The ex is infamous for cancelling plans. And due to the fact that he only sees his son for four weeks out of the year at most (this year it has been one week), when he cancels plans, it is monumental in the eyes of The Boy.
There was one Halloween that he had promised to come to our town, along with his girlfriend and her three kids, to trick-or-treat with The Boy. He waited until the night before to call and say that they would not be coming. I believe that was the only time he actually broke the news himself to The Boy.
The Boy cried for about a half hour, and then was better. Luckily, trick-or-treating is so much fun in and of itself that I didn’t have too much of a “mess” to clean up.
Another time, the ex came to pick up The Boy on a Saturday, and that morning (of course), The Boy had developed an abscessed tooth. I told the ex that he would have to wait until Monday when I could get The Boy in to see a dentist, or he would have to have him see a dentist where he lived. Apparently neither of those was an option for him. He wasn’t going to wait, and he left. Because this was supposed to be an entire week at dad’s house, The Boy was justifiably more upset. Fantastic Babysitter and I quickly cooked up a backup plan to distract him from being left behind, and took him to an amusement park about three hours away later that week. We had an absolute blast. The Boy was still smarting, but our backup took the edge off.
This summer, the ex cancelled again because he would have had to drive too far to drop The Boy back off with me, notifying me, again, the night before (Remember my post about the angry ex?). No tears from The Boy this time, but he took it out on the rest of us for the rest of his vacation — that last week was a trial for everyone.
So how do we deal with it?
What I have learned (albeit the hard way), is that when the ex drops the ball, it helps to have a backup plan. A backup plan re-directs The Boy, a common technique to avoid negative behaviors in any situation. Having lots of favorite activities in my back pocket that can be used to ameliorate hurt feelings and grab his attention helps to smooth over the rough edges of his emotions.
It also helps to surround him with love, and that doesn’t have to come solely from me. Hastily making plans with Fantastic Babysitter, or talking to Grammy on the phone goes a long way to remind him that there are lots of people who love him.
Finally, having some understanding of the havoc wreaked on the inside, and preparing myself for his autie ways of expressing those emotions through behaviors helps me to navigate the end-results of cancelled plans with his dad. Taking a deep breath, finding those extra reserves of compassion, and knowing that this too shall pass helps to get us through.
Has this happened to you? How did you help your child to deal with it?