Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Together, we make five.

      This is a step I have taken only once before. Circumstances were much different, and the two situations are really not comparable. The first time - I was married for five months before we ever shared a roof. This time, we've been dating not even a year.  I had no responsibilities the first time around, no kids or even pets to speak of, no financial cares in the world. This time, I bring with me two children, two jobs, and a laundry list of financial responsibilities. He brings one child himself, and together, we make five.
      It is chaos, no doubt. Our home houses a dad and a mom, though with no shared children between, alongside a 4-year-old girl, and two 2-year-old boys. There is arguing and toy stealing, door slamming, sleepy whines, and jealousy. But there are also little hugs and kisses, snuggles, games of hide-and-seek, shared bubble baths, and "I love you"s.
      It is unconventional, and at times, it is terrifying and overwhelming. We have opened not only our hearts as the adults to something that is bigger than us both, but now our childrens' hearts too. I can imagine it is just as scary for my boyfriend, this man who loves my children, as it is for me. He tucks them in at night, and lets them bounce and jump on him way past the point when I, as their mother, would have grown tired of the game. He picks his cereal to match my daughter's when she asks, and he laughs when my son calls him the "fluffy daddy" or sometimes just "Fluffy", a nickname they coined for him due to his fluffy beard tickling their little lips when they kiss him on the cheek.
      It makes my heart swell with hope and happy feelings that, despite how scary it is, or what a leap of faith it has required, it is a leap we have chosen to leap together.  Here's to the little moments that we, as five, will make together.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Let it go.

April 2012

      When it happened, it sunk me to my lowest low, and I had nowhere else to go. The deceitful messages had been offered up to me with a guise of helping him thumb through previous texts to locate an address. My breath was knocked from my chest when I read them, and I cried and screamed, begged him explain to me what was going on.  I pleaded with him to just tell me that he hadn't been cheating. But he wouldn't. He drove calmly and refused to respond to me. I screamed at him to pull the car over, but he continued on, and I threatened to open the car door as we sped down the highway. "Let's just go to this lunch with [M & B]," he had said to me, "and then, we'll talk about this when we get home."  Was he serious? He was truly expecting me to sit through a lunch date with my kids and my seemingly cheating husband, with some friends of his - a happy couple - one of which was a prime suspect in this cheating debacle - and pretend that my life wasn't suddenly crumbling under my feet.
      After a stiff refusal, he eventually turned the car around, and I sat, sobbing, wondering what in the hell was about to happen in my world.
      When we got home that day, I pleaded for an explanation, but he was cold and hardly responsive. I called his father, and his sister, and my mother, trying desperately to find someone he would speak to, someone who could help make sense of this mess, but he still refused. Instead, he told me he was going to go to a non-mandatory work function, to hang out with some of his buddies. I pleaded still for him to stay, telling him that if he left, he would be coming home to an empty house.
      And then I found myself locked in the bathroom, crying on the floor, screaming through tears that I was going to take a handful of pills if he left our family for his friends. I sat there, fist full of Percocet, thinking to myself that surely he wouldn't leave his wife in this state, his one and two year old children unsupervised in another room. But after several minutes, I heard nothing, and for my children, I dropped the pills, and emerged from the bathroom to find my two babies alone in the living room, front door wide open. He was gone, and I was with my children, devastated and hardly able to form a sensible thought.
      I tried blinking back tears as I tore through my closet, trying with all that I had, to throw a bag together for myself and my kids, so we could drive back to South Carolina a broken family. I called him, over and over again, no answer. And when he finally decided to pick up my call, I told him he needed to come home and say goodbye to his children.
      We didn't end up leaving that day. He somehow charmed me again, and I dealt with lies and mistrust and heartache for another five months before he eventually demanded a separation, and kicked our children and me out of our home.
      Two years later, I struggle to look past the hell and torment I was put through mentally and emotionally, and I struggle harder not to hate him. Because of him, I have these children, I remind myself, but it is still a battle I fight internally everyday, to not despise every fiber that makes him, him. It is for my children that I give my best efforts to tolerate him, but oftentimes, I feel it is all for naught.
      I hope my disclosures of an unhappy past will prove to be therapeutic. I do not want to carry this hatred always, and I certainly don't want my kids to pick up on it one day. It is sad and embarrassing for me, but it is a reality, something that I am trying to grow from and hopefully learn to forgive. I'm a long way away, but maybe one day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Let all that you do be done in love.

      I remember taking the test on a whim, just to rule out another reason my body was acting weird.  Despite the fact that we'd been trying to get pregnant, I had confidence that it would surely be negative.  But then two, thin lines appeared on the test strip, and I slammed open the bathroom door to my husband, and screamed in excitement for him to look too.  Two lines indeed, and in an instant, I was lifted into his arms, and we were in newlywed,  parents-to-be bliss, as we spun 'round and 'round in the kitchen of our first home.  Just like it should be.
      "Where did that man go?", I wonder, only five years later.  That man, who breathed through contractions with me, and proudly helped me through years of breastfeeding and advocated to his work buddies how awesome cloth diapering was. Did I have him wrong all along, or can a person change so much, so fast?  This man loves his children, no doubt,  but he is not the man I envisioned as a father to my children.   That man would never childishly mock me in front of, or even to, my children.  That man would have always given his last penny to make sure all of their needs - not just wants - were met.  This man I know now refuses to pay child support, instead dropping cash on yet another toy, or Happy Meal,  or trip out of town.  He is the good guy, the fun daddy, and I get to be the mom who constantly must say no to another doll or dress,  or to eating fast food, or to buying expensive snacks at the grocery store.  I get to regularly hear,  "But Daddy ::insert whatever wonderful, expensive thing Daddy does here::". 
      My ex husband tells me I should be paying him child support, in spite of the fact that my kids spend at least 4 (and usually more like 5 or 6) nights at my house per week...  Or the fact that my income is a considerable amount less than his... Yes, in spite of these things, he feels I should be paying him child support.
      Generally speaking, I don't take time with my kids off for any reason, except work. On the rare occasion, like when I took a night off because I was in a wedding, I am always sure to pick up any extra time I can to make up for lost time. I do not give up nights with my kids weekly for date nights, or trips out of town, as has happened on the other side.  No, my date nights consist of a couple of drinks shared on the patio with my boyfriend, after wrangling the kids into bed, and soon after, crashing into bed to start all over again the next morning.  That is my life as a mommy, and I accepted that when I chose to bring little lives into this world.  When things come up, and my ex cannot, or will not, watch the kids during times when he is supposed to, it is my family to which this burden falls.  Time and again, my family takes on the extra time, despite what they may have going on in their own lives. I am so grateful for this, and yet, bear so much guilt for all of the help they provide.
      It is hard to co-parent because of the times when I must completely let go and trust that he will provide the attention and love that I know that I provide. When my daughter tells my boyfriend, "did you know my daddy doesn't love you or [your son]?", I cringe and wonder what else her innocent, little ears are hearing.  I find comfort in her following up with, "but that's okay, because I love you and [your son]", and I silently pray that she will always have the confidence and fortitude to have her own opinions.
      I know that, from experience, kids are very much aware of the negative things that one parent says about the other, and I know that all I can do is continue to express my frustrations into an outlet that my kids do not have to witness.  My hope is that one day, this will all become easier, for my kids, for me, for everyone involved.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

This night so still / For dawn does come swiftly

      When I used to be a stay at home mom, I didn't appreciate the gift I had. I heard all the time how fortunate I was to "have the luxury" to be a SAHM, and I knew from a financial standpoint, that I really was.  But I don't know that I ever really realized the incredible gift of time with my kids that I had. I spent a lot of my days tired and maybe a little grumpy. I felt like I was meant for so much more than "just" changing diapers and washing dishes. I was jealous of my then husband, who got to escape from the household and parenting duties to go play Army on the daily.  He got to engage in conversations with real, in the flesh, adults, and my social life ceased to exist outside of my laptop's keys.  The monotony of staying home with two small children in a place where I knew next to no one weighed heavy on me for sure, and I thought often of when I'd find myself back in a classroom or on somebody's payroll. I had no idea the incredible blessing that I was wishing away every single day.
      When my ex and I separated, I saw it as a blessing in disguise that I would have to find work immediately. I snagged a job very quickly that had me working 40+ hours a week, and I was grateful for the distraction from my crumbling marriage, and the cross country move I'd just made.  I made friends for the first time in my adult life where our only common ground wasn't just that we were married to the military.  Although in retrospect, these friendships were short lived, they were exactly what I needed at the time, and I keep them in a happy spot in the back of my head, grateful for the personal growth these friends unknowingly sparked in me.
      When I first because a single mom, I had the first opportunity to go out with friends, child free. It was new, different, and fun, and I was appreciative of the break it gave me from just being a mom 24/7.
      Time passed though, and the more "freedom" I got from "just being a mom", the more I yearned for the time when my only duty was showing my children my unending love.  Sure, I'd had household chores, and had handled the finances as a SAHM.  But what I'd never had to do was work multiple jobs, hardly see my children, and despite my best efforts, still have to figure out which bill was just not going to get paid this month.
      It is now, when the luxury of being a stay at home mom is so completely unattainable, that I yearn for it. I don't want to share my kids, and I don't like having to stuff their backpacks with the dolls and pajamas that they just don't want to go without while they're with Daddy or Grandma, or Aunt Heather.  I know it is silly to feel this way when I see my kids way more now than I did for ten very long months last year, but I still feel like I don't get nearly the time that I desire with them.  They are little for such a short time, and I feel it is slipping by in the hours while I work,  and it scares me. I know that one day, I will wake up, and it will be the morning of my daughter's graduation, and I will cry and wonder how in the world this day has already come. My son will announce an engagement to a future spouse, and I will think back to when his biggest worry was what spoon he was going to pick to eat his oatmeal.
      I wish I could quit my two jobs, or even just one, but I can't and will probably never be able to realistically do that.  I think back to when I longed to work outside the home, and I wish I could tell my former self how absolutely blessed I was. When I felt like I couldn't take one more temper tantrum or wet diaper, or one more episode of Elmo's World, I would tell 21-year-old me to cuddle closer, to sing those Laurie Berkner songs another time, and to push the double stroller around the block for just a few more loops.
      It is now when I would give up anything I could to just have my littles stay home with me all day long.