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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dusting Off My Skates...

The lightning pace and technological limitations (five and a half people sharing the internet on one computer requires much patience and sacrifice) have made blogging lately even more of an indulgence than it used to be. Which, you know, is likely a lucky stroke for most of you. Nobody likes it when I dig the skates out of the closet.

But as I've been pretty aggravated this week, and as Bunnyman and new River City resident AaA are pleading silently with their eyes for a break, I've come here to lace Seems like that's all I ever do here anymore. (Which actually bothers me, too.) I keep thinking once things in my life calm down, I can get back to talking about politics or current events or funny anecdotes. But I'm just not close to that place in my life. Events of this week haven't moved me much closer, either.

Let me start by clearing the air on a few things. Things that I've always assumed were pretty obvious. I'm not a fancy person. (Which is NOT to say that I'm not cool OR classy. 'Cause I'm both of those!) Certainly, I could appreciate some extravagances in my world, but I don't have to have them. I don't pine for them. Never. I don't need a big house or a new car. I don't need expensive jewelry or big trips. Like most out there, I guess, I've gone without so that my children could have what they need. But I certainly don't feel like I'm lacking anything.

I guess I really don't think about it much, because I simply don't feel resentful because I don't have what others have. I'm just not competitive that way. I have a roof over my head. I have food in my belly. I have children who are happy and healthy and whom I love more than life (and, yippee, that's vice versa). I have a husband who means the world to me and who makes me believe that I mean the world to him, and we both have our health. I don't want for more. Truly. Now, I'm not saying I don't think about what I'd do with lottery winnings, or that I don't wish that I could do more for my children, or things like that. I look around and see so many people who don't have what I have. How could I possibly feel it to be inadequate?

My ex (don't you hate it when I start that way) has, in the past, during child support negotiations, indicated that if I were to get the standard amount of child support he would be unable to provide for our children. Specifically, that he'd be unable to buy groceries for them. A tactic to get me to relieve him of his legal share of the support of our children...on my smaller salary, no less. But let's not forget that I'm the one in this situation who is manipulative. I am the one who uses the children. Or at least that's the way he likes to tell it. He would never be that way.

I explained to him then, that if he could not afford to adequately care for these children, I would volunteer to have them with me more of the time in order to insure that they were fed and appropriately cared for. My offer did nothing but make him angry, as it was clearly my place to manage his finances to make this equation work for him. Except, the way he wanted me to do this was to make things tighter in my budget so that he wouldn't have to make any adjustments in his own household. I was simply being unfair.

He came to figure out a way to make it work at his house and, as that is entirely his business, I haven't once worried about this again.

Until last weekend.

Last weekend, I happened to overhear a conversation between my [Kid 1] and Nate. They were simply chatting about things in her life and I wasn't really paying that much attention, as I was goofing around on the computer. Until I heard the following, which stopped me short...

"...I often have to skip lunch when I'm at my dad's so that there is food enough for my sisters to eat."

I immediately stopped what I was doing. And, much as it was probably rude to insert myself into their conversation, well, there wasn't much chance that I wouldn't be doing just that. When I asked for clarification, I was then made aware of this gem, too...

"when we tell dad we need more food in the house, he brings one can of soup and one pack of ramen noodles and says 'This should be enough for a couple days.'..."

...for three kids, two of whom are teenagers.

I could feel my face heating up. My heart sank, thinking that my kids were having to deal with these conditions. I was furious thinking that he was making such inadequate financial decisions that had my children going without basic necessities.

A conversation with [Kid 3] weeks earlier about a lack of toilet paper (which I'd just blown off and attributed to a singular episode of poor planning) came back to me. Another where she'd mentioned (while we were shopping) that she wanted to set up a booth at her dad's and sell food in the yard, but that I had to buy the ingredients because dad couldn't. I'd blown that one off as being a matter of simply being at the grocery store at that moment. And then the flashback to when I dropped them off earlier that afternoon, when he'd told me that he was waiting for his sister to come help him with an inoperative vehicle, and that he may need my help as he had no food in the house. (I never got a call, so I never gave it another thought.)

Later on Saturday, [Kid 3] called to tell me that her dad had bought her a cd she'd been wanting badly. "And he paid FIFTEEN BUCKS for it, too!!", she'd squealed. I was happy for her...hard not to be...but couldn't help but think about how much canned soup and ramen noodles fifteen bucks would buy.

It would have done no good for me to have broached the subject with my ex at that point. I would have never been able to have discussed the issue calmly. Hell, it's been days and days and the possibility is still pretty iffy.

On Monday, I happened to get off work early and got to see [Kid 2]. She comes to our place after school (her dad picks her up there when he gets off work during his week with them). She was starvy...which is NOT unusual for my kids at all...and she asked if she could have something to eat. I pshawed her and told her of course she could have anything she wanted to eat.

"All Dad has to eat at his house is a package of cookies, a jar of mayonnaise, some lunchmeat and a loaf of bread."

Holding my tongue is getting harder and harder, I tell you. A discussion of how to let her dad know she needs more yields the information that she feels guilty asking him to spend money on food when she knows he is overextended. Which is great, you know. My kids are put in the position of having inadequate nourishment and are feeling guilty about the situation. It's a two-fer! Physical and mental discomfort.

Oh, and apparently, her boyfriend is aggravated about the situation (which is not my biggest concern, but it's clear that others see the absurdity here, too). Apparently, she's not eating a lunch while at her dad's. Why? know...there isn't any.

Tuesday afternoon, [Kid 2] got spacers put on her teeth. For the uninitiated, it's the precursor to an expander that is being installed in the roof of her mouth in the next few weeks. I met her and her dad at the orthodontist and brought her back to our place afterwards, so she could hang out until her dad finished work.

Before I could call to check on her before bed, she called to let me know she was having some difficulty. She was in some pain and was asking what she could eat for dinner. This was at 8:30 at night.

She was miserable and complained that there was nothing at her dad's house that she could eat. Her voice sounded so pitiful. It was breaking my heart. I offered to go get her something and bring it to her, but she indicated that her dad was going to do it. She was merely looking for suggestions of what she could eat with little or no chewing. I listed a few items and talked to her a little bit. And then worried about her all night.

Worried about both of my younger girls, actually. I've had a full week of that.

It's so frustrating to think that he doesn't see that his financial decisions have put such hardship on the backs of his children. It's not my business how he lives or how he spends his money. But it is my business when my children are not being fed when they are with him. I don't believe this is done maliciously. More that he doesn't realize the impact that his lifestyle choices are having on his children...and maybe that he doesn't know how to fix the situation. It's not advice I can offer, because he simply doesn't want advice from me these days.

Subsequent conversations this week with both [Kid 2] and [Kid 3] have made it clear that after Tuesday night, food enough to finish out the week made it to that house. By whatever means. So, I've tried, very hard, to calm down. To believe that they will be okay until they are back with me. And to remember that THAT is the most important thing in the short run.

I'm going to talk to him about all of this tomorrow. I'm sure the upshot of the conversation will be that it's somehow my fault. Either because I've spoiled the kids by allowing them a skirt to hide under when their lives are difficult, or because I've upset him by writing the truth about him on my blog, or because I've twisted their minds against him. But he needs to know this. And with the very limited communication between them, they don't feel they can talk to him about the hard things.

But I'm hoping that instead of buying baubles and googaws, he'll realize that perhaps that money should be spent on food, as his children are going hungry when they are with him. And that'll take the steps he needs to take to make sure that changes. Quickly. Because this is not something I am going to overlook for very long. You can trust me on that.


Blogger Nate said...

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9/14/2007 12:15 AM  

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