Deprogramming (v.): To counteract or try to counteract the parenting decisions made by a noncustodial parent during visitation, i.e. toddler cosleeping.

I’ve heard other single parents talk about deprogramming the behaviors kids learn during a weekend at the noncustodial parent’s house.  Since I haven’t had to deal with overnight visitation these days, I have to admit that I always thought, it’s just a weekend… how bad can it be?

Well, now I’ve learned: it’s not fun at all.

In all fairness, it was almost a full week rather than just a weekend, and I don’t think that Tyler meant to do anything wrong.  He does know that cosleeping is against my “rules”, but I’m sure he really wanted to snuggle with her and figured that it was just for a week or so.  Or maybe she wasn’t sleeping well and it was all he could think of to do.  I suspect that this is the case with most noncustodial parents– it’s not like there’s a malicious intent… they just don’t know how to deal with certain behaviors because they aren’t used to parenting, or they are trying to maximize bonding time because they don’t see the kids that often.

Whatever the reason, though, the outcome is the same: Caroline will not sleep unless I’m in the bed with her.

It’s not that I think cosleeping is wrong in any way.  I just don’t do it because neither of us get a good night’s sleep, and we each need our space because if I do eventually enter a serious relationship, I don’t want her in the bed with us every night because it’s not appropriate.  So she cries, and I tell her gently but firmly that I love her but she needs to sleep in her own bed, and I walk her back to her room.  And repeat.  All.  Night.  Long.  I’ve gotten approximately four hours of sleep out of the last 48.

If you’re wondering whether I’m exhausted, the answer is wait, what was my name again?

It doesn’t help that she’s been away from me for what has really been too long for her age, so she seems terrified that I am going to leave her every time I leave the room… so I don’t want to just shut the door and let her scream it out.  (Also, I have never let her cry it out before, so I’d rather not start now, at age two and a half.)

I am trying to be understanding about it, but honestly, it infuriates me that he did that.  It’s truly unfair that he just takes “fun” visits whenever it happens to be convenient for him (rarely), undoes my careful and deliberate parenting decisions, and then I have to deal with the consequences of his actions.  I have very few strict rules, but the ones I have, I have for good reason, and I enforce them with ironclad consistency, which I know is critical at Caroline’s age.  We don’t cosleep because we both need our sleep.  I have to parent on my own and work full-time and operate things like moving vehicles and high-speed machinery in people’s mouths.  I cannot be a zombie.  It is not safe.  And I am too tired and frustrated right now to be any more diplomatic about it than that.

So.  I deprogram.  We’re on day 3 and there is no end in sight just yet.  Pray for me… and for my sanity.

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  1. by Kelly

    On August 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    First of all let me say that I just came upon your blog a couple weeks ago and I love your honesty and your willingness to share you life and thoughts!!
    Second…oh dear I totally get what you are going through here!! URK!!! My daughters dad gets to part time parent and gets to have “fun” visits only! He never has to put her to bed early for school then next day, he never has to make sure her homework is done, he never has to get her up and ready for school, he never has to take her to the doctor or dentist and help calm her down. He gets to have all the fun and Taylie idolizes him for that reason and thinks I am the meany butt because I have rules for her to follow and make her abide by them!! He doesn’t, he waits on her hand and foot and lets her do and get anything that she wants to!! I know it is soooo frustrating, but just stick to your guns, eventually she will just understand that there are different rules for mommys house than for daddys house! Stick to your guns mama!!

  2. by Step mommy of 2

    On August 19, 2011 at 3:01 am

    Although I can appreciate your position, I take offense to the word “deprogramming.”. I am on the other side of the situation… I’m married to a man with 2 kids whom he rarely sees (their mother chose to move 4,000 miles away). We recently had our 6 week summer visitation with them. I am very proud to say that they did not have the same boring routine like when they’re with their mother. When the kids are with us, we walk to the park daily, go to the beach at least weekly, and pack as much fun and adventure into those 6 weeks as possible. Because when you are the “vacation parent” you instinctively cram as much bonding time and memories into the short amount of time you have. Yes, there’s an adjustment period when children switch houses and parents; however “deprogramming” suggests that your way is right and Tyler’s way is wrong. I think the absolute most important thing is that your daughter is able to bond with both parents, and make happy memories with both parents… even if that means Tyler’s rules are different.