Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I Am Angry

I was going to write a long screed on divorce and children from a logical and thoughtful perspective, but I just can't do that today. Maybe on another day, but not today.

Today I am angry. I am angry that one parent can go to court and sully the reputation of the other parent in order to deny him equal custody of their child. I am angry that a schedule that was working so well for the child is now disrupted because of the evilness and vindictiveness of one parent. I am angry that a mother would use her child as a weapon and a pawn. I am angry that one parent would withhold time with the child from the other parent as a punishment. I am angry that a good father is now being denied his due time with his daughter.

As a feminist, I never believed that the system was rigged against fathers. I honestly thought that when mothers got full custody, there were good reasons for it. It wasn't just that women were thought to be caregivers and men weren't - there had to be more to the story that we didn't know about. And now, I can honestly say that that's bullshit. This judge took everything the mother said at face value, no real evidence, no real proof, and took a child from her father. She even said, "you were married for 10 years, the wife would know best."

My heart is breaking for both the dad and the child. He is devastated and doesn't know how he is going to go on. He can't bear to think of seeing his child every other weekend when he had her for a week at a time and got to do homework with her, cook her dinner, put her to bed...all the things a dad wants to be able to do for his daughter. And she is going to miss out on spending all that time with this fun-loving guy who worships the ground his daughter walks on and would do anything for her. As a mom of a daughter (and a daughter of a father), I know just how important fathers are to their daughters. They are the first man we love, and if there is no first man around during your formative years...what do you learn? That men aren't there for you? That men desert you? That men don't care? WHY would any woman want her daughter to have that influence if they didn't have to? WHY would any woman deny her child the right to see her father when he has done nothing to deserve this?

Right now, I am just fucking angry and I have no outlet for my anger. It's so hard to believe that someone you once loved enough to stand up in front of your family and friends and declare that love for could do something so heinous and cruel. I can't help but wonder if the woman is happy. Is she pleased with herself? Does she feel successful? Is she high-fiving her dirtbag lawyer on the way they stole a child from her father today?

Today, I am angry. And I feel helpless that there is nothing I can do to help fix the situation. I am angry at myself for not being even more forceful that he use a serious lawyer on this. I am angry at myself for ever considering this woman a friend and for inviting her into my family and into my circle of friends and into my heart. I am just angry. And I feel like the anger will dissipate with time and just become deep-rooted sadness that will stay with me forever.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Commitments

I think one of the most important things you do as a parent is prepare them for life outside of your home. Real life. Life at work, with friends, with a future partner. Life when it's great and life when it's hard and dark and painful. You teach them their value so they accept no less than the best from their friends and lovers. You teach them respect so they treat others well and expect the same in return. You teach them sticktoittiveness so they learn perseverance and stamina and ability to work through the hard times to get back to the good times.

These are hard lessons to teach kids sometimes. It's so much easier to let them make their every decision in a way that makes them happy at the moment. They don't really understand the hard decisions most of the time, and they think you are being mean by not just letting them get what they want. Instant gratification is okay for tweens, but adults who can't see past the moment at hand are bad employees, selfish friends, and terrible husbands/wives. And the whole job of parenting, in my opinion, is raising solid, happy, productive adults...not overgrown children.

Recently, this has come to a head with one of TJK's friends. It's an ongoing issue and it has come up repeatedly over the years, but now it's becoming a real problem. TJK and her friend are in a 3 week camp together. There was talk of carpooling for drop off and pickup and of all the great aftercare classes offered in this camp.The girls were looking forward to it.

We are now on day four of camp. TJK's friend has not gone to aftercare once, despite her mom telling me that she was going to go every day for at least the first week to see which classes she wanted to take. TJK is disappointed, but she is fine. She has made other friends and is loving aftercare. I am annoyed that I have to do drop off and pick up every day instead of splitting it as I'd hoped, but I'll get over it. No biggie.

The bigger issue to me is the way this kid is allowed to do whatever she wants. She committed to this with my daughter, with me, with her mom - not to mention that her mom paid for it and isn't attending! - and she has been allowed to skip it every day because she feels like it. What lesson is this teaching your child?

A couple of years ago, the girls went to another camp together (again, we were supposed to carpool...). On day one, they walked to a park for lunch and there was a homeless man there, sitting on a park bench. Not for nothing, but this is not unheard of, and if you live in the greater NYC area, it's something you get used to seeing. The man didn't approach or talk to or interact with the kids at all - just sat on the bench. Well, this child was so freaked out on day one that she did not return to camp. At all. Her mother allowed her to bail because she was uncomfortable at a park with a group of 20 kids and several counselors and one homeless man. She allowed her to ditch camp completely, leaving TJK and me in a lurch.

Even this past weekend, we had plans to go away with girl and her mom (we are good friends with them, honestly, and I do love the mom). We bought tickets to an event, made hotel reservations, laid out our plan of attack for the drive and our time away. They did go with us, but at one point the mom said to me, "I was so afraid she was going to get up this morning and say she was too tired to go and we would have to cancel."

WHAT.

If TJK got up and said she was too tired, I would tell her to take a nap in the car because we have plans and money had already been spent. It would never occur to me that I should cancel or rearrange our plans because of what TJK wants or doesn't want at that moment. She is involved in the decision-making process, but once she commits, she is committed.

I get that it's easier to allow your kids to run the show, and that it's not fun when you have to say no and they get mad at you. It's hard to have the center of your universe angry with you and think you are mean and, even worse, not cool. But that's parenting. It's not easy.

I feel badly for TJK, who had these three weeks of camp planned out with her friend and now has to rearrange and reset her expectations. She asked me if she, too, could skip aftercare because her friend was skipping. I told her no. She committed to going and she is going to go. And she was not happy with me and I can live with that. I know that her being miserable today is teaching her something valuable: that you stand by what you say and you do what you said you were going to do. In a few years, I know these lessons will pay off. And I am afraid that her friend will be left expecting the world to curve to her will and not knowing how to cope when it refuses to.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Another Impact of Divorce

Friends of mine are in the middle of what is shaping up to be an ugly divorce. It started off friendly enough, with weekly family dinners for the kids and cordial custody drop-offs, and has segued into hostility and anger. I feel badly for both of them, and for their kids. And for myself.

So for the sake of the story, let's call this couple Bob and Alice. Bob and I are very close, as are Bob and my husband and Bob's kids and my daughter. Alice and I were very close for a long time too, but since long before the divorce was set into play, she backed away. She stopped coming around, stopped communicating with me, stopped wanting to be part of any activities having to do with Bob. That strained our friendship in a big way (not seeing or communicating with someone can do that).

I recently met Bob's new love interest. Bob didn't want the divorce to begin with, but now that it is underway, he is happy to have some companionship again. He had been lonely for a long time in the marriage, and I think the attention is doing him some good. So in any case, we all got together - my little family, Bob and his kids, and the new love (let's call her Sandy) and her kids. I can't say I'm too fond of her, and I feel really badly for saying that because I know Bob is happy. But she just isn't someone I can see myself being close with. We went to a gastropub for dinner and she didn't understand any of the dishes on the menu - they were too complicated. She dressed wayyy down to go for brunch, like in workout pants and an over-sized t-shirt. And in case you think I am just being an elitist (which, yes, I kind of am), she also made racist comments, and so did her kids. I may be snobby in judging someone who doesn't know what Gruyere is, but I am just not a fan of someone who casually compares monkeys to black people.

So ok, whatever, he is dating someone I don't love. No biggie. But here's the issue. Bob is part of my life, and he is part of a lot of things I do on a regular basis. And now this woman is going to be part of those things, which then makes me not look forward to those things quite as much. I am wondering how I can uninvite him to these things in a way that won't hurt his feelings and I have not come up with a way quite yet.

The first test will be next weekend, when we have a whole weekend planned with them. No kids, thankfully; just the four of us. This is going to be a big test for me because I really hate to limit my ties with Bob but I just cannot with Sandy if she is the same this weekend as the last time I saw her. And then Bob will get his feelings hurt, and I know he is already going through a really hard time and I know he relies strongly on my opinions and this will crush him. But ugh. I am not a fan of this lady, nor am I good at keeping my big mouth shut.

(I just looked back at the menu because I was thinking that maybe it was exotic and I am being unfair, at least on that front, and really, it isn't a complicated menu at all. There are things like Blue Catfish Tacos and Pork Belly Mac & Cheese Fries on the menu...and I had a booze-infused snowball for dessert, so it was certainly not a foreign language like she claimed.)

After our get-together, I posted a photo of us all on my fb. Alice must have seen it and subsequently unfriended me because of it. Bob says I should not feel badly because we haven't talked in forever and of course I am going to meet and be friendly with his new girlfriend. But I still feel awful about it, because I truly did love Alice and this woman is no replacement for her. I feel like that is the trade I made - Alice for Sandy.

I want a trade-back.


Friday, May 20, 2016

NOODZ at Work

So here's a thing that happened at work today.

We had an employee leave the company a couple weeks back. She was overall a pretty bad employee and we weren't sad to see her go. Today, I had my team go and pack up her belongings so we could send them to her.

They gathered everything in boxes and then sorted it out (since some stuff, like half-eaten food or mugs with mold in them, were not things we would send). As they packed, they came across some photos and this is where things got crazy.

These were hardcore nudes.

Like, completely naked in the shower. Like, licking her own nipple for the camera. Like, a super close-up of her vag, spread open with her long fingernails. There were probably a dozen of this photos.

They were actual printed photos - I thought the kids just texted their noodz, but I was wrong! - and she brought them to work. She had them on her desk, under some other photos of her daughter. Walgreen's printed these out for her.

Also in her desk was a letter written to her ex-boyfriend. It was at least 8 pages long, and started with the sentence: "I'm typing this instead of hand-writing it because I am at work and I can pretend to work by typing." (God, am I sorry she longer works here!) In it, she talks about how often he cheated on her, made other women get abortions, got her to fight with other women, and beat her so that she would have to wear long sleeves in the summer to cover the bruises. She talks about how much she still loves him and always will, despite the fact that she isn't good enough for him. She was mailing this letter to him in prison, where she has gone to visit him and seen all the other women there visiting him as well.

I went from giggling at this deluded young girl's attempts at amateur porn to feeling so sad for her. I love women who love and celebrate their bodies and sexuality, and I don't think it's something to shame them for (however, I don't think you should be bringing proof of your self-adoration to work). But after seeing the letter and the photos in conjunction, I just felt sad. She is a damaged person, so lacking in self-esteem that she was begging her horrible ex to come back and trying to tempt him with erotic photos. This is not the kind of thing you expect to have to face at work, and I was glad that she was no longer an employee so I didn't have to address this with her.

So yeah, when you think of your evil HR Director, keep in mind the things she has to deal with. And the images she can't erase from her mind.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Friendship is Hard

It's hard sometimes to be friend with your child's friend's parents.

I get along really well with S. We have such a good time together and have really deep conversations that I don't have with many other of my close friends. She is open about her life - abuse in her childhood and it's impact on her life now, the failure of her marriage, and pretty much anything other topic. And she makes me more open and vulnerable, which is something I am not used to being.

But then there's her relationship with her daughter (whom I adore, it must be said).

I am close with my daughter. We spend a lot of time together, whether it's out and about or just hanging around the house, we are tied at the hip. And I love that, because I know in another year or two, that may all change as puberty and teen angst kick in full force. I'd have her around me all the time if I could because I really enjoy her company and she is a cool kid.

With that said...there's such a thing as too close. Or maybe its more that despite me adoring my daughter and wanting very much for her to be happy all the time, I have no intention of letting her run the show. I'm the mom, I'm the adult, I make the decisions. I hear her out and listen to her concerns, but ultimately she needs to follow direction from me and not the other way around. We are not equals and I don't acquiesce to her desires.

My friend does this. Her daughter runs the show all the time. We went on vacation with them about a month ago and all S wanted to do was look for shells. We were in shell heaven down in Captiva, and all S talked about for months was finding shells. The day arrives and we have plans to go shelling (well, for the rest of them to go shelling and for me to sit on the beach and safely bronze myself). S changes her mind and says she is going to take her daughter shopping for a dress. Keep in mind that our resort was alllll the way at the end of Captiva, so to get to the mainland, you had to drive through all of Captiva and then all of Sanibel and over the bridge back to Fort Meyers....about 45 minutes or so, just to get back to civilization, and then find a store to shop in. So S gave up her day of shelling to take M shopping instead of doing what she had been most looking forward to.

This past Saturday, we had the kids attend a gymnastics night so we could go out. The thing ran from 5-9pm, so when we picked up the kids it was barely 9pm. On a Saturday night. On our way to get them, we had been talking about them coming back to my house for cocktails - I had been dying to make a Cinnamon Toast Crunch, with Fireball and Rum Chata, and this seemed like a great opportunity to do it. Our girls are night owls so 9pm is no stretch for them to be out. We make plans and then drop them off at their house so they can get their own car to come over and let their dog out. Ten minutes later comes the text: M just wants to stay home so we are going to pass this time. So they didn't come over. S wanted to. The girls were having fun together. M just gets moody sometimes and wants to be alone (like she is at the point where instead of sitting together to read or whatever, M will tell her mom to leave the room and sit elsewhere so she can be alone! What?!) so S catered to her and they didn't come over, despite our plans.

I love S. She is among my best friends and someone I love spending time with. We can talk and talk for hours and it is never strained or weird. We can talk about politics and race and our childhoods and also about sex and parental gossip and fashion. But I am struggling so much with her blind acquiescence to her daughter. It impacts our friendship and it will also impact M - never being told no and never being made to do something you don't want to do is no way to learn about the real world.