In general, I think the hardest part of life for most of us are our relationships. They are an essential component of what makes us human– in an innumerable amount of positive and negative ways. Feelings, hopes, expectations– they become such a crazy tangle and mess that when you begin to sort them out sometimes it just seems like too much. In the end though these entanglements are the building pieces of what will be your life. It is awful, heart wrenching, beautiful, and wonderful at different moments. Each chapter important in its own way.
That being said, parenting is hard. It is inherently a challenge. Parenting with an Ex makes things more complicated. A hard task can become a harder one. A relationship that ended between you and them must linger simply because you’ve inevitably tied yourself to them by a little person you share. So you endure. And it very hard to find grace some moments. To stay on a higher road. To focus on the relationship between you and your child which is the one that now matters… rather than rehashing what you left behind.
At the end of the day, I’m now only Miss M’s mother. He is only Miss M’s dad. Ex and myself have no ties. No relationship. Not anything except that we share a small, person between us. This is the truth I know. It is truth that almost seven years to her birth, over six years since he moved out, over four years since we’ve divorced, new partners in life, and over $20,00 in legal costs for a divorce, modifications, stipulations, and contempt cases– that my Ex still seems to have not realized.
Every time we disagree… it is just still him and I in a small space in his mind making chess moves, hedging bets, waging small wars, picking each other apart in a effort to ind a chink in the armor. I’ve never found peace in that. I’ve struggled to find grace and a good place when it happens. I’ve learned, with far too much practice, to accept– I can not change what he will do, what he says, or how he reacts to anything. I can only control myself. And so that is what I do.
However, a few weeks ago was hard. He used the one great thing left from our marriage as leverage. He kept Miss M instead of returning her home on an overnight. To prove a point. To make a move. To impress something upon myself. For a host of tiny justifications that don’t actually justify anything. Over the argument of who should drive that day.
And honestly, regardless of who was right and who was wrong, Miss M became leverage. Which has happened before and, sadly, will happen again. Which is the thing that makes my heart ache. She somehow always goes from being a person with feelings, needs, and opinions– to being a bargaining chip.
The week had a frenzy of emails and texts. I lost count of how many times I was referred to as a fucking retard, martyr or control freak. Why that still brings him some sort of peace or sense of validation, I just don’t know… but honestly, I think it makes him seems like an idiot who still at middle age has not grown up. The crux of the dispute was this, he would not be responsible for transporting her both ways on his overnight despite the fact that week was his responsibility. If I didn’t pick her up at the appointment time, I’d be late. I would have to pick her up the next day as he would not be able to tell me where she would be. Which could have been an empty threat meant to bait me, but could also be an actual possibility. I can not control what he chooses to do, only my reaction.
I reacted the best I could. I value my relationship with my daughter so I told her, “Daddy and Mom are having a hard time figuring out when you are coming home Saturday. I asked Dad to drop you off, but he might not be able to. I will pick you up after work around bedtime if he can’t bring you home. I’ll call Daddy when I get there, but have your phone on too, just in case. That way if Daddy doesn’t answer, you’ll know mom is downstairs for you.” Her deep, brown eyes gave me a quizzical look, but she said, “Okay, Mom.” We repeated this off and on for a few days before her visit.
And so she slept overnight and the next day he refused to bring her home. Lots of time consuming texting, reviewing the court orders I made sure to bring with me, trying to work in the middle of it all. For a long time, he wouldn’t tell me where they were. When he did say they were at home, he told me he wouldn’t answer the door if I came that late. There was more that was said, but at the end of the day, all of it was about some level of Ex and me. A thing that no longer exists or matters. Going to pick up our daughter has nothing to do with him or I, about who was right or wrong, about the proper way to interpret an order– It is solely about her and I. About a promise.
And so I went… with a police officer to witness the exchange… to his home at 9 pm in the evening. I didn’t get halfway through an explanation with the man in blue before Ex brought her down as if nothing has happened. I put her in the car with Match and finished up with the officer. The drive home I fielded questions:
“Mom, why was the police there?” “Well, because Daddy and I sometimes fight. And one of the police officer’s many jobs is to make sure people behave themselves. That way Daddy and I won’t fight.” “You needed a police officer?” “Maybe not, but better safe than sorry.” “So, no one is getting arrested.” “No, no one is getting arrested. Sometimes police officers just are there to help.”
So again, I say, parenting is hard. Parenting with an Ex has immeasurable amount of big and small complications. The hardest thing in life are relationships. I can handle all the hard questions in the world, as long as my kid knows at the end of the day, I’ll always come get her. Because that relationship is what survived the flames. It is the one that is proof incredible things come out of dark places.