I need your help

I envy those of you who have not been through a divorce.  I’m sure that your life is not as rosey and perfect as I’ve imagined because we tend to romanticize the grass on the other side, but parenting with an ex is difficult at best for me.  My divorce was ugly and painful and for the long, excruciating, painful 18 months that it took for us to fight and argue and sort out our worldly possessions, I often questioned whether leaving the marriage was worth all the pain it caused.  (I mean we were seriously fighting over who should get my high school yearbooks and sewing machine – and NO, we didn’t go to the same school and he knows no one in them.) Not just to me, but my beautiful sons were pulled into the middle of it more times than I can count.  I pride myself on taking the high road at every turn and I’m not being a martyr about it, but I’ve taken the high road so much that I receive mail there… I’ve bitten my tongue so much it’s a wonder I’m not a mute.

When everything was said and done, I still believe that the end result was the best for all involved.  My ex and I share custody with as close to a 50/50 split as possible.  I think that this is important because even though it is better for everyone that he and I don’t live together any more because children should not be exposed to that much abuse, cheating, hatred toxicity, he’s a far better father than husband and even though he didn’t know how to love me he does love the boys. I’ve watched these last 7 years as the boys have grown and at the same time, the ex has too…in his own way.  The man, who never lifted a pinky to help with the boys when we were together, is now a very parent.  He is more involved with them, their school, and their extra-curricular activities than I ever thought he was capable. That said, I am often faced with moments where I disagree with his parenting and the choices he makes. I can usually ignore the small stuff and admit I tend to overcompensate during “Mommy days” when I think he’s being unrealistic but I learned something last night that broke my heart.  I can’t ignore this and don’t know how to address it.  I’m lost and in tears and I need your help.

My oldest has been having issues at school lately.  He’s a class clown and will do anything to get attention.  He’s always been this way and I know that it becomes more obvious when he isn’t getting enough attention at home.  He needs it and will get attention anywhere he can.  I recognize this and try to help him work through his feelings when he is with me.  That’s not what set me off though.  In discussing (through email because we still can’t have a productive civil conversation) the ‘punishment’ for the latest set of   infractions, I proposed a merit system whereby the oldest could in a sense ‘earn’ priveleges back.  The ex sent back a dissertation because he can’t just send something simple – he’s still trying to prove how ‘smart’ he is – and buried in this email is the following line

“then I found out that C stole food from the pantry and now he’s in even more trouble”

At first, I was confused – What do you mean “stole food”?  What pantry?  Surely you don’t mean at your house because how is that stealing?

I called C – my 5’2” 10 year old in to talk.  I simply asked him “Hey – what happened at Dad’s” and he started bawling.  My heart broke and I pulled him onto my lap which is far less convenient now that he’s gotten so tall, and held him as we cried together.  I continued to reassure him that it’s ok to cry and that holding in his emotions isn’t good so let it all out.  I reminded him that he was in a safe place and that there was nothing but love surrounding him. (I don’t know if he fully appreciates the words, but I will continue to repeat them to him every day for the rest of my life.) When he finally got everything out, and took a couple deep breaths he relayed the following story:

They had already eaten dinner.  He was still hungry so he went to the pantry and got an applesauce out (you know the individual sized ones that are perfect for lunches) and took it to his room.  His dad walked into his room and C got scared that his dad would be mad, so he hid the empty container under the bed.

This is the point where I became FURIOUS but restrained it enough to finish my conversation with my darling boy in a positive way and explained that if he is hungry, he should communicate that with his dad or call me.  We talked about the dangers of “hiding containers” of food and I tried to make excuses to C about how his dad was probably upset about that and not that he was eating… (I may have lied to my son)  I told him that if he ever felt like he wasn’t getting enough to eat at dad’s he could always talk to me about it and I would talk to his dad because we both love him very much.  I hope think I said the right things to him… but now I need to talk with the ex…and I don’t know how.

I recognize the signs of disordered eating.  I have struggled with BED most of my life and it wasn’t until about 6 months ago that I understood what it was… I just thought something was wrong with me that no one understood.  I used to take and hide food too because my parents would criticize my weight and limit my portions and I was hungry… or emotional…or needed to control something.  When I read the email, all I could think about was wanting to eat. I wasn’t hungry; I just wanted to stuff the pain with chocolate…or chips… or something.  I Didn’t.  I ate a sensible dinner, drank a lot of water and after the kids were in bed, curled up next to my husband, and cried until I couldn’t cry any more… but this post isn’t about my struggles – I’ll save that for a later post.  This is about my son. My point is that I recognize what is going on and I don’t want that for him.  I want more…

My son is EXTREMLY active.  They ride their bikes or walk the 1.5 miles to and from school every day – weather permitting of course.  This is the remarkable young man who has done 4 Jr. Triathlons, is in swim team, and inspires me to be more active so I can keep up

I need to fashion a response from a loving place to the ex so that he can hear it without feeling attacked and in order to do that, I need information that I don’t have – this is where you come in.

What would you say?

I think that my son isn’t getting ENOUGH calories which would explain the hunger – how do I explain that?

How do you explain that the nutritional needs of a growing, active 10 yr old are significantly different than those of a 36 yr old sedentary, grown man?

What else can I say/ do to foster self-love and self-esteem in a child who only wants to make his daddy proud?


PS – If you didn’t know, I’m a finalist in the Mamavation Mom Campaign. If I inspire you, or you want to support my quest for a healthier life, Please take a minute to vote for me here. Let me know that you voted so that I can thank you personally!



  1. Unfortunately, I have been through a divorce. However, fortunately, we didn’t have children, so I didn’t have to endure the problems that you are currently going facing. The most custody we had to deal with was with the cat–and since I found out I’m allergic, a quick solution was met. I’m sorry, I can’t give advice from an understanding point of view. It sounds like you have already found an appropriate response-so, the easiest way from my perspective is to tell him straight-to the point. Maybe explaining to him that his body is like his mind–that in order to have a productive day, needs must be met, otherwise your child will experience overload-or undernourishment- which is unhealthy for his body and also doesn’t help his mind. Hopefully my inexperienced perspective helps… 🙂

  2. I have no children, nor an ex but I have enough common sense to know that the way your husband handled the situation was just wrong on so many level’s. And I really hope your ex didn’t use the word “stealing” with your son. I agree with the whole talking to the pediatrician because being able to provide solid information seems the best way to approach some one who has a tenancy to be irrational. Just know that you have all sorts of love and support surrounding you and that no matter what happens with the impending conversation you can come vent to all of us! <3

  3. My heart breaks for your boy. It could be any number of things. Have you asked him what he typically has when he’s with his dad and compared it to what he eats when he’s with you? It could be that he’s eating a lot of empty calories (foods with little nutritional value to keep him full), growing, or yes, emotionally eating. Maybe if you and your ex go to see his doctor together, you’ll hear first hand the doctor’s opinion?
    I think you’re doing the right thing. You’re providing a safe, loving environment for your son in which he can confide in you. This is so important at that age, especially for a boy as they tend to bottle and stuff their emotions.
    I know you’ll make the right decision and if it ruffles your ex’s feathers, so be it. I know it will be hard for you but I’m praying that the situation will resolve and everyone will be able to move forward with love and understanding.

  4. Lisa @ljenator says

    You know, I’m kinda wondering if it may be emotional eating. I wonder if he’s trying to fill some kind of void with food. Not like a void where love should be, because it sounds like he’s getting lots of love, but maybe a void out of fear of trouble, something new, etc.?

    Or, it could be that maybe the ex didn’t give him enough food to begin with?

    Hugs babe! I wish I was more help!

  5. Man, this makes me so sad.

    Is there something to the story neither one of them is telling? Seems weird to punish a kid for taking apple sauce out of the cabinet. Of course, this is your ex we’re talking about, so I’m aware there are reasons you’re not together anymore!!

    You DEFINITELY need to talk to him or send an email, but I agree that you have to be tactful. Something I’m not famous for. Maybe look up how many calories a kid his age needs and especially with the amount of activity he gets in during the day and write to your ex like “Wow, I just looked up how many calories [son] needs for his activity level and it said [calories] and [lie – the doctor/nutritionist/coach/whoever] said he has to eat as much as he needs each day so he doesn’t start having vitamin deficiencies.”

    Maybe don’t even bring up the apple sauce? I’m concerned about what he ate for dinner. Was it enough? Did you ask him what they served?

    Hang in there, lady. I know this can’t be easy. I would want to kill anyone who deprived my child or really an child of food. Also, maybe ask him what happened….just typing as I talk. Ask him what his side is.

  6. Well, I have no advice, being neither a parent nor an ex, but I do have hugs. And I believe it’s good to get your frustrations out here, where you’ll find sympathetic shoulders, because then it will be easier to communicate with your ex.

    The stealing thing does bug me though…

  7. This really breaks my heart. I had a problem hiding my food when I was younger, so I know the guilt and shame involved with it. I would definitely look up the calories that he should be consuming, and maybe even talk to the Dr. about it, or a childrens nutritionist. If he truly was hungry after dinner that means he’s not getting nearly enough. Maybe talk to your son, and show him on paper what a typical day of meals should look like for him, show your ex as well. Hopefully it will open your ex’s eyes on the subject, but it will also give your son some of the tools he needs to make good food choices.

  8. My first though was the same as Kia’s. I would ask your boys’ pediatrician for a calorie guide for both of the boys. Maybe you can frame it they are hungry more and more and you yourself are watching what you eat too.

    I hope you can figure this out. My heart goes out to you right now! Hugs!

  9. I agree with Kia — if he won’t listen to you, then a pediatrician’s advice might be the way ago.

    But, I’m also upset about the he “stole food.” How does a child steal food from a parent? I can understand being upset that he didn’t ask permission but to call it “stealing?” He’s your CHILD — a little boy.

    Ugh — THAT makes me angry.

  10. This is heart-breaking to read. A growing boy + his level of activity require a lot of calories. If your husband does not acknowledge this and rectify the situation then he should talk to your son’s pediatrician if he needs to hear it from someone who may seem impartial to him.

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