Ugggghhh!!! The Clothes!!
Go to Google and type “clothing exchange after divorce”. You’ll find a number of frustrated parents (both men and women) who haven’t been able to constructively solve this little issue.
I’ll admit it. I’m one of them. It’s one of those nitpicky things that for way too long, I haven’t quite been able to let go.
My children are with their father, the Goblin King, a full 50% of the time. We each have a full wardrobe for them in our own homes. I dress them in clothing from my home and prepare a list as part of our agreed e-mail exchange which I send to him. I also return any clothing or items that were from his home on the last exchange.
We have agreed (with the help of the parenting coordinator) on a specific format for the e-mail. We agreed to check the list when the children get to each of our homes, put aside the clothing and return it on the next exchange (either the children will wear it back or it will be in their backpacks). If there is clothing listed that isn’t there, we’re supposed to note that it was missing on return. If we haven’t returned clothing (ie it’s still in the wash), we’re supposed to note it in the return e-mail and send it back the next time. If clothing that we sent is missing and not noted in the e-mail, we’ve agreed to send an e-mail requesting return on the next exchange. We also agreed that toys and other items would not be exchanged.
The problem is this: even though we’ve gone through the above with the parenting coordinator and come to an agreement – and even though I stick to the letter of that agreement 98% of the time, the Goblin King routinely does not.
Clothing just doesn’t get sent back. It disappears into a dark hole. And instead of owning up and saying – yeah, I just don’t know where that is, the Goblin King ignores my requests and reminders. And then, several months later, when both Puck and Flower have outgrown the clothing, they reappear.
So I’ve developed my own coping mechanisms.
- I don’t send the children in new clothing. We’re lucky to have a couple of friends/family members who provide hand me downs – usually in pretty good shape. It’s no different from what they usually wear. I’m also not averse to shopping in our local consignment stores for clothing.
- With the exception of underwear, I don’t send anything white, because the Goblin King doesn’t know how to use bleach or separate colours. In the past few months, he’s gotten better about just not washing the clothes and sending the kids back in “his” clothes.
- The only items that I do purchase new (for hygiene purposes) are socks and underwear. They each have a set of socks and underwear that is specifically for their father’s house. Puck has a set of Fruit of the Loom boxers and grey sweat socks from Walmart (10 for $5). Flower has a set of Fruit of the Loom plain white with coloured stripe waistbands and multicoloured socks with hearts on them. It makes them easier for their father to identify and return – because it’s always the same three or four pairs of underwear or socks.
- I provide SPECIFIC descriptions of the clothing in my e-mails. If Flower is wearing a pink shirt with a dragonfly on it, I note it. Only in part for his benefit. Mostly for mine. So when it doesn’t come back, I can tell him what he’s looking for.
- The big items (the ones they only have one of) have labels on them. With the children’s names. Coats, boots, etc. The parenting coordinator suggested putting little black sharpie marks on the tags – but the Goblin King has taken to removing the tags so I don’t know what size the clothing is. And I’m reasonably certain that it’s really dark in the black hole and he won’t be able to see the mark. So now only the big things get marked. That way – if they get lost at school, they can make their way back to us too.
- The children change clothing when they return to my home. Their clothes from the Goblin King’s house go in a specific basket, where I collect and put in a plastic bag for return.
- When all the items do return, I thank him. I make my e-mails matter of fact and try to avoid being accusatory when I’m asking for missing clothes.
- I remind the Goblin King three times about the missing clothing. Only. If I get no response (which is typical), I try to let it go. If he does respond with an excuse (I never got it, it was lost in the wash, black hole), I thank him for the explanation and let it go.
And it seems to be working. More often than not, at the very least, the big items (coats, boots) get returned (I’m currently missing one of Flower’s pink sweaters, but with my third e-mail last exchange, I’m letting it go). And most of the time, shirts and jeans eventually get returned. As socks and underwear are fairly inexpensive, I don’t worry about them any more. And finally, as of last month (after agreeing to but not doing it for two years including the time when we were seeing the parenting coordinator), he’s started e-mailing back with his own list of clothing.
It is frustrating at times to deal with my ex. And this is just one little thing that I’ve let have too much power over me for way too long. Each time, as today, I commit to let it go. Because it doesn’t have power over me – I’ve taken that back and it’s mine.