My son was fidgeting. He kept asking if we were halfway there yet.
We were driving from DC to New York City in my extended cab pickup truck. We were going to stay with my brother for two nights, so we could see the city lights. We weren’t even out of Maryland yet.
I asked my child him why he kept asking if we were halfway there. He said, "Mom told me to call her when we were halfway to New York, so she could tell if anything was wrong."
I asked him what he meant.
This pre-teenager said, "Well, Mom said that she knows how you always overpack the car on trips and a pickup is small anyways. She said I might be claustrophobic and not even know it. So she told me to make sure I called her when we were halfway there, and she would be able to tell if I was alright or not."
He sounded a little scared. I reassured him as well as I could, while driving down the highway, that if he were to suddenly become claustrophobic, I would help him with it and we would deal with the situation together.
His Mother had filed for divorce a couple of months earlier, after taking our children from our home on a pretext and going to her parents house in another state with them. This was my first opportunity to spend over 24 hours with my child since then.
Making repeated, insidious suggestions to impressionable young children about potential frightening situations involving the other parent is a way that custodial parents perpetrate Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). It is effective over time at causing immature children to perceive the targeted parent as having flaws that could be dangerous, whether true or not. It can have an enervating and pernicious effect on the children and cause them to become alienated from the targeted parent by making them fearful of being with him. It is hard for the non-custodial parent, who typically has been allotted less than 20% of the children’s time, to overcome these constant, scary innuendos, especially since he is probably unaware that the children are uneasy about something (or, really, nothing).
In my case, I haven’t seen nor spoken meaningfully with this under-twenty young man since 2003. He hasn’t communicated with a single relative of mine during that five year period. Ditto for my two other children, both now of majority age. There are subtle mental-machination stories I could tell concerning each of them, too.
Some people claim that PAS is child abuse. Many people deny it exists. What I know (along with thousands of other American dads) is that PAS absolutely afflicts our western society. What I think is that it absolutely cripples children emotionally for life.