Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

It’s going to be a very long month.

July 11, 2017

It’s only been three days. Wait, no – scratch that. Two days. I saw the girls the day before yesterday. But two days feels like three days; it feels a long longer than even “just” three! The girls are spending their month of summer visitation with their dad, and it feels like an eternity.

When the girls were little – those late toddler years and early school years – July was a much needed respite from broken nights of sleep and exhausted late evening hours filled with whining and bickering. I could sleep in sometimes as much as 45 whole minutes on work mornings if I didn’t need to drop the girls off at daycare, or, later, twenty minutes if I didn’t need to drop them off at Stepmom’s. I could spend evenings hanging at Crisanna’s pool, or on my own patio in a lounge chair reading a book. I could cook grown-up meals with herb-crusted chicken and asparagus or mac&cheese that didn’t involve shapes. It was a delirious month-long staycation, even though there was still work and responsibility. I still got to see Bee and Gracie for dinner two nights a week, and I still got to keep my weekends, and that was just enough time to enjoy fun summer activities, but take a break from each other so we could leap into each others’ arms and finish off the summer with gusto and renewed appreciation for one another’s company. And that’s just how it worked out.

But then this thing happened when my daughters morphed from little kids with all the trappings of early childhood (tantrums, stubbornness, grouchies, minds of their own, the Up And Down Bedtime Brigade, , vivid imaginations in the middle of the night, picky appetites…) into imaginative and delightful kids in the thick of middle childhood, and then Young Adults and burgeoning Actual People who I would be honored to call my friends. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m their mama, not their friend. I am not afraid to pull rank or put my foot down. I set the rules, and I expect them to be followed. Without fail. There are consequences for rule-breakage. And there are rewards when toes stay on the right side of the line. And for the most part, that’s how it goes, generally. I have good kids. Kids I enjoy spending time with. Kids I like watching – and discussing – movies with, or participating in readathons with, or going adventuring with. It’s fun! It’s not fun all the time, but enough of the times.

Enough of the time for me to feel it keenly this year. More this year than other years. Because my house is really empty this year. This year there is no boyfriend or boyfriend’s extremely willful kindergardner-who-acts-like-a-toddler. This year there is no puppy-dog to hang out with, or cuddle with, or talk to, or go on runs with. It was more than two years ago when I picked out the boyfriend, and more than three years ago when I adopted the puppy-dog, and that long ago the girls were still in the blossoming stages of middle childhood. Young enough that I still needed the break. Long enough ago that things were different.

And so July is passing by turtle slow. There are 90 minutes left before I’ll see the girls again and enjoy my mid-week sleepover. A week-and-a-half before my next weekend with them. Seventeen more sleeps before vacation. And after vacation, July will be over and I will have survived it for one more year! And, if my memory serves, almost immediately after that, there will some sort of incident that comes with an inevitable rock re-entry that will make me wish we were still back in July.

But that, like July, will pass. My girls will be home and all will be well.

All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

Or, so I’ve been told.

In which there are no good solutions.

May 13, 2013

So many times these past few weeks, I’ve given myself little motivational pep talks that all seem to come down to the same thing: “Just get through it. It’s May, you’re all busy, just push through this last month. One more month, Katie, and then it will be summer break and things will be easier. Just push through it. One more month, Katie, just get it done. Just May. Push. Do it.” Last weekend was Mayfest and Gracie’s dance competition. Next weekend is Gracie’s University Interscholastic Learning day-long geekapalooza competition. This Saturday was supposed to be the girls’ bridging ceremony for Girls Scouts before that got cancelled. And in between is Mother’s Day. Rather than ask for the girls basically all weekend (the bridging thing didn’t get cancelled until practically last minute), or try to swap weekends with everything going on, I figured it would be easier to take a day for myself on Mother’s Day to relax, enjoy the peace and quiet, and then have a big celebratory dinner and presents after the girls’ got back from their dad’s house. That was the plan.

Okay, now, in the middle of all of this – performances and weekends and Mothers’ Day – Gracie was assigned her big project for the semester: choose a project to go along with their James and the Giant Peach section. They could create a peach-themed word search, re-enact a scene in a skit, create a commercial for the book which could be filmed and emailed to the teacher, or make an illustrated cookbook with at least 20 recipes. Go ahead and guess which one my over-achiever picked. No, not the commercial. (That’s what I would have guessed.) She chose the cookbook. With all the recipes. Do you have any idea how long it takes a 9-year-old to copy down a recipe?! A VERY LONG TIME! In fact, after she got exactly one single recipe copied in an hour, I texted her dad and warned him that Gracie had this project, that it was due a week from Thursday, which meant she would have to get most of it done on the weekend. His weekend. Because she was only getting one recipe done per school night.

Gracie was happy to do the work. I helped her get what she needed – she started researching recipes while I stitched together the inside pages of her cookbook. (If we were going to “publish” this, we were doing it right!) I helped Gracie plan out her page layouts and then I got her set up at the kitchen table so I could remind her to focus. She got two more recipes copied Wednesday night, and another one done after she got back from dinner at her dad’s house on Thursday. Three days and only four recipes copied down and illustrated. Oy.

I reminded Gracie on Friday morning that she would need to get it done at her dad’s that weekend. It was the only weekend she had to work on the project. I resisted reminding her dad about it because, you know, we had already talked about it.

Sunday afternoon. I had a big roast beef dinner cooking. (Hey, I could either cook for myself or fight the crowds at the restaurants. I would rather cook for myself and clean the kitchen myself and not spend the night waiting around with fidgety children.) I get a text from Gracie, who has apparently hijacked the Ex’s cell phone. “Can I just do 10? And do the rest there?” She had only finished six recipes. Not finished at least copying all the recipes like she was supposed to. She had all weekend, there was an hour left, and what the heck?! I told her I was sorry that she wanted to go outside and play with the kids, but she was supposed to be done – she would need to keep working on it until she was finished. Then her dad took the phone back. He said Gracie had worked on it “all day and yesterday too.” When I asked if she had really only done nine recipes all weekend, when she had done four the three nights previously, he said he guessed that was it, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. The girls walked in the door a few minutes after that.

I am just… I don’t even know. Mind-boggled. Just…at a loss. I somehow got Gracie to plan and sew together book pages, create page layouts and get 4 recipes completed in the two hours that I had her on Tuesday and Thursday night after her dinner with dad, and the 2 1/2 hours that I had her after school on Wednesday night. Her dad, in the two days and a night that he had her, only made her do 9 more recipes. I asked Gracie how long she spent on it Friday (none), and Saturday (an hour or two before going to the neighbors). The Ex didn’t feel compelled to make her do more than that. He didn’t come up with a plan of how he expects Gracie to finish her very important project – more than half of it – in the two nights that I have her after school, or the one night after her dinner with him. You know – in addition to dinner and showers and her usual homework. Sure, she’s nine; she is old enough to know what she has to do. But he is also the parent, and part of a parent’s job is to make sure your child is getting things done and to teach your child to budget their time. What lesson did the Ex think he was teaching Gracie when he didn’t make her focus on her schoolwork? That schoolwork is only for mom’s house? That she can do what she wants (within reason) when she’s there? That weekends are for fun, and it’s more important to play on the weekends, even if it means staying up late and losing hours of sleep during the school week? I have no idea because he didn’t say communicate anything, other than he guessed she only got nine recipes done, but it wasn’t from lack of effort.

So what do I do with that? Usually we have a really good co-parenting relationship. He drills Bee on spelling words, and has them do their homework on nights when they have dinner with him, most of the time. But I just don’t know what to do with this. I clearly communicated that Gracie had to do her project this weekend because it was the only weekend she had, and she could only get one recipe written on school nights. And he…didn’t care? Thought it was more important to have fun? Forgot? I feel like he does stuff like this, that he is treating me like the safety net. Oh, I don’t have to make my kids do this or learn this because Kate will do it. I feel like wants to be treated as an equal co-parent, but without all of the responsibilities. Why else not care about her whether she did her homework, or come up with and communicate a plan of how it would get done?

What do I do with any of that? If I let Gracie hand in her project unfinished and get a bad grade, is that fair to show her that she can’t rely on her dad? Is it fair to Gracie that I force her to stay up 1-2 hours late each night because her dad didn’t make her do the work on the weekend? Is it fair to do that without making her work on it every available minute after school? I can’t make her skip afterschool because I can’t miss work. There aren’t any other activities that I could cut from her schedule this week.

I was still trying to figure out how to handle the situation when the girls walked in trilling “Happy Mother’s Day!” I was carving the roast beef, hoping to rescue my mood. “Go put your cards and your gift on the fireplace,” I told them. Except, no cards. Or gift. No acknowledgement whatsoever from the Ex about Mother’s Day at all. This is the message he’s teaching the girls about homework and responsibility and Mother’s Day. By doing nothing, he’s showing them that it’s not that important.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

 

Sometimes this month is harder than it feels.

July 25, 2011

For the most part, I had an awesomely relaxing weekend. Friday my boss let me off a little early for good behavior (and partly, I’m sure, from the start raving mad look in my eyes) and once I finished my workout, I did not move from the couch all. night. long. Saturday I somehow managed to be incredibly productive: I cleaned out the craft room guest room Auntie Kim’s room and washed her sheets and quilt and sorted through four bags of donatable goods and unburied my rolltop desk and reconnected my sewing machine once I had cleared off its desk and sorted through the debris that quite literally covered the floor. Oh, and I also made a Target run, brought books back to the library, sold a box of books to the used book store and had my watch fixed. See? Productive! I even had time to watch the most exciting day of the Tour de France and go out on a fancy-pants date.

That is how this month is supposed to feel. It’s supposed to be a time to quietly relax and reflect on how much I miss my children when they’re at their dad’s; to catch my breath and have time for a massive project or two in between all of the relaxing.

But. Then on Sunday I got a phone call. I didn’t catch the house phone in time. When I saw it was the Ex’s cell phone, my heart skipped a beat or twenty. I was afraid it was another one of Those Calls. I worried when no one answered when I called right back, but then I heard my cell phone ringing in my purse. I answered and just about fell to the floor when I heard one of my girls on the other end crying hysterically. “Gracie, what’s wrong? Are you okay? What’s wrong, baby?” I tried not to panic.

“<Sobbing> I… <more sobs>…just… <hiccups> miss you.”

Is it possible for your heart to settle down and break at the same time? Because that is when July sent me a swift kick to the throat. My girls were okay. No one was hurt. There wasn’t an accident. Their father hadn’t gone into any kind of emergency medical distress leaving the girls to find help (something the girls and I have talked about how to handle, given his medical history). Still – hearing your daughter beg you through gut-wrenching sobs to come pick her up wasn’t a stroll down the beach, either.

I tried to calm her down. I tried to soothe her with my slow and steady talking, asked her easy questions to answer (and still only got a yes or no in between hitching tears) and reminded her when I would see her again. Truth be told, what I wanted to say was that I was getting in my car and would be there in five minutes. But I didn’t think the Ex would really let me do that. And probably it wouldn’t have been the best parental lesson to teach the girls that one of us would bail them out anytime something happened; I figured Gracie had done something wrong or had gotten in trouble. We couldn’t play good parent, bad parent.

After a few more minutes, Gracie accidentally hung up on me and the Ex called me back to say that Bee was fine (my kid was crying so hard I couldn’t tell who it was! Also? Apparently she didn’t feel like correcting me. Heh) and that she was just tired and unhappy with not getting her way. Just as I had thought.

Still – I wasn’t quite as relaxed after that as I had been. July is supposed to be about having fun and breaking rules and recharging our batteries. But all I could think of was last weekend when I brought the girls back to their dad’s, Bee had cried and sobbed and begged me to let her stay with me. I knew then that she would be fine five minutes after I left (and I’m sure she was), and I know how she cries when her dad drops her off at my house sometimes, so I tried to brush it off. But after the second episode in two weeks, I’m feeling kinda helpless.

Next week will come soon enough, as I reminded Gracie/Bee. We will be on our way to Grandma’s and the beach and the arcades and all kinds of fun. Then Auntie Kim will be here for a month and we’ll have even more fun. We’re almost back to better-than-normal. We can totally do this… it’s just that I haven’t ever ended July performing deep cleansing breaths to stave off my child’s heartache quite like this.

In sickness and in health.

October 7, 2010

I have been lost in thought the past few days. This weekend my Ex is getting remarried and of course all sorts of complicated feelings are alternately bubbling to the surface and bowling me over completely. Really (and here is where I stave off your words of encouragement because you all are nothing if not devoted and fantastically awesome supporters), I am okay. 

What I’ve been puzzling over is the idea of vows, divorce, faith, fidelity (to vows vs. to oneself), and co-parenting. Yeah, so, not much really. What kicked it off was this: one of my good friends called me and mentioned that his girlfriend was at the hospital with her ex-husband for the day, basically being her ex’s “person” during a rather tricky surgery. I started thinking about all of the implications. I’ve heard that they have an extremely amicable, healthy post-divorce friendship. Still, I wondered even if I had that sort of relationship with a hypothetical ex (not The Ex, more in a generic, theoretical sort of way), would I want my ex to be the one who took me in for surgery and, presumably, took me back home afterwards? Of all the people I could choose, would I choose my ex? That line of thinking meandered into wedding vows, how these two people had pledged “in sickness and in health,” and had obviously meant them, in spite of the dissolution of their marriage. And from there, it was only natural that I start pondering whether this should be (or could be) the goal, the ideal for today’s “modern” family.
 
What if families could break apart, but couples still honored at least this one part of their vows? As you’ve read the past several days, my Ex’s mom isn’t doing too well. She now has pneumonia and has been put back on her breathing tube. Developments aren’t quite as hectic or unexpected as they were in the beginning, but when everything was first happening, there was much reshuffling of the child-care schedule and a lot of communications between the Ex and I. I offered more than once to help in any way I could, and I meant it. It might not have been his own, but in times of sickness, in a time of great personal tragedy, I was there. I was there for my Ex because, whatever else happens, whoever else we become, we are two spokes of this family that we created even though we are no longer together. The past we shared is still there; we still shared it. What we do and who we are now might change how we view or feel about our past, but it’s still there. I couldn’t turn my back on that. It sounds like my friend’s girlfriend couldn’t either.
 
Is this who we should be? Is this who we could be? Not us, the Ex and I, but us, as a society? Perhaps we’ve forgotten how to make marriages work, perhaps we simply recognize that forcing marriages to work does more damage. That doesn’t mean we can’t change what the word family means to us. Struggling to maintain a healthy(ish) relationship could transform the guilt our society feels over the conflict of divorce. Perhaps remaining with one partner over the years isn’t possible. I wish it were. I wish I could have. But maybe this new permutation of “family” could redeem the few who, despite years of therapy and countless hours working through all sorts of emotions, still feel the need for redemption. (Also permission. Validation. Affirmation. All sorts of happy-happy feel-good stuff.) Would striving toward some sort of “in sickness and in health” bond post-divorce and trying to find some sort of fidelity to vows I clearly broke add value of character…or does it weaken my resolve to need validation from only myself. Am I still striving for “permission” to do what I’ve already done? Divorce is complicated. Retaining ties of any kind to the person you used to be married to makes it harder. And trying to create some sort of meaningful relationship when the very best pieces of you, your children, are involved, the very ones you’d worry about messing up even if you raised them in a bubble? That makes it wicked hard, yo.
 
But that’s why I keep struggling through this and spending days lost in thought. Because every so often I think: Oh thank god, I think I might be doing it right. And that? That makes all of the struggling worth it.

Love charges back into the fray.

July 29, 2010

July is always a complicated month for me. It’s the time when the girls spend an extended visitation with their dad, which means basically that we flip flop our schedules of who has who when. I have the girls every other weekend, as always, and I get to see them for dinner two nights a week, but other than that – they’re at their dad’s house. No little kids for me to tuck in at night. No whiney faces to drag out of bed in the morning. It’s calm and quiet and…disturbingly still…at my house during July.

On one hand, I LOVE the freedom I enjoy during July. I like being able to go out at night to catch a movie or meet for happy hour or do whatever I need to do without watching the clock to make sure I’m home in time to meet the children. I love the quiet! During the really difficult times, I actually count down the days until July. When one kid is screaming because she doesn’t want waffles and the other is crying because no, she is NOT tired!, it’s hard to imagine that the break from day-to-day parenting could be anything less than blissful. And most of the time, it is blissful. It’s divine. It’s peaceful.

But then, the quiet sinks all the way into my bones and I miss the chaos. I miss the noise. I miss the laughter I would have heard just as often as the whining (even if that’s not how it seems in realtime). I miss just having Gracie and Bee around. As much as I enjoy being Katie for a month instead of Mom, my daughters are what make my world spin around.

Tonight is the last night of July visitation. Tomorrow I pick them up for my weekend and the clock will strike midnight while they’re home. Everyone will turn back into pumpkins, mice, and cinder-girls and all will be well. Part of me already misses uninterrupted time to myself…but I am ready to be Mom again. I know I love myself enough to make the most of my time away, and I love my girls enough to be impatient to get my brood back into the nest and into our routine again. Isn’t it lovely that we have so many chances throughout the year to feel like we’re starting fresh? Happy Love Thursday, everyone.

Book Review: A Smart Girl’s Guide To Her Parents’ Divorce

July 28, 2010

I picked up The Smart Girl’s Guide To Her Parents’ Divorce at the beginning of the summer. I know I sought it out in reaction to some comment from the Ex or his fiancé about something the girls’ had done or some change in their behavior, although now I can’t quite remember what it was. It’s possible that Gracie had acted out or had made some comment. It wasn’t anything that raised a red flag at the time, but I remembered that Mir had reviewed the Smart Girl’s Guide series favorably, so I thought I’d check it out.

I have to say I was very impressed with the book. The sections cover a range of issues a pre-tween or tween is sure to face when dealing with divorce. Dealing with different and ever-changing emotions, the possibility of moving, change itself, parents dating or remarrying, divided loyalties, different rules, playing one parent against the other, losing a pet, custody, etc. There didn’t seem to be a problem too complex or too minute for the guide to tackle. I liked that. I liked that it had gumption in taking on everything head-on because lord knows guts are going to be called on when you’re trying to make it through a separation or divorce – for everyone involved. The fact that the subjects were discussed matter-of-factly helps give a girl a bit of understanding that she can deal with any sticky situation that comes up. As for how to deal with it, the guide was pretty pragmatic in approach and tween-ish in language: it listed several scenarios that could come up and offered suggestions for handling each one and – best of all – explains why a parent might put her in that particular situation. I’m a girl who likes to know the “why” of things, so I really liked that the book tried to de-mystify actual divorce situations. Okay, and this is really, really my favorite part: for each possible problem, the book described a way the reader could tell her parents she was uncomfortable. Bravo, Smart Girl’s Guide for empowering our children to open the conversation. That’s how the real problem can start to be solved: with honest communication. Most children won’t verbalize what’s wrong without acting out in some manner, but this book gives her the exact words to say. I think that makes it much more likely the reader will actually say something.

As for how the book delivers all of this wonderful content – and there’s a lot of it – I thought the guide did a marvelous job breaking down the information into small bits and pieces for girls to chew on. Those small pieces of information or advice are spread out on the page amidst sketches pertaining to the section, written in speech or thought bubbles, or typed out in Q&A style format or as if it were submitted in an email. The effect was that I – or the tween reading the book – could read just a piece of information and really think about it without feeling pressured to keep reading. The advice was presented in a manner as un-intrusive as possible for the reader to nibble on at her own pace. Given the weighty subject manner, I thought that was spot on. There is so much information, I don’t think it’s a book any girl would read front-to-back (I couldn’t even do it) so styling the book in a way that could be sipped instead of gulped is – just as the title proclaims – smart.

So, yes, the book was glitter and unicorns for smart parents – and the daughters they care about – and I will be checking out many of the other titles they offer (Starting Middle School, Using the Internet, Fighting with Friends, etc). The problem is that the target audience I think is just a wee bit older than my Gracie. I could read the book with her (and at some point I probably will), but she’s not quite old enough to really get the tone. I would place the fitting age range at 8-12ish. Or third to sixth grades if you’re thinking about sending some to your niece and find grades easier to keep track of. So for now I’m going to put the book on Gracie’s shelf for her to find. She’ll know when to pull it out if she needs it…and if she doesn’t, I’ll know where it is so I can leave it on her desk. Or I can mention she might want to look through it. Or – crazy parenting thought – I can use what I’ve read in the book and scale it down to her level. It’s too good not to use in some form or fashion.

Apparently, I’m still upset.

June 22, 2010

I don’t get it. Maybe it’s me. Is it me? I’m starting to think so. Because every time I start believing that things could get better, that they are getting better, the Ex turns around and hurts me again. Shouldn’t that be over? Shouldn’t I be beyond that now? And the fact that he can – and does – still have the power to hurt me frustrates the hell out of me and then I end up angry and lil bit bitter. And then, the next thing you know, I’m pouring myself a glass of wine and throwing myself a regular pity party.

It all started Saturday night. The girls called to say goodnight to their dad while Mike and I were cleaning up from Bee’s party. When Bee handed me the phone, the Ex said that Gracie had told him they had a Father’s Day present and that we were going to drop it off the next day. Which, really, was his passive aggressive way of getting me to tell him what the plans were for the next day. So I told him that the girls did have a present for them (a rather sweet one, if I do say so myself), but that I hadn’t made any plans. I told him he could see the girls if he wanted. He stammered and said he was out at the store and he couldn’t decide right then. Ten minutes later, though, he did text me to say he would take them to lunch, and then a few minutes after I asked if that was all the time he wanted, he said he would keep them for the day. So that was settled, although – truthfully – I was a little upset that I had to pressure him into seeing his children on Father’s Day. But that’s not what hurt and upset me.

Hours later, after I had fallen asleep ridiculously early from being out in the sun all day, the Ex texted me to see if I wanted to go with them to see Toy Story 3 on Sunday afternoon. When I saw the text, I was honestly pretty happy. I felt like we were making progress. There was also the fact that The Ex and I had agreed after we split that we would take the girls to their first movie at the theaters together so that neither of us would miss out on an important experience. We took Gracie last summer and it was wonderful. So his asking wasn’t entirely whimsical. Unfortunately, I had some OT I needed to put in on a work project if the girls were going to be gone, and besides, I didn’t think Bee could sit through a movie at the theater; I told him as much in just those words. I never heard back from him and I assumed he would either make other plans with the girls or that Fiance would watch Bee while he took Gracie.

Until the girls got home and mentioned they had all gone to see Toy Story 3.

I was upset. I felt beaten down. It’s not like he told me that he disagreed with me and wanted to take Bee anyways. He didn’t say he was going and I could come or not – which still would have been wrong considering he agreed that we would go together. Last summer it took us a month of rescheduling before we found a time that we could both go with Gracie; he was okay with the concept then. And what kills me is that he doesn’t even understand that it was wrong when I texted him to tell him I was upset. I have gone out of my way time and time again to try to make things better between us and I keep reaching out and then he goes and does something like this. How am I supposed to reach out and believe he will honor his side of the agreement if this keeps happening?

I know there aren’t any answers and I know Ex-husbands and -wives and -girlfriends and -boyfriends are all exes for a reason and, to some extent, that reason will play into every decision made on both sides of the equation for a long time. But I am exhausted and still irritated with myself (and obviously blogging this on Monday night), so I am going to go pour myself another glass of wine, grab some Raspberry Sorbet and watch Pride and Prejudice where the men are honorable (and the ones who are not get stuck with Lydia). And then I will sleep for about 10,000 hours and feel better about the whole thing in the morning. One of my plans this week is bound to work. Right? Right???

Love labors over difficult questions…

May 27, 2010

…and if it’s really love, you keep picking at the knot until you find some answers. Love isn’t always easy. You know this; you all know this. Even though this week has been great having my baby sister here to talk to and hang with, to entertain the kids and tattoo them from the toes to their nose, I’ve been busy mulling over some tricksy questions that have been on the back burner of my mind for a long time. Because I love my daughters dearly, I haven’t just taken the question off the stove entirely and thrown it out the back door; I’ve thought about it, stirred the pot, thought some more, and tried to figure out what the heck I think. It’s not easy, but because I love them, here I am trying to make sense of it.

You see, Gracie’s school ends in just over a week. June 4th: freedom, baby! Or, that is what Gracie would say. Not her mama – not me, no way. Because I? I am conflicted. You see, it’s like this: on one hand June 4th means no more packing school lunches, no more contorting schedules and bribing the nurse to get a coveted end-of-day doctor appointment, no more quibbling over homework. But then the dark and twisty side to June 4th rears her ugly head and whispers: daycare tuition goes up 40%, $8,000 air conditioners threaten to die, and then there is the real cause of concern: summer visitation.

The girls are slated to visit their dad for the month of July. That’s codified in the decree and something I’ve expected all along. It’s good for the girls to bond with their dad and for their dad to glimpse how much work (and expense) I put into the daily grind of raising two girls. No conflict there. The problem is that when I sat down with the Ex’s Fiancé awhile back, she raised again the Ex’s request to spend more time with the girls. She asked about the possibility of the girls staying overnight once during the week, if not normally then at least during the summer. There lies the conflict.

I am adamantly against the girls having any sort of haphazard schedule during the school year. They should be able to expect a carefully structured, predictable schedule that lands them in the same bed every school night. I believe down to my sparkly piggy toes that consistency will help them learn better, be more confident, and happier people. So the question then becomes, why not allow them to spend an overnight with their dad during summer vacation? The answer to that…well, that’s sort a squishy one.

I want the girls to be able to enjoy additional time with their dad. I don’t want them to feel like they missed out on anything or to harbor resentments towards either one of us when they’re older. There’s only so much slush money I can pour into their therapy funds; there’s no reason to feed any pre-existing craziness by playing Ex Games. And truth be told – I would like to have an extra night to sign up for a yoga class or work part-time or go out with friends. That’s not anywhere near the top of my priority list and I’ve been surviving just fine without it, but would I enjoy it? Sure! It’s one of a few reasons such a summer living arrangement would work out nicely for all involved.

Which brings us to the downside of the proposal: the Ex has threatened to sue me for joint physical custody. Technically, we have joint physical custody already, but I have primary custody or some such. The Ex threatened to ask the courts for one week on/one week off type deals with our assets and time split fifty-fifty with the kids. I think (I hope!) he’s realized that such a move would hurt the girls a jillion times more than it would devastate me (or help him), and collateral damage is unacceptable. Unfortunately, even the threat of a threat puts me in the awkward situation of having to weigh weekly overnights against the slightest chance he could try to use them against me in any future court battle. So now I’m stuck trying to choose between doing what I think is right (allowing the visits for the summer) and what I need to do to protect our current living arrangements (hold back any extras).

And then there’s the ugly voice that won’t stop jibber-jabbering in my ear. You know the one: the voice of the devil on my shoulder. The harpy. The poor, exhausted, whiny nag who reminds me that Ex refused to share Easter with me and won’t bring the children home on time even when I ask him to…that voice asks me when am I going to realize that enough is enough? When am I going to stop giving and realize that The Ex is only interested in being fair when it suits him? Which isn’t to say he doesn’t do anything to help out; he stays home with the girls when they’re sick from time to time, two summers ago he paid for half of Gracie’s uniforms, he happily agreed to watch the girls while I went out of town for my sister’s surgery. This week he asked, unsolicited, three different times how the girls were feeling in hopes that he could stay home with them. There are some things that go down without negotiating twenty rounds of an armistice deal.

I just don’t know what to do here. Be the bigger person? Or reap what I sow? Does love mean letting the girls spend more time with their dad? Or does love mean keeping quiet about it and sticking to the visitation agreement so that they have greater stability in the long run, on the off-chance he takes us to court? Dangit, this is why I make up stories about runaway ice cubes, because being a grown-up is too much. I know one thing for sure, though: love means picking at the knot and trying to find answers, and being committed to figuring it out all over again if I make the wrong choice. Happy Love Thursday, everyone! Love isn’t always easy, but it’s still absolutely everything.

Spring Break or bust!

March 15, 2010

This week is spring break for our school district and I couldn’t be more excited. (Okay, well, really I could be both happier and more excited, but that’s an entirely different matter.) No, we aren’t going on vacation anywhere, or doing anything more fun than an ice cream run. That’s not why I’m excited. I’m a mom, remember? I’m jumping for joy because I get an entire week off from having to pack lunches or worry about school uniforms! Huzzah!

The girls are excited for entirely different reasons. For one, they’re spending the week with their dad. Any break from the usual makes them think it’s time to par-tay. I’m not really sure where the girls will be spending their week – the Ex might take the week off, they might stay with Grandma, or they might camp out at daycare. I’m rooting for daycare if only because I saw the calendar the Ex dropped off with the girls last week and the director lined up some fun activities for Gracie’s class. Monday they have morning rehearsals and an afternoon karaoke/talent show; Tuesday they are visiting the skating rink; Wednesday they are making their own meatball subs and watching “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” (glad I don’t have to wash that shirt!); Thursday the police department is stopping by for show and tell; and Friday they are visiting the planetarium and having a picnic. To be honest, I kind of want to go on all of those field trips!

Next year we can take a “real” vacation during spring break. Perhaps we’ll venture down to Sea World and experience the joys of a family car ride. For now, I’m rejoicing in my nice clean house – a last gift before my girlies abandoned left me for the week.

Bee made her bed before she left. Sadly, this is a hundred times better than it usually looks.

Kids are better than Breaking News alerts.

December 20, 2009

One of the reasons I picked (fairy) godmothers for my children is because they need someone they can always talk to. I mean, sure, they have me, but sometimes Mom just can’t cut it, even when she wants to. Apparently, yesterday morning was one of those times and I didn’t even know it.

First: a little background for those who weren’t in the loop on the 20 rounds of negotiating it took to broker a holiday child care arrangement. One small tenet of the agreement was that the Ex wanted to keep the girls this past Friday night because his girlfriend’s daughter was leaving to spend her entire Christmas break with her dad in Mississippi. I agreed, provided that he drop the girls off at our house at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Which he did.

So, the girls and I were about to run to Target to hopefully beat some of the rush when Auntie Kim called. Gracie was talking to her and I was half listening when I heard this: “After my daddy’s birthday, he and [his girlfriend] are getting married. She will be my stepmom and [her daughter] will be my stepsister. I will have two mommies and two sisters and only one daddy.” Yeah, I was all-the-way listening by that point. Her terminology was pretty specific and new to her. My sister was apparently sussing out some more intel, trying to figure out (like I was) whether this was for real. “Yeah, he gave her a ring. Last night while we had Christmas,” Gracie continued before listing the presents she received and the people present.

So. The Ex is getting re-married.

“You didn’t know?!” my sister asked when I got back on the phone. Nope. The Ex didn’t mention it when he dropped off the girls. He didn’t send a text or an email. But the girls were so specific. Gracie talked about it all morning and even gave me a re-enactment (unsolicited) after our trip to Target. I gently corrected her once that she might have a stepmom and a stepsister, but she will always only have ONE real mom. Other than that, I tried to ignore it all.

Really, I was too busy trying to figure out what to do with the information. Should I text the Ex and tell him I heard congratulations were in order? Should I wait it out and mention that the girls had told me however long ago whenever it came up? I was still trying to decide when the issue resolved itself. This morning at around 10 a.m., the Ex texted me. “I didn’t want you to hear it through the grapevine. A and I got engaged. We’re looking towards next October.” Huh. So another big wedding. “The girls told me yesterday morning,” I replied, “complete with re-enactment. Congratulations!” That last part was kind of empty, but it seemed like the thing to say.

Know what’s funny? I thought the Ex had texted me because he finally worked up the courage. I mean – how does he not know that the girls would say something? Either he didn’t care or he doesn’t know his children at all. But when I talked to my sister again this afternoon, she said that she had Facebooked the Ex to congratulate him on his engagement. That was at about 9:30 a.m. Yes. THAT was why the Ex texted me. The grapevine he didn’t want me hearing things from? Was Kim. What. an. idiot. Or, if he waited so I would hear it from someone else, then he’s just lacking in common courtesy.

But I’m good. I’ve been listening to a lot of Rufus Wainwright and fancying myself as a Tim Burton production right now: dark, sarcastic, beautiful, outrageously witty, and brilliant. Oh, and critically acclaimed. (See? The wit.) Also, I seem to be getting a lot of trips out of this. My IO suggested taking the girls to Disney World. My sister and her Altos are either descending on Texas or else I’m traveling to Philly or the most perfect small town in New England (with my sister and her Altos). There may or may not be a secret plan to fight inflation find someone if we go to Connecticut.

At least or until the girls start calling her mom. Then all bets on my well-being are off.