Archive for the ‘Therapy’ Category

I’ve shared in earlier posts about Nan deciding to take a trip to the beach instead of being here for Cindy’s graduation.  The kids were at Nan’s this weekend for the normal visitation.  Based on past history, this being the week before Mother’s Day I assumed I’d be getting some communication from Nan or perhaps from Cindy or Greg about this Sunday given that this year Mother’s Day weekend falls on our visitation.  I was speaking with my wife about this a couple times over the weekend and the time came and went without a peep on the topic.  The kids came home Tuesday night as always and with busyness and all everyone was in bed before the thought “It’s odd that nothing has been mentioned about Mother’s Day” crossed my mind.  Last night talking with Cindy she asked if she could have friends come over after prom this Saturday and spend the night.  That was fine and it led naturally into the question of if they were heading over to Nan’s for Mother’s Day.  Cindy informed me Nan said she did not want them to come over.  Bam.

We moved on from that statement and just continued the conversation, but inside me their was a sadness along with a rage of the callousness of Nan.  This is not a new feeling for me, and sadly whatever feelings Cindy, Greg and Marcia have are also not knew, but it never ceases to amaze me how Nan can find ways to one up herself in the emptiness inside.  For you to fully appreciate the agony that must be occurring for Cindy, I need to fill you in on a development related to the graduation fiasco.

The weekend before this Cindy has come home and through general conversation she raised the point of the mess that Nan is creating with grandma, for clarity Nan’s mom.  I asked what that meant and out poured the most sadly amazing story I have heard.   It seems that that weekend while Nan and Cindy had gone shopping with her grandmother she continued to have mobility issues that have been part of her life for a while and had difficulty making it from the handicapped space into the store, due to her COPD breathing issues.  Nan then decided that her mom was in no way capable of attending Cindy’s graduation but she decided that her mom is so depressed about all she can no longer do that she needed to come up with some other way to get her to not go.  So she concocted a yarn that was that we have now decided to take all the kids to visit my parents down in Florida and the Cindy will not be attending her graduation.  Cindy then proceeded to explain how a couple occasions had come up where she almost gave away the lie because at one point she almost walked downstairs in her cap and gown and another time almost made a mistake and said something that would have given up the lie.  It was evident in her telling me this whole story that it was stressful to her.  I was furious.  Because Nan already made the decision to not be present for Cindy’s graduation now she was making Cindy partake in a lie about it, not be able to share the event with her grandmother, and further stressing out a kid who is on medication for anxiety?!!

After explained the unfairness to place her in that spot and how sorry I was she had to deal with this, we arrived at the point that she would rather I speak with Nan about clearing this up.  After a long discussion with my wife, I decided to contact Nan.  I made a few mistakes in the heat of the moment with including my own personal indignation about being included as the basis for the lie and how I would not be a party to that, but in the end I cut everything out but the heart of the matter.  Cindy should not be made to carry around a lie for the remainder of her grandmother’s life about her graduation.  I also wanted to make sure this was not Cindy’s burden to resolve, because that would just be more stress, so I let Nan know that we would be sending the announcement for the open house we were having the day after the graduation to celebrate to her Mom but would wait a couple weeks.  Nan ended up calling me up and claiming that her mom was suicidal and to please not put Nan in the spot of having to tell her mom something else she could not do.  I asked for counsel from several people to make sure my clouded perspective with being furious with Nan was not making me make a poor decision on how to handle it, but everyone agreed this burden needs to be removed from Cindy and Nan needs to have an adult conversation with her mom.  After several days Nan decided to talk to her mom and it turned out to make no big deal according to what she said.  Cindy was at least free from the burden of Nan’s lie.

So when I add up the graduation skip, the stress of these several days of fabricating a lie about it and keeping her own mother from being allowed to make her own decision about her granddaughter’s graduation, now we throw in the latest slap; don’t come over on Mother’s Day because we’re too busy packing for our trip that we are leaving for in a few days.  Does my ex just have a hole in her chest where her heart should be?  What can I do as a parent on the other side of this train wreck to protect my children’s hearts?  As I have been operating for some time the answers are yes, and I wish I knew.  I am sure I am not alone in feeling that I am always amazed that my ex can somehow find a way to do something more appalling than ever before.  I’m sure she feels that way about me on things, though I am not sure what (and I’m sure she’s amazed I find her behavior so poor).  In the end I keep reminding myself that my focus needs to be on supporting the kids and I offer someone to listen, to offer advice when wanted and in general just to help them as they want.  My concern, however, is that are they becoming unable to understand what is normal?  In much the same way that we worry about Bert’s effect on Jan, Bobbi and Peter’s ability to process certain things normally, I worry about what having a mom who “loves” in such a strange and bizarre way does to their expectations, how they will develop as people and parents themselves.  Will their romantic relationships be dysfunctional?  How will they view their own kids?  As disposable and easily ignored as Nan views them, or will this drive them to do better, or go too far the other way and be smothering and too attached to compensate for what they felt they were deprived of?  I already have discussions with Cindy where she says all these things are OK.  I suggest they are not OK and that I am sorry, but still try to respect the boundary of not bad-mouthing Nan, but the longer this goes on the more difficult that becomes.  When they were younger I always felt that when they got older they would find their own voice, and perhaps they still will, but I get more and more concerned that they are stunted forever in these spaces and did I miss opportunities to have changed that?  I have no idea where, but that does not make the voices in my head any less vocal.

I’m also not the most empathetic person in the world, so I tend to press too hard into the realm of “suck it up buttercup”.  My wife calls me on it from time to time, and I and so grateful for that, because it certainly helps to avoid further unintended damage from my directness.  This topic is an area that haunts me.  Just as I could not love enough and want to stay together hard enough for both of us with their mom, I can also not do anything to replace the emptiness that must come from knowing that your mom only kind of loves you or however they perceive it.  A child should never have to feel that their parent views them as nothing more than another person.  I get that there are many parents like that, for which sacrificing for their children is not in their worldview, I just feel guilty that that is who I provided my children with on the other side.  I understand the pointlessness and the incorrectness in that viewpoint and I work hard to not get sucked into it too often, and it certainly happens less and less as the years go on, but when one of my kids is in the midst of another vortex of uncaring from Nan, it still surfaces.

We’ve both got exes that cause some form of this feeling of failure in us.  Bert is a terrible role model in many areas of his children’s lives and to some degree I believe my wife has those same feelings that I do about how her choice to have kids with that particular individual will cause them harm and pain for the rest of their lives.  It’s a burden I know not every divorced parent has, but it is certainly one that we have and on days like this it’s really, really heavy.  Writing this blog helps me air those thoughts out in the open and maybe get some comments to help me process, it’s cathartic.  As I try to be open I believe I keep these bad thoughts far enough away to not drag me into a depression of some sort, but does it make me somehow callous as well, as what I am worried my kids are experiencing?  Does having to figure out how to parent kids with a mom who is not a prototypical mom in any way effect me as much or more than it does them?  Is that healthy?  Is there anything I can do about it?  Lots of questions with no right answers.  They can all be seen from two sides of the same coin.  I do the best I can every day, and that’s all we can do as divorced parents.  One day at a time.


Through my work in the divorce ministry I get the privilege to take a more intimate part if some people’s lives than would be expected with strangers.  Many times the pain and struggles people face are worked through and they emerge on the other side stronger and better as the Lord intended.  I understand my role in this process is to simply be the one who can share wisdom gained from having traveled the road they are on ahead of them.

There are times, however, that the road someone is on is not one I have traveled and one I have difficulty understanding because I have no parallel experience I can pull from.  At times I can try to empathize and learn what is happening but there are limits to what our program can achieve as we are not professionals in helping to deal with serious issues.  We encourage and press our participants at that time to seek professional help, but we cannot compel and so it is difficult when someone is battling the demons within and there is little else we can do other than be an ear to listen.

Such has been the journey of a recent participant in our program, Scott.  I met Scott a year ago when he arrived at the DivorceCare session I was assisting with and he seemed to be in a decent spot given the recent timeframe of his divorce which had only completed a few months prior.  He had a job, had friends and had showed up to our program to help himself heal and be the best he could be for his son.

What came out over the next few weeks was a struggle that Scott was having that went into one of those areas I could not share direct of parallel wisdom on because it was so far from my situation.  Scott has an addiction to pornography.  I have never been drawn to porn nor have I been addicted to anything, so the associations I could try to pull from were things I had read or just a general understanding.  Scott was also drawn to a very bad relationship that he explained to use he knew was destructive but that he was unable to stay away from.  It involved too much drinking and too much sex that led Scott to some dark places and while he wanted to stay away for the sake of his son, he was drawn back in part because this woman also had a child that his son befriended and would ask about in the times when Scott had broken off contact after a particularly bad incident or situation.

During the session Scott reached out and wanted to begin some Bible study so I met with him at his home to begin a general discipleship process.  We met for a couple hours, but even during it I could see Scott was struggling, and we spent most of the time discussing his feelings there.  He was thinking about how different this was from what his friends would be doing and it was very boring to him.  I shared what was on my heart about the process but in the end I left feeling like Scott would not continue and he did not.  I sent a very long e-mail to my pastor asking for some guidance as I could not help but feeling responsible for the failure of Scott to grasp on to something that I felt would help give him the strength to see the destruction the porn and the toxic relationship were having on him and his son.  My pastor explained that I had done everything I could and that it was in God’s hands to work out with Scott if there would be more there between them.  Shortly thereafter Scott stopped coming to the DivorceCare sessions.  I continued to try to encourage him to come but he wanted to practice with his band and they met on the same night we did.  I explained that I felt the most important things he could do was heal.  I did not want to push him away but I also knew that I must speak truth or I was no better than the superficial friends he had that were guiding him down a dark path.

My wife and I are now trying to get a divorce ministry started in our own church so we have made the decision that we could not continue with the program I have helped with for four years.  Scott came back this last session and the leader reached out to me to be his accountability partner to monitor an app that will e-mail me if he goes to any questionable sites.  It has been five weeks now and nothing unacceptable has been flagged, so that is good, but I am saddened to see that over a year later Scott is in the same place he was, struggling with the demon of pornography.  He has made the step of trying to do something to stop, but he did share we me he has used this app before.  The difference he shared was that he picked a bad accountability partner.  I hope Scott sheds the pull of this vice forever, but if he returns and I see behavior and call it to his attention, will he just ignore the warnings and fall back into the darkness?

This is where not having the parallel makes it hard.  If I see something is bad for me I have always been able to walk away.  I call it will power or determination, but it is the same struggle I face with my kids when I explain to them how to stop doing something or associating with someone who is hurting them.  I cannot empathize with Scott about how hard it is to walk away because I have never been addicted to anything and it has never had that draw on me.  Therefore I cannot offer first hand guidance on what worked for me.  I feel a bit like an AA advisor who never was an alcoholic.  Every Thursday when the report comes out I offer praise for another good week but other than the first week, Scott had not replied to these messages.  I know how easy it will be for him to simply ignore me if he does regress.   The DivorceCare session he is in now will end in a few weeks and then he will be alone with the same struggles he has voiced to the leader this time around, which are the same ones he voiced the first time around; he feels stuck, he wants to not feel miserable.  This is where we pointed him to professionals.  For whatever reason he has not taken that step.  I know there is nothing I can do beyond that guidance, the old you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  Just as I could not open Scott’s heart to a longing to learn about God’s Word no matter how eloquent I was about the glory on the other side, I get that in the end whether Scott succeeds or fails in his attempt to remove porn from his life is not in my control.  That does not make it any easier for me.  I know I will still be disappointed and will wonder if there is anything I could have done differently to help him choose.  I think part of what makes it easy for me to stay away from vices is that I see the despair and pain that those vices cause others.  I just want to grab Scott by the shoulders and shout, “What’s so hard?  Man up and just walk away and never look back!”, but I know that’s not how it works, and the fear that I cannot grasp why that is not how it works combats any desire that might spark up in me to head down a path.  People “experiment” with things, but how many fail in that experiment and never come out the other side?  Far too many.    So the parallel I get from this is that Scott and I are both just men.  If a man like him cannot shake the demons after the struggle I have seen, it helps me to understand why it is important to stay far away from those temptations for my path might not be any easier if I entered those depths as well.  That I it the piece I can empathize with here, and ultimately that may be all that God wants me to get from this experience.

Sometimes I feel like being in a blended family makes you feel like you are living a bipolar existence.  This is more so when some of the other parties, namely Bert, try to turn things into something they are not.  It is this I believe that is the source of our most recent saga.

First, sorry I’ve been away for a while.  As we approached the holidays life was just crazy busy and no topics hit me with that “you can share something useful”  kick in the pants that makes me feel like what I have to say might be worthy to inspire, educate or get someone else to think differently about their situation.

So now on to what kicked me out of my writer’s block.  It relates back to the ongoing counseling of some of the kids from challenges we had this summer (“Expected Chaos” and “Dangers of Ineptness“).  In the interest of open disclosure I will say I am like a lot of men in that I feel that counseling is a tool not an ongoing service.  Like a man, I approach things in the world with “identify the problem, find some solutions, implement the solutions, move on”.  As I’ve talked with my friends it seems this is a universal guy view of counselors and over the last few months the overriding question I get from them is “when are they going to give you guys something to use so you guys can move forward normally?”

Sadly we are still trying to get there and a step in that process is what pushed me to get out what I feel and understand in this post.  Peter was initially working with a counselor for about three to four months who ultimately did very little if anything for him.  God has blessed us with a solution that makes the counseling of Peter and his sisters free of charge due mainly to the fact that Bert is on assistance and so fees are picked up.  If we were paying per session, my “man view” of counseling would have been pushing for a resolution much sooner.  In any event this woman eventually decided she was not equipped to help Peter (glad she wasted three months to get there, but herein lies a pet peeve of mine with counseling in that when they can have no goal, than means the counseling can go on forever providing said counselor with a steady stream of income) and she referred him to a place we wanted to go initially but had instead deferred to Bert’s desire to try this other counseling center.  It worked out because Bert went along without grumbling because it was not his ex who had suggested it but a third party.  Peter has basically had a handful of sessions with his new counselor but he seems to be opening up to this one where he would not really talk to the other one.  I get it, it happens.  Just wish the other bozo had not taken so long to understand that if your client is not talking and you’ve got no plan to get them to talk that’s not really a recipe for good counseling.

So feedback to my dear wife this week is what took what was pretty good holiday season with a good cheer and such as you can have with a house full of teenagers and in the course of 24 hours took her to state of frustration and worry.  At this point Greg and Peter’s counselors have not spoken to each other even after we asked them to.  This is the source of my wife’s frustration.  Completely warranted and it frustrates me to, because perhaps if they had talked a month ago like we asked she would not have gotten the comment she did that seems to have sent her into a tailspin.  There are two issues here, but let me stick with the one here which was actually the second issue.  Hope to not confuse you.

Since they had not talked and Peter’s counselor has no information on Greg and the assessment of the other counselor when asked what she recommended what we do to monitor the boys she made the ludicrous statement that we should never have the two of them together unless they are in “eyeshot”.  My friend said it best when he said that along with all the door monitors etc. is really a Fascist state and that this counselor should use her head and realize how unrealistic and stupid that recommendation is.  I understand she is just taking the ultra conservative route and not wanting to have something occur because she said we could use a more relaxed approach since she has no input on Greg.  My frustration on this is I feel what the counselor did was very unprofessional and borders on misconduct.  It is along the line of asking a movie reviewer, “Did you like Movie A or Movie B more?”

“I liked Movie A.”


“Because I didn’t see Movie B.”

What?  If you do not have enough information to make a recommendation then the responsible thing to do is to say that, not make some asinine statement that has no professional basis.  A more appropriate response would have been to say “I can answer that after I speak with Greg’s counselor which I will make every effort to do as quickly as possible.”  Instead what she did was launch a domino effect that sent my wife into a tailspin that was not necessary at all.  Pisses me off to no end.  I have to go in and meet with this counselor in a couple weeks in another one of her ill advised brainstorms, and I just hope I am past her incompetence enough to handle the circus appropriately.

My assessment, and I can’t read anyone’s mind last I checked, so it’s just what I have put together in my head, is that because of my wife’s fear or worry about Bert turning everything into a made up fallacy she has placed more power on this counselor that is really there.  We are not in some court mandated assessment.  This is personal counseling entered into voluntarily and therefore protected by all that is HIPAA.  At this point the counselor has Peter working through understanding that the first steps to inappropriate action by someone is usually talking about it.  This does not mean that if someone talks about it they will do it.  It’s the old version of I saw a bird.  I saw the bird fly.  Therefore all birds fly.  Yet we all know an ostrich does not fly but is a bird.  His action does not automatically cause the event.  The counselor explained that Peter is having a hard time making that distinction and that is making him hypersensitive to comments by others.  First thing this counselor has said that I agree with.  However I believe because of this worry about Bert taking the fact that natural youngster and teenage banter about sexuality and such occurs in a household somehow makes the household a problem.  Think back to when you were a kid.  Did you talk about inappropriate things?  How often?  As often as possible, right?  That’s the nature of childhood.  When I discuss with dispassionate folks they all agree.  It is when adults create meaning that is not there that it creates the crazy train.  Greg’s counselor has pointed this out to us, and for some reason it seems my wife feels that this counselor has jumped the fence and is somehow calling something what it is not.  I’m only seeing a overprotective counselor who spoke out of turn ad should have waited to say ANYTHING until she had enough info to speak with a grain of intelligence.  Instead she created propaganda that has taken on a life of its own in my wife’s head.

You see one of the other issues that has now expanded beyond reason is that because this counselor might be worried about Greg, what would in most cases be passed off as normal behavior is viewed with a lens of adult added angst.  From time to time when Greg and Bobbi watch TV they will share a seat and hang over each other.  They will toss legs over each other or Greg will lean on Bobbi’s arm.  When I discuss this with my friend he says his son and daughter so this stuff all the time.  My brother did it with me.  I think Greg likes the fact that he has a sister, even a stepsister, who’s first reaction to him sitting within five feet of her is not “get away from me, I hate you” which is what Greg has gotten from his two sisters his whole life.  Bobbi does not get upset when Greg leans on her in fact they are usually giggling and talking.  It’s just normal human interaction.  Yet because this counselor has raised the specter of not knowing Greg because she spoke out of turn this has turned a knob in my wife’s head that what if Greg is overly affectionate?  As long as he’s not groping people etc. what parent would not be happy to have their pre-teens not be happy in each other’s presence rather than loathsome?   Yet this is what our over-sensitized counselor-fueled existence has become, and all I can think is “STOP THE MADNESS!!!!”

I certainly do not want to stick my head in the sand, so I have sought other opinions.  As I said, friends are saying their kids do this all the time and we are being ridiculous and are being driven to this stupid view by all these counselors.  Again, I have a lot of guy friends so their solution is simple.  Tell the counselor we need to get to a point where we can go forward as normal because we have crossed the line into the territory of counseling doing more harm than good.  Given the tailspin this is moving us into I find it hard to argue.  Do we want to be dumb and unobservant no, but do we want to react to everything with the result that we eventually have every child in the house walking around in an inflated bubble and my wife and I never sleep or go anywhere because we have to watch everyone?  Hell no!  Peter is already expressing his frustration with the fact that his life is not as he would like because he is basically under house arrest and constant surveillance, yet if we listen to crazy counselor we are not being Gestapo enough!   How is that going to raise a healthy child?  You see Peter and Greg were upset because on New Year’s Eve while all their siblings got to party all night they had to go to their rooms behind their door alarms because the adult’s were going to bed and they could not be watched.  Think about that statement for a bit.  In hindsight it was perhaps ill advised for me to voice it out loud as the reason for their having to go to bed while the other’s did not, but it was the reality of our existence.  It was at this moment that I realized this has gone on long enough and something needed to change and then all hell broke loose with mouthy counselor not using her supposedly educated head.

You see we are in a never ending stream of counseling on this event.  Why? Because the counselors have no set goal.  Is that our fault?  Perhaps, but because of my regular lack of relying on others to handle my problems for me I have not had to deal with counselors a lot until I started marriage counseling before my divorce.  I went to a marriage counselor, who I felt was very good.  What was the result?  I got divorced.  Now I have this situation.  Excuse me for not being too upbeat on the success of counseling.  I think we need to get the counselors to set a goal for the two remaining kids in counseling and that goal is simple.  We want them both to understand how to interact with others appropriately and to live a normal life.  The counselors should then be able to articulate a plan on how we will get there.  Peter’s counselor at least has a semblance of that, but Bobbi’s counselor is continuing her clueless trek down “let me talk with Bobbi and bill the state” land.  I have been content to just leave it be because it was not costing anything but now there is a cost.   Our family’s sanity.  Am I going to demand a change?  No not right away.  I realize I’m really upset and venting, but I do think we are being stupid ad doing our whole family a disservice by not demanding some professional responsibility from the counselors.  After all if I went to anyone else for a service would I just tell them, “Hey I’ll just pay you every week without any end in sight and you just take my money and do whatever you want, OK?” you’d call me an idiot.  And you’d be right.  I want to have a discussion with my wife on what our family’s goal with this is and get off the incorrect assumption that we must just let it go on forever because of the source.  Sure the events of the summer need to be dealt with and they have been, are and will be.  If your kids used drugs would we send them to rehab forever?  No.  Would they perhaps do something again that made the go back?  Perhaps, but all we can do is give the tools to make a good decision and the guidance to know what that is and then let them get back to life.  Yet in this case we are not.  My wife and I have discussed the imposition of the door alarms and so have the rest of the kids so we acknowledge the problem, yet we have taken no action to solve it.  Who’s fault is that?  We need two big fingers pointing right back at us.  Will the door alarms ever be off, honestly because of Bert’s meddling, probably not, but we did tone them back from shrieking sirens to simply loud obnoxious ear splitting beeps a while back.  This is making all of us edgy and so is it a wonder that when we get a little shove from a stupid counselor who speaks out of turn that one of us falls off the edge?  No!

This leads me to the counselor’s first recommendation and what started the discussion that led to her dumb second recommendation that I have just beat like a dead horse.  They have been pushing for about a month to get the adults from the households with the three boys involved with this summer’s activities into a room together.  When I told my friend about this his first response was “I hope you said no way in hell!”  His reasoning?  Bert is totally incapable and unwilling to be anything but productive in that meeting.  He will monopolize that meeting.  My reaction.  He is 100% accurate.  With what just happened with my wife because of the other comment this week I am frankly terrified about how she will handle this session.  I understand the counselors are doing what people in that field try to do.  They think they are being helpful, yet this is the same counselor who when my wife said she did not want to be interviewed with Bert in the same room insisted that “this was the process” and then my wife went through it, Bert used his manipulation over her to make her feel hideous and she had to talk it over with her counselor over multiple sessions and was not her wonderful self for weeks.  Yet here we go into this again.  Are we stupid?  I’m beginning to think so.  Yet I do not know another option, because I am also willing to give it a shot but the only way we succeed in there is if Bert talks we all shut up and let him go.  He will lie, say things that are untrue, but we cannot react.  If we do he wins.  My concern is I will blow up in there and call the counselor the bumbling fool she is for calling this meeting in the first place.  She witnessed what happened with Bert and my wife, and she knows the other mom has similar issues with Bert.  The only one who can deal with Bert’s shit is me.  But what I can’t deal with and I am having a real time sucking up is some “professional” placing my wife into a situation that she is not at all comfortable with and demanding she do it with a smile.  God made it clear that a man is supposed to protect his wife.  I am prepared to do that to the death someday if needed.  My wife is the most important person in the world to me and the fact that she deals with this shit on a regular basis tears me up.  Even though I know it is un-Christian I pray for God to remove Bert from this world often and vehemently.  I then pray for forgiveness that I did that.  I do not understand God’s point in these trials and testing, but I worry that I am not doing what I should.  Should I be saying “hell no!” to this meeting?  If you were to ask me today, the answer I would shout from the mountain tops would be a resounding yes.  I need to pray on it and see.  I have almost no confidence; no I do have zero confidence, that this meeting will do anything of value.  My wife had basically said the same thing.  It would seem that then we are not very smart for proceeding.  Maybe we talk with the other mom and decide that way.

Because Bert takes wicked advantage of everything with his sociopathy I believe my wife has added a lot of weight to this that is not there.  We recently read some excerpts from a book where the author said stop worrying about the worst that can happen because the worst rarely does, yet that is basically what is happening here.  I feel that we are letting some fear of what Bert could spin things into drive us into not demanding more from the counselors and instead taking a very passive attitude and into walking into situations that are set up for bad outcomes.

At this point however we sit at a point that my wife feels “there is a counselor with power for the county” which I feel is utterly false but she is so worried from this woman’s inappropriate statement without any of the facts she needed to make it that she will not move from that.  If we continue this way for the next few days I know my resolve will grow much stronger to say we are not participating in that joint waste of time.  The counselors have this hope that the changes they want Bert to make will be made through these types of meetings.  That is what is driving my wife and this other mom to agree though every ounce of their being does not want to do this.  They are being driven for their kids just as I am being driven for my wife.  Should I be the voice of reason?   The most dispassionate one in the bunch?  Should I stand up and say this has no chance of success?  The counselors will be disappointed but the carnage that I anticipate Bert wreaking in that room will not have a chance to take place.  If I felt one iota of possibility that he could be reasoned with and the counselors could get him to listen I would feel some hope.  As my friend said, “This better be the best fucking counselor the world has ever seen, or you are just headed into a nightmare.”  I think I’ve already established on a much smaller point that we are not dealing with that type of counselor here.  I’d really like some thoughtful comments on this one.  We’ve got a couple weeks before this meeting is to take place.  I understand that everything I’ve written says stop the madness.  Sadly that’s not always so easy.

Oh what fun life can have for us at times.  You ever feel like you are watching a train wreck, but can do nothing to stop it?  This is where we are at today.

We have been having an ongoing situation with one of our kids that is coming, or I guess has come, to a head in the last few days.

Marcia, our oldest, has been pushing her boundaries and rebelling strongly for several months.  She is going to a counselor and we have been doing what we felt we could to enforce consequences and keep her in line. 

Recent developments are she and Jan has been experimenting with witchcraft and was told in the fall that we would not condone this in anyway in the fall when we found out about it.  Nan was always into fortune telling and other such practices so was little help in discouraging her.  After Memorial Day weekend one of the other kids told us that Marcia was trying to smoke something in the woods behind the house prior to Memorial Day.  She told us it was kitchen spices.  The next day her room was searched and nothing relating to that was found but a few bottles with liquid and herbs labeled with their uses for summoning witches and the like were found under Marcia’s bed and she was told she was losing a party for school friends she had been planning for end of the school year because she disobeyed the rule to keep witchcraft out of the house.  This Monday she asked if she could instead go to get frozen yogurt with a few friends.  After being told she was grounded that day and she could not simply exchange one activity for another, she was upset and texted Nan to complain.  Nan then proceeded to text me to intervene on her behalf.  When confronted with this, Marcia lied and said she had not talked to Nan.  Her consequence then was to lose her phone and iPod touch for the night and she refused and was so confrontational it was obvious she wanted things to escalate to a physical confrontation.  We told her if she did not back down and stop we would be calling the police, which we eventually did.  They arrived and explained the consequences and that if parents feel they cannot control an unruly child any other way what we did was appropriate.  Her counselor also agreed this was the right course of action when we let her know what had happened.  She was belligerent in front of the officer to the point that he made it clear to him that with her behaving the way she was in front of him, when most people are on their best behavior, he could only imagine what she must be like when he is not there.  At one point during this whole episode she said she wanted to go live with Nan and that Nan was going to work on that.  Nan had been aware of all these goings on as we had kept her informed and that night we called her to fill her in on the latest episode. In that conversation I directly asked Nan if she wanted to go down that route and she said she was not interested in Marcia living with her but that she never wanted her to feel that she didn’t love her.

For the last two days, Marcia has been giving us the silent treatment.  At her last meeting with the counselor she expressed that she hated living with us and wanted to go to Nan’s.  She was told to make a pros and cons list for both houses to discuss with us if it came to that and Nan let me know she had called her to tell her about that.  Nan claimed she gave her a whole list of cons.  Normally they would not go over to her until after 6 pm tonight.  Nan has asked if they could pick her up straight from school because she wants to have a “good conversation” with her.  I called her to discuss and her intent is to make sure Marcia knows she “loves her” but that she would have all kinds of things that would change like schools and friends and such.  I feel saying anything more than we understand her frustration but her situation is what it is with visitation and we still feel that is best just gives a teenager hope they can change it.  In the end Nan said she would tell her that “in her own way”, which in my time with her always just confused the kids and gave false hope. 

The background is that Nan has said several times, either to the kids directly or to me, that she wishes she never had them.  I do not believe she has any interest in making the change but she also is driven to appear like the good person and twist it in a way that she is not to blame.  I have no issue with her blaming us whatever.  I just think with a rebellious teenager this is not a good approach and will only escalate things.  If ultimately it were to change, Nan’s history makes me feel she will simply allow Marcia to do what she wants with no consequences or guidance and this is why Marcia wants to live with her; because she knows Nan will let her do whatever she wants.  We also feel there is shoplifting involved and there was an incident around that this weekend where they came back from the mall with a few items even though they had no money and claimed friends bought them but they have no proof.  We also found a letter where the two oldest were conspiring about “a better way to steal”.  We found another letter last night where Marcia shares that she tried booze at a friend’s house. 

The feedback we have from her counselor is Marcia is extremely resentful of Nan for the years she spent with her and how she was treated.  She has been trying to work with Marcia to get through these issues without lashing out but right now Marcia is ignoring all the tools and suggestions she has given her, effectively rebelling against her counselor as well.  She feels this is a critical point in her life where she is making the choice of which path it will take and she is fighting against our household that has consequences for her actions because Nan never enforced any and when I was at work or traveling the consistency in discipline was not there.  She has only really had that since my wife and I were married because even prior to that she was at home alone while I was at work and could do things she shouldn’t.  If I ever caught her she was punished, but if she was doing things she hid them well because it was very infrequent.

In the end, we trust God has the control that we do not have.  Divorce always makes things fun. We are not only faced with the problem of a rebellious teenager, we have the added issues of two ex spouses who are not at all on the same page with us on how things should be handled and who we have no control over.  Consequences such as refusing to allow her to get her driver’s license, which even the police officer agreed is the “golden ticket”, are not available to us when the other parents have told us if we try to delay for six months or something then they will just take the kids to get their permit and license.  This is just one of the unique challenges we face.  About a year before our divorce, Nan and I had an argument that strung out over three weeks because she wanted me to agree that she should go out with her co-workers and try pot because she wanted to see what it was like.  This is a woman in her late 30s talking to me about pot the way a teenager would.  Do you see why I have little faith that she would support our decision to tell Marcia that drugs are absolutely not to be toyed with? 

I know text does not express anything but the words.  There is no tone, no body language.  My wife and I are calm.  We are certainly disappointed, but we know we have been doing everything possible to set the right tone, provide the right guidance and parent as we should, but we are not in a frenzy about this because we know God will work this out as He wants it to be resolved.  I may not agree with His choices or what results, but I know he has the ball.  As a divorced parent that is the only way I can cope with this; knowing that the other parent is wanting to be a friend and not a parent and therefore will ultimately give in to whatever Marcia wants to do, maybe even to the point of offering to experiment with pot together with her so they can be “besties”, for example.  I witnessed this type of giving in all through my marriage and it broke the ability to consistently discipline.  Now in the context of divorce where there is even less influence over that other parent, all I can do is trust God.

I’ll get into more of what we are concerned about and why we think this has to potential to really screw up Marica’s life in the next post.  The stage has been set so to speak, the train is coming, and I’ll explain the impending train wreck I see next time.

Seems like something is in the air recently.  Another blog I follow had the following post about all kinds of troubles and so were the most recent times in our world.  As you all know, Bert is most troublesome and does so about the most trivial things.  Recently we have been trying to finalize the summer schedule as April 15th was approaching.  For our household this moment on the annual calendar is not only the day we get to tell Uncle Sam what our tax situation is but we get to understand what June, July and August will look like in our four walls, mainly which beating hearts will be present on which day, and the schedule becomes a shadow of what it is the rest of the year.  What operates with a comforting regularity (for which of us does not like predictability?) suddenly goes all to chaos, or so it seems.

This year, the Lord chose to make things more interesting for us, by deciding that our school district would adopt what I like to call the “southern calendar”.  What I mean by that is that when we lived down in TN, and most southern states follow it, the school year began early in August and ended by Memorial Day as opposed to the “northern calendar” which I was more used to that started just before Labor Day and went into mid-June.  Down south this is done, as I learned, to avoid the sweltering months of the summer as much as possible and minimize the air conditioning expenses.  Very practical.  Why our district adopted this method I’m not sure, but I like it, as it removes the biggest question that even as a kid drove me crazy.  Why do we start school for two days and then get a day off for Labor Day?  Can’t we just wait and start that Tuesday?  Instead you get a couple weeks of school in, so you can get in your review after summer and then get a little break before you turn your attention to the new learning of the year and you get the added benefit of starting your summer vacation on the unofficial “start of summer”, Memorial Day!  Brilliant!  Like it or not the South keeps showing they know more than we do up North.  They had better generals than us in the Civil War, and they provided the important ones in the Revolutionary War, they have sweet tea everywhere and great barbecue pork sandwiches and they know how to design a logical school calendar.

Anyway, that aside over, what that means for us here in “transition summer” (not to be confused with Bryan Adams’ Poison Summer’ (inside reference for a few of my readers so don’t worry if that makes no sense to you)) is that school will end in mid-June and begin again in mid-August rather than on the last day or two of August as before.  This means summer is shorter.  And this means that there is less time to fit seven weeks into a five pound bag. 

In the world of parental visitation nothing is as certain as that your agreement will resemble any other divorced couples agreement only by the fact that is has the same title on it.  Some people want to make sure they have their kids for their annual trip to Wally World, or over Kwanzaa or for Aunt Edith’s birthday because the kids love to see her teeth go flying out of her mouth when she blows out the birthday candles.  In my wife’s case they decided all of summer (or so it seems) needs to be divided into vacation periods versus what I have seen as a more common each side gets a two week vacation in the summer.  So my wife gets three weeks and Bert gets four.  Add to that that you are not to take vacation the week after school ends and the week before school begins to ease the transitions and you now have nine weeks you require for summer.  Most times that is not a problem, but in transition summer, it is a challenge.

My wife gets to pick first.  Why?  Probably as the result of the fact she has fewer weeks it seemed “fair”, in the divorced world’s definition of a term that really has no business attached in any way to that process, but honestly I never asked why they drew it up that way.  We realized that we really could do a number on Bert with transition summer in that if we scheduled our time in almost any way he could not fit in his full four weeks, but being good Christians we avoided revenge and tried to be nice, however again due to the limits of transition summer we had what we felt was a minor dilemma.  You see, to avoid screwing over Bert, we needed to start our first week of vacation technically two days earlier than we should, i.e. at the tail end of the first week after school ends.  However those two days would normally be our visitation days anyway, so Bert was not losing anything, so we thought we could explain that and not have an issue.

Three weeks and a litany of discussions that did not have to be that difficult, including a three hour marathon session where Bert and I had a gay old time covering everything under the divorced sun, we arrived at where we should have been in the first place.  The bones of contention?  Bert tried to grab an extra Saturday (we only get three weekends) around July 4th and also scheduled one of his weeks fully in the week before school starts, versus our overlap of just two days which really helped him out.  He had time available in July for that week, but everything became about us taking those two days, all the while he ignored his last week.  It was really stupid and finally gets us to the topic of this post, believe it our not.

What I learned in this process is how something seemingly insignificant in our interactions can have so profound an impact.  This item is intent.  I can call it nothing short of scary, but I came to realize the mechanics of how we (Bert and I) operate in our relationships was for all intents and purposes virtually the same. 

So this is going to get into some controversial areas for many people, and I warn you ahead of time.  I hope you keep reading, as my point is not a debate about this issue, but the result of intent in our world.  In our case, our marriage runs in what I will call a Bible-based model.  God determined that the head of the household is the man and the wife is an advisor and in a proper relationship should be listened to but the final decision is the man’s.  Yes, yes all you ladies of the 21st century please do not step away from your monitor in disgust as I know this has become one of, if not the most, controversial passage in the Bible as feminists like to paint this as an archaic, two thousand year old, out dated way of looking at things.  My wife could certainly explain it better than I could, but we have had many conversations amongst ourselves as to how that works in our marriage and also in sharing what we have seen as the result of living according to what is a timeless model that God designed because it is the best for his creations, namely all human beings.  For the purposes of this discussion this would mean at the base mechanics level that if my wife and I disagree on a decision, what I say goes.  In Bert’s model this works the same way.

This is where that fine line of intent shows that it is the Grand Canyon of everything.  My intent in following the Biblically based model is that I always have by wife’s best interest in mind as I exercise my authority in the marriage.  Since she knows this, she is comfortable that I listen to her input and consider it in making decisions that affect out family and she trusts that God and I work together to do things for good even when she may not be seeing that at the moment.  Her decision would have been different from mine, yet she lets go of that and obediently follows my lead.  This is what God has shown mankind as the model of how the world works. 

Bert’s intent is to do everything for his and his own personal good.  He leads his significant other to believe that the same process is in place but when she subsumes her desires and control to Bert, since his intent is misguided, even evil, the results are far different.  It results in abuse, manipulation and disaster for anyone in his sphere.  By the time the unfortunate companion realizes this she is usually unable to extricate herself.  This creates the dilemma that so many godly women find themselves in.  In a secular society they are taught to take the same lead as a man, yet God’s design says that will result in problems, and we see it all over in marriages that end in divorce due to both wanting control and driving each other apart and in workplaces that struggle etc.  In wanting to follow God, they may be willing to follow that path, but if they are partnered with someone whose intent is not what God desires, it leads to pain and suffering.

The tension as we worked through the issues with Bert was very high this week.  I came to the realization as my wife wanted to do some things to connect with Bert’s girlfriend that what I would ask her to do was to trust me and let me handle it because I was worried with her past abusive experience that she would be vulnerable to manipulation and had no doubt in my mind that if Bert discovered that there was a relationship he could abuse between his lady and my wife that he would never hesitate to use it for his gain.  I on the other hand, was demanding this with the intent of protecting my wife and handling the manipulation that might ensue as a party that did not have that history.  However, to my horror, I realized that I would be directly asking her to do the same thing Bert did in her marriage to him that resulted in her ending up in a web of sexual, emotional, physical and mental abuse.  How could I possibly explain this?  It freaked me out that I realized the mechanics of the two situations we EXACTLY the same.  To do good I needed this to work this way just as to do evil Bert needs to operate the SAME way.  The only difference is intent.

The conversation went very well because my wife understands that I am not Bert.  She has seen my intent as a godly man in everything else I have done for our family and she has also healed enough from what Bert did to her through years of counseling that this was all possible.  She trusts in God that He is operating for her good.  It turns out all she wanted to offer this poor lady who is entangling herself with Bert is a channel of communication for her to hopefully learn enough to see through Bert’s manipulation before it is too late or her to get out.  I thought she wanted to use her as a way to learn what was going on in Bert’s home, which I knew we could never trust because Bert would be manipulating.  It put my heart at peace knowing that there was not any real similarity between Bert and I.  What I was really looking at was the difference between me and a race car driver.  The mechanics of driving the car are the same for the two of us, but our intent to use that car, is totally different.  I want to move from one place to another.  The race car driver is going to push the car to its limit and beyond to maximize the results.  Bert’s intent is to fulfill his purposes.  My intent is to fulfill God’s glory.  That fine line places a gap between Bert and I that is immeasurable.  Thank the Lord my wife has the ability to see that, otherwise she would be going forward wondering if she was headed into another relationship similar to Bert who used those same mechanics for two year’s before she realized what the real intent was.  We go forward past the latest hurdle with a new found understanding of God’s grand plan and seeing how applied with the right intent, there is no better way.

“Even the most impossible parts of this story really happened”  —   Narrator, ‘Ghost and the Darkness’

Today we are going to get into a discussion of Bert.  This discussion is not focused on divorce or blended families other than the fact that is how Bert is involved in our lives.  It is focused on the effect a personality like Bert has on the world.  As I start this, just like all, my posts, I have no idea how this will flow or how long it will take to get all the points together, but my gut tells me this may be my longest post by far, so settle in, gentle reader, and buckle up.

I’ve stayed away from the depravity and disgusting darkness that makes up the man you know as Bert.  A predator is the kindest term that can be used to describe him.  Sick, twisted and without boundaries yet wily enough to evade capture fits really well too.  He fits very well into the context of the quote I used above, for the lions of Tsavo were so utterly terrifying and so horrifically twisted precisely because they maintained their intelligence and cunning yet added to that a lethality and pleasure in chaos that were not normal for their species.  They acted and appeared like a lion until you were too close to them to realize that they were different and the results were deadly.

Starting out with an “impossible part”, this story existed because Nan actually acted properly.  I had vaguely warned her about Bert and that he may try to initiate contact and that he was bad news, so when I received the voice mail from her indicating that she needed to talk to me about a few things about the kids and then also about something about Bert, I thought it was because he had contacted her.  The call topic, however, was unexpected.  The lions of Tsavo had proceeded to turn more sinister.

When I called Nan back and we got into it, I was expecting that he had called to convince her my wife was evil they way he does to everyone.  Instead, since it was Bert and Nan’s turn to have the kids this weekend he was calling to ask if my fourteen year old daughter could come over to a party he was having at his house.  His oldest daughter had talked to her about it and since they were at Nan’s my daughter had given Bert Nan’s number.  Nan was calling to verify that I thought this was a bad idea since I had warned her he was bad news.  I told her yes I would not allow our daughter there because Bert is very, very bad.  I left it rather vague and then called my wife.

So let’s pause here, and you as someone who had never met Bert put yourself in the situation.  Your wife’s ex, whose children are going over to his house that weekend is calling to ask your ex if your daughter can come over for a party.  Seems like a nice social gesture, right?  Labor Day weekend, the kids know each other; what’s the problem, right?  This is where the process begins of appearing normal, though I think any divorced parent would at least still call the situation awkward.  Now let’s walk through the rest of the day before we dissect things.  I’m still going to stay away from giving too many details to just let you focus on the behaviors of Bert.

I called my wife and we agreed we needed to open up with Nan as to the true nature of Bert.  We did.  Lots more on that later.  I called Nan back and shared, and she understood our concerns and now shared them.  Our daughter was not going to go.  My wife and I thought we should look into how my daughter learned about the party and if Bert had contacted her directly.  Looking over cell phone records I was able to quickly see that Bert had in fact exchanged a little over ten text messages with my daughter the day before.  Looking a little further I came across another time about five days prior when there were nearly 50 messages exchanged between 10 and 10:30 at night.  I’m now concerned on a whole other level and let my wife and Nan know.  At this point other friends and family are pulled into the loop as the parental protection klaxons begin ringing.

After the discovery of the 50 messages, we contact Bert and let him know that it is inappropriate for him to be having contact with a minor who is unrelated to him in any way.  Bert quickly responds that he did not contact her, she contacted him and he just replied.  We avoid a response.  If you are a parent I’ll let you insert your own.  Everyone one of our friends and family came up with the same one unprompted, so I’m pretty confident that the whole readership here just yelled out the same response as in a game of “Blatantly Obvious Charades”

These messages were forwarded to Nan as they were sent.  Within single digit minutes of just being told to cease and desist from contact with my daughter, Bert calls Nan’s phone and leaves a voice mail.  “This is Bert.  I haven’t heard from you about your daughter coming over for the party.  We’d love her to sleep over so I hope to hear from you soon.”  Hmm.  He appears human, but is he really?  Nan, again to her credit, immediately picks up the phone and calls my wife and relays this message along with comments about Bert’s inability to comprehend, about his seriousness and his mental stability.  The words do not matter.  You get the picture, a woman who normally has not exhibited motherly tendencies, has been so shocked by behavior that she is provoked into vivid understanding of the personality she is in contact with.  The discussion where my wife offers to reply back to Bert, is quickly rebutted with Nan indicating, that oh now the pleasure of a response is all hers.  Nan forwards her response in which she explains she knows my wife, trusts her and therefore no, expletive no, is there any way that our kids will be coming to his house.  None of them are to ever have contact with him, nor does she ever want to hear from him again or there will be legal consequences.  Bert’s reaction to this?  Nan hears from him again.  A small tirade about my wife is his response.  Discussions continued on through the evening and resulted in me filing a police report to document the day’s events.

Now my guess is that for the most part just the facts above are enough to send any parent into the land of “creepy” as a descriptor for what Bert did.  However, I also feel that you may be thinking we over reacted.  After all, they were just text messages and it’s someone she knows.  This, ladies and gentleman of the virtual jury, is why Bert is the predator that he is.  This also shows the lack of boundaries and understanding that are in Bert’s head.  This is why Bert is so dangerous.  What Bert did was bad enough, but instead of choosing an unknown target, he is attempting to play his game with his ex-wife’s stepdaughter.  As humans we are always too concerned and unwilling to admit that there are bad, rotten, stinky, putrid, rank, slimy apples amongst us.  The only species on earth that analyzes and second guesses our instinct are humans.  Some argue that this is what sets us apart, makes us civilized, makes us sure we are created in God’s image.  Empathy and compassion are good things, right?  They are, but they can be used for advantage by evil people and could place us in harm’s way resulting in injury or even death.

I agree, that in most cases, had I discovered for example, that my best friend was texting my daughter I would just have a casual conversation with him and let him know it was probably not the best thing to be doing as it is confusing.  The reason I never have to have this conversation is that my friend, like most adults, understands boundaries and norms.  If he was going to extensively text my daughter, he’d let me know first and explain they were talking about what she might want to do when we come to visit next summer, as an example.  If she texted him to express frustration about me or my wife, for example, he would not spend all kinds of time responding and he would let us know she had reached out to us to handle it.  He understands we are her parents and the responsibility is on us.  He does not hide behind the warped belief that by engaging with a minor child, even one he knows, in extensive conversation that is not his place and it is wrong and inappropriate.  Someone like Bert does.

So what do I know about Bert?  The documented items with police reports (alas no convictions) are that he was arrested for breaking and entering while in the company of a seventeen year old girl on the night his wife was in the hospital delivering one of their children.  He gave the fourteen year old daughter of a neighbor condoms.  He got a seventeen year old girl pregnant when he was thirty and claimed he thought she was twenty-one when it went to court.  He later lost any visitation and custody of this child because the court said he was abusing him.  He lost his real estate license for lying.  The less formally documented items are much more vast, so let’s cover some choice samples.  He got a seventeen year old babysitter pregnant than beat her so severely that she miscarried and was afraid to report the crime to police out of fear of further injury.  She only exposed the situation years later after my wife had divorced Bert.   He sat on his daughter’s chest and force fed her when she was ten.  Child services determined he “didn’t mean to do that”.  Countless parents do not let their children near him based on actions or comments he has made.  While married to Bert my wife had to deal with several cases of “I do not want your husband anywhere near my house or family nor are we coming to yours”.  While married he  verbally, physically and emotionally abused her and continued to control her in ways that were demeaning and abusive.  He regularly cheated on her and has had children with three different women that are documented.  There was a situation where he wanted to sign the birth certificate of a fourth but his wife at the time (my wife now) said if he did she would leave.  It was a rare point of standing her ground in a relationship with a very sick man.   He was, or maybe still is, a leading member of a cult that paired sex slaves and masters and you can still find blogs on the internet from years ago with his name and current phone number on them from women who had been involved or recruited and left.

So the next questions certainly are, how is this possible?  How is someone like this not in jail?  I asked those questions over and over as I was dating my wife and we had very long conversations to get me to understand everything she had tried, everything she had done, and how the justice system looked the other way.  In their divorce he paraded friends and lovers through court who lied, one of which was actually cited for perjury, and still could not get full custody of her children.  When she brought the police with her to get her belongings out of the house after she had left, the police she had brought ended up threatening to charge her brother-in-law for blocking the driveway with his car as they waited to get in.  They then quietly suggested to her that she return on her own and break into her own house and get her things, after all it was still her house.  Her comment that if she did that they would find her dead at her husband’s hand was met with scorn.  It is amazing what I have seen and learned about our system and the holes someone like Bert can use to manipulate.  No one believes that someone like him exists except in a movie, and so signs are ignored or concern is lowered because it can’t be that bad.  Even in this story we will see evidence of that.

It was with this backdrop that we were reacting to the text message exchange and increasing contact and interest.  My best friend’s wife, who was herself sexually abused as a child by her neighbor and dad’s best friend, correctly pointed out that this was the grooming process.  Bert has been living on and off with up to three women in the house.  His kids are told they are his “workers” and they just help him.  We have been told they sleep in corners of the dining room at times.  Even with this environment, when child services visits, Bert can clean up enough and convince them everything is just being made up by a jealous and vindictive ex-wife and so they never moved to question the kids.  His newest concubine that just moved in just had her twentieth birthday as the kids happily informed us after one visitation.

The issue with a man like Bert in this situation is that he has some strange pull on young women.  My daughter, who had never met him, upon first seeing him come to the door to pick up his kids one day, turned to my wife and said “He’s good looking”.  I want you parents of girls to think about this.  When a teenager sees a forty-eight year old man, who is a little overweight with a pot belly, graying and balding and usually not dressed in anything but a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, this is not a normal response.  As a co-worker who is the same age as Bert said, “I’m invisible to those girls”, and that is normally the case.  Yet for some reason this is not the reaction young girls have to Bert.  Given what he then does with this reaction, I hope you begin to see the evil and darkness that is here.  My daughter’s reaction to other men his age is “Ew. He’s old” not “he’s good looking”.  My wife’s description is that he exudes charm and that is as good as any.

Our two oldest daughter’s (one mine and one my wife’s) know that my daughter is not allowed to communicate with Bert in any way.  My daughter has been given some of the details and also a lesson on how people are not always what they seem.  On the advice of my wife’s therapist we are going to have to provide her daughter with many details, to avoid her becoming a victim.  As the therapist said, “we like to think their own kids are off limits, but you never know” and not educating her also opens her up to learning to date a man like her dad and being abused at his hand in turn.  This will take several conversations, and will involve weekly visits of her daughter to the therapist to help her process this information properly and equip her for how to handle her dad’s manipulation and rebuttal.  Once again, because Bert has no boundaries, we think he may reply in a way he did to Nan, by even going so far as to showing his thirteen year old daughter pictures of sex acts to paint her mom in a bad light.  Bert would not think twice about the appropriateness of this.  Bert just likes to make sure everyone understands why he is right.  He leaves out the fact that the reason mom was doing those things with him and others is that he had abused her so badly that she “consented”.  This is the battle we will need to wage along with our therapist.  It will be psychological warfare for a thirteen year old, waged with a master who has been doing it for decades.  Bert has never been formally diagnosed; though he is court ordered to do so as part of their divorce but has never complied.  Yet again, another example of the effectiveness of the justice system.

The need right now is straight forward.  We are involved in a situation that requires us to educate our two teenage daughters about the dangers facing them out in the world and about the men who might exploit them sexually and in other ways.  Unfortunately the case study we will need to use happens to be one of these girl’s dad.  Her mom was never given these lessons and she spent ten years in a world that took three years of therapy to get out off and more years afterwards to tweak things as things like this surface.  My wife has explained how her therapist explained that things like this can trigger a little reversal, or more appropriately, feelings as if you are “right back in it” again.  My wife said that the moment I told her about the other 40+ messages, that’s exactly what happened to her.  Because her therapist had equipped her with tools to stop that reversal and engage again she quickly moved back forward and we were texting Bert with the first cease-and-desist message that he parried away.

We do feel the conversations with my daughter should be easier.  After all, she has known Bert for at best three months since we have been married.  Prior to that she has certainly heard about him for her step sister, but the direct contact is recent and short.  Obviously this contact was also never alone, until the text messages, which is why we reacted so swiftly.  My daughter’s ability to view Bert as a stranger or accept his sickness and evil should be less of a journey.

On the other hand, his daughter has grown up knowing none of this.  As divorced parents know, decrees place all kinds of restrictions.  In cases with normal people, they avoid bad mouthing and such as children getting placed into hearing about things they should not in the heat of anger or otherwise.  In a case like ours, it helps Bert be shielded for all of his daughter’s life.

When they were still married, both because my wife was broken and in denial about her situation and its reality and because she did not want her kids to see their dad as a monster, this was hidden.  The abuse was never witnessed by the children and Bert was again, very knowledgeable in how to walk the line and not create any physical evidence.  After their divorce, the court system’s rules kept the children from learning of their dad’s true nature.  So to all his children, he is a fun, attentive father who has his quirks and is strange, but they look past that.  His oldest daughter tells everyone “my dad is brain damaged” as her way of covering up for his lack of boundaries and other inappropriate behavior.  She knows things are wrong, just not how wrong.  That will change with these conversations.  We knew we had to speak with her and begin being open, but only the therapist made us aware of how open.

My job as a father is simple.  I protect my family and provide for them.  I love my wife and my kids.  As this situation unfolded, I was certainly more aggressive in my leanings and I know my wife was a little less so just because of how we handle things with her kids due to her divorce.  It did not take much to get her to understand this was the time as I put it “to take the gloves off”.  Her therapist agreed the next day.  I have had the advantage of being forewarned about Bert and so I was on the lookout.  I would like to think that my normal vigilance as a father and a husband would have made me observant enough, but I don’t know and I am too humble of a person to discount the fact that perhaps without that Bert would have sucked me into his vortex the way he does so many others.  The thing is though, that Bert is so far in his psychosis that you can see it.  For example, one of the few times Bert visited my wife’s parents (and it was the first time), he did not spend the time getting to meet the family, he walked the neighborhood knocking on the neighbor’s doors and bad mouthing his soon to be in-laws.  Obviously these people thought that was rather strange that this man they had never met was over there talking poorly about their neighbors who they had known for decades.  Some of them asked to make sure that this man never came to their home again.  Bert was doing the normal process of abusers of trying to isolate his victims.  He was creating such a barrier and sense of dislike that they would not be invited back and that he could then keep his girlfriend/wife in his control and convince her that she was the one who was not doing enough etc.  This story was shared with me by my wife’s parents on the day I traveled out to ask them for my wife’s hand in marriage.  They wanted to be certain I understood the man who would be part of my life indirectly.  My soon-to-be-wife had already filled me in in detail so while this story was not known to me, it was not surprising.  Even then I had been prepared for Bert, but the neighbors who had not been saw it immediately.  Bert was not trying to groom them though, they were a tool.  In my case as a boyfriend/husband to his ex, I could have been targeted.  In fact, we were convinced I would be as he had done that with people my wife had dated before.  He had called them or found them and shared all the sordid details of their divorce and the evil of his ex-wife.   He has even tracked down other guys ex-wives when that did not work to try to create tension and fear on their part of this monster their children would be with.  Bert never did that with myself or Nan, which was out of character according to my wife.  Maybe it was because he could size me up and see I was different than her other boyfriends, or it could be completely unrelated to anything and he just did something different.

The difficulty with these men like Bert is that they are convincing.  People want to think it away.  Even when I was filing the report, while are the start of the conversation the officer clearly said that it was creepy for a nearly fifty year old man to be texting a fourteen year old, at the end he was talking himself out of it.  If it had been a complete stranger, he said, it would really be a problem, but given that this man has a daughter living in our house and my daughter is here to and it creates  “a kind of family relationship” it is explainable.  Really?  Isn’t this how relatives sexually abuse their nieces, nephews, sons or daughters?  What kind of family relationship is created?  Nan’s fiancé has no family relationship with my wife’s kids.  If he was texting them it would be wrong.  Bert is not related to my child in anyway by the fact that I am married to his ex-wife.  Yet people make these excuses for these situations all the time.  This is how abusers continue to abuse.  As my friend’s wife cited, the average child abuser goes through 200 kids before they are caught.  Why?  Because no one can admit that it is going on, they just look the other way and think they saw something else.  It would be great to wish away or think away evil, but we can’t.

The justice system itself is weak.  It was interesting that when I finally got my daughter to the point of “if he did these things why is he not in jail” her reason for why he should be is that the court system would do that.  When I asked her why she thought that, her response was because that’s how it works on TV.  Sadly many of us think that LA Law or NYPD Blue show the reality of the justice system.  They show how the justice system should be.  In that system, judges are tough, in our system with Bert every judge he has been in front of for years sees through him and threatens to jail him for contempt, yet no one has done it yet.  They are like a parent who cannot properly discipline and follow through wondering why their child does not mind.  The problem here is that the child being taught that they will not have consequences is an adult with malicious intent.

So how does he do it?  He goes to a meeting with the principal and nurse at the new school and argues that basic process for injecting his son with insulin should not be followed because he was not trained that way and did most of his shots while they were married.  But he leaves out the fact that that period was five weeks and the child has now had diabetes for six years.  He establishes authority by manipulating the facts.  He plays on people’s desire to be civil.  When he argues with doctors or administrators or others with potential power over him, they grow uncomfortable with the battle and rather than be stern they give him what he wants.  Just like a stalker learns when his victim returns his fortieth call in anger and tells him to stop that it just takes forty calls to get a response, so too Bert learned that if he keeps pushing a woman, his wife, his children, a doctor, a judge or anyone else it just takes enough effort and he gets what he wants.  This is why my tactic in this case was simple and direct.  No private exchanges with my daughter.  No loopholes of channel, time or anything else.  He will find with me that pushing that results in a response and not a slap on the wrist and a chance to play again.  I may be thwarted by the justice system I have talked about, but if there is another contact, the police will be contacted and I will do anything I can to make sure they respond properly.

I have seen that everything Bert does is only from a position of power.  When he got called to task for having his daughter turn on her best friend and the best friend’s dad drove over to confront Bert, Bert peeked outside through his curtains but was afraid to answer the door.  After this message to not communicate with my kids, Bert sent over one of his concubines to pick up his kids for visitation perhaps to avoid a potential discussion with me after he texted my daughter.  Bert is only comfortable intimidating people that are unable to defend themselves.  Yes that makes Bert a bully.   It also makes Bert a coward, and I do believe the my wife’s father is completely correct in the fact that when Bert is put in his place by someone he cannot control he runs like a dog with his tail between his legs.  Bert is the little runt pig who has to push his way to the trough to eat.  When he is stood up to, by employers who see his sickness and problems and fire him, by fathers who do what fathers should to defend their children, and by administrators who actually stand their ground there has not been a time I have seen or heard about yet when Bert has not been stopped.  The problem is that too many people give in because they are too lazy to finish the job or when the system is not strong enough.  Bert has been enabled by people his whole life and he has also combined that with a decades-old ability to select his targets.

There is talk regularly that Bert is “sick” and while he may have some sort of mental illness that contributes to his behavior, I do not let him off so easy.  Some may say this answer covers it all, but I see evil and malicious intentional choices as emerging from him as well.  As with any truly evil person, he does enjoy the pain and suffering he causes others.  I worry when others do not see him that way as I see that this is how he slips through the cracks.  This may be a little dramatic, but I do think he is a very ruthless, cunning and manipulative person above the general stupidity of the common thief.  This is how he has eluded reprimand for so long.  A little like master criminals needing to come against the right law man to finally get their due, Bert just needs the right combination of people to come together to stop him, and I think this has happened.

From my standpoint I see our role clearly.  I do not think this will be easy, being a parent as God wanted never is, but I understand that the Lord has placed us here at this time and at this place for this purpose.  He is using us as an instrument of His to corral this force of evil in the world.  In the past, Bert has been able to attack my wife in court and cause more doubt in people’s minds because there was not another adult present at all times to push back.  It was her word against his.  This may not the official version of spiritual warfare as described in the Bible, but I think that process fits well.  In our home we live in a godly way and there is nothing to hide.  If Bert were to try to indicate otherwise, his challenge is much more difficult than when he was dealing with a single mother who had no other witnesses.  It will be impossible for him to prove anything because there will be nothing to prove.  He may certainly try but I feel that the attempts will be short lived because I have a better ability than him to clearly piece together the facts.  I have to show how complex tasks and decisions come together in massive projects and sell them to dozens of skeptical people and I earn my living this way.  This process has very many similarities to showing evidence in a court of law so he will find a strong adversary in this case.   I know enough about Bert to know he knows this.  He has spent the last year looking for things to use to drive the wedges into the world that he uses.  I do not argue with my ex, I do not have issues with my kids, I do not have issues with my wife (his ex), I do not have issues with his children.  What he tried this week was the first wedge he found in a year, and it was quickly plucked from his hand and will instead be used to drive a wedge of light into his world of darkness.  With the help of God, this will begin to unravel his world.  It may not be a big change, but his daughter will never look at him the same way again.  The process will be long and painful but it is a war and there will be many battles.  Every time the kids move back and forth between the two households they are exposed to information.  This will be like a tug of war, but I have every confidence we will win because we have God on our side, while all he has are false gods and idols of power that will ultimately fail him.

At first when this landed in front of us, I spent an evening railing against it.  I have never felt that way my whole life and it got me very upset.  I was grunting in anger at myself because I knew I was struggling between what God wanted me to do and what the world wanted me to do.  On one hand the world wants me to focus on avoiding the possibility of court and legal fees and the extra time and effort needed to have tough conversations.  On the other, God calls me to lead my household and show them the right path no matter what the cost and trust that He will care for us as we do His work.  Into the night, after a good night’s sleep and then while mowing the lawn the following morning, God opened my eyes to His desire.  This is when I knew that He wanted us to don our armor and enter into warfare against the evil that is Bert.  My wife has been trying this in the past as an army of one, but now we are an army of two.  As I understood this and knew that we would prevail I looked forward to the task at hand.  God will allow us to further guide two more of His most loved creations, our daughters, into the world more prepared because He created the opportunity with Bert’s mistake.  God will use us to contain and continue to weaken Bert’s ability to damage His world and the people within it.  I wait with patience and always turn to God for guidance through our advisors of friends, church leaders and other Christians who will provide us wise counsel.  I believe Bert will make a mistake at some point and God will allow us to be His instruments to finally remove this darkness from the world.  I know not how, but Bert will either be locked away, lose his children through the courts or through their own hearts or come to some other result that God wants.  As we are needed, we will follow.  As Christians we are lights in the world, and by living daily that way, the outcome is certain.

This road was long and I hope you stuck with me.  I’ve explained in this post what has been going on in one tiny segment of the world for years as it circles around the chaos that is embodied in the man you know as Bert.  He has fathered children and fought to wrench them from their mother’s arms over and over to allow them to be controlled by him.  He has succeeded in his eighteen year old son whom he lost custody of but who now is drawn to the flame of Bert’s lifestyle and who sadly may walk in his footsteps.  It is against this influence we fight.  Our daughters may end up with an abusive and controlling man like him if they are not educated.  Our sons may find themselves looking up to his brand of machismo and swagger and getting drawn into the darker aspects of his personality.  Friends, parents, administrators, judges, doctors, lawyers and others are all impacted as they come into contact with Bert.  He walks among us as a mini-Satan spreading his lies and manipulations and idols of money, power and glory to bring others into darkness.  Some of us see him for who he is.  It is up to us, with the direction and power of God to support us, to do what we can to make a change.  The predator spends his days looking for his next exploit either of a young woman, a government agency he can milk for money or some other con he can play.  Darkness hates the light.  Bert screams against it every time he is exposed.  God help us all.