Constant vigilance, or how holding the line can make you cry.
I’m sitting here shaking a little bit inside. It’s a familiar feeling, one that comes after I’ve stood up for myself and the girls, and even though I’ve done it with the recommendation of my attorney and support of my therapist, and attorney friends (see how badly I need validation?), I am still shaking, tears welling up.
I think it might be plain weariness at the effort, consideration, second-guessing, worrying. At how every decision, every conversation transforms into a battle of wills. How a random act of kindness is rewarded by email bombardments, disguised as “business of parenting” transactions, but demonstrations to needle and pick at my bones.
Yesterday, my darling, wonderful, loving, sweet, smart DD1 was honored at her school assembly—she received a “citizenship medal.” I remember when she brought home the invitation a couple of weeks ago, she’d run into the living room to get her homework out, and then leaped into the kitchen and yelled, “Surprise, mommy!” proudly holding out the announcement and proceeding to tell me that she was going to be awarded a medal. I was so happy at her infectious happiness (and of course mommy proud to boot), and dutifully informed her father about it via email, the date/time, etc.
The morning of the assembly came and being the early bird that I am, I was gathered outside the cafeteria doors with other proud parents, waiting to be let inside, and miraculously getting a front row seat. Okay, I admit it, I dropped off DD2 at preschool and raced back to get there an hour early so I could hang out and get a good seat. One by one the students rolled in and sat in organized heaps by grade level, and I had the awesome luck to have DD1 just two rows ahead of me. When she was called to the stage, she leapt up like a little firecracker, grinning proudly, and stood patiently as all the other awardees were called, and smiled for the cameras that ensued. Afterwards, DD1’s teacher came up to me to hold DD1’s certificate and offered to take our picture; my seatmate (DD1’s BFF’s dad) offered to take a picture of the “three of us.” I thought he had meant the “three” of us including DD1’s dad, who appeared, but I realized later, he meant the teacher, DD1, and me. At any rate, I invited dad to be in the picture with our sweetheart daughter and teacher and later texted him the photo—and while I later realized my bumbling mistake with DD1’s BFF’s dad, I accepted it and was glad it happened, because I know one day DD1 will look back and want photos of herself and her parents, at least that’s what I’ve been told by other adults who lived with divorced parents. (In fact, I wish I had some of my own when I was a kid, some remnant of me and my divorced parents together, now that I think about it.)
The backdrop to all of this is the emotional manipulation that I’ve been describing about dad ‘feeling sad,’ and DD1 especially worrying about him and wanting to “make him feel better.” Also speeding along in the background is his strategic request for summer vacation, which ends up exceeding the time frame allotted by the decree and ends in a turn-around that delivers them again to his house for a long week end due to the holiday, with barely a transition in between. While not completely egregious, I recognize the manipulation, the push of the boundaries, and after consultation with my attorney and co-parenting mediator, attempted a conversation about possible changes to the schedule. Which of course was met with accusations rather than reflections, with ‘it’s not fair you have more time and I don’t,” kind of thinking. Our children are small, they are not even tweens, and at this point, I think it’s best to ensure they have a smooth transition between the long term visits at his house. In fact, the latest and greatest advice my attorney had given to me was—that family has a crazy dynamic (high conflict amongst themselves), so if you can minimize the time the children are exposed to it, the better. And I know from experience that was very good advice to give.
So after careful consideration, I drafted a second response, which I’m sure will be met with the same dismissal and rebuke, and the only reason I put it out there is to have my concerns in writing. Because at the end of the day, I have to decide which battle to fight. I have to save my strength for another nitpicking battle that he has started, one that will protect my boundaries and privacy and will be coming up soon. So when he responds in the negative, again (dare I hope he won’t?), I will focus on that next conversation.
I’m weary and tired. I’m afraid he will change the ground and disturb the landscape into a mini earthquake. I know I should be glad he can’t do that in my own home, but he certainly does everything he can to do it as close as possible, which is why I’m spending time to write this down now. To get out my fears and worries and hope for the best. To brace myself and let it go at the same time, so I can enjoy my time with my sweetheart precious daughters and put the stress and worries here, instead of holding them in my heart, for a little while.