Something more than a little odd happens almost every time we drop the kids off after their weekend with us. Before the tires of our car even hit the other household’s driveway, the bribes are being wheeled into the driveway, ready to flaunt beneath the kids’ noses like red flags: bikes, scooters, toys, water globes (that one was not exactly a hit), gifts and presents of all kinds that apparently simply cannot wait until the kids say good-bye and go into the house. Nope, the bribes must be bestowed immediately, right there in the driveway. (Soon these individuals will probably crawl into the car with us, maniacally shoving cash and prizes into the kids’ faces, but so far it hasn’t quite escalated to that level of insanity. Yet.)

At first I just thought it was terribly (but not surprisingly) rude, interfering with the kids’ time to say good-bye to their father and deal with their uneasy transition from one parent to another household. It struck me as downright obscene if one of the kids was crying, clinging to their father, while the incessant chants of “But look what we bought youuuuuu” never ceased from the sidelines.

Now, however, it makes me feel sorry for any parent who is forced to offer up bribes. It clearly says, “I am not secure in my role as a parent. Therefore I will spend copious amounts of money and meet you at the car with presents in hopes that at least until your father leaves, you seem excited to be here with me instead.”

It is a desperate, more than slightly pathetic ploy in a self-fabricated contest, where parenting skills, maturity, and sensitivity to the kids’ feelings are mindlessly sacrificed in a one-sided race to be the funnest parent. As Jessica Goldstein put it in her article, 7 Tips From a Child of Divorce: “Parents, do not bribe your kids. …You want them to come to your house because they want to see you; you don’t need to lure them there with fancy video games and lax house rules. It feels desperate, not strong.”

One of the most preposterous lies crapped out of certain people’s mouths during this ongoing circus was that the children cry when they “have to” go see their father. I laughed out loud at that imaginative piece of wishful thinking. Indeed! I have seen the kids risk life and limb to damn near dash into oncoming traffic to be next to their father NOW, and I have seen them literally and painfully cling to his shirt with all their might when they are not ready to let go at the end of their time with him. I have tried to comfort them during an entire hour-long car ride when they are not ready to leave their father yet. Cry because they are being forced to see him? Get real. Yet another example of the kids’ feelings being shoved aside as long as someone else can personally benefit from toying with them and manipulating them like weapons.

One thing I have never witnessed is Gary meeting the kids in the driveway with elaborate presents, shoving them beneath the kids’ noses and oohing and ahhing, urging them to come see what else he bought them.

He doesn’t have to.

Yesterday, I sat in the car and watched Gary’s five-year-old daughter grasp his arm the entire drive back to their other household, even when she briefly fell asleep, holding onto him and nearing tears the closer we got to what she already knew would be good-bye. It is natural for the kids to feel sad when they are going to be involuntarily deprived of a loved parent for two weeks, yet she isn’t permitted to share her feelings, isn’t allowed to cry openly and show how upset she is about leaving her father once she exits the car. Nah, there are gifts to be crammed into her face, and sweet sentiments like “Good lord, you’ll see him again” to be snapped at her impatiently in a disgusted tone.

Three years later, there are raw, unhealed wounds for the kids because their feelings have not been prioritized. What they need has been shoved beneath the thick, suffocating rug of ego, lies, and manipulation.

Each time we drop them off, I watch the parading of presents, gifts, ultimately bribes. Perhaps if children were not lied to, used, twisted, and mangled, it would not be necessary to buy pieces of them back.

*Photo courtesy of*

About TheSmirkingCat

I am endlessly trying to make sense of a world that has completely and unapologetically lost its mind.
This entry was posted in bribes, custody, divorce, kids, poor parenting. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Bribe

  1. Sharon says:

    It must make her terribly uncomfortable to hear the kids cry about missing Gary. “Love me more because I bought you STUFF!” What a disservice to spoil children due to one's own insecurity.
    I feel for you, SC, you'll have a lot of de-programming to do. Great post, as always.

  2. Dijea says:

    Flabbergasted that this kind of behavior goes on.

  3. Just Me :) says:

    I wish shock was my first response…but it's not.

  4. It is horrible that they feel the need to buy these childrens love. Our BM always tries to one up us. I am pretty thifty about doing cheap but fun activities, instead of buying the kid crap he will never play with. It was priceless when the day after we took him to a park she took him to build his own remote control car for $80.00. No wonder she has no money!

  5. this is so sad to me.. just flat out so sad…

    … seriously though.. water globes? for real, do i really even KNOW what water globes are, and why would kids even WANT that?

  6. Syn says:

    What is sad is that sometimes, that behavior eventually works. As kids get older and they've been thru behavior modification (dad calls and they answer, mom gets mad at them and stops playing with them; they talk about family with dad and get snapped at – kids described it as “mom throwing a fit of her head”, etc.), they learn to protect themselves at mom's house by distancing themselves from dad. Like the mouse that gets zapped if they do a certain thing…they learn to do something different and they don't get zapped. Bribes start to work as they get older and want more “stuff” because they get used to expecting it. Our therapist said it was the kids way of protecting themselves while with their mother. Doesn't make it better (for us).

    I agree. It is sad and pathetic that a parent is that insecure that they have to resort to behavior like that.

  7. Living life says:

    Unbelievable isn't it. Our other household wins over hearts by playing the cool parent, having house parties, getting concert tickets, having the kids meet band members or Hollywoods up and up. Most often times Mom plays the victim in all that has been said and done, so the children pity her and want to protect her. I think the saddest thing is what Syn said just above…the children learn to protect themselves at Moms house by distancing themselves from Dad…my fiance used to be attacked anytime he picked up/ dropped off his girls at Moms house, thank goodness that doesn't happen so often now, but she still comes to the door, and most times acts like she will never see them again when saying goodbye for a few hours (every other weekend)with these huge sad puppy eyes, petting them, saying I love you over and over and holding them…Only the eldest will sometimes say I love you to her Dad, the youngest will have nothing to do with hugs or expressing any sort of care towards her Father now. I think I have heard it once in three years from the eldest. Hugging their Dad seems so painful for them, I can't even bare to watch. They are so poisoned by their Mothers will to force them on her side, its heart wrenching to even be with my fiance and his children together. At one time, not too very long ago, they had a beautiful relationship, laughed together, loved one another, hugged one another…their Mother has taken all of this away. I cannot understand individuals that would do this to their children. It makes me ache inside to think of the hatred that spins around in their innocent heads, all put there by spite and vengence.
    Thanks for letting me rant and rage…I grow so tired of all of this, why can't persons just show gratitude for additional love and support in their childrens lives and teach them to be generous and compassionate with everyone. Not to mention forgiveness, growth, change and just plain acceptance for what life has to offer you. Its not always cake and ice-cream, we have to make the best of it. I am beginning to wonder if any of these lessons exist anymore. I can only teach my children I guess.

  8. Amy says:

    I feel sorry for the kids and the lessons she's teaching them. I also feel sorry for her for being so insecure that she feels the need to go thru all this to try and win her children's affection. That's pitiful that she is that immature and insecure.

  9. macocha says:

    that is so heartbreaking. Ugh. ours was empty promises if they didn't raise a fuss they would get such and such…they wouldn't raise a fuss and ever got what they were told..

    it is sad and depressing that parents feel the need to do this!

  10. Oh for the love of God, this is so utterly pathetic. Oh how I recognise it too. Sad isn't it, most of all for the children. My SD is not even allowed to mention our names at her “other home” and she must pretend to have no affection or feelings for us. Because her mother is so goddamn insecure. These people need to grow the hell up and learn that parenting means you put the kids feelings first not your own selfish need to be top dog.

  11. “Cash and prizes” Lol. This has been such an ongoing battle for you- If they don't see through her “presents” now, they will.

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