When my kids started spending more than a few hours with their dad, I noticed that their behavior changed – significantly. They became more sensitive, grumpy, controlling, angry (omg …. yes, angry), more physical hitting of each other and more issues with sleeping (unable to fall asleep, nightmares). There were also regressive behaviors – more toileting accidents and desires to do infantile behavior. There was also clinginess… the inability for me to walk 10 feet away without them running behind, sometimes in pure worry.
I noticed that they would settle back to “normal” after about a week of not seeing their father. If the visit wasn’t too bad (not much anger on his part), then they would settle down within a few days. If it was really bad and he was very angry during a visit, then it could take almost the entire two weeks that we had before they saw him again. Now – they do see him for a mid week dinner visit, which could also upset the apple cart as well. The big upsets were (are) the weekends.
The day I spoke to my attorney about it and she told me that she hears this from many parents in my shoes with similar ex’s, it was such a relief. It was so easy for me to wonder if I was just seeing things, or if my imagine was making things up (especially because this is what my ex proclaims). I did, however, keep a calendar log and could see how the behaviors played out. By the time we reached “our weekend”, things could start to flow and the more “easy going” nature of my children would reappear. My attorney said she had another client who’s children only have supervised visitation every other weekend for a few hours – and the primary custodial parent notices this herself.
The other factor that comes into play is when people would say “but my kids do the same behavior, and we’re not divorced”. Ok, true… it is hard to tell what behavior is “normal” and would exist no matter what and what behavior is caused by the disruption in routine & care and replaced with a very different style of parenting. The reason why I had come to think that they were related, though, was the way that I journaled it and saw a pattern.
A friend of mine and I were texting last evening, and she said her son returned from his father seeming very depressed. I had noticed myself when I saw her son the day prior that he was sullen, and not his jovial self. My friend doesn’t label her son’s father as narcissistic, but I have seen his raging behavior and read the really mentally messed up emails he sends her. His behaviors mirror my ex’s.
My point in writing this post is to share the “ah-ha” that I had the day I spoke with my attorney. Maybe this will help someone else who has wondered if the behavior change is real or imagined.