As a mother, as a parent, I’m failing.
In December of 2012 I wrote Two Houses v. One Home. As a frustrated mother of a three year-old, I lamented about my child being confused over not having his own living space, because of the enforced “Daddy” and “Mommy” house idiocy. Fast forward two years, and it’s still happening.
Except, now–somehow–it’s worse.
Over the past few months, Tiny Tot has been throwing tantrums in front of his father in order to spend more time with him. It usually works. He throws a screaming, crying, jelly-limbed fit large enough to embarrass the crap out of me, and then his daddy blindsides me by announcing, “It’s fine, he can stay an extra day. I’ll bring him back tomorrow.”
So then I’m left feeling like the “bad guy” if I step in and say, “Wait, no. I want my kid. This is my time.”
Which, no, I do not do very often, because I get it. Tiny Tot doesn’t see his dad often, because of court-mandated schedules. Daddy is fun. Daddy is video games. Daddy is McDonald’s. Daddy is new toys every week. Daddy is slurpees.
Daddy is Sprite.
… But these fits are about so much more than quality “fun” time with Daddy. They’re about a tiny human using tantrums in order to get his way.
And no, I’m not okay with that.
Which is why I’m failing.
I’m faltering in my firm resolve to always support Daddy, because this is starting to get ridiculous. I don’t know whether Tiny is just trying to throw his weight around in order to gain footing in his tiny little world, or whether he’s being egged on by an adult male who prides himself in pitting his children against their mothers.
About a year ago, Tiny’s dad let his ultimate goal slip. He sat across the table from me and either knowingly, or unknowingly, showed his hand. “Did you know,” he began, “that when Tiny Tot turns 12, he’ll be able to choose which parent he wants to live with? If he chooses me, I guess you’ll be paying me child support.”
Money, always about the money.
The man lives and breathes quick schemes, but is rarely successful. That’s why he’s 45, living with Mommy, living on the government’s money, and going back to school to get the degree he always claimed to have–but never did. And, yes, seeing as I’m now, officially, the The Angry Shrew of an Ex-Wife, who always blows things out of proportion, and exaggerates claims, I no longer care to back him up or make him “look good.”
That, too, is why I’m currently failing, miserably.
When he sat across from me and told me that he would try to convince Tiny to live with him at the age of 12, so that I would have to pay him child support, I said one thing, and one thing only, “Stop it. You will not pit our child against me for your own, selfish game. This is the last I want to hear of that nonsense.”
He then went on to reduce child support in mediation after willfully deciding not to work for four years. The one line that will forever stick in my head is my ex-husband looking at the mediator and boldly declaring, “I got the child support for my other child reduced to $100. I refuse to pay more for one child than another, so I’m only willing to pay $100 for Tiny.”
Children do not equal money. Child support–as I have stated before–is not money given freely to the mother. It’s money which supports the overall well-being of the child. Why do men not get this? It’s such a simple concept!
Lately, though, my ex has been pandering to the fitful demands, knowing that I’ll be a pushover because I love my child and want to see him happy. At least I did, until the soccer incident. At least I did, until I went to the birthday party Tiny’s dad threw Tiny, and was treated like a villain by his family members.
At least I did, until Tiny said, “You can come play soccer at my house, Mommy.”
To which I responded, “Baby, we’re headed home right now. I live there, too. We can play soccer tonight.”
And then I heard, “No, my house at my DADDY’S house.”
Which is why as a mother, and as a parent, I am failing.
When I heard that statement, I decided that no matter what my beliefs were concerning my child and my ex-spouse, I had a say in my child’s life, too. I am just as important; I am just as relevant. My love for my child goes beyond the age of 12, and extends past child support–which should be obvious, seeing as I work so much to be able to support the tiny human that my ex-husband refuses to support.
That day I started a new concept, because I’m flailing, failing, and lost. I don’t know how to combat this Daddy’s house v. Mommy’s house idiocy. I just don’t. It’s beyond my capabilities as a mother. So, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I sat my child in my lap, and explained reality.
“Son Son, since you were very, very tiny, you have had moments you spend with Mommy, and times you visit Daddy. You are lucky enough to have Special Mommy Time and Special Daddy Time. It’s okay to be sad and miss a parent during those times, but you have to show respect. You cannot throw a fit in order to get your way. I have always told you when Special Daddy Time is coming up. I have always let you know when Daddy will pick you up from school and take you to his mommy’s house for a visit. But then, when that time is over, you come back home, to Mommy. You have to respect Special Mommy Time; you cannot throw a temper tantrum in order to get your way, and you know that. I have taught you better.”
In a way, I feel like I have straddled that invisible line I never wanted to cross. In a way, I feel like it adds a tinge of negativity toward Daddy. But, as the only firm disciplinarian, I cannot have a screaming child throwing a fit large enough to make himself throw up in the middle of a parking lot because Daddy came to soccer practice. I cannot have him thinking that because Daddy showed up, he automatically gets to leave with him.
And so, I’m failing; I’m floundering. I’m awash in this sea called divorced, single parenthood, unable to find balance, or figure out how to make my child understand. I know he’s confused; I know he doesn’t get why Special Mommy Time is so much longer than Special Daddy Time.
But, I’m confused, too.
Because, there’s a line. There’s a line that I cannot cross–it’s the one where adults place too much burden on their children by explaining the complicated mess that is their parents.
And since I’m not willing to cross that thin line, I’ll fail until I figure it out.