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.