The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Better Than a Basket Full of Chocolate Bunnies

Some people go months, or years, or even lifetimes, waiting for confirmation. Waiting for validation on life choices that may never come. But, well, today, I got some of that. Not that my other Easter presents weren't wonderful, but that was by far the best.

A nice day, other than the sporadic showers outside. As Highlander and [Kid 2] are busy playing on the x-box, [Kid 3] is working her way through a pack of Peeps, while watching THE WIZARD OF OZ (not particularly seasonal...though it IS tornado season here...but she wanted to watch it), and [Kid 1] just left, with her significant other, to have little picnic. Since I'm not starting dinner prep for another forty minutes or so, I wanted to share a few moments from today.

* With the weather front coming through, we've had a little wind today. It gave us all the opportunity to take the kites back down to the park. And, we had much greater success (short of a couple kite-eating tree incidents) than we did on our last foray. Much fun, of a family variety. And on an Easter Sunday, that's the best kind. Watching Highlander and the kids was quite a joy.

* Dying eggs this morning (I know. I know. I said I wouldn't be doing it this year) and my purple turned into black. Which my older girls thought was sooooo cool. So, we had black Easter eggs. We're rad!

* The first Easter basket I've had in...gee...thirty five (ugh!) years. Highlander was thoughtful enough to find yummy sugar-free treats for me - a chocolate bunny, chocolate raspberry truffles (that are GONE, but were to DIE for!), some tiny chocolate bunnies with caramel in the middle, jelly beans and a very large fudge nut egg (which I've taken one bite of and had to forcibly stop myself from eating the whole thing). And, as if that wasn't enough, he included an adorable little stuffed white bunny, some beautiful ceramic eggs that I'll be able to use for future holiday decorating, and a lovely, rustic looking wooden box with tarnished brass hardware. I love it. Inside the box, he had tucked away a little gold pin that looked like a watering can with tiny pink roses on it. A most thoughtful gift.

* Highlander hiding eggs in the yard before the first rain showers, so that the kids could hunt treasure-filled goodies. And the 20 minutes of wild abandon that followed.

Much thanks to Highlander for his help getting these pics uploaded. You guys have no idea how lucky you are that I have my own support staff on site. I'm terrible with the tech stuff!

My girls dress a little more casually for the festivities, as you can see. Everyone virtually all in black. It's almost the Johnny Cash Easter special.

Getting back to what I said before, some people go a lifetime, never knowing if decisions they made effected the results they'd hoped for. But, today, I got an Easter present from [Kid 2] that was a rather priceless gift.

To help you understand the magnitude of what it meant to me, I'll have to touch on some stuff that I haven't yet. At least not here.

The last five years of my marriage were pretty hot and cold. My ex and I would get along for a while and then we'd have a pretty bad flare-up. Two major rounds of marriage counselling (one at the start of that five year period - when I caught him in a pretty significant lie that shook my trust of him to the core, the other just before we eventually split - the last ditch effort to pull things together) helped, I suppose. But, it was over years before I finally pulled the plug on the respirator.

Over that last five years, I caught him in more and more lies. Keeping more and more secrets from me. His addictions were getting the better of him and no amount of help I could give him made any difference. And, even though the marriage counsellor also suggested it, he fervently refused any professional help to kick his thirty+ year habit. The craziness with his family (to which I've alluded in the past) was getting worse and worse. His mother calling and cussing him out, cussing me out, having rude, threatening phone conversations with my oldest daughter, and leaving hateful messages on the answering machine, which all of the kids were exposed to. It was becoming unbearable. And I begged and pleaded with him to do something to make this stuff ease up. Point blank telling him that it was ruining our relationship. That my level of respect for him was dropping to places where it could not recover.

For the last two years of my marriage, I was pretty hell-bent on taking care of myself better. You see, I'm terrible at it. I'm not bad at taking care of everyone else, but making myself a priority is just something I've never had any ability to do. But, a trip to the doctor had scared me sufficiently. Lose some weight. Exercise more. Get my blood pressure under control. Or else. Last chance.

So, it was then, that I started the never-ending diet. Cutting back on sugar, red meat, my beloved fats. And I started working out with a trainer once a week, with my sister once a week, and doing a great deal of walking in between. The encouragement I got from my kids, from my parents, from my co-workers, even from some of you here, was phenomenal. I was taking care of myself, probably for the first time in my life. Putting myself somewhere on the priority list. And it was pissing my ex off righteously.

He didn't like having to keep up with the kids when I took a 40 minute walk 4 nights a week. He didn't like keeping up with them when I worked out with my sister or the trainer. The emotional and verbal abuse that I'd dealt with throughout my entire marriage was hiked up to a whole new level. It was then that I started having conversations that sounded like...

ME: I've put dinner on the table. I'll eat later. Can you manage the kids, while I go work out? I'll do the dishes when I get home.

EX: How long is this going to go on? I don't have any time for me anymore and I'm not gonna keep doing this.

ME: I need to work out. I need to lose some weight and take better care of myself. I'm trying not to impact your life as much as I can, but I have to do this right now.

EX: You never asked me before you started this and I don't like it. I don't want you to do it.

Many, many conversations where he made it abundantly clear that he did not like changes in his world and I needed to step back into my previous role, no matter the cost to my health or the length of my lifespan because of it. Including my all time favorite...

"You're no fucking prize, and you'd better recognize it." Ah, the classics.

All of this was going on and I was getting more and more stressed out. Feeling like I couldn't stay, but I couldn't go. Pretty traditional feelings before the split, I'd imagine. Three kids make you think things out a little differently. And, as I said, I've never been one to put myself first.

One day, as the kids and I were heading out, he stepped out to the car and was arguing with me about something (honestly, I don't even remember now what it was). The kids were getting in the car, when [Kid 2] turned to him and said, "Dad, I don't like it when you speak to my mother that way." And it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Really.

The HUGE piece of the puzzle that I hadn't even seen before was staring me right in the face. I couldn't believe I had never seen it before. I was modeling behavior to my daughters that I would never want them to imitate. Showing them that this was how relationships were supposed to be. That being in a relationship with a man who didn't respect you and who was verbally and emotionally abusive was the best they could hope for. That a woman's happiness was somehow secondary to a man's, or worse, not important at all. And, lastly, that there was no way out.

And, once I tunnelled out of the debris, I knew what I had to do. For me, yes, but mostly for them. You see, somewhere in my mind, it was one thing for me to put myself through these things, but for me to think of myself letting them down, being less of a mother to them than they deserved, was something else indeed. Something completely unpalatable.

It was then that I left my husband. Then, that I decided I not only needed to, but HAD to, because to wait any longer would be an even greater detriment to my girls. And that simply wasn't going to happen if I had anything to do about it.

I could be much stronger for them, than I could be for myself. And, honestly, that made it so much easier for me to do what I had to do. My main goal was to do this in a way that my children would respect. That would show them that if they found themselves in similar circumstances, there was a way to handle it.

When I left my ex, I made a great many concessions. I wasn't leaving him in anger. It was simply that we were no longer a functioning relationship. He was on one of his numerous attempts to quit smoking dope. And I was hopeful that me leaving (no longer enabling him) would be the one thing I hadn't done to help him previously. That maybe, just maybe, it would be enough to wake him up to what he was throwing away (along with the tens of thousands of dollars he'd already thrown away).

And so, things that were dear and precious to him (like his motorcycle and his thousands and thousands of collectible diecast toy cars), I left. I was certainly entitled to them. To half of them anyway. But, I wasn't spiteful. Instead of my full share of equity in the house (that he bought from me), I took half of it. I left more than half of the furnishings in the house. And in exchange, he agreed to give me the two things I wanted. He agreed that we would remain friends. That we would work together to raise our children, even if we had been unable to remain married. And he agreed to give me the children for every Christmas morning from that point out.

He has since gone back on his word on both of the things he insisted I could trust him on. That his word was good. And, now, I can no longer recoup the financial losses I voluntarily gave up to help maintain our good faith. I wrote out family recipes that he could refer to when learning to cook for his children. He'd never done it before, as I'd always taken care of that. I made him an excel spreadsheet to help him with monthly household finances. Again, something I'd always handled. I went through the medicine cabinet with him, instructing him on first aid and basic medical information.

You see, he and I were to share custody of the children. He believed he could be as good a parent to them as I was. I was less sure. But I knew that he needed them then. That if I took everything away, the likelihood of him conquering his demons would be slim to none. And that they, because they loved him, needed him, through this, too. So it was with some trepidation, that I agreed to give it a try.

The first few months were difficult, but he wasn't openly hostile to me. I believe, now, that it was primarily because he hoped that we could still reconcile. But after I met him for lunch one day, and told him (out of respect) that Highlander was moving to River City and that we intended to begin a relationship, all of that was over. He no longer felt he had to keep his promises to me. And he certainly no longer considered me a friend.

It was then that I believe he had a relapse. I didn't know it, for sure, at the time, but I've come to. I suspected it. In fact, I asked him straight out then. And he denied it. Repeatedly and staunchly. And with no hesitation. No difficulty lying to me at all. After everything I'd done to help him, to make things as easy on him as I could. And he continues to lie to me today. Better, he has the audacity to tell me that he doesn't understand why I can't trust him.

I've had some doubts, as late. Feeling rather stupid for allowing myself to be duped by someone I once loved and trusted. And when I've talked to friends about this, they all remind me that they told me, when I was first getting the divorce that I should never have agreed to make it so easy on him. I just kept remembering that it wasn't just about me...or him...that it was about setting an example for my girls. An example that would shine above all of the bad examples I'd set previously.

But still, I've had my doubts. Doubts that what I did was right, or that I went about it the right way. Today, I got my validation. At least a little bit of it. (Oh, I got a bit of it recently, when my two oldest darling daughters recently told their father off, in front of me, reminding him, when he asked them for yet another "one more chance" that he'd been a parent for the same 16 years that I had, and that he'd had the opportunity to learn, just as I had, only he'd opted not to and had dumped all of the parenting on me. Smart girls.) Out of the blue, in the middle of a conversation between me and [Kid 2], she told me that I was her hero. And that she had a note about it on her My Space profile. And then she took me to the computer and showed it to me.

I asked her if I could link to her site, but she was reluctant. Hey, I tried...;) But she did cut and paste the information for me. And while I'm as proud of this as I can be, I'm not including it here to brag. I'm including it here because it has given me such a sense of being on the right path that I wanted to share how excited I was to get this confirmation today.


i love my mother more than anyone in this entire plane of existence. she is my hero, and it took a divorce for me to realize this, but she is.

I might have, like so many others, waited years and years to truly know...that what I did may not have been the smartest decision in some people's eyes, but it was the right decision for me and my girls. I have done what I set out to do. I have shown them that there are other options. That there can be something better. That their happiness is important. And that I am always here for them. Always.

Now, they love their father. And I have ALWAYS encouraged them to work on building their relationship with him. I've encouraged him likewise. He refuses to listen to me. He accuses me of trying to manipulate him. And believes, because I have found happiness with someone else, that I am no longer wise in the ways of motherhood. Unfortunate, because these children will only be with us for a very short while. It is the relationships that we build with them now that will determine the ones we will have in the future. His decisions have already cost him so much. He doesn't even see it. And once they are gone to college and out into the world, it will be so much more difficult to manufacture relationships. With one nearing seventeen, that will happen in the blink of an eye.

I'm grateful...very grateful...that I won't have to know, firsthand, what that is like. I wish my girls wouldn't have to either. But, I have done everything I can to make it easier for him to have this. I can't do it for him. And, I sleep well knowing that my girls have a wonderful relationship with, not only, me, but Highlander, as well. And they will be okay. I know it.

Sorry, for the excessively long post. I suppose I've needed to vent about some of this more than I'd realized. I appreciate you hanging in with me. And, again, I'm so pleased to have gotten some feedback from my girls today. Knowing that they are proud of the way I've handled things with their father through this last year and a half means alot. I needed it. I really did.


Blogger FindingHeart said...

Howdy. Found you through a search. Couldn't stop reading this post. I'm making my way though a peaceful divorce and have 2 young children. Although I'm a guy and our circumstances for a bit different, I do draw power from your stength in this post. To be your child's hero, ah, nothing else could compare. Congrats on being a great mom. Peace.

4/17/2006 6:24 AM  
Blogger AaA said...

So, not only do they think you're cool, you're a hero(ine) to at least one of them...

...damn, you go girl!

4/17/2006 8:07 AM  

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