The children’s reactions to E’s decision to withhold payment of the money were varied.
Apart from Oldest Daughter, I didn’t tell them what had happened for a week or so. To be honest, I was hoping that E had forgotten, or was just making a point before he paid the money. When it became clear he was deliberately withholding it, and that the children would start noticing that something was up, I decided to be honest with them. I told them that we’d be ok, but that, for the time being we’d have to cut back on absolutely everything financially. I reassured them that, if necessary, I’d get another job to make ends meet and that we’d be fine. I tried to make it sound like an adventure and something that we’d approach it together as our little gang of five.
Oldest Daughter greeted the news with weary disbelief, and I don’t think she’s said anything to him yet. She had already contacted him to ask for help with her rent (she’d had to use what little money she had to pay for a deposit on the place she’s renting next year), and apart from a text saying he’d get back to her, as far as I know he’s not replied to her, and he’s certainly not helped her.
Youngest Daughter was, predictably, furious. She’d been having a tough time since getting her GCSE results and E’s initial email demanding to sell the house had arrived just a few days after her results arrived. Despite my best efforts to reassure her, she had been terribly upset and unsettled by the idea of losing the security of her home on top of everything else. A few days later we had an appointment with Child Mental Health Services, and she confessed that the prospect of moving had brought back some of the overwhelmed and suicidal feelings she’d been having in February. On the plus side, the fact she’d was so honest meant we are able to keep an eye on her, and she feels able to talk about it (which wasn’t the case before) which is great. But of course, this also means that there is a shadow hanging over me – every time she doesn’t reply to a text, or I see an upset post on social media, or (last week) she isn’t home to answer the door when Youngest Son gets in from school, there is always the heart-stopping moment that I’m worried that she’s done it again and that this time she didn’t stop herself in time.
In September, she had tried to return to school and start sixth form, but it was just too much for her and, in the end, after much agonising, we agreed that the demands of full time education were causing her too much stress, so we withdrew her from school for the time being. Since then she’s been working part time, learning at home and volunteering. I was just beginning to feel that she was on more of an even keel when E withheld his money.
Youngest Daughter sent him one of the most heart-breaking series of texts I have ever read. As well as making it clear what she felt about his withholding the money , she also told him how his actions had made her feel suicidal and of the extent to which she was suffering with her mental health.
E ignored her.
Youngest Son greeted the news with his usual humour, but I could see that it really bothered him. He spent an hour or so in his room, then sent me and his siblings a screen shot of the messages he’d sent his Dad. They were funny. They broke my heart. As I recall they read: “I’m not seeing you on Saturday, or the next one, or the one after that” / “fuck you x 99999” / “Dickhead” / *the one finger emoji*. This was the kid who used to hero worship his Dad, the boy who pined for him when he was living in Singapore without us. This is the child who avidly follows a football team because it’s the one his Dad supports. This had been building for a while (after discovering his Dad had got married without telling him, he’s been growing increasingly disillusioned) and I think this was the final straw. Those texts might have looked funny (or rude, I suppose, depending upon your perspective), but to me they were from a child who was masking his pain and disillusionment with humour.
E ignored him.
Only Oldest Son hasn’t reacted at all to what E has done and it’s him that I almost feel the most sorry for. He’s an incredibly honourable kid. He has a very clear cut sense of right and wrong, and whilst he loves and is loyal to his Dad, he must be so disappointed in him. He refuses to join in the discussions re what’s happened with Youngest Daughter and Youngest Son (who have discovered, in each other, unlikely allies) and I think he still intends on seeing his Dad.
Two weeks into November and with no money paid at all – and absolutely no reply to my email – I think it’s safe to assume that E has no intention of paying anything to me this month, but thanks to the incredible generosity and kindness of friends and family, we are fine. My savings paid the mortgage this month and I have a house full of food. My bank account will survive while whilst I organise things (although, my bank must be wondering what’s going on).
With a little financial jiggery-pokery, I’ll even manage Christmas (I think it’s a safe assumption that E has no intention of helping with that), so we’re fine.
In the meantime though, if anyone’s hiring, I’m available for weekend and evening work in the run up to Christmas (I’d make a very good, if slightly knackered, elf)…