I have been thinking a lot about how often we come back to the comfort of what we know.
Raising children in general is the most challenging thing many of us will do. It is a heavy responsibility. It is simultaneously the best and most fulfilling experience, but often mentally and physically draining. Long hours, never enough money, and no sick days. It shows you all the different ways you are imperfect as a grown adult. And it shows you the power of being loved as an imperfect, mistake ridden person. Parenthood is hard, but more of often, it just is amazingly wonderful.
Sharing a child with an Ex just adds a level of emotional stress that makes things a little harder.
Lately with Miss M and Blue Eyes, we’ve had our hands full. The term best interest gets thrown around a lot. We all have different ways of thinking what that actually is.
I think my Ex gets it wrong a lot. He thinks I get it wrong a lot. Conflict is a constant in our relationship.
I have mustered up a lot of grace towards this man who I feel is dangerous and irresponsible. I have found the ability to give him the benefit of the doubt when I don’t sense imminent harm will come from the situation to our daughter. I no longer judge that things often are about what’s convenient for him and less so for our daughter.
I let him expound with little push back on issues that concern him:
She won’t eat the same things that the other children in the household eat. This leads to either a power struggle with an oppositional, stubborn eight year old who will starve herself, but complain loudly about it. Or leads to plain pasta for dinner. Both options disrupt the harmony of their life and it is my fault because I’m a terrible parent. I prefer to think of her as an assertive,self confident picky eater. I’m pretty sure like most things… she won’t be that way forever. After much trial and error, within reason, I let her eat what she wants.
She left the house with no socks on. Just her sneakers. I did not check and it was 34 degrees out. He would never do that. At age eight, I no longer feel I need to check for socks. My nagging and advice to put socks on with one’s shoes is wasted 50% of the time. So, I let that battle go. Natural consequences of blisters, stinky shoes, and chilly toes may lead her to a different choice. As they simply were going into a car and driving to a home that I understand to have heat, I did not share his concern. As she returned with all her toes intact and sans frostbite, I felt my lack of shared concern was valid.
He was too sick with a cold and a bunion– which hurts I agree– to take her for a full day visit. He came up late and took her for three hours. On the ten minute ride home, he told her he’d like to marry his girlfriend. As I went outside to meet them, he announced she was upset. Her face was welled up with anger and unspent tears in the back seat. As we started to talk about what was going on, she angrily gathered up her things and stormed into the house in full precursor to her future sixteen year old self. As she was stomping up front stairs her father declared loudly she was being dramatic. And I said equally loud, “Or perhaps she’s just being emotional. Because she’s eight. She’s feels things deeply.” Her lack of enthusiasm was later blamed via text on my shitty living conditions and the fact she doesn’t want more siblings since I’ve procreated more post divorce.
He’s Jewish. His girlfriend is also Roman Catholic. He would like our daughter for Christmas. So her filed for holidays and joint custody and a new visitations schedule. I’m annoyed, but I understand his right to modify the agreement we just made two years ago. And the one we made six months later because the new overnights led to an emergency.
And all of that is fine, because I try to instill in Miss M things she needs for this life of hers. We talk about hard things. She knows how to get help on a dark night two summers ago when he drank too much and because I drilled it into her. She knows when Dad promises to take her somewhere like Great Wolf Lodge, that it would be nice, but may not happen. I explain that while Daddy is trying to teach her a lesson on being responsible and value by asking her to save $500 to Disney, none of her money here will be used for that. Kids shouldn’t pay for a family vacations. Her money is for toys I won’t buy, saving for the dog she wants to show she’s responsible, and for other things like gift shop items when we go someplace. I explain safety rules about his various roommates. She wants to see her Dad at Christmas, but also do all the things we normally do. I’m the one that explains that’s not how it works. She’d have to not do give up some things to spend time with Dad. So more often than not I care about other things. I don’t care about socks, or her disgust at carrots, or if she rocks the boat by her presence at her Dad’s new living arrangements.
I care about preparing her. I care about her spending time with friends. I care about her trying her best in school and being a good person. Grades are great, but I’m happy with her being average as long as she does her best work and a helper. I care about her having a childhood intact.
And last night, a simple call about logistics of an Elf on Thanksgiving night turned into a frenzy of texts. And I walked through the door to conflict when I included him in the decision of what to do. And I walked through the door of his solution being superior to mine because it requires me to do all the work. I went despite my inkling that it would turn out this way.
Right back to the comfort of what I know: arguments that go no where. One day. One day they’ll be wisdom here. One day I’ll find a way to navigate this better. Just today doesn’t seem to be that day.