My wife and I find ourselves in a very stressful and painful situation involving my ex-wife and her parenting style. She barely participates in their lives, emotionally, spiritually, or economically and yet during her self-imposed limited time with them, she pushes her personal/societal philosophies on our small children. The result of her actions is two confused and emotionally shaken young children. I have continued to share legal custody with her because I would never dream of keeping the children from their mom or her from them. I have residential custody; however, what she is continually exposing them to is making me reconsider the legal situation.
About three years ago, my former wife began a relationship on the internet with a married man. It grew into something quite serious and I was completely caught off guard when she decided to leave. I became a single parent overnight and (with the help of awesome people) I rose to the challenge. For the past few years she has only seen the children for a few hours a week and communication with them has been sporadic at best. When she did take the kids, my 4-year-old son would come home with painted nails and my 7-year-old daughter would tell me about how her mom and her boyfriend showed her this “cool card game” (tarot cards) with naked images on them. Their mother expressed her views on sexuality and sexual identity to our small children without ever consulting me.
Meanwhile, I have our kids with me through all the bad dreams, fevers, scraped knees, and I’m blessed to be a stabilizing force in their amazing little lives. I lift the majority of the burden of parenting and I do not complain because it’s what a father ought to do. This past year, the Lord blessed me with a partner in my new wife. She’s truly stepped up to the plate and been an excellent step-mom to our kids. Since she joined our lives, my ex has increased the rhetoric and exposure to new-age political and philosophical thoughts while pouring gifts on them and spending the bulk of their limited time together playing video games. Our children come home from visits with their mom and are miserable and confused. It often takes days for them to recover.
My ex-wife is now beginning to urge the kids to question their faith and undercut how I am raising them. I have decided it’s time to go for full legal custody, which does not exclude her from still seeing her kids. It merely allows me to make the legal decisions that would best benefit my babies.
My conundrum is twofold: She has parents who love their grandchildren and have been deathly afraid of me “taking them away” from them ever since I got remarried. If and when I go for custody I’m bound to activate some serious unintended panic in them. Secondly, their mom is not mentally well, and due to the nature of her new-age “woke” community and the narrative she has peddled for several years as the “victim of the patriarchy,” she can mobilize money and resources rather quickly through both her scared parents and her followers. (She’s an online “life coach” and artist.)
My wife and I are scared of exposing the children to more drama and trauma that might harm these two wonderful children. We are also nervous about possibly losing some measure of the rights that we currently have in raising them. We are scared and at our wits’ end. There really isn’t a community of people who have dealt with this out there to turn to. I was curious about what you might recommend in this volatile and fragile situation.
I can well understand your fear, there is a lot on the line here. So my first suggestion would be to replace this fear with courage, faith, and love.
I am reminded of a story of a family whose child had cancer and was undergoing treatments. The parents prayed for strength of heart, and if it was divine will for their child to go to heaven, then so be it. The child was healed.
Can you imagine a daily practice that allows you to feel the power of love erasing fear? Perhaps there’s one you can do as a family or with your wife.
Secondly, I would suggest a bit of study so you understand what it is you are up against with “woke” ideas. Knowledge is good for destroying fear. Since you are a person of faith, I will say that the battle over woke ideas is actually a spiritual battle. The hearts and minds of America’s children are one of the main theaters so you are definitely not alone in your situation.
You might consider starting a forum for parents like yourself to share experiences and resources, as there are many details and legal issues that would be helped by a collective knowledge base.
Why do I say that this is a spiritual battle? Partly because the culture wars happening right now hinge on morality. Were the Judeo-Christian values that form the foundation of Western civilization given to us by the divine? Or are these values merely social conventions created by white men so they could maintain power and oppress everyone else? For people of deep faith, the answer is clear, but for many others—including some intelligent and good-hearted people—it is not.
To understand better what strategies are being used, I would recommend the two “Agenda” documentaries by Curtis Bowers. They helped me understand the forces at work in society today. Second, I recommend the Epoch Times series “How the Specter of Communism Is Ruling our World,” which helps further elucidate the origins of certain political and social phenomena.
It seems your amazing children are on the front lines of this battle; we can’t know why they have been put there, but I don’t think it is an accident that they have the mother and father they do. Perhaps one day they will become great healers or warriors.
You are absolutely right to try to protect them from drama and trauma. However, given the situation that their mother is the source of the pain, this will not be entirely possible. However, you can allow this pain to foster more closeness between you and your children, this will also bring the opportunity for profoundly teachable moments, and you can help instill mercy in their hearts and the transformative power of spiritual love. And this is what will ultimately save them from following in their mother’s footsteps.
Stories are of course great teachers of these values. One that comes to mind is the Bible tale of the adulteress who was sentenced to death by stoning until Jesus asked that the first stone be cast by someone who never committed a sin.
The message of forgiveness will resonate deeply with them—much more so than their mother telling them you are wrong. Children naturally gravitate toward harmony.
There are several ways you could relate this to what happened in your family (without being explicit about what adultery is, maybe just say the woman broke her promise to stay with her husband) but I would emphasize you are not angry anymore with their mother, and it’s OK for them to love both of you.
Love and forgiveness, however, need to be tempered with discernment. It doesn’t mean they need to love every experience with their mother nor agree with her, and so I would also focus on teaching them to pay attention to their emotions.
One way to do this would be to set some time aside when they return from a visit with their mother (maybe together, maybe individually, whatever you deem best). Use this time to let them air any feelings and help them process situations. Before bed is often a time when children want to talk.
I would guess your daughter is old enough that you can ask her directly how she felt about the visit but your son might have trouble putting his emotions into words, which is normal for boys. With him, you might just start drawing and see what he draws, as the images are a window to what is going on inside of him. As a prompt you might draw a house or apartment and ask him to draw the family inside. And if you have dolls or stuffed animals to represent all the family members you mention above, you might find that he will play out what he’s been experiencing. Don’t hesitate to name his emotions anytime you notice them arise. This is what a mother usually does for her son and it will help him learn to handle them better.
Also, take care that your children feel heard and respected. Don’t rush to tell them what is right and wrong but let them wrestle with issues, with you asking questions and offering guidance and perspective as needed. This way they will learn to have confidence in their own moral judgments.
In addition to stories and connecting with you, your children will also be deeply affected by watching you sincerely strive to be a good, kind person. Especially for your son, who looks to you as somewhat of a hero, your actions will be a powerful example of what is right.
And by teaching them mercy and forgiveness, you are also teaching your children what real empowerment is—the ability to transcend painful situations. We can’t escape suffering, but we can become stronger and nobler because of it. This is directly opposed to woke ideology, which teaches that in order to be free and happy we need to tear down external oppressors—other people and society.
If you do this well, your children will actually have an advantage in life. They will be able to see firsthand how woke ideas destroy happiness. They will know right from wrong, and their hearts won’t be deceived by false compassion.
Regarding the custody situation, as you prepare to take legal action, are you able to approach your ex-wife’s parents directly and let them know that you value the relationship they have with their grandchildren and assure them you wish it to continue? If at every opportunity you try to consider their feelings they will see you are sincere. You are only trying to be responsible to your children, and wish to cause as little pain as possible to anyone else.
And in closing, it may also help to consider that your ex-wife is partly right: she is a victim—not of the patriarchy but of a sneaky and oppressive ideology—like a young, naive girl seduced by a sophisticated flirt who promises her the world and ruins her life. Give her your utmost pity and mercy. Perhaps doing so will touch her heart—remind her how good goodness feels.
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