Meditation on Father’s Day

Once upon a time, things were going very badly in our home—lots of anger explosions and Exie breaking items and toys and pet abuse and pushing and shoving and kicking the children and yelling and swearing at all of us and death threats and apologies and then the cycle would repeat and on and on and on. 

I never thought I’d be able to find a new way to live, to show my girls a better way to love, that we could construct a new home and life without violence full of hope instead of fear.  Until we did (therapy and measured work on healing notwithstanding!).  And it is wonderful and joyous and liberating and loving.  And at the same time, filled with new frustration and stress because Exie continues to manipulate and emotionally pressure and meddle with the children, and we have to figure out how to be the stable ones, the ones to allow our girls, especially DD1, to have the space they  need to sort it all out.  To learn that loving A doesn’t mean they love their dad less, that by having fun and joyous times at our house, doesn’t mean they are betraying Exie, that they have room in their hearts for ALL the people they love.

This is a difficult journey for A, who has never been a parent before, who loves our girls, and I say “our” because he has opened his heart to them completely and lovingly.  He looks forward to seeing them every day, he thinks of ways to create special step-dad bonds, loves to surprise them with special treats, is part of our daily parenting grind routine that every parent knows—the trenches.  In sum, he wants to be a presence in their lives that will be strong and loving and kind, a counterbalance of what went on in our life before.  And I love him and get teary-eyed just thinking about it.  Of our future together for the long haul, or just ruminating on our big family trip that’s coming up next month, where we will have two and half weeks of uninterrupted family time together, traveling on “the big plane” to our families and beyond.

 

It’s natural that A struggles when DD1 is conflicted and shows her conflict through obstinance or prissiness for lack of a better word.  He’s hurt when we are going out to dinner and because we’re going to a place that he picked, suddenly DD1 wants nothing to do with him, no holding hands in the parking lot, no tic-tac-toe like they normally play before dinner arrives at the table.  And it’s a struggle to pick the battle—is this plain elementary schooler showing early onset tween rebelliousness?  Or is it a sign of inner conflict because of dad?  Considering all the emotional pressuring that’s gone on lately about the phone calls and “daddy being sad” and “daddy doesn’t want to disappear,” I’m betting the latter, and confirmed it in a revealing conversation in the bathroom of said restaurant.  Because by the time dinner arrived, everyone was laughing and eating and prissiness had evaporated.  Until I mistakenly said something (out of divorce poison, where you set markers on positive experiences), “It’s nice having fun out at this restaurant, right?” which I think reminded DD1 why she was upset in the first place.  (Awk, parenting fail.)

Keep in mind, earlier that day, the girls were excited about the presents we had for A, about going out, and they both created cards and DD1 made a loom band bracelet for A, to replace the one he’d broken from wearing it every day.  I sensed no reluctance in any of that, especially with DD2, because she is happy and bubbly and oblivious to the unfortunate “battle” that Exie is determined to wage.  Had I thought DD1 did not want to participate, I wouldn’t have pushed her, and she seemed fine with all the fun and plans.

So when we were in the bathroom in the restaurant, I asked DD1 what was going on and to tell me if she was having a hard time.  To which she responded, “sometimes I feel uncomfortable around A.”  And I said, oh darling, it’s okay to have your feelings, can you tell me more about this?  And then I had a mommy ESP moment, from all the things that the play therapist had told me about DD1 wanting to take care of her dad, of her worrying that he is sad, etc.  coupled with her sudden resistance about going to a restaurant where we had recently spent an entire night eating and laughing.  So I offered, “Is it because you’re afraid if you have fun with us, it means you don’t love daddy as much?”  And DD1 gave me a huge hug, out of relief, and said, “that’s exactly it, mommy.”

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