Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Challenge

Image Credit (here)

It sounds like a fitness challenge!  And the good news is, I’ve really worked on exercising.  I’m feeling pretty strong and I’ve lost a bit of weight, but most importantly, when I exercise, I’m *not* worrying.  So that’s a plus. :)

But, wow was the two week extended time with the girls at their dad’s a challenge.  I tried to follow my “coping” advice.  I give myself a C+.  I passed, I survived, I didn’t fail outright.

Here’s my C+ evaluation.

The girls usually call when they’re with dad and vice versa, we call dad when the girls are at our house.  It’s kind of a pain in the a$$, because at my house, I make sure we have “manners” when the phone call happens, the t.v. is off, the games have stopped, the coloring pencils are down, etc.  When the girls call me from dad’s house, they sound stressed, want to get off the phone, the t.v. is blaring, they’ll tell me, mommy, can this be a short call, we’re watching Finding Nemo, or Shrek, or [Fill in the Blank].  And sometimes they just sound stressed, and that makes me sad for them.  I know it’s hard for them already to please their dad, and showing affection towards me—is something they know they can’t do in front of him.  So I’ve gone over with the girls that the phone calls are for them, not for mommy or daddy, but for them.  And they say, I know!  And laugh.  So sometimes, I let the phone go to voicemail, and I send them a text back.  I know that they love me, I know they don’t have to talk to me every day, and if I can lessen the stress for them, then fine.  And sometimes I do have to talk to them (i.e. don’t forget tennis tomorrow, or aunty so and so will be picking you up for girl scouts, etc) and at those times, then I remind them it’s good to have phone manners.  And…every time they ask for a “short call” I say, okay!  And hang up.  (Unlike when they ask dad for a short call, it drags on and on and on…but that’s another story for another day).

All right, so last week end, I heard from the girls they were going camping (still on their extended summer visit; plus father’s day week end, great.)  Exie sent me a text last week that he would have the girls call at noon on Friday, because he wasn’t sure about the reception at the camp site.  Fine, I’m flexible.  Well, last Friday I was in a marathon meeting, didn’t get out until 1pm, and when I did, heard a voicemail from the girls to call them back.  So I did.  It went to voicemail, so I hung up, and went in search of lunch, because I was starving.

A minute later, my phone rings, I answer with a cheerful, “HI DD2!”

Instead—it’s Exie in a nasty (but not yelling, at least) tone:  Didn’t you get my texts?  I don’t have a charger so I told you to only call for an emergency.

Me : No, I didn’t get any texts, I just got out of a marathon meeting and was returning DD2’s call.

Exie:  Well, I sent you texts saying that I don’t have a charger, and so now I’m going to have stay home for another HOUR to charge my phone before we leave.

Me:  Look, I am just returning DD2’s call, are you going to let me talk to the children or not?

Exie:  Well, I guess I’ll let you talk to the kids today, but only text tomorrow, because I don’t have a charger.

Me:  Ok.

The girls come on, they’re excited to go camping, not a care in the world, happy go lucky, for which I am grateful.  We talked for maybe 5 minutes or less—then on I went to get my lunch.

And in a bit of shock—we always communicate by text or emails (clearly, a good reason for that).  In line to get my salad, I check my texts and then I see them—a long drawn out text about how he doesn’t have a phone charger, and to limit calling to emergencies for the next two days. 

Look, I know I was all triggered by  my PTSD of having to talk to him.  He who used to choke our tiny dog in front of the girls.  He who kicked DD1 in the stomach because he was angry she wouldn’t get up off the floor to leave his mom’s house.  He who flicked DD1 on the back of her head when she wasn’t answering his question when he walked behind her at the dinner table, so instead of swallowing her mouthful of rice, she coughed it out and started crying.  He who kicked a giant fitness ball at wobbly DD2 who had just started walking, knocking her over.  He who locked DD1 in a pitch black bathroom to teach her a lesson.  He who… 

He who comes off as this “poor me” person to the rest of the world, I’m so sad I have a crazy ex-wife who tried to take the kids away from me.

(Healing is this long journey that I’m still on.  I’ve come so far and yet I can remember his actions so vividly.  And I hurt and am scared and am angry and trying, trying to move forward.)

Anyway, back in line after getting my sandwich, I decide, no, it’s not okay to call me up and talk to me that way.  No, it’s not my responsibility that you don’t have a charger.  Not that I push it, but the decree clearly states both parents have unlimited phone access to the children. So WTF was that lame a$$ phone call all about?

After I settled down (and consulted with one of my good friends, who witnessed Exie’s anger outbursts), I sent him a response via text—No problem compromising about the texting/phone calls, just received your texts.  There was no reason to talk to me that way when you called earlier; this is fine, a little more notice would have been helpful in today’s case.

Good, done, fine.  Girls called two days later, they had a blast camping, and then they finally came home last Monday.  Hurray, we’re back on our regular schedule.

But, no, not fine, because the day the girls came home, I get a long drawn out email about how when he “answered his phone,” he surmised I thought he was angry, he was not, and the kids and he discussed that he didn’t sound angry.  WTF?

So I had to respond again, correcting the facts (i.e. no, he called me to bite my head off about info I didn’t have): I had merely returned DD2’s phone call, and was connected to voicemail so hung up.  When I received his phone call, I was baffled that it was him, and not DD2, and further confused when I assured him I did not receive his texts.  At any rate, I had a nice conversation with the girls.

Blah blah blabbity blah.  This whole thing is stupid and tiring.  I’m tired of being the bad guy, I’m tired of being vigilant.

And btw, one of the first things DD2 told me when we were walking our dog after she came home from school?  Daddy says A is not my daddy, and not even my step daddy.

And me:  gosh, how did that make you feel?

DD2: bad, and…I didn’t want to get in trouble.

Me: With who?

DD2:  with daddy. 

Me: I’m really sorry he said that, sweetie.

DD2: skipping along with our puppy, nodding, and then distracted by the flowers we were passing, picking them to put in my hair and hers.  Next time, I’ll remember to say, and what do you think, DD2?  To help her make up her own mind.

That night, all sitting around the dinner table, we held hands, said grace, and ate dinner, the subject of divorce came up again (A’s parents divorced 20 years ago, both remarried and amicable and clearly moved on).  DD1 had laid eyes on her family tree project, displayed in the corner, across from where she was sitting, and laughed about having to have so many leaves on her tree because of having a dad and a mom and a stepdad and then A’s parents were divorced, too, and did that make A sad when his parents divorced?  And he said, you know, it did for a while, but then I was okay, because now I have two stepparents, and they’re like regular parents.  And DD1 didn’t skip a beat and nodded and said, yeah, like you!  (And my  heart about burst in my chest).

And DD2 was nodding and soaking it all in.

So maybe, in time, everything will just be okay.  I hope so.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A little light

 Image credit <here>

Well, sure I was all brave when I wrote my last post, but now I’m not so brave.

This past week end, I woke up at 2am each night, brain and heart filled to the brim with anxiety.  Scared for my girls, worrying about my new job responsibilities, overwhelmed.  And this was even when I was on a lovely staycation with my hubby, a beautiful vacation spot where I was supposedly taking my own advice on how to cope.  I clearly wasn’t coping that well.

I guess my heart knows what it wants—to be with my girls, to have them home with me, to hear their laughter, even their arguing, lol. 

And the guilt.  The kids deserve to feel settled.  They don’t deserve to be shuttled back and forth all the time.  As DD2 gets older, the dynamics of visitation will change.  Add a week end here.  Add an overnight there.  She’s already showing transitional stress when we exchange.  It’s all very frenetic.  When I think about it, I think back to the trial, I think could I have done anything differently? 

My girls.  I’m so sorry that we have to have two houses. 

I know you love your dad with all your heart.  I know there’s room in your heart for everyone who you love.  I wish I could trust that he won’t lead with anger first.  I wish I could let go of the worry and the fear and the anxiety.

Instead, I called my therapist, who reminded me that when things are out of control, that’s where I flip out.  I can’t protect the girls when they are over there, so I worry.  I can’t anticipate every aspect of my new job responsibilities, so I worry.

Take a deep breath.  We can’t control many, many things out there in the world—and that’s part of living.  Challenges so big they seem like the empire state building, well, use your wits, grab hands, and start climbing.  Piece by piece, step by step.  It’s okay if that’s all you can do for now.

The minutes tick by.  The hours, too.  Keep doing your best, in the moment, and take care to take care of what you can. 

So I guess I’m back at that advice after all.  Hug, pray, laugh when you can.  Let the light splay out into the darkness a little bit.  Or as much as you can.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ten Ways to Cope when Your Kids are on an Extended Visitation

The girls are with their dad for the next two weeks for summer vacation.  I’m trying to keep it together and not be sad.  In my zen, you can feel your destiny with your higher calling and inner voice moments (thank you, Oprah), I can rise above, understand this time with their dad is good for them, even feel warmth and kindness and forgiveness.  Time spent with their dad and with their grandmother is crucial to growing up.  Their love for their father does not detract from the love for me or for anyone else in their family.  Our hearts are big enough for everyone in our family.

And then the rivulets and streams of fear and doubt that have been carved by years of hearing my children whisper their worries, seeing them doubt themselves, cry at what happens at dad’s house, seeing them struggle with being responsible for their dad—trickle in at the corners of my mind.  At the dull sound of my DD1’s voicemail—sure, maybe she’s having a bad day at that moment, or maybe he’s standing right there and she feels like she can’t sound happy to be talking.  I know I can’t control what happens at his house.

It’s difficult to believe that everything is going to be okay.  I know I have to hold onto the railing of the roller coaster, close my eyes, let the wind whip my hair and the car speed down the track, head for the loop-di-loop and know we’ll be back in the station soon.

Ten ways to cope when your kids are on an extended visitation:

1)     Do your favorite hobby—in my case, surfing.  When you’re doing something you love, the stress will fall away, even if it’s just for a little while, it’s worth it.  Or…try a new hobby that you’ve always been interested in, and never have time to do.
2)     Exercise.  Yes, I’ve become one of those annoying exercise freaks, I admit it.  When you’re leaping around doing cardio and sweating bullets, the last thing on your mind is worrying, because you’re concentrating on not tripping over yourself and falling flat on your face (or in my case, side), it builds endorphins, and not only do you feel proud of what your body can accomplish, you’re filling up your body with healthy juju that has lasting effects.
3)     Take a hot bath with a book—if you’re into hot baths and books, that is.  Bubbles are nice, too.
4)     If you have an SO in your life, spend time doing something special together, date night—or not.  Running errands, or just getting out and about doing “normal” couple things can be fun, too.  It’s just intertwining time together in a way that makes you feel good.
5)     Hug.
6)     Laugh.
7)     Pray.
8)     Girlfriend time!  Laughing with girlfriends is balm to the soul.
9)     In the middle of the night, if you wake up because you might be worried, take 10 deep breaths—and hold a happy or funny or random memory/experience with your kids in your mind.
10)  Know you’re prepared to take action should something concerning arise, but believe and hope for the best.  Just like everything else that has happened in your life, court battles, litigation, crappy a$$ emails/texts:  this too will pass.  They’ll be home soon.

Dear God, please give my daughters courage to be themselves.  Please give them love.  Please help them know that their hearts are big enough for everyone in their family.  Please help them know that loving their mom doesn’t meant they love their dad less, and loving their dad doesn’t have mean they can’t love their mom, too.

p.s. I miss their little voices and their hugs and laughter!  I guess I don’t miss the arguing (that’s MINE.  not FAIR! Or it’s MY TURN) and crankiness that comes when they’re tired/hungry.  It’s funny how a little something like my chair dancing when hubby and I were watching Rock of Ages (omg, that movie is hilarious), reminds me of DD2, dancing in her chair at the dinner table, walk like an egyptian style; I guess I see where she gets it from.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Struggling and juggling and fumbling

Work projects (exciting!) have taken me away from the blogosphere and the internet in general.  And for the most part, parenting responsibilities have been keeping me happily busy, with no storms on the frontier.  Until recently.

I keep hoping it will get easier.  I don’t know what to do.  I feel a little ill.  I was getting tired of writing about every little accusatory b.s. b.s., but then it builds up into a weight that I’m unable to carry with grace and dignity.

I strive for grace and dignity.  Today, I haven’t met it.

So I learned a couple of weeks ago that DD2 was invited to a school BFF’s birthday—that same BFF came to her birthday party that I threw earlier this year.  She seemed super excited about it, the invitation came home when she was at dad’s house, but she said she didn’t think she could go.  I didn’t push it, which in hindsight was wrong, but  I thought it would work out since he’d been behaving well of late.  I thanked the BFF’s mom over facebook and let her know that it sounded like dad had it, he’d been good about RSVPing for things in the past.  Birthday party came and went and BFF’s mom let me know they  missed DD2, and they never got an RSVP.  (Awww!  And Whatt??) She also told me she hoped I’d get a copy of the invitation, because she really wanted me to see it.  So I sat on this info for a few days.  I hesitated, but given the nitpicky and accusatory texts and emails about drying out DD1’s swimsuit, refusing to help the kids floss their teeth, demanding that I return items that I’d returned, complaining about DD2’s water bottle and demanding it be switched out—I just did it.  I sent an email asking him about the party and asking him to please RSVP to invitations in the future.

To which he responded that he never got the invitation, and basically said, I raise your RSVP and trump you with neglecting to inform me about DD1’s tennis matches and class parties.  To which I heaved a big sigh before biting my tongue.  Of course I can’t ever hold him accountable to the little things.  I have to remember to pick my battles.  Because of course he dodges with made up suspicions and accusations.  So I pulled up my big girl pants and responded with a polite “it sounds like we hear things from the children that are open to interpretation,” assuring him that no, there were no tennis matches, and the class party was a last minute request from DD1 for me to just help already.  (No, Exie, I do not make up nefarious plans to exclude you, and yes, I consistently give you information about the kids’ activities all the !@#$ time—translated into three sentences of pleasantry). 

Whatever.  See?  Two paragraphs of a big fat annoying whatever. 

Except last Friday, DD2 was randomly upset about not wearing her necklace out to dinner (it was this fancy thing that DD1 had won at the arcade, I was only letting her borrow it for before we left the house), and when A was loading her up into her booster, she told him, “I wish I only had a step-daddy and not a real daddy,” to which an astonished A responded, “what makes you say that?”  And she said, “I always get in trouble with my real daddy, I lie and break things and I’m dumb.”  And he asked her, “What makes you think you lie?” And she shrugged and he said, “sometimes, we lie because we think that will help us get out of trouble, but usually we get in MORE trouble if we lie.”  And she shrugged again, so he said, “Maybe you want to talk more about this to mom?” To which she just nodded and hugged him.


Except that on Sunday, when I was out shopping, DD2 made up this elaborate story about how Exie had traded in his truck for a minivan, but instead of a white one like Aunty K, he got a red one!  And then started laughing and said, just kidding!  And a heartbeat later she said, “daddy can’t afford a van, because he gives all his money to you.”

So that’s still going on.

I responded the way the coparenting counselor has advised, “Oh honey, I’m sorry dad said that.  He doesn’t give mommy  money, he’s gives money to child support—it pays for things like Dr. S. and food and stuff.  Daddy’s following the judge’s rules.”  Yes, it probably went over her head.  But even my therapist says to keep reinforcing the facts.  Ugh.

Except that when the mom of DD2’s best pal invited us for a sleepover next Saturday, she went to him first, because they have a positive relationship.  I offered to swap another Saturday later in the summer.  And when he responded to her in the negative, he referred to me as “the mother” can spend time with you, sorry DD2 can’t. 

Except he always puts himself and his needs first.  Except he makes the girls feel guilty for having fun with us.  Except any time I do pick up when they call from his house, the TV is blaring, they’re watching a movie, they’re distracted.  Except the one time they laughed about something I told them A did on the phone, they quickly got shut down.  Except that the girls don’t call A by their fun name they have for him, in Exie’s presence they switch to his given name. 

Except, and let’s really get to the bottom of the emo today—they’re about to go over there for two weeks.  And I’m trying, as the play therapist says, to “assume the best,” but it’s so difficult to live the reality that he resents “the mother” and that he is always manipulating them to feel sorry for him (the child support, they don’t get to see him all the time, don’t talk to mommy long on the phone).

Except, how can I help my daughters be strong, when they are learning that it’s normal to be this way—normal for dad to resent mom and the rules of visitation?  We all say that one day the kids will get it, they’ll see.  Will they? 

I don’t know what to do.  Writing this down helps, I feel less alone, like I’ve framed the problems in black ink and words.  It feels more bearable, somehow, even if I’m still as unsure as when I sat down at the keyboard.  Maybe I’ll get back to grace and dignity tomorrow.  I hope so.