NPD… but still, they share MANY similar characteristics and the things on your list have always been concerns of mine when she’s with his family.

    • Hey there! My next steps are to get a therapist for our son. From a court perspective, I need other people to back me up on what my kids are saying is going on, and how it is affecting their emotional well being. My daughter has a therapist, but my ex has blocked one for our son. I have been searching for one that is good (and male), and think I have one. Now my attorney is going to approach his attorney and try to settle it out of court. If that doesn’t work, we will file a motion to have this therapist assigned and have him do an evaluation and follow up therapy as necessary. The court system is very unreliable – from region to region and judge to judge. There are far too many cases out there with horrible or deadly results from what judges have ruled. For me, it’s going to be like walking a tight rope – as my ex projects everything he is doing (disparaging me, for e.g.) on me. He strongly conveys that I am blocking his relationship and denying him visitation (I have not done so whatsoever… but that’s a whole ‘nuther post – as mom’s can likewise be convicted for “failure to protect”.) I need to make sure that I have strong evidence that can show that he is lying, with professionals to back me up.

      The ipad app – there’s a bunch, but try scribble press, and also bamboo paper. I think it’s good to start the conversation early! Young children also relay what’s going on with them in their play – so look for themes in your 3 year old’s play that would give you indications of anything which she is trying to understand or that bothers her.


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