Monday, October 05, 2009

Dumb Ol' Divorce

You know, I posted so many entries during the whole divorce thing. This was my outlet and lifeline of sorts back then. I don't post much about it these days because A) it hasn't been running my life lately, B) it's hard to keep entries from turning into an ugly bitch session and C) I don't really think about it much.

But I'm going to post this because A) it's about Pokemon Boy and B) I'm kind of looking for feedback. Bare with me. I will ramble a bit here.

And by "kind of looking for feedback", I mean, I want feedback that comes from a place of love and encouragement. If the only thoughts that come into your head are of bashing The Ex, I get that. But keep them to yourself. That's all I ask.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was standing at church having a conversation with someone about how cool it had been that The Ex had traveled all the way down here for Pokemon Boy's baptism. I guess I was commenting on the distance and didn't realize Pokemon Boy was nearby. He suddenly said, "But mom, YOU'RE the one that took us away from dad." Gah? I was really at a loss. All I said was, "Let's talk about this later." And I never got around to it.

Yesterday, we were driving home from church and Pokemon Boy asked me "Do you think it would be hard to live without your kids?" I wasn't sure where he was going with this. "I'd find it almost impossible to live without you guys," I replied. But then I asked if he meant when he got old enough, he'd move out. And he said, "No, like right now. If we didn't live with you." So I told him how I'd be incredibly sad without them and figured we were moving on to a topic of death or other tragedies. Nope. "Yah," he continued, "that must be how dad feels."

Oh boy.

It's very hard for me, this line of conversation. Right now, the boys have glorified their dad into this sad, lonely victim. I have to put on the strong face and keep everything moving. I am the present parent and disciplinarian. Therefore, I am the unfun parent. I also think that, since I am no longer moping around and lost, it might appear that I don't care about any of this. Pokemon Boy has made it clear that, when I talk about dad or the divorce, it sounds like I never loved him. Of course he has no idea of the pain I went through or the work I did with God to make it through this broken time and arrive on the other side whole and ok with being single. He doesn't understand that, when I talk about "dad", I have to put on a poker-face and use a very level voice. It doesn't hurt to talk about him any more but for years it did. I can see how my strength - when filtered through a child's sad longing for his dad - would look uncaring and calloused.

It's especially hard because, long story short, their dad chose to pursue another woman. He chose this over the hard choice of staying near and being there for his two children. I think this is the sticking point for almost every person close to this story. Since 2007, my constant prayer has been for God to put true forgiveness in my heart for The Ex and his girl thing. And God is working miracles in that department. But I tell you, the one stumbling block for me is this same issue. He chose the girl thing over his own children. Back in 2007, when he was leaving to move 2000 miles away, I said, "You will break your boys' hearts!" His only reply was that he couldn't break the girl thing's heart. I will never forget that.

So here is my boy. Deeply intelligent. Deeply feeling and sensitive. He sees his dad as lonely and sad. Because when dad visits here, he stays alone in a hotel. And every time he leaves, he cries. When the boys have video calls on the computer, there is a sadness that hangs over their dad. Because I think every time he talks to or sees them, it pulls at his heart. And it damn well should. Unfortunately, the boys see this sadness from their limited perspective and think, Oh poor dad. He's so lonely. Pokemon Boy has said to me on quite a few occasions that maybe he should live with dad for x months and then with me for that long. In my head I reply, "Over my dead cold body, honey." But my mouth usually says something lame and comforting.

During our discussion yesterday, Pokemon Boy really opened up. He keeps it bottled up because he sees how words can hurt someone. He doesn't understand the divorce but he knows I was hurt deeply. He knows daddy stopped loving me and now loves another woman. So he is very careful about what he says to me. He does not like seeing anyone hurt. And he tries very hard to never be the one that brings that hurt. I could see he was about to burst with emotion yesterday. I reassured him he can say anything to me at this point. He can talk about daddy to me, it's ok. I explained that, even if something hurts me, God will take care of it and that I'm here to listen.

Finally it all came flying out. He tried to hold back the crying because he's at that age. But oh man. It came out. Just a jumble of missing daddy. Wishing daddy could live closer. Why did he leave? Why did I let him leave? Why did I let the marriage break up? Why can't daddy come back here? The saddest of all was after that torrent broke. When he was calmer and could think a bit.

He finally confessed - and I could tell it was so hard - that even though he understood "it was mostly dad leaving us," he was still kind of mad at me, too. All I could do was assure him that it was ok to feel that. And to reaffirm that he was right. Even though ultimately daddy left the family and I couldn't stop him, it took both me and dad being imperfect to get to that point.

The one that broke my heart, though...he held it back for a long time. I don't think he wanted to speak it. When he speaks something, that admission makes it a truth. And this was something I could tell he didn't want to be a truth. He looked at me and could barely speak it out. His face was a trembling mess. "I just feel like...well...I don't have a dad."

There it is. All the phone calls and video chats in the world don't make up for a 2000 mile logistical gap. Pokemon Boy's therapist warned The Ex about this. His own family warned him about this. The reality is, you cannot be a Dad from 2000 miles away. You can love. You're still their father. But a Dad is the one who is here, sowing into the kids every day.

I called The Ex and told him as much of the conversation as I could remember. Not to throw it in his face. We both try to communicate all of these hard conversations so we both know where the kids are coming from and are on the same page for when/if it happens again.

So my dilemma is what to say to my boys. Pokemon Boy is the tough one. Lil'Bro, at 5, is the kind that just says, "I miss dad," but doesn't cry and it doesn't seem to occupy his mind often.

We're all fallible humans. I, first amongst the fallible! Our gut instinct is usually not the best option. I have had multiple people advise me in the direction of tell the boys what a jerk their dad is. "Tell them the truth! They need to know and understand it now." The person saying this meant to tell my boys an age appropriate version of the truth but with no buffering. The person saying this has been in my shoes but her ex makes mine look like a saint. She has taken this tact with her daughters. And she did not hold back much. Knowing what her ex has done, I'm not so sure she was wrong to do it. But I do wonder if her daughters will ever be able to fix a relationship with their dad. If he ever turns his life around and isn't a scary danger, will they forgive him?

I can understand this avenue. But at the same time, there's a part of it that feels wrong to me. There is something very real about shredding some one's image - whether they deserve it or not. I think about the Proverbs that talk about honoring your parents. And I remember wondering how in the world someone who has been abused or someone who has absentee addicted parents is supposed to honor their parents. My wonderful pastors suggested that, perhaps if you can't support them in tangible ways, you can honor them by not slandering them. Not smearing their name. Not waving their flags of shame for all the world to see. I think that's a wise thought.

I also wonder, if you give children the whole truth about an imperfect parent, it can scar their view of that parent forever. And if that parent later turns their life around, how does that child now find forgiveness for the parent? I just think of deep personal truths I have held all my life from childhood that are just NOW being challenged as God opens my eyes. Anger I held on to that was born of the immature perspective of a very young kid who didn't have all the information. I'm just now working on shedding some of that.

So if I slam their dad, I don't think I'm being honorable. I have to find truths to tell them. I won't sugar-coat it. But they don't need to know all the intimate horrible details.

The flip side is my human side that doesn't think it's fair that a man who has made all of these awful, hurtful decisions gets to walk away without a scratch on him. He chose to leave his children and now he's a glorified sad victim. He left them yet sits 2000 miles away saying, "Boy, I miss my kids." It's very very hard to be a good person here. There are times when I call him out and hold his feet to the fire. But those are rare. He is quite good at making his own suffering.

I don't have a lot of people around me that have dealt with divorce while really really trying to follow God. So I don't know who to go to. There are a few. And I talk to them as often as possible to get their perspective and see how they've dealt with things. I suspect there are more people who have been touched by divorce around me than I know. It's not exactly a subject lots of people like to talk about. No matter which role you had in the whole story - it's awful.

Last night, once Pokemon Boy had finally calmed down, I prayed over him. And we prayed for daddy. I have been praying for The Ex since this all began. But I hadn't done it in earshot of the boys. That is a mistake I will now rectify. I told them both that I have always prayed for daddy and now I'll make sure I do that with each of them.

Pokemon Boy turned to me and said, "Mom, I hope this never happens to anyone we know."

Amen, my little man. Amen.


Tucker Hart said...

Lynette, I'm so sorry you and your little guys are going through this. I don't have any suggestions or advice, but I want to know that I'm thinking about you and doing my own version of praying for you.

I think you're such a great mom, and as long as you keep coming from a place of love for your boys, you (hopefully) can't go wrong.

C. Beth said...

I love that you are starting to pray for him, with your kids. That sounds like it could be a very good thing.

I am tempted to try to come up with some sage advice, but I'm not sure I have any at this moment. I'm committing to you I'm going to pray for this and if (through prayer) I do have input for you I'll pass it along.

You are doing such a great job as a mom, and specifically as a divorced mom. I think you're awesome.

I love you!

Allie said...

Yuck. I'm sorry, I have nothing more helpful to say or suggest. The only thing I can do is pray for you guys and for the Ex. And that's no small thing, as we know.

Kristen said...

I really think you're doing all the right things. I'm always amazed at how you are able to be calm and fair in talking about the Ex with the boys.

The only thing I thought about was maybe explaining to Pokemon Boy that he doesn't need to feel sorry for his dad and worry about him being lonely. Because his dad made this choice, he chose to be where he is and to be with who he is, and if he were lonely and sad, then he could change that himself, he could make different choices because he's a grown up and is in charge of his life. Maybe it would help to soothe PB's heart so that he doesn't feel the burden of worrying about the Ex. (I know how deeply he empathizes with others.) Of course, I'm not talking about shredding the Ex, but instead showing that the Ex is an adult who makes choices. He's not a helpless victim. He has power over his own life.

I was trying to think back to my parents' divorce. My dad acted like a victim, and I felt sorry for him and worried about him to the point that I was having heart palpitations and needed to drop classes in college because of the stress. I just don't want your boys to be saddled with that worry. :-(

I love you and I'm praying for all of you.

Barrie said...

What a wonderful open and communicative relationship you have with your children! I'm all about explaining stuff as honestly as I can, but within the confines of what the child can understand. Which all sounds well and good, except that I don't do a particularly great job of it. So, I guess I'm not much help. I do think Kristen is onto something. It seems as though it would be helpful for your ex to not look like a victim (esp as he isn't one).