When I look at my kids I see their dad. When I listen to my kids, I often hear their dad. I am so grateful that I am in love with their dad. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for parents who divorce and have to see their ex every single day in the faces of their children, have to hear their ex every single day in the words and tones of their children. I get that you always love your children no matter what. I get that divorce doesn’t mean you suddenly don’t like the parts of your kids that are the other parent. In fact, I totally get that the most frustrating parts of our kids are the parts that remind us of us. But still.
I had never quite realized how hard that must be until I started thinking recently about how difficult I was as a child. I’m thinking about it because my oldest is so much like me. He’s stubborn and smart and funny and a total pain in the ass. He is excellent at making deals, for example:
- Me: “go to bed”
- Him: “I’m not tired”
- Me: “then lay in bed and talk with Bear”
- Him: “I’m not doing that. I’m just… Come lay with me five minutes”
- Me: “I often come and lay with you five minutes but tonight I’m not going to. Tonight I have things I need to do”
- Him: “okay, dad, come on”
- Dad: “not tonight, buddy, I don’t feel good”
- Me: “look dude, we often come sleep with you five minutes but not tonight. Dad doesn’t feel good and I have things to do”
- Him: “okay, so either you come sleep with me five minutes now or you finish what you’re doing and then come sleep with me five minutes”
- Me: “okay. I will. I’ll finish this and then come sleep with you. It will be at least one hour before I come in there”
- Him: “I’m not tired. I’ll just wait here”
What am I supposed to do with that? I should just get up and go lay with him for five minutes. It wouldn’t kill me to do it, it would make him happy, and soon he’ll be an age where he won’t be asking me to do it anymore and I’ll miss it. It will actually make me sad and I’ll miss it. So why am I fighting it tonight? Because this is how the entire day has gone and now I’m done. I’m exhausted. I have nothing left to give this little guy. And he needs it. He needs and wants some comfort and I’m an asshole for not giving it to him.
Ah hell, I just spent the five minutes. I’m such a pushover. I can’t help it. Just putting it in writing that there will come a day where he won’t need or want that anymore was enough to send me in. It just slays me how quickly he’s growing up. How quickly everything is becoming difficult.
When you have a baby everyone always says ridiculous things like “enjoy it now, cause someday they’ll talk and it’ll be all over.” What a douchebag thing to say. With both my kids I can’t wait til they can feed themselves, crawl and walk and run, use words to tell me what’s wrong and what’s right and what’s what, so I don’t have to guess and schlep and do all the things. I get so excited by each new advancement they make, and so frustrated by the inevitable backslides.
At any rate, I was thinking how it’s already so frustrating to hear myself parroted back to me, or as my girlfriend likes to say, “how do you like arguing with yourself?,” that if I was no longer in love with their father, if I was in fact irritated by their father and now I was arguing with one of the kids and I’m now arguing not only with myself but with their father as well *ARGH* how frustrating would that be?
Did my mom ever feel that way? Does she ever feel that way now?
I hope I never have to find out. I hope my husband and I remain in love forever, that our love and life together changes and grows and still manages to stay together, to grow stronger rather than apart. But there’s also no denying that there’s still a roughly 50% divorce rate in America, and as much as I think my husband and I are exceptional people, we aren’t. We’re regular people. We could just as easily be the divorced as the married.
And while I’d like to think that we’d remain kind and courteous to one another in the event of a split, I also know we’re both very stubborn and very attached to our children. I could easily see us saying “you can have everything” to one another when it comes to the “stuff” and arguing for centuries when it comes to visitation and how much time is enough time. Even if we were able to literally divide visitation exactly in half we would each always feel it wasn’t enough time with the kids.
The thing is this is all coming up because my girlfriend is getting a divorce. When she told me my first thought was “congratulations,” but thank god I actually had my filter on that day and instead I said something nice or asked something important or whatever. I dunno exactly, but I was actually there for her. And I’m still trying to be there for her as much as I can when we don’t live in the same state. I think about her constantly and I know this is literally the best thing that could ever happen to her because she’s so amazing and her soon-to-be-ex is totally worthless and all they ever did together was fight and that’s just not my friend. So the point is, it’s a good thing for her and a good thing for her kids, and it still totally sucks. It’s still this horrible thing you have to go through and your kids have to go through and it totally sucks.
So she’s been watching The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce while the kids are with their dad and she’s folding laundry or pretending to make herself something for dinner that’s more than popcorn and red wine. And I started watching, too. In solidarity. Because that’s one way I can be there for her when I’m not there with her. And damn if this show doesn’t have me thinking all the thoughts.
One of my thoughts is how I was not there for her when she told me she was pregnant. I was in a shit-show situation in my life where I’d just left a relationship of nearly ten years, I was trying to get my feet under me, get my debts paid off, money saved up, buy a house, and I was *gulp* living back home with my parents to do it. I was every stereotype you can imagine. And one of the major reasons for my breakup? I wanted kids and he didn’t. So here was one of my very best girlfriends of (at the time) sixteen or seventeen years, telling me she was pregnant. Oh, and the guy wasn’t sticking around. So she kind of fucking needed me. And where was I? I was at the bottom of the second bottle of beer by the time five minutes had passed in the conversation and I was starting a third. Where was I? I was wallowing in self-pity because she was pregnant and I wasn’t. I wasn’t thinking she might be scared or she might be needing someone to come up and be with her for a few days. Nope. I was drinking heavily and wishing I was her.
That was a very low and very regretful moment in my life. Since then I have not had an opportunity to be there for her. She hasn’t needed me, and that’s wonderful for everyone, because it means she’s living a pretty great life. We see each other once every few years, we write actual letters (like the kind you send in the mail on paper and stuff), and we text or online chat. We stay in touch as much as you can when you live in different states. So now, when she needs me, I want to actually physically be there. But that’s not what she needs. The next best thing I can do: text her every few days, send a card every few days, and when she says she’s watching a show, I can watch it with her even if I’m not with her.
I had given up on having kids by the time I had them. I’d done some questionable things and never gotten pregnant nor had a legitimate pregnancy scare. It was pretty obvious that I could not get pregnant. I had gone from a point in my life where I was ready to buy from a sperm bank or adopt from an agency to a point in my life where I was ready to sleep with a guy who would sign paperwork first stating the baby would be mine to a point in my life where I was trying desperately to make peace with the fact that it simply wasn’t in the cards for me. I thought I was doing pretty good at making peace, but really I was just drinking.
I got pregnant with a man I’d only known for about a year and only been hanging out with for a few months. We’d gone from being people who knew of each other, to being people who knew each other, to being people who wanted to know each other better, to pregnant. Besides that initial moment of seeing a positive pregnancy test and smiling so big my face might split open and having my heart race and thrill and wanting to dance a million steps, there was the moment of “oh shit. He’s going to think I tricked him.” Because I’d all but told him there was absolutely no way I could get pregnant. I think my words were “I’m 95% sure I can’t get pregnant.” I went from being thrilled to being thrilled and terrified. I never want to be that girl that swindles the guy into being with her.
So I told him straight out I was pregnant and that I wanted to keep it and that I completely understood if that wasn’t what he’d signed up for. Lucky for me it was exactly what he’d signed up for, exactly what he’d hoped for, exactly what he wanted. Not only did we get to be stuck together but we got to be saddled with a kid. It was heaven. And luckily it’s remained so. If anything it just keeps getting better. So when it’s good like this, you can’t really imagine it being bad. You can’t really imagine what it must be like to have it be over.
We have all these relationships with people and we leave and we maybe have a memento or two to remember them and we maybe lose one of them when we move or we maybe purposely dispose of them when we move on, but the point is that in all our relationships we aren’t forced to be in the same room with our ex once we’ve moved on. We aren’t forced to hold conversations with them, or love them, or tuck them in to bed at night. Unless we had kids with them.
I guess I just don’t really know how to get my head around that.
There’s this wonderful idea when you’re still in love and still together that if anything horrible ever happens to either of you you’ll have the kids to remember the other person by. Or if something horrible happens to both of you your families will have your kids to remember you by. It’s this sort of silver lining to a horrible situation thing. So what’s the silver lining when you get divorced and now you have your mini-ex driving you absolutely batshit crazy because you love them SO much and they also remind you SO much of a person you are trying not to love anymore.
Or maybe you always love the person you had children with. No matter what. Because they gave you a gift that no one else has ever given you, could ever give you. Maybe you love them forever and that’s okay because you’re not in-love with them anymore, and you’re able to emotionally move on to a place of romantic love with someone else, so it’s not like you’re stilted, and maybe the kids help you stay in that place where you can be amiable with them, you can continue to love them and not want to be with them. Maybe that’s actually a wonderful thing. And if so, why isn’t it more prevalent? Why aren’t there more amicable divorces? Or maybe there are and we just don’t hear about them because what’s there to say when there’s no drama?
Huh. I don’t know. Obviously. But I wonder. I wonder if I’ll ever ask my mom. I wonder if I’ll ever ask my friend. I wonder if I’ll ever have to find out for myself. And I hope not.
~~~That’s one hour~~~