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‘He Has More Respect for His Father’: My 9-Year-Old Son’s Behavior Is Out of Control When He’s With Me. Should I Let Him Stay with His Dad And Risk Feeling Like a Bad Mother?

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I recently moved to a new state with my 9-year-old son, but now his dad wants me to send our child back to his home state to live with him.

My ex and I split up when my son was 4. The breakup was ugly. He didn’t want to separate; as a result, sometimes, he would create unnecessary drama between us. He would show up at my house unannounced and was not happy to see me move on with anyone.

Our communication would be volatile and even nonexistent at times. He wanted a way to control me and get my attention because I refused to give him another chance. Eventually, he started dating someone else seriously, and things shifted. He recently had a baby with her, and they live together.

Shot of a little boy being scolded by his father at home. (Getty Image/PeopleImages)

Before I moved away for a new job, we would share custody every other week. My son and his father have a good relationship, and they consider each other best friends, which I must admit that I am a bit jealous of sometimes. The two not only share that bond, but it appears my son has more respect for his father than me. My son is aware of my soft spot for him, and he uses his charms to see what he can get away with with me.

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For one, my son is very sneaky. Without asking, he likes to take snacks and food and any other things he can get his hands on when he knows I’m preoccupied. He also is very mischievous. He gets into things when no one is around, plays around with, or breaks them. I’ve caught him throwing random items off our third-floor patio on multiple occasions. This behavior has been going on for a few years now. He is so bold that he will sneak away with things that are right in front of us. He also likes to wait until his older sister, and I are asleep and get up, causing havoc.

My son damaged several things in our old home. He would urinate in his closet, rip up his clothes and leave empty wrappers from his late-night raiding of the pantry.

However, he never exhibited this behavior at his dad’s home. His father believes it’s because he has more respect for him and I am too soft. Our son was planned, and I’ve always been overprotective and highly attached to him because my first son died as a toddler many years ago, and my living son has helped fill a part of the hole in my heart.

That’s why I didn’t see leaving him behind with his father as an option when his dad asked me to do just that after I announced my plans to move. I feared I would be paranoid and anxious about his well-being.

It’s not that I don’t trust his father, but when my son is with me, I don’t have to worry about any unknowns. Even though we shared custody, I was always the one responsible for handling all of my son’s affairs — paperwork for school, doctor’s appointments and organizing his life. His dad has hugely played the financial and disciplinary role.

The latter becomes more and more clear whenever my son dishes out troublesome behavior in school or at home; all I have to do is mention his dad’s name, and he becomes remorseful and begs me not to call him. I just want him to have the same attitude when it comes to disappointing me or fear facing me so that his behavior can change.

After 10 months in a new state, things have gotten quite better. He went from being on punishment for misbehavior every week to once or twice in a couple of weeks. However, he still is constantly being punished for the same things over and over.

Annoyed angry African American mother sitting with offended upset son on the sofa at home, talking on the phone, discussing child behavior. (Photo: Getty Images)

His dad has asked that I send him back to his home state for the next school year. That would mean we would switch up the custody arrangement, and I would have him on holidays, the summer and whenever I get a chance outside of that that works with my busy schedule.

In the back of my mind, I think it would be better for my son in the long run to have his father. His dad grew up having a close relationship with his father, and now as a father, he is asking for his son to be with him, so why should I deny him that? Even though our relationship didn’t work and I left because it became toxic, and there was infidelity.

Still, he has made it a point to be a present father while we were in the same state, but our co-parenting experience was not great, to say the least.

My son’s father and I still have issues communicating. He has been known to block me in the past when we have disagreements even while our son is in his care. Also, since he has had another child, he doesn’t call my son as much to check on him, and he has the tendency to ignore my texts and calls for help disciplining our son. He can be wishy-washy. These are other reasons I was left surprised when he proposed having him return home. 

Yet, I have witnessed some of my girlfriends and their children suffer financially and emotionally because of absent fathers. My daughter’s father also died before she had a chance to get to know him, so I know that pain intimately.

My son also has been more emotional since our move. For the first six months, he cried for every minor thing. It was extremely annoying and alarming because I don’t want to raise a punk. He shook off the whiny behavior after spending spring break with his dad, so I know he needs that fatherly touch to be more present and consistent in his life.

On the other hand, he is my baby, and it will be very difficult for me to let him go and only see him a few times a month instead of every day. He is a very affectionate child, and it cools my anxiety to know where he is every second of the day. I am afraid of what could happen to my mental health and emotional well-being when he is not near. I also don’t want my son to feel like I am abandoning him.

I know that it is probably best for my son to be with his father, but will I look like a bad mother for sending him away? What should I do?

Should I let my son go with his dad; and if not, what are some other solutions that I can explore?

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