Empty

The house feels empty. No screaming; no yelling. No whining; no fighting. No video games; no cartoons. No toys- scratch that. There are toys scattered through the house. I let them swim to the last possible second, instead of making them pick up toys.

But without my boys running amok, the house feels empty.

In theory, I could go out and see a movie right now. I can go out with friends, grab dinner or drinks and dessert. (You know, if I wasn’t poor and unemployed.) In theory, I could sleep in tomorrow. I can read in bed. I can have ice cream for lunch.

But I would give it all up for more time with my boys.

The hardest part is when I don’t get to talk to them. Every night they are at their dad’s house, I call them at 7pm to ask them about their day and to tell them I love them and to wish them goodnight. Even if I’m out with friends. Even if I’m out of town. 5 minutes to know my boys are fine and to let them know I love them.

More often than not, the ex doesn’t answer his phone. Some times he lets them call me back. Most of the time, he doesn’t. When I had more money, I bought them a cheap little flip phone with monthly prepaid minutes, but they often did not answer.

After two years, it still sucks so very much not to talk to the boys. After two years, the ex still doesn’t think it’s important, even though we agreed upon the phone calls in mediation and it’s in our divorce agreement. At least, I got to be with them after school for a few hours.

It’s harder after having the boys for a long stretch. I had them for nine full days because the ex had a business trip. I’m grateful to have them so long. It reminds me of the first three years of the separation when the boys were always with me.

Tomorrow I’ll bug my friends with texts and calls, asking to go out. I’ll wash the sheets and pick up the toys. I’ll scout the bathroom and go through the piles of weekly school paperwork. I’ll get the last few things for our trip next week. I’ll figure out a bridesmaid hairstyle I can do. I’ll take the Cub Scout volunteer classes and tests. I’ll brush up on 7th grade math and prep some cool activities. I’ll write poetry and edit the novel.

Tonight I feel like eating chocolate and staring at the TV.

Or eat chocolate as I do laundry and clean my room.

Because I just realized I have a lot to do.

Thanks, Mom

The Ex took the kids to Disneyland. For four days. Out of state. Like an eight hour drive. With four children.

Obviously I was worried. I was married to the Ex for a number of years.

Will someone get lost? Will someone be misplaced? Will some sort of emotionally crushing event occur?

I knew the boys were going to have a great time. I mean DISNEYLAND. And I’m sure my boys don’t curl up into little balls and sob, “I want my MOMMY!” I’m hoping they remember me beyond that-woman-wh0-makes-our-food-and-makes-us-do-chores-and-homework.

But I still worried.

Car crashes. Earthquakes. Drunk drivers. Relatives that don’t like me and don’t mind talking in front of the boys. Lightning strikes. Dust storms. Freak accidents. Ride malfunctions. Kidnappers. About the last couple, I realized I was getting a little paranoid. I mean DISNEYLAND. That stuff doesn’t happen there.

So I was worried.

But I went on my merry little while, doing my best not to think about it. I had a plan. It was working too. Until I wasn’t able to reach the boys on their first night of their trip. (Breath. Stick to the plan.) Or the second. (Breathe. Stick to the plan. Don’t freak out.)

On the third day, my mother called. At 8am. Um, woman, do you remember I’m a night owl without my morning larks to wake me up?

I was thinking you should’ve written your phone number in permanent marker on their bodies. (Um, you know the Ex would just wash it off.) What if they got in a car accident? And the Ex and his girlfriend are knocked unconscious? It would be days before you found out. The Ex probably doesn’t have you as the boys’ mother on his cell. (But the boys know-) What if they are knocked unconscious too? (Someone woul-) You don’t know that. And the Ex never keeps his eyes on them like he should. What if they wonder off? Who would know? (Disney has like tons of-) And would they call you? Probably not! (I do have friends who wor-) What if he takes them Fae? What if he never comes back with them? When would you know? What would you do? (Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I don’t think the Ex would-) You don’t know. You never know. Did you talk to them last night? (Um, no.) So you don’t know how they’re doing? (Um, Mom. I’ve got to get some stuff done. I gotta go.) You should come over for dinner. (Yeah, sure. I love you, Mom. Bye.) I love you, sweetheart. Don’t worry too much. Bye.

I sat there holding the phone. Breathe. Don’t panic. Stick with the plan. Breathe. Don’t freak out. Stick with the plan. Breathe. They’re ok. Stick with the plan. Breathe. Dear God, protect them. Stick with the plan. Breathe,

Yeah, I’m totally not going over for dinner. I can’t handle another conversation like that.

 

Missing them

My house is quiet.  And empty.  And quiet.  Of course, it’s 11pm, so even if my boys were here, it would be relatively quiet.  Except Tornado S snores.  And someone is always turning over.  And someone gets out of bed once, twice, three times a night.  Even though it’s night and quiet, if they were here, the house would feel . . . full.

I’ve had the boys five nights in a row, and I hate when I have to turn them over.  My house, my life seems so empty and quiet and dull.  When I signed up for this parenting gig, I knew for next ten years or more my life would be wrapped around their lives.  Not in a complete, my-kids-are-my-life way, but in a dinner-has-to-have-one-child-friendly-part way or weekdays-are-for-homework-and-child-activities way or a-sitter-needs-to-be-hired-a-week-in-advanced-for-a-few-hours-a-couple-of-times-a-month way, a vacations-will-mainly-be-about-the-kids way, a money-goes-to-kids’-needs-and-most-wants-before-my-wants way.  Let’s just face it.  I will never be one of those moms who is excited the ex is taking the kids for the weekend.

Every time I think about the ex having 50% custody or that the judge added her opinion of calling me “restrictive and unreasonable” over custody for those nearly 3 years of separation in the ruling, I get angry.  It’s not my fault that the ex decided he preferred to visit the kids on his time when he wanted to at my house, but that’s how his lawyer made it look.  Like I was keeping the kids away from their father.  The ex lied and said that I knew he was  living with his girlfriend (instead of the alcoholic roommate that he told me he was living with, which I didn’t want exposed to my kids) and that I refused to let my kids over to their place.

So it sucks.  Because I don’t always get to talk to them every night, even when I call every night.  Because I can tell they’re not getting enough sleep.  Because we don’t get to do all the crafts, activities, and science experiments I want to do with them.  Because they are adjusting.  Because this is hard on them.  Because I don’t get to cook and bake for them every day.  Because they are pushing at the boundaries and exhibiting unhealthy coping strategies.  Because I don’t have the money to take them to counseling anymore.  Because part of my heart resides somewhere else and I feel helpless to protect them when they aren’t here.

With any luck, I’ll have them tomorrow because the ex works and it’s summer and I’m a teacher.  We’ll fight over doing workbooks, and I’ll send someone to time out for hitting his brother.  We’ll go grocery shopping and maybe to the craft store for supplies for Papi’s birthday present.  We’ll argue over video game playing and candy.  I’ll listen to Tornado S read, and I’ll continue to teach Tornado A to swim, and I’ll have interesting conversations with Tornado E about superheroes or Skylanders or dragons or animals.  Tomorrow is going to be a great day.

Just Working This Out

So I’ve got writer’s block.  Sort of.  I know why I can’t write.  Usually writer’s block has no reason.  But I figured out why I haven’t been able to write much and why it feels so forced when I do.  Because I’m hiding secrets.

This was suppose to be a safe and secure place to write.  I was suppose to be anonymous as I worked on my craft.  It would be my journal to record the little things of motherhood I’m sure to forget.  I didn’t expect much from it, but I made some really cool friends and felt like a community.  Before school sucked my time, I was proud of my little following.

But the ex knows about the blog.  Because I told him a couple of months after I started to show that I was working on my craft.  He was quite proud.  Then the divorce became nasty, and his lawyer tried to use this blog against me.  That I was spreading libel about the ex, that I was “wasting” my time on the blog instead of getting a job.  (Never mind that I was going to school and taking care of a toddler or that the ex and I agreed on this lifestyle over and over again.)  And the ex has made several threats about exposing my “lies.”  So it occurred to me that he could out me.  More so than I already am.

If I’m honest, the worst part of being exposed is most of the posts are unedited, filled with grammar errors of someone who is writing too fast.  I’m trying to secure a job as an English teacher.  I hope to one day be a professional writer.  I’m going to have to revisit my posts to edit them.

This blog was suppose to be only about motherhood.  I didn’t write much about my marriage.  I did write once and a while about my life.  Sometimes I used the site like a think tank or therapy.  I had no intention to turn my cute, little mommy blog into a break up blog.

But this divorce has soaked into all aspects of my life.  I’m a single mom.  I’m a divorced mom.  I just went through a nasty divorce.  I just got handed a gut-wrenching ruling, leaving me in poverty and debt and splitting custody 50% of the time with a man who chose for nearly 3 years to give me full custody.  While I’m angry and hurt and trying to desperately figure out how I’m going to pull us out of this hole, I try very hard not to let on to the boys.  They don’t need to know about all this stuff.  (Well, at least, not until they are old enough and they ask.)  I don’t feel like letting all this stuff into my blog.

But this is where I am.  I’m fighting dragons, trying to survive.  Trying to get a teaching job.  Trying to figure out how to survive on income that was so drastically slashed.  Trying to figure out how I’ll pay my parents back for funding my legal battle and whenever the ex decided not to pay.  Trying to figure out how I’ll pay a huge IRS debt.  Trying to figure out how to shield my boys from as much of the divorce as I can.  Trying to figure out how I can coparent with someone who doesn’t know how or want to coparent.  Trying to figure out how to let go of all this anger, hate, and hurt.  Trying to be a good parent.  Trying to not be bitter over the fact that the ex makes so much more than me and can give the kids so much more than I can.  Trying to dig deep and find strength to carry on.

When I was a child, I was bullied.  I still remember the fear of never knowing who was going to pick on me that day, what he/she would say, when I would be attacked.  My mom maintains that some kids act like victims and therefore become victims.  I maintain victim blaming is bullsh–.  I’m not a victim.  I don’t like being forced to be someone I’m not.  I don’t like waiting for the next blow in fear.  The next blow is coming, but I rather carry on with my life and carve out a piece of happiness and respect than wait around in fear for that next blow.

 

Not my Mom

Me: What’s wrong?

I had just picked them up from their dad’s house.  Tornado E looked unhappy.  He sighed.

Me: What’s wrong?

Yeah, like I’m going to let you close down on me, kid.  Good luck with that.

Tornado E: Sometimes I get so mad at the L & R.

The boys that lived next door to their dad’s house.  One is a year older than Tornado E.  One is in between Tornado E and Tornado S.  It’s been really neat for my boys to have neighborhood kids to play with.  It’s been since Orange since the last time we lived next to neighbors with kids.

Me: Why do you get so mad at them?

Tornado E: Because they call The Girlfriend my mom.  No matter how many times I tell them she is not my mom, they still call her that.  I don’t like it.  You’re my mom.  The Girlfriend is not.

There’s still a lot of anger and hate in me.  But my son isn’t complaining about The Girlfriend.  He’s upset with his friends not listening to him.

Me: Baby, I don’t think they mean to make you mad or hurt you.  They’ve known The Girlfriend longer than you, and she is the mother of The Daughter who is their sister’s playmate.  They just don’t remember that you have a mom.  They only see her with you, not me.  It’s a slip of the tongue.  It’s easier to say “mom” than “your dad’s girlfriend.”

Tornado E made a noise of not being convinced.

Me: Besides they don’t understand.  Their parents live in the same house.  They may not understand that it makes you mad because you have another house and a mom who doesn’t live with your dad.  They probably don’t understand that sometimes that’s really hard.  So I want you to tell them nicely, “She’s not my mom.”  Can we practice?

Tornado E made a noise of yes.

Me: Tornado E, your mom wants you.

Tornado E: That’s not my mom.

Me: Ok.  Be nice.  They’re not being mean.  Try again.  Tornado E, your mom just called you.

Tornado E: That’s The Girlfriend, not my mom.

Me: Ok.  Much better.  You could also say, “Please call her The Girlfriend.”  Remember they’re your friends and aren’t trying to make you mad.

Tornado E: Ok, Mommy.

Me: And, baby, you can always talk to me.  I’m always here to help you find solutions to your problems.

Tornado E: Ok.  I love you.  Hey, what are we going to do now?

We’re going on adventure.

Some Nights, I’m Angry

“I would rather go with daddy.  He has more money.”

And with that every activity, every project, every game, every parental moment came crashing down in front of my eyes.  It didn’t matter that I spent quality time with him.  It didn’t matter how much manipulating of funds I had to do just to do the stuff we did that needed money.  It didn’t matter I was always there.  It just didn’t matter.  He was a child.  He only know money = fun; money = love.

And it f-ing hurt.

I’m not a bitter person.  I’m not an angry person.  I’ve been preparing for this bed a long time.  I knew this divorce was coming since I started this blog.  When the ex refused to go to anger management classes, it was only a matter of time.  I knew he would find love sooner than me.  (I just didn’t expect this much sooner. {Chill, paralegal; any idiot can do math, and this is a no fault state.})  I knew he would always have more money than I would.  I knew, I knew, he would act this way once he felt slighted.  I should never have been lulled by his promises of wanting our households to be equal, that he wanted things to be fair, that he never wanted the boys to prefer one house over the other, that he would make sure the boys and me would have the life he had always provided.  It sounded so nice.

I don’t want this blog to be a break-up blog.  But the divorce is swallowing my family like fog.

Tonight I’m pissed off because Tornado E would rather go to the Renaissance Fair with his father because his father will buy him things.  It doesn’t matter that I’m the one who has bought them swords, dragons, and fantasy books.  It doesn’t matter that I read them fantasy books and show them fantasy movies.  It doesn’t matter that I’m thrilled to go, that I can whisper to them the sword moves and dub them knights.  It doesn’t matter that it’s my thing.

Tonight I’m angry because the ex can take them to events like that.  That he can take them to resturants, to movie theaters, to museums, and to the zoo every week.  That he buys them toys.  That he takes his other family on vacations.  That his other family dresses in nicer clothes.  That he has season football tickets.  That he can go to restuaruants and bars.

Tonight I’m angry that I can’t take my kids to museums and to movie theaters without sacrifice.   That I can’t afford restuarants.  That I can’t take the boys on vacation.  That I can’t buy them nice clothes.  That I can’t give them allounce.  That I can only give them the lifestyle I had as a child, and that isn’t good enough.

Tonight I’m angry because I made some terrible mistakes.  The price I pay will be my children’s well being and my well being.

The kids aren’t all right.

I’ve been avoiding my blog for the last few days.  If I’m honest, I’ll say avoiding, and if I’m not, I’ll say I was just too busy.  There’s this post I have to write.  It’s been nagging at me, and I don’t want to write it.  But I have to or I can’t move on to anything else because it will seep into every other blog post coming.  Or I’ll avoid writing, and I can’t have that.  So I’m writing it.

The ex left 3 years and 2 months ago.  Since then, Tornado E has had accidents.  Nearly every day.  I didn’t mention it because I couldn’t stop it.  After confirming with the doctor it wasn’t physical, I took Tornado E to a counselor.  Last summer, the accidents stopped for a few weeks, but then soccer started and so did the accidents.  They still continue, but at least they aren’t every day.  It’s still not normal.  I know the kid is having issues.  How could he not?  His father just took some custody a few months ago, and the kid is adjusting to a new custody schedule, a new house, a new adult, and a new little sister.  It was all just dropped on him.  Unfortunately due to the financial issues, I’m unable to send him to counseling.  Not since before he was tossed into this new living situation.

And it gets worse.  Tornado S is stuttering.  He did it when he was younger, but it stopped in kindergarten.  It’s back.  It’s also getting worse.  I’m doing what I did when he had it before.  When he talks to me, I stop what I’m doing and get down to eye-level and listen.  His teacher and his school therapist are doing what they can.

Then there’s Tornado A.  That first night back from his dad’s house, he was angry with me.  He didn’t want me to hug him or hold him.  He didn’t want to hug his nana.  But the next day, all he wanted to do was snuggle.  Since then he has demanded to see his nana every day.  He has to snuggle with me.  He calls himself the baby.  He’s picked up screaming to be cute.  And he’s also regressed with potty training.

All three boys seemed to be more aggressive with each other and more whiny with me.  While that could be a phase, finding them all in my bed every morning is new and different.  If one of the boys failed to make it into my bed at night, he demands to snuggle with me before he gets dressed.

I know divorce is tough on kids.  I was expecting issues and regression.  I call them every night they are with their dad.  I bought them a phone so they could call their dad or any adult they want without asking.  I let them use my phone to call their dad when they ask.  I’ve never said anything negative about their dad or his girlfriend in front of the kids.  I had conversations with everyone to make sure they never did the same.  I listen and engage in conversations with them when they talk about their dad, his girlfriend, their little sister, and the times they have at the other house.  I make time for each of them.  I make sure our routine is normal and that we get work done and still have fun.  I stick to the rules.  I surround them with loving adults and good examples of men and women.  I just feel frustrated that I can’t do more to help them.  I don’t have the money to take them to counseling, and the ex believes the boys are just fine.  (Everyone say hi to the paralegal.)

Here’s the thing.  I know what divorce can do to kids.  I’ve done my research.  I did research when I was taking psych classes.  I did my research throughout the separation.  I did my research as I take education classes.  Children of divorce are more likely to suffer depression and commit suicide.  They are more likely to participate in risky behavior and not finish high school.  They are more likely not to go to college and more likely to have issues with commitment.  (Though recent research on commitment issues show a much smaller effect than earlier research saw.)  I know these kids need extra help.  I just wish I knew what else to do for them.