Friday, January 29, 2016

January Wind

January 29, 2016

The end of January and I’m dealing with stuff.  Last year it was more of a red alert situation, with DD2’s schooling on the horizon and past payments that were due.  

Here’s some Level 5 crap happening this week—I took the girls to DD2’s gymnastics (she attends with her BFF), and some parents and I were talking about how our girls tell us they don’t want to go to gymnastics in the morning, but when they get here, they have a blast.  DD1 who was “reading” her book but clearly listening, piped up, saying, “I know why DD2 says that mom.”  And I said “why?” And she said, “Because daddy tells her if she doesn’t like gymnastics, she doesn’t have to go.”  Me:  …

Luckily, my friend (DD2’s BFF’s mom) piped up and said, “Oh honey, DD2 LOVES gymnastics, see?” pointing at all the giggling girls bouncing on a trampoline.  DD1 answered, uh huh, and resumed reading her book.

Le sigh.  I know this type of thinking is what caused DD1 to quit dance last November.  After her dance exams (which she sailed through), DD1’s dance class schedule changed, meaning that her dad would have to take her every other Saturday.  Immediately, DD1 said, “I don’t want dad to have to take me to dance.” And that was that.  Having already worked around their dad’s resistance over a year before that, I decided to let DD1 take a break, pursue her interest in tennis, and leave it alone.  Having a big fight about dance with the Ex would only make DD1 feel more torn apart and guilty about “dad’s time” being spent on a “mom activity” (to which I responded, darling these are YOUR activities, not mom’s or dad’s…etc.etc.).

So after a month went by, DD1’s dance instructor contacted me, saying that DD1 is a lovely dancer, would she be interested in coming back?  To which I passed along to DD1 over the holidays and she said she’d think about it.  Then just this week, when I asked DD1 how she’d like me to respond to her dance instructor, DD1 said she’d like to try it—to see if she liked it again.  As long as it was on a Mom saturday.  So…back to dance class we go, as long as it’s only on a MOM day.  I decided I won’t push it, just take her, if she likes it great, if not, fine.

The thing is—if DD1 had two left feet, no problem, let’s leave dance behind.  But her teachers have consistently responded that DD1 is lovely, has talent, she has a great time in class with her peers, etc etc, so if there is something there…I’d like to support her in it.  We shall see.  It’s sweet of the dance studio to accommodate our schedule like this.  

It’s crappy that he makes the girls feel bad about doing activities on the week end, because it takes away from his time.

At any rate—over my lunch break from work, I met up with a good friend whose parents divorced when she was little…she always asks me how my girls are doing.  And after hearing about this latest, she asked me, when was this divorce again?  Well, he moved out in 2011.  
She said, oh my goodness, you’d think this all went down 6 months ago, and he’s still behaving like this?  Goodness it’s been over four years!? 

Me:  Yep.

It’s a marathon, not a race.  (p.s. I hate running—hats off to all those runners out there, to which I have the utmost respect, but running is not for me.)  

I checked in with the play therapist about the gymnastics baloney—she said all little kids say stuff like that, it’s about the transition from doing what they’re doing to another place altogether, not about the activity itself.  She said at some point DD1 especially will get fed up with dad’s expectations, and in the meantime, keep the communication channels open and help them cope and figure out how to stand up for themselves.  

Ok.  Will do.  Keep hoping, trying, and doing the best we can.    

Friday, January 22, 2016

Level 5

Image credit: <here>

So lately, I’ve been cruising on level 5 with coparenting issues with the ex, and I’ll take it.  (On a scale from 1 to 10).

So what is it a five, asked the co-parenting counselor.  A five is not a ten—but here’s the five-level things that I’ve been contending with of late (besides annoying phone call crap).

Prior to the holidays, DD1’s school sent home announcements to all parents that on a dad Friday, school was closing early, 11:00am, and absolutely no late pick-ups were allowed.  The week before, as a courtesy, I forwarded one of the newsletters to dad as an FYI, pick up 11:00am.  To which I received a blustery email—of COURSE he knew and he had made arrangements, la la la.

That said Friday, guess who is calling me at 11:15am, because DD2 is the last one there, and dad isn’t picking up his phone?  Yep.  It’s funny now, but at the time, I scrambled to call grandma, no answer.  I called dad, who picked up the phone, then hung it up without speaking.  I call grandma again, no answer.  I call the school, DD2 is still there—to which I apologize profusely, say I’ll keep trying, and if I can’t find someone, I’ll come and get DD2.  So, I call dad back and he answers…hello?  And I say, I’m so sorry to bother you, but the school is calling, DD2 hasn’t been picked up, did you make arrangements?  Of course I made special arrangements.  Well…is it grandma?  Yes, it’s grandma, she should be there already.  Well…do you want to call the school?  Of course I’ll call the school.  Right.  So…12:15pm, the school calls me and finally, DD2 is picked up.  Great.

The co-parenting counselor chastised me and let me know 1) I do not offer to pick up DD2, that’s dad’s day, and he screwed up, he needs to fix it.  2) I do not say I’m sorry,and 3) be sure the school calls dad, not me (to which I explained they did call him, but he hadn’t piced up).
Next, DD2 had a little meltdown on a dad week end at gymnastics—she refused to participate that day.  To which I got an email questioning DD2’s continued participation in gymnastics.  He said that DD2 didn’t participate, and that he talked to the coaches and said that was par for the course, and he wanted to double check.  Okay, so…dad has been taking DD2 to gymnastics every other week since last fall.  Fortunately, DD2’s BFF also attends gymnastics, and her mom and I are BFFs, so she sends me pictures of the girls in gymnastics.  Therefore, dad has been there many Saturdays to see all the times that DD2 does participate.  Granted, DD2’s participation is greatly energized when her BFF is there.  

So…I responded with pictures of the next gymnastics class with DD2 bouncing along a trampoline and somersaulting over horizontal bars and responded that DD2 is more enthusiastic about participating when her BFF is there.  To which I received a response that he had not requested “evidence” of participation.  Whatever.

Lastly, on the phone call last night to their dad, DD1 was getting visibly upset, so much so that at dinner she vented, “I’m annoyed with everything right now!” (granted, DD2 was annoying her, and DD1 is definitely in pre-adolescence, so the whole world annoys her).  When I asked her what was bothering her, she said that during her phone call with dad, he kept questioning her because she was annoyed, and didn’t believe her when she said she was annoyed at her little sister.  She started to cry.  I think part of it was being tired (we get up at the crack of dawn), being hungry (we had just sat down to dinner), pre-adolescence (everything under the sun is annoying), and also, to be honest, my Ex is a pain in the a$$.  

So we had a nice talk about how it’s okay to have our feelings, and it’s hard, and annoying when dad assumes things that aren’t true.  And that dad has his limits with understanding things sometimes—that doesn’t mean he’s a bad person (to which she seemed relieved)—but that she’s not responsible for making him understand, if she’s already explained how she feels.  At least, that was the gist of the conversation.  I think she got it…she cheered up immensely and started talking about rice krispie treats.

So…yes, we’re cruising at a five.  Wish it was at 1, thankful it’s not 10.  I’m thankful also that DD1 still talks to me even when she’s annoyed, and I pray that I can always be there for her as the non-judgmental one where she can vent and be supported.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dinner time

Image credit <here>

At our last play therapy visit, in the midst of playing dress up and cashier and musical instruments, I brought up our new plan on how to handle the phone calls—with the girls getting text messages back from me instead of talking.  DD1 expressed that she liked the system, and when the therapist asked her if she thought it could work with their dad, she immediately said, “no!”  As to why? “Because daddy doesn’t like to do what mommy does.”   

(I suppose that could be a post all in it of itself!) 

So then the therapist asked DD1 about how DD1 handles phone calls with her dad, and DD1 said that she likes talking to him, most of the time, but sometimes, he talks too long.  So then DD1 said she asks for it to be a “short call.” And when the play therapist wondered how that went, DD1 said he keeps talking, and when the play therapist asked her how does that make DD1 feel, she said, “it’s annoying!” Then DD1 said she wasn’t comfortable talking about it—I got the sense that she thought she was saying something bad or wrong about her dad. 

And the play therapist smoothly said, well, you know, I know sometimes we don’t feel comfortable talking about things, and it’s good to know that talking is a way to solve a problem.…and then the girls resumed playing in their play therapy (this time “cooking” for us and serving us appetizers, lunch, and dessert).  I ended up having plastic lettuce and shrimp salad, and it was most delicious. 

So…when the girls came home yesterday, they said that dad didn't show them my text message after they had called me on Tuesday.   DD1 immediately jumped in to defend dad, saying they were too busy, and i told her, well it's not her job to worry about it, and i just showed her the timing that's on my phone, that they called and left a message, and minutes later, i had sent the text with the hearts and stuff.  and she said "it's not dad's fault!" and was really upset, and gave me her DD1 evil glare (so not looking forward to the teenage years,lol).   ugh, i wish i could think of a better way to talk about it.  I did wonder aloud why she was mad at me, but i didn't pursue it.  I figure she feels like she can get mad at me more than she can get mad at him?

We ended up having a nice dinner, DD1 decided she wanted to sing the unicorn song (she's reading shel silverstein's where the sidewalk ends and working with her friends in a speech contest) and the girls were in good spirits all night.  Hardly arguing!  ha ha ha.  I even made hot chocolate for dessert and we cuddled with our dog and watched some American Idol auditions.   All in all, very sweet.

But!  wonders will never cease, so before dinner, the girls called their dad yesterday, left a voicemail (and by the way, i heard DD1 repeating, 'please be voicemail, please be voicemail'--honestly i think she and DD2 just want to get on with their evening and not be bothered with making phone calls to either of us!) and we didn't hear back until after they went to bed--and guess what, he left a text message!   wow!  so i showed it to them this morning before school and they didn’t bat an eye.  Maybe progress with him?  We shall see! 

As for why this post is called dinnertime—after singing along to the Unicorn song that I found on youtube, with DD1 following the lyrics  from her book, and DD2 giggling while finishing her broccoli, then DD1 asked me to find some of her Christmas songfest songs that she’s sung in the past—Frosty Hand  Jive, and I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.  She then proceeded to stand by the table, and do all of the hand and body motions that she did when she performed these songs at school, singing loudly and proudly.

Seriously?  My heart about swooned out of my chest.  

Then, we heard the door opening (hubby had to work late yesterday), and the girls went running to greet him with hugs and hellos, and DD1 happily proclaimed that she helped fold all the laundry, including mine and his (which was true—and a nice benefit to having a fourth grader in the house).  

So…I’m taking a moment to treasure, embrace, meditate on these sweet moments.  Small gestures, yes, but worth so much to my heart and mind.  Just another nice dinner and I don’t take it for granted.  Hugs. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Happy new year--my humble beginning

The girls are home after their winter break visitation with dad.  I’m humbled by some things and if I’m going to strive to “be better” in 2016, I need to own up to my human weaknesses, a.k.a. parts of me that suck.

1)     I know I’ve espoused that I have to take the high road for my girls, but sometimes I’m really pissed off about that. 
2)     It sucks to “lose” a battle in an effort to win the war, when I don’t want to be fighting in the first f@!#$ing place. (The “war” being actually the goal of helping the girls grow up with minimal damage from parental conflict; to feeling loved without guilt, to being able to express their feelings without being burdened by bull!@$#)
3)     Some days, I’m so very good at not letting my ex’s manipulation and shittiness get to me, but other days, I’m so very crappy at it, and that pisses me off too.
4)     I feel guilty that I can’t be there all the time for my kids—and being there, meaning that I can’t be “present” in my mind as mentioned in number 1.  I get it together in “actions” for the girls sake (never saying shitty things about their dad) but in my heart and spirit and mind, I struggle with this !@#$.  Sometimes I’m so worried about what he will say or do in response to something, if he’ll take it out on the girls, and I just need to STOP letting it take up so much space in my head.  Grr.

I hate that with the stupid phone call bull!@#$, I’ve acquiesced to just letting their calls go to my voicemail when they’re visiting with dad.  Because it breaks my heart to hear them ask, ‘can this be a short call?’ because the t.v.’s blaring or I can hear him in the background, and even if he’s not overtly telling them to get off the phone, I know they can feel that they should.  Hence asking to cut our conversations short.

I hate that he’s there listening and it swells his heart to see the girls “don’t want to talk” to mom—in the sense that he created this situation, and now he’s reaping the reward, because I can’t stand hearing them stress out.  So with the help of the play therapist, I’m making a change.  The girls and I talked about letting the phone go to voicemail, then I text a response.  That way they can still hear from me, but they both said it’s easier for them.  We now have a special word the girls can use on their voicemail if they feel they really need to talk to me.  (But honestly, the time is short, why would they need to talk to me?  It’s not like I disappear because they don’t see me…and maybe I should be happy that they get that).

The phone calls are for the girls, not for ME, not for HIM.  We’ve talked about that, too.  I even say, “who are the phone calls for?”  And they holler “us!” and that makes me giggle.  

And because of number f@#!-ing 1, I always carve out time for the girls to talk to their dad.  Every damn night.  And he’s programmed them to ask him, “how was YOUR day?”  And every now and again, they’ll call and get voicemail, and they’ll say “Yes!” because they’re relieved (happy?) they don’t have to talk to him for a bit, because they’re busy doing their thing, being a kid, not feeling guilty about not being with him.  And they know, at the end of the day, that it doesn’t matter, a five minute phone call doesn’t mean they love their dad more or less.

Over the break, DD1 was on the phone with her dad, and a neighbor stopped by to drop off some holiday goodies, fresh baked, straight out of her oven, delicious!  The dog was barking, DD2 was giving our neighbor a hug, I hollered into the house for DD1 to come to the door, just say hi and thank you, and she could go back to her call.  

Do you think he let her do that?  Nope, DD1 was upset, angry, came to the door and shrugged and said hi in a frustrated tone, and returned back to the couch to finish her call.  Do you think he gave her the benefit of the doubt?  No, he peppered her with questions, so many questions, that when she was off the phone, DD1 told me, “I’m sorry, mom” still in her frustrated voice.  “But it’s so stressful, G is barking, you’re telling me to come to the door, dad’s asking me a million questions.”

I responded that I was sorry—that it’s okay to say “can you hang on for a second? I just want to say hi,” and then go back to the phone.

DD1 repeated that dad is always asking her a million questions and it’s just stressful.  I responded that I was sorry that dad made it stressful for her, and it’s okay to have her feelings, and I wished I could change that situation for her.  UGH.  Damn being neutral all the !@#$ time.

I guess I’m just sick and tired of his NEED for the girls to PROVE they love him all the damn time.  When the girls ask if they can get off the phone or can it be a short call with him, he dawdles and strings them along for a few more minutes, because it’s another way for him to fill his need to be loved by them.  I’m so sick of this shit.  Rawr.

And yes, I agree with all the tenets about coparenting, that the kids deserve to have a relationship with and love both parents.  I’m just sick and tired of the CRAP that comes with it.  Rawr.  

The children’s play therapist once told me that this is the price I pay, so to speak, because of my full physical custody situation.  So, I guess I keep paying it.  Some days I’m really good at seeing the big picture, and other days, so not.  

I keep telling myself it will get easier when the girls are older, less vulnerable, more able to speak their minds.  I hope so.  I hope I can raise them to see that they can express themselves and are not responsible for taking care of their dad (or men in general).

And...I hope I can be better at being more patient and forgiving of the Ex...and myself.