Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, DD1!

Happy birthday to you!  I can’t believe that eight years ago I was able to hold you in one arm.  I love watching you grow and learn and be silly and love up your baby sister and learn some more (I am in so much trouble in a few more years)!  You prefer to be called “smart” over “cute” or “pretty,” something you came up for yourself in the last year, and that’s fine by me. 

Your heart has the capacity to love everyone in your family.  You throw yourself into giggling fits with your sister, you build forts out of the couch cushions with her, you like doing puzzles and games, especially the ones in the highlights magazine, and you also love being a brownie and helping your girl scout sisters whenever you can.  You whiz around on your scooter with confidence—last year you were not nearly so energetic with it.  Your baby sister follows you everywhere, even when you have sleep-over friends, and you still welcome and include her, too, because that’s how big your heart is (yay!).  Yes you get annoyed with her from time to time, but you also cuddle up with her, too.  Your teachers have only said good things about you—how you play with other kids and help them or always try and get the answer right.  That art is “your thing,” something you can lose yourself in.

You are learning to challenge boundaries and “the rules.”  You’ve become quite the negotiator and debater.  Le sigh.  Given our two families situation, I sense your inner conflict and do everything I can to give you room to work through it.  When you do get mad, sometimes you go up to your room and scream into your pillow.  And after you’ve calmed down, I sit with you how you need me or want it to be—with space or with cuddling, or even, a big carry-hug.  We talk calmly about what happened and why—how it’s okay to have our feelings but it’s not okay to yell at people or throw things.  Sometimes there is crying and lots of times there are hugs.  Yes, you are allowed to feel conflicted and yes you are allowed to have your feelings.  (And I worry and wonder if the reason you do not express these things at dad’s house is because you know deep down that it’s not safe to act that way there.)

Over this last year there’s been some big changes.  Our house, while the same house, looks and feels different—with A moved in and new furniture and rooms re-arranged and de-cluttered—and we are a blended family.  I see you spend time with A and bond with him—reading books, or going shopping with him, or helping when he’s cooking.  Sitting with him playing games or just talking, or asking for a turn to be carried.  It warms my heart to see this relationship grow.

The constant to these swirling life events through the years:  that I love you and am doing everything I can to provide a positive life for you, so you can grow up and learn somehow, somewhere, that to be truly loved, it has to come without a cost.  That we can be responsible for our actions, but we cannot be responsible for others’ actions.  Love is demonstrated by kind and thoughtful actions and behavior, not just words, and I hope this knowledge seeps into your skin through to your caring and sensitive heart. 

p.s. You did ask for an IPAD this year, but I’m getting you a kids android tablet.  You will have to read as much as you play on the tablet, and I can already hear your voice—“does reading ON the tablet count?” and am considering the answer. <3 span="">

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Update on the (boundary) drama, I seem to be saying that a lot lately, hmm...

We had an eye-opening session with the girls’ play therapist, and the things she was discussing helped me feel better about our situation.  No, I’m not going crazy for seeing and reporting Exie’s emotional pressure on the children.  Yes, I am doing the right thing for validating the girls (esp DD1’s) feelings about things—i.e. I’m sorry daddy feels that way vs. a flat out, he’s completely wrong.  And then softly influencing her to form her own opinions—i.e. how do you feel about that?  What makes you feel that way?  Do you know it’s okay to have feelings that are not the same as mom or dad?  (great, can’t wait when that backfires at 16, but whatever, lol).  Yes, we continue to let her have the space and time to figure this inner conflict out—what is her stuff and what is her dad’s stuff.  Yes, we are allowed to intervene if said conflict escalates at our house and behavior needs to be corrected, but we do not use the blame game.  We allow her to have feelings yet at the same time give her structure.  Easier said than done.  Like, how the heck do you DO that?  I’ll keep reporting back on what we discover.  (And I’ll keep looking at and listening to what you discover, too). 

And yes, DD1, especially my sensitive and smart DD1, will one day figure this out, and should this continue, Exie will be the one who pays for it.  And truthfully, introspection notwithstanding, of course I do not want him to ‘pay’ for it or have DD1 resent him (ok, fine.  maybe a little, with a big BUT ONLY if he continues acting like a douche).  What I KNOW is best for the girls is that he stops his crazy bull$**t and acts like a mature adult.  Here’s to hoping that the people involved in our case can assist—who see the bird’s eye view like this, can influence him towards change.  I know that it’s not my job anymore to discuss, placate, wish, talk, demand, beg changes from him. 

So regarding boundaries and what’s ahead:  yes, we need to put something in place that gives structure to the phone calls—they are not for HIM to push his agenda on talking and length of talking and to guilt the children about.  The phone calls or for the CHILDREN, not the parents.  Secondly, no, I do not escalate the ballet class, because of his stance on it at the moment—it has turned into a battleground, another tug-of-war, another conflict area that is not in DD1’s best interest.  Instead, our job is to help DD1 make her own mind up about things like this, and give her the strength to assert her voice and her boundaries.

Exie will be Exie.  We can’t change him and hopefully, he will improve—or not.  In the mean time, we do know what we’re dealing with and facing, so the journey into blended family life continues on.  One step at a time.  One laugh at a time.  One tear at a time.  Don’t give up.  Patience.  Be kind.  Wait, this is what I told our leaders to do in my last post.  I have to remember to give myself the same advice.  Look both ways before crossing the road, hold hands and stick together.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let’s sue the President! Because, why not, we’ve got nothing better to do!

So several news outlets are reporting that Mr. Boehner is galvanizing a movement to sue President Obama.  One here from the Washington Post and BBC chimed in as well.

You know, because we don’t have poverty levels widening and thousands upon thousands of children crossing the border, or sexual assault running rampant and virtually unpunished, or moms getting prosecuted for murder for having a miscarriage unrelated to drug use, or a fierce debate on access to guns when we have yet another school shooting resulting in a death on our hands. However you feel about gun rights and civil liberties and gender and socio-economic disparities, where ever you land on the spectrum, there are serious issues in our country that we need to discuss and do something about.  Let alone the rest of the world.  Like civil wars in Syria or the lost girls in Nigeria, WTF happened about them, where’s the news cycle on that?

Wait, what?  Oh, that’s right, our wonderful politicians are too busy introducing and voting on 54 bills to REPEAL a law that is already in effect (yes, the dreaded health care law, which is, a law, the last time I checked—a real, bona fide law, remember how a bill becomes a law?  I’m just a bill…on capitol hill.)  Oh, wait, that’s right, it wasn’t REALLY 54, it was only 6, because the other 48 were to generally defund it or gut it or repeal just PART of it, so it doesn’t count.  Seriously.

So naturally, since Congress can’t stop the President’s initiatives through the traditional measures of passing laws (do we really have to sit and watch SchoolHouse Rock!—or ask them to have a mandatory sit down lesson on civics?), no these same people who cry about wasting taxpayers money, who in turn devote their time, effort, and tax-payer salaries into creating bills that have no chance of passing—well…now they want to fund a mother of a lawsuit.  That will take YEARS to pass through the legal system, because two political pundits thinks it’s a grand idea that if CONGRESS gives it’s blessing, the suit will have merit (see links at the very beginning of this blog post). 

Wow.  Just…wow.  Having spent tens of thousands on a lowly conflicted custody case, I can’t imagine the unimaginable cost of suing the President of the United States.  But by all means, let’s do that, while at the same time whining about our growing national debt.  By shutting down food stamp programs, because, hey, those poor people deserve it.  (And thank you so very much to you states who resisted it—and had the power to stand up and support your constituents.)

Yes, I realize this blog post has nothing to do with coparenting or divorce or custody or blended families.  But sometimes, I see a headline, and not that this one is any less egregious than the disappearance of #bringbackourgirls or other serious topics, I just can’t help pointing out how ridiculous our American politics look.  I swear if my children acted like this, told me they were going to “sue” the President, and spend millions to do so, I’d put them in a mother of time out and cry for shame.  Or if they decided not to DO THEIR JOBS and shut down their company, I’d fire them myself. 

Yet this latest headline is so ridiculous, I can’t even sit still.  Remember those cardinal rules we learned in kindergarten?  Hold hands and stick together.  Be kind.  Share.  Yeah, kindergartners are way smarter than the these educated 'leaders' who are running (amok in) the country.  /end rant.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Just keep swimming, OR how NOT to cope with Exie’s crap that he places on your child

Despite the tone of the blog lately, I’m actually a happy, energetic, extremely silly person.  I love people generally (when I’m not raging about crazy people treating women like chattel, I don’t love those people), but I believe in the relative goodness that exists out there in the world.  This was buried for a time, but it came back out—I remember after six months of my ex out of the house, my friends were saying, wow, the old jane is back!  And it made me realize how long I had buried my heart and soul in fear, and it was, indeed, coming out again.  You know, the whole surviving through crappity crap terrorizing and witnessing pet and child abuse and feeling powerless to stop it, until I finally got the help I needed to get the hell out.  In fact, that’s pretty empowering, but before I pat myself on the back, it came at a great cost—I lost friends, I made some really close ones, some friendships are forever changed, but I’m hoping that forever is a mutable word, since we still have forty or so more years (I hope).  I went to the brink of bankruptcy and survived that.  A good dose of anxiety and PTSD rides along my shoulders every day, the triggers at some turns fading, at others activated like a tsunami warning siren, or a fire alarm in your building in the middle of the night, but I digress.

Today, I am not happy.  And dammit, I so wanted to be!  I had an amazing dinner cooked by the hubs last night, some lovely panty tossing ESS EEE EXX, hee hee hee!! (okay sorry for the TMI, but I am a newlywed, after all). Yesterday, I was completely zen and dealing with the situation as best as could be. 

Then I get an email today at 12:17am, informing me that Exie asked DD1 if she wanted to go to her last ballet class of the term, to which she responded NO, and that he would not agree for DD1 to continue with ballet going forward.  Great news!  Because of course DD1 would pick spending time with Exie over ballet, that’s what she knows is expected of her.  And of course she will tell Exie she doesn’t want to go, after the one week end he had to do anything ballet related with DD1—her recital that took away time from him each day.  Guess who got a “concerned” email from Exie that very Monday morning?  Yay! Lucky me.

Did Exie talk to the ballet teacher or the director about “his concerns”?  Nope.  He is more interested in picking an activity for her so that “he” can be in control, than allowing her to continue one that she has thrived in(and he hasn’t paid a cent for) over the past three and half years, but let’s just flush that down the toilet.  Because, it’s all about HIM and HIS choices and HIS concerns and HIS feelings, and not about DD1’s.

So let’s just run down the list of how NOT to deal with Exie on the latest:
·         Sending a curse-laden email calling him out on his emotional manipulation of DD1.
·         Forcing him to support the activity, and too bad, I’ve chosen it, so he has to support it, and not only does he have to agree with it, he has to PAY for half of it (yep, that would go over really well).
·         Start calling him names and telling DD1 what an awful dad she has who would stop her from attending ballet.
·         Allow new husband to enter the fray and fight “fire with fire.”

Well, the first one wouldn’t accomplish crap, so why bother.  It might make me feel better for getting anger out into an email, but will it change his behavior?  Nope.  It will just cost needless emotional energy in the end, because of the toxicity that it would induce.

The second one, while a legal possibility, is not viable, because all it does is escalate the conflict, escalate DD1 to be in the middle, and force DD1 to go to ballet with one parent who completely disagrees with it and who will show disapproval every chance he gets.  So any positivity she would get out of ballet will be nixed with Exie manipulations.

The third one, the cardinal rule of never putting the children in the middle and making them feel bad about their other parent, is obviously a no-brainer no.  Vent alert:  why is it that all consciously intentioned single parents who love their children understand how much negative speak hurts their children, bend over backwards to NOT say anything negative, and yet the respective Exies just throw out the negativity like chocolate chips in a Nestle chocolate factory?  Seriously?  If I had a dollar for every nasty thing that was thrown at me, either directly or through the children over the last three years…yay, first year of college paid for, easily.  Whatever.

And finally, the last one—while I don’t have as much experience, because we are a newly blended family, I do know instinctually, and also listening to my therapist and attorney, excluding A from the equation is the best possible way forward.  A does not need to insert himself on the conflict.  I am the captain of the parenting ship, and A is my awesome, supportive, loving co-captain.  It’s hard, I think, maybe for men in general (I’m not a gender studies researcher by any means), to take the back seat, especially if they have alpha male tendencies of wanting to FIX things or SOLVE problems.  It’s been a challenging and rough process for A to learn that the best way at winning in a situation is NOT fighting, is NOT engaging.  Remember the old school rule that made no sense as a child—ignore the bully, because then s/he has nothing to work with?  And how much that sucked?  But with someone like Exie, that’s the best way forward, to not engage and respond minimally.  It gives him less power over us.  Unfortunately, by not engaging, Exie is now haranguing the children, which tears my heart.  I have to trust that is what our awesome play therapist is for—to help DD1 cope, and also how our positive house will give DD1 room to figure it all out.  That’s what the therapists advise.  Maybe I need to go back and re-read Divorce Poison!  L

So this is what I will do, instead of all those other four things.  I will respond to Exie that DD1 ought to have closure with her last class and note he does not agree.  I will note that the last time DD1 “took a break,” she requested to return, and will ask him to be open to hearing it should that happen again.  (I actually ran this by two attorney friends who think it’s a good idea).

Next, discuss with the play therapist, who appears to be well versed in Exie’s manipulations of the girls, especially with DD1, and is helping DD1 cope with the emotional neediness of her dad. 

And then, keep an eye open and move on, because I have two other fish to fry having to do with a special event and maintaining boundaries with Exie, and it’s likely more crappity crap will be thrown around.  Maybe not!  Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, right? 

p.s. I realize ending ballet is not the end of the world.  And maybe it’s not the end of ballet, maybe she will circle back or maybe not.  I’m lucky to have been able to send her there in the first place, I am not completely insensitive to the social disparities in our crazy world.  I think most of this post is being triggered by Exie’s need for control eclipsing DD1’s desires and interests, which is in turn a trigger to our world from before.  Rawr.  Baby steps forward.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's summer!, Or, coping during extended visitation with your ex (who scares you).

So my daughters are spending their two weeks of summer vacation with their dad—and while the big picture goodness in this scenario is that they will also see their extended family, the not so great part is that given the negative behavior and actions of late, he will likely be indoctrinating them with his emotional neediness and manipulation.  Which makes me worried and sad and stressed.  Even my attorney has advised to have as minimal contact with this family as possible—the dynamic of his behavior, the enabling of family violence for generations—it’s just not okay.  But she also advises to follow the court order, and yes, I do that willingly and without fail.

I want to protect my babies from that crappity crap, but I know I can’t always be right there.  I know I can’t control what happens at his house.  Once, when initially going through the prolonged and contentious custody battle, a veteran wisely advised me that one day, our children grow up, go to college, move out, because they’ve become adults.  For us, we have to deal with the empty next syndrome earlier.  Somehow, that helped put it in perspective.  My children are going to have to find their voices, much sooner than I had expected, but they can do this.

So at the advice of my therapist—I have to set aside the worry, because I know he will do what he does, and when my girls come home, I will be there for them.  Instead, I should focus on what I can control, which is the environment right in front of me.  And while my heart is wishing I could protect my children from the usual crappity crap that shows no sign of let up, there are these little, positive things I can focus on, in no particular order:

1) In the morning, I actually have time to ratchet it up a little bit, i.e. straightening my hair before going to work, dashing on a little cosmetics if I feel like it.  Instead of rushing through the office door, literally panting from running down the street to get there on time after commuting all over the island, I actually look somewhat business-casual presentable, befitting my “position” of quasi-leadership.

2) Similarly, in the evenings, there’s no mad dash of fighting traffic everywhere to come home, unloading the car, unpacking lunch bags, racing to get dinner on the table, then bathtime, bedtime, (right now, ladies!) routine.  I can actually exercise for 25 minutes (Shawn T, you kill me), and enjoy a glass of wine afterwards with my husband.  !!  Wow!  What a thought.

3) I still get to hear my girls’ voices at the end of the day—they call around dinner time, and I cherish all their little stories and silliness and even if I can hear him standing over them, or interrupting them, there is still a connection made.  I can’t control what he does, but I can show up with riddles and knock knock jokes for DD1 and play the I spy game with DD2 to engage them, even for just a few moments.

4) I have to be confident that the last big message they got from my house before going over there was:  our hearts are big enough to love EVERYONE in our family.  So that means giving them room and being supportive that they love their dad and his family, and be happy that I can respond positively when they tell me fun stories about what happens there. 

5) Tonight, I’m actually spending an evening out with some girlfriends, pizza and mojitos, I think.  Wow!  Adult night out!

6) Tomorrow, we are celebrating A’s birthday with his closest friends at a fancy schmancy new restaurant that opened, and we are going to surprise him with an extra special present based on his fascination with sharks.  Another adult night out!!

7) This week end, I can catch up with OITNB series, as well as get some much needed ocean therapy time.

8) Yes, I miss my girls, which in a way makes me somewhat sympathetic with my ex-husband (except the part where he manipulates/accuses/meddles).  I understand the heartache of being separated from my children.  And while I can understand better, I still don’t excuse poorly behaved actions and words.

9) Each day that rolls by is another day closer to when my girls come home.

10) Quiet nights at home with my husband are helping us decompress from the stressors of late and letting us focus on each other. 

And even though I feel the fear and worry creep in, it ebbs and flows, as I learn to let go as much as I can, because I have to.  How many times have I advised other single parents in similar predicaments—there is no control except for what you can do and offer your children.  Yes you are the only one who can advocate for your children, a big responsibility, one which in the end, leaves you in a position where you can only respond and react to what’s right in front of you.  One situation at a time.

So for the moment, I’m doing my best to stay hopeful and positive, to embrace this adult time, to re-charge my batteries for when they come home and my house is filled with their footsteps, laughter, questions, silliness, challenges, demands for attention--all the highs and lows of parenting, once again.