On Saturday, I sat on the couch and listened as Jake and Landen were told by their dad that he had been dating someone, someone they already knew as part of his circle of friends. We did not expect them to be terribly affected by it. Landen rolls with the punches (until later) and Jake is so used to these "we need to talk to you" family moments that he was likely relieved it was so simple. I only said one sentence, because their dad tends to bumble around these things, and he was burying the lead. "What Daddy is telling you is that he has a girlfriend." Jake looked at me like I just said the word "vagina." Landen was okay because he likes Dad's friends.
I did not want to do this. I worry about the boys getting attached to people and then having to readjust to life without them. They LOVE Seester's boyfriend and hope that he's going to be their uncle. Landen says Boyfriend is his best friend. But it took them almost a year to get over her last (and hopefully final) breakup. I refused to let them meet Boyfriend for six months after she started dating him. So meeting Dad's girlfriend? No thank you.
When Dr. S said that it was time we tell the boys that their dad was dating someone, it did not matter how much I hated it and how much I resented him for making them (and me) do this. It was time to be honest with the boys (again). Selfishly, I did not want to risk them making the discovery and being angry with me for keeping the truth from them. This is a part of Wasband's journey that they have to experience, and I am here to support the boys in their adventure. I sat next to my wasband on a very small couch in the office of Dr. S, where my behavior is typically hostile and indignant, and discussed how this would go. I went into the conversation knowing the best way for the boys to accept this as part of the new normal, and I left the session under an agreement that I was content with.
I surprise myself often for successfully keeping my personal feelings away from the decisions I make or the boundaries I demand for the boys. I deeply, profoundly resent their dad for taking away my best friend, resigning from our family, costing the boys their home, putting me under constant financial stress, and leaving all the heavy child-rearing duties to me. When I am struggling through getting Jake through hours of homework and studying long after his medicine has worn off, their dad is enjoying a girlfriend. While I spend my evenings battling disrespectful, unkind, Last Word Landen, the wasband is with his girlfriend.
No f***ing fair.
Sunday night when we were saying our prayers, a line of which is "please bring our family peace and help my my mom and dad co-parent in love and respect," I asked them how they thought that part was going. Jake rolled over, because whatever, honestly. It is what it is.
Landen thought "co-parenting" would mean we would still be a family of four and do stuff together, because that has been the experience we've provided. So a girlfriend would mean that it would be Dad and Girlfriend and the boys, and then eventually me and someone and the boys. Which means that Landen's going to get less of a "togetherness family" than he has now. He likes Dad's friends, and he likes Girlfriend, but he likes having just his mom and his dad with him more.
Which is the part that SUCKS. Sometimes it's very easy to be around Wasband. Familiar, like the LSU sweatshirt I've had since high school. Ultimately the decision to break our family up was his, and sometimes what's been taken from us and the hardship of our new reality makes me hate his face. I was the wife and best friend and beam of light and we lived in a darling house in a sweet neighborhood and we were a family and we gave our kids safety and a settled home. Grasping and feeling what I have lost has been delayed by meeting the needs of the boys and trying to figure out what comes next for us. But sometimes the gone-ness geysers, and I flail and want to use everything in my arsenal, including our children, to punish and ruin and rain general misery down on him and send shrapnel in every direction.
But what good would that do my boys? When it was over, I would feel like a failure and a fraud, a selfish person who used my children as a weapon and punished them in the process. It would just create division, situations where they could not, for example, spend Thursday nights with their dad until he tucked them into their beds.
When we were in the session, Wasband wanted to know whether I thought it was a little hypocritical that it was okay when I was doing it but it wasn't okay now. I was ready for this one. Yes, it is absolutely hypocritical. Then I was thinking about my young in-love self. Because Jake and Landen had a mom who had to tolerate me. She had to listen (without vomiting) to stories with my name in them when they came home from their dad's. She had to smile through birthday parties, sporting events, and class celebrations with me in tow. We did have a grooming period of almost a year where I did not participate in those things. Now I am thinking about what keeps the boys healthy and happy.
This is also a roaring beast of divorce that I underappreciated until I was here. Regardless of how you act or what you tell yourself, it is hard, especially if you are competitive in nature, as I am, to not approach this as a contest with a winner and a loser. Who does the best stuff belong to? How much money is enough support? Who do the children prefer? Which friends go with which person? Who presents himself or herself to be the happiest? Who moves on first? (Warning: you lose this one if you divorce a serial monogamist.) I want to be able to boast that "my team" is winning, but I cannot see how there could possibly be winners when families are broken.
It took me a month to write this. One paragraph and I was outraged that we are here. Or my moaning indicated that I was martyring myself for my kids, determined to waste my youth and fertility, which I am not. But you get it today. Yesterday I picked the boys up right after school, because the state was on holiday. We had Sonic snacks and I made one of their favorite (not for a work day) meals. For the first time, I sat at the head of the dinner table with them and drank sparkling grape juice and was praised for my all-around awesomeness. We rolled around on the floor with the dog and ate Halloween candy on the couch while we studied for tomorrow's tests.
So yep, change is constant. And it's easy to compare where I am to where he is and feel sh*tty about that. There's a girlfriend, and there are predictable transitions associated with this addition that will be awkward or disturbing to the boys. I recognize that being in an intimate relationship is more self-satisfying and less effort than being a sweating, blundering, messy parent who tiptoes upstairs nightly in stained yoga pants, smelling like cooked chicken, to peek at children who smile in their sleep. If there is a "win," it's that I know what he's missing. Being your child's Magnetic North and living a life that never sacrifices that is holy work and full of grace. And I would not trade it for Robert Redford (circa 1973.)
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