It seems to me that there are people who are determined to cause difficulties in any situation. There is no "status quo," there is no "live and let live." There are those among us who simply cannot let things lie.
I began to encounter that with the kids' Mom after a few months. Apparently she would press the kids for every detail of our time together, and then pick them apart to point criticism. What time they went to bed, what meals they ate, what shows they watched. Nothing seemed good enough.
I don't want to turn this into a B-bashing party. I won't. She had her issues with me. I think she'd wanted to see me crumble under the pressure, but when I didn't, she became intent on turning up the pressure.
My kids were normal, everyday kids. They did well at some things, but, typically, messed up others. I don't pretend. Life wasn't perfect. I don't think any life can be. I think that's realistic. Kids are kids. But everything that didn't go perfectly was somehow blamed on the failed marriage, or my shortcomings as a single Dad. There was no allowance for "kids being kids."
The first sign of trouble came with schoolwork. The older two slacked off somewhat. And my oldest girl was not above blaming laziness on "the situation at home." But it really was laziness at play here.
My son was particularly slacking off. I sat him down.
"Mommy said you're having a lot of problems at school with your work. Well we all know that schoolwork is my specialty here, so this is what we're going to do: We're going to get all your grades for the next week, see where you're having trouble and then you can come live with Daddy and we can tutor you, go over your classwork, and do your homework every night."
I could see the blood draining from his face as I spoke. I didn't holler, threaten, or anything like that. I took a very calm, quiet approach, but knew I was making my mark. Long story short, the following week his tests and homework folder came home. All 100%'s, all A's all gold stars. It was the kick in the butt he needed, and I new it. Crisis resolved. He just needed some motivation was all.
But that wasn't good enough.
The kids were given some test, I believe it was the Terranova test, that was a test of their aptitude. The two older kids took the tests and did not perform well. And I knew why: my oldest...if she is in the mood, she'll do well. If not, look out. My son was doing his usual daydreaming. And I knew it.
B. worked at the kids' school. Some of the other faculty teamed up with her to come after me. At a parents' conference, I was told that the strain of the separation was taking its toll on them. Family counseling was suggested. Now I had become very familiar with the School Counselor- a leftover hippy whose ideas bordered on the ridiculous. I made it clear that I would gladly get involved in counseling, but that it would have to be a neutral, outside third party. The deck was stacked in that school, and I believed any counseling would have to be objective and unbiased. While I was certain of the cause (having once been a kid myself), there was no upside to me being resistant to counseling. I got them to agree to my conditions.
And so it began.