Well, it’s been a little too quiet on the coparenting front, so of course a bunch of drama blew up over the week end.
First: DD1’s brownie troop marched in our little town’s Christmas parade on dad’s week end, but guess who ignored the RSVP request for weeks and then finally said no, because DD1 was “too sick” after seeing her for one day? Context: over the Thanksgiving holiday, we all came down with the plague. It was nasty, there were fevers, there were antibiotics, but by Monday, all returned to school in good spirits and with good energy; DD1 went to dad’s on Tuesday, coughing, but no fever. In fact, both girls were at school the entire week. DD1 was so excited about the parade because her BFFs were marching. He had up to Saturday morning to change his mind, but guess what DD1 told me on Friday night over the phone: “I’m not marching in the parade, because daddy loves me too much to let me get hurt.”
All I could say was, “gosh, DD1, did you get hurt last year?” She answered no. So I just told her I hoped she felt better, because there was nothing else I could do at that point.
p.s. guess who called from dinner out at busy restaurant Saturday evening, sounding all chipper and fine? Yes, DD1. The Ex wrote in the parenting notebook that she didn’t march because she was “too sick.” Right.
Second: On 11/19 and 11/26 I contacted the Ex about a potential birthday party this past Sunday, we’d been personally invited. I had already owed him 4 hours of time for taking the girls to the school fun fair (he took them the last two years, coparenting counselor said it’s fine to let me take them this year). So prior to finding out about the birthday party, I had offered make up time over the winter break, to minimize the “back and forth” which is so hard on the girls, especially DD2. He could just keep them for the day on 12/26/2014, since they would be there Christmas overnight anyway, and out of holiday generosity, I offered the entire day.
Well, then I found out about the birthday party, and I ran my proposal by the coparenting counselor—if she thought I could add the party, plus travel time, 3 hours to the 12/26 time. School fair make up time (4) plus party time equals 7 hours, so he would still come out ahead. Coparenting counselor said she’d talk to him about it, as it was “a good deal.” However, guess who missed his appointment with the coparenting counselor?
So cut to 12/1 follow-up. Then 12/4 follow-up. No response. I’m texting my girlfriend back and forth, who unfortunately went through similar co-parenting nightmares with her hubby, when her stepdaughter was young (who is now in college), and because of this is so understanding about the entire situation.
I get an email at 1:18am the day before the party that I can take the girls, meet up at 1:30pm, but demanding “overtime” on 12/26 if we exceed the party of time of 2 hours. I respond, thank you so much meet you at 1:30pm. I do not respond to the demand, since there are three weeks to go and wanted to work it out with the co-parenting counselor, the most important part is that he’s letting the kids go.
I get to the meeting spot 10 minutes early, and text him to let him know. Because it’s holiday shopping time, the parking lot is a mess. I get texts demanding that I agree to overtime or he will not bring the children. I respond with the formula as explained above. He tells me he refuses to bring them unless I agree to his demand. I ask him that I shared my thoughts and since we disagree, let’s work it out with our co-parenting counselor, but not to keep the children from the party. He refuses to bring them because, “I don’t want u to think you can have the kids all day.” I respond that it’s not about me, but about letting the kids enjoy the birthday party, and that we are already late, and I would bring them home promptly at 4pm.
He accuses me that he’s late because I won’t respond to the overtime. I again ask him to please continue the discussion with our coparenting counselor. He refuses, he wants more time above and beyond the 2 hours of the party.
I finally respond: travel time plus party time equals 3 hours. If we exceed 3 hours we can add the time to 12/26, and you will still have an extra hour.
I sit in the parking lot with no response, wondering if he will show up, trying not to cry. Couldn’t we have had this conversation on 11/19, 11/26, 12/1 or 12/4? I call my attorney to find out if there’s anything else I can do. Nope, just wait for a half an hour and hope he shows up.
He finally shows up. I load the kids up and we head to the party, and after we’re on the road:
DD1 says: Sorry we’re late mom, daddy said he had to have a discussion with you.
Me: oh really? Well, you know, I’m sorry about you worrying about discussions between mommy and daddy. It’s not your job to worry about that, we’re taking care of it.
DD1: Well, daddy is upset because we’re going to a party on his time.
Me: Oh dear, well, try not to worry about that, sweetie, because over the Christmas break, you’re going to have a lot of time and even make up time for this party with dad. So right now all we have to do is go have fun at the party!
DD1 (& DD2): Okay!
Me: Anyway, it’s not your job to worry about time with mom or time with dad. It’s up to mom and dad to figure it out and we will.
DD2 decided to chime in: And it’s A’s job, too! (A, being my hubby and their stepdad)
Me: Well honey, actually it’s not A’s job, his job is just to love you guys and me! When it comes to time, it’s up to mommy and daddy and we will take care of it.
Both girls: Okay!
(thanking myself they are distracted by hot chocolates that I got for them prior to pick up.)
We finally arrive to the party after a half an hour drive through the country, winding roads, passing horses stabled near a polo field, plenty of time to calm down after the heated ‘transfer.” It’s so relaxing at this party at my good friend’s house, snacks galore, frozen decorations everywhere, watching the girls have a ball, playing games, making crafts, snowflakes out of felt. Yes, it’s worth the drama, even though I’m watching the clock and making sure we leave as soon as the cake is eaten. It was great to see DD2 with her BFFs scampering around the yard, giggling at the top of her lungs, and for DD1 to be the proud “big sister,” and hanging out with the older kids, too. There were glitter tattoos and princess hairdos and crowns atop the hairdos, and cute pictures, all smiles. The moms and I hung out and relaxed, and I reconnected with a mom who I hadn’t seen in a long time, who turned out to have gone through the nastiness of divorce at the same time as I did. Funny how we just don’t talk about these things, until…we do.
Anyway, as with all birthday parties, the cake time was a little off, and we do end up leaving before the festivities are due to end. My close friend the hostess offered to call Exie and let him know the party was running late, but I told her no need, it would only invite more vitriol, which she completely understood, and she lovingly sent us along our way. DD1 was sad we couldn’t play longer, but I explained that it was time to go back to dad’s and that was the arrangement, and we had to follow through.
After packing up and heading back through the country and explaining again why we couldn’t stay to play “pin the carrot on Olaf’s nose”:
DD1: I wish you guys weren’t divorced.
Me: I know honey. And you know, lots of kids in this world feel just the same as you do.
DD1: Really? (hopeful rings in her tone, I can feel the door opening in her heart)
Me: Yep. And you know R’s and T’s mom? (the mom I reconnected with at the party with baby sister T, DD2’s classmate; and R and DD1 were inseparable back in the preschool days)
Me: Well, they’re divorced too, and so they go back and forth between their mommy’s and daddy’s house, just like us.
DD1: Really? (sounding comforted—not that I would ever wish divorce crap on anyone, but it’s nice to know we’re not alone, and I think that’s what her voice reflected.)
Me: Yep, and you know honey, being divorced, sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s easy, but no matter what, it will be okay. We will always take care of you. You are always loved. (inner kick to myself, since I can’t really make promises about dad, but at least I can stay upbeat.)
DD1: Okay, mommy.
Me: By the way, I know it’s hard, but it’s not your job to worry about mommy’s or daddy’s time. It will all work out and I made sure you will have extra time at dad’s this Christmas. Your job is to do good at school and play with your friends and play and learn.
DD2: And love everyone!
Sometimes I marvel at DD2’s ability to stay in the moment. She cries when we transition from dad to mom, but after a few minutes, she is bubbly again-- drinking hot chocolate or coloring and all is well. How does she do it? My DD1 is older, more thoughtful, constantly taking everything in.
The girls came home from school yesterday, after their week end with dad, and I don’t know, it almost seemed they were relieved. We had a grand night giggling and eating supper and cleaning up and signing holiday cards. A had to work late, but he finally came home right before bed time, and both girls were so happy to see him. DD2 said: I love you so much, A! and then asked him to carry her. Then she said: I don’t like you A, I LOVE you!!
My heart just about melted into a pile of goo. And DD1 also hugged A and everyone cuddled a bit before bed time. *swoon*
At any rate, when I was standing in the parking lot, not knowing if exie would show up for this birthday party that I had emailed him about weeks ago, I made another appointment with our attorney. I don’t know what to do about this Ex, but I want to feel confident in the choices we make going forward. I don’t want the girls to be pulled into the conflict, but he pulls them in. He likes to pretend he is dad of the year, and when he is on “good” behavior, that is “good” for the girls. He is also vindictive, manipulative, passive aggressive. The tit-for-tat game, only he stacks it 5 against 1 if he can.
The thing is, I don’t tit for tat, I don’t play the game. So what have I learned from the latest drama? If it was all logical black and white, game playing it would be: 1) don’t offer exceeded time sharing, in the spirit of the holidays, EVER. 2) stick to the very word of the decree and don’t vary one letter, EVER. 3) refuse flexibility in the future should the opportunity arise, no matter what, because the drama is not worth it.
Well, I do agree with maintaining firm boundaries, but parenting, and life, needs some flexibility. So, I’m reporting his behavior to the people involved with my case, but I’m not going to let it ruin the birthday party, or ruin my day or my choices. Yes, he is frustrating and such a pain in the rear. But he doesn’t hold the keys to my happiness. And it’s my duty to protect my girls’ happiness, too.
So the real lesson learned: Vigilance can never end. Love up my girls. Let them have their feelings. Pick and choose my battles in the future with the Exie. Figure out how to work around his craziness so it affects us the least.
Over the next couple of months *knock on wood* life will march on with a normal schedule. No special requests for exchanges, so let’s hope everything returns to the quiet front.
In the meantime, I will focus on: decorating our tree together and the loveliness of busting out all their hand-made decorations, the girls helping me wrap presents and bake for their teachers and neighbors, singing Christmas carols, being there when the girls ask questions or need a hug, baking cookies for Santa next week end, hosting some friends for dinner. Loving up my girls and my hubby and being so thankful that we have each other, today and every day.