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It’s a small world after all

January 10, 2012

Last weekend Big Guy and Baby and I headed up to the ski hill after a relaxing morning at home.  We had perused the paper, snuggled an increasing wiggly Baby, and sipped lattes until we were full of our own laziness.  We overcame the inertia caused by the dark grey sky and soggy weather by speculating that the bright snow and exercise would be worth the drive.  Another reason for procrastinating, though, was the knowledge that the Big Kids would be at the hill with their biological dad, taking part in their ski lessons.

One of the many, many challenges of co-parenting with someone who divorced you on very bad terms, is that you have to agree on recreational activities for the children of the marriage.  In my case, the Big Kids go back and forth to Biological Dad’s every other weekend, so we have to agree to sign the kids up for things that happen every Saturday morning, for example. Last year we struck a tenuous agreement over soccer.  We both agreed that soccer is a great team sport, the cost was reasonable and many of the kids’ friends played.  Practices were after school Thursday, which I could easily swing.  On the Saturdays that I didn’t have the kids, I had to restrain myself from driving by the pitch to see how they were doing.  On the Saturdays I did have the kids, I heard from other parents that they had met my ex.  One mom told me that he had confided in her that “we don’t communicate well.”

Great.  I love having my dirty laundry aired for the world to see.  It has taken me years to even moderately get over feeling like a giant failure for being cheated on for over a year, then having my 10-year marriage end in divorce.   I have no control over what he says about me when I’m not there, or how he acts in front of people whose respect I would like to earn.  I can only hope that they will judge him independently of me.  And judge they do.  I understand that we often judge people we don’t know, because it’s easy to see a situation in one dimension when you don’t know they whole story.  And I have no desire to share the whole, sordid story with the world (except maybe here), so I resent having my drama aired in front of the other families in my community.

This winter I signed the kids up for the Jackrabbits program at Mount Washington.  As a kid in the Kootenays, I skied every weekend and competed in XC ski races as a teenager.  It is important to me that the Big Kids learn to enjoy this sport, so they have a winter activity to snap them out of the dark, damp doldrums that set in on Vancouver Island from November to March.  Biological Dad could not afford the lessons and could not commit to taking them up on his Saturdays.  I struggled with the decision to pay for the lessons (with sponsorship from Grandma and Grandpa) and register the kids even though they would only attend half the lessons.  Last Friday I extended the offer to send the kids with their gear in case Dad could drive them to the hill, and he accepted.  Yet again I had to swallow my discomfort at knowing he would see my friends who have registered their kids for Jackrabbits, that he would be the first one to shake the teachers’ hands and be the physical representation of all the work it took to get them kitted out and fired up for the day.  The end result would be that the kids could take part in their lessons, meet new friends and have a great time.  I had to put their needs front and centre and squash my own ego.

So after dawdling last Saturday to enjoy a leisurely morning and give the Big Kids enough time to wrap up their lessons and head home, we drove to the hill, loaded Baby in the sled and the Big Guy and I enjoyed our first ski together this season.  Rounding the corner of my favourite trail into Strathcona Park, I saw my two beautiful Big Kids striding towards me, their Dad bringing up the rear.  We all stopped dead, then I cautiously skied towards them, calling a bright hello.  Awkward.  Every muscle in my body wanted to throw my arms around the kids and congratulate them on how well they were doing and tell them I love them.  Wearing long, gangly skis and being on opposite sides of the set track made this difficult, thankfully.  I asked them how their lessons had gone and if their coaches were kind.  They mumbled replies, like me, not really knowing what to do when the worlds of Life with Daddy and Life with Mommy collide.  My ex must have said at least 10 times, “Wow, it’s great to see you guys!”  (I couldn’t help thinking, “Is it great?  Is it great to be snubbed when you run into your kids’ mom and her new partner?  Would it be greater for you if we all acted like one big happy family and skied together?  That ain’t happening, buddy.”)  Then we each carried on in opposite directions.  For the umpteenth time I had to turn and leave my kids with a man who I despise and try to put that pain in a place where I can’t feel it, and carry on with my life.  I watched the snowflakes drifting down.  I listened to the zing of my waxless skis on the fresh snow.  I relished the sight of the Big Guy towing a sleeping Baby in the winter wonderland.

When I picked the kids up from school on Monday, I said, “That was strange running into you guys at the ski hill.  I wanted to talk to you more and ski with you, but I knew that was your time with Daddy and that I will get other chances to ski with you.”  They both said, “Yeah…” and I could tell they were casting their minds back to Saturday morning, which for them might as well have been weeks ago.  They didn’t say anything else about it and neither did I.  I want them to know the doors of communication are open if they ever need to tell me  to grow up and just treat their dad like a normal human being (which I’m sure one day they will).  But what I can’t tell them is that all my mental preparation to look him in the eye and say hello flies out of my brain when I actually see him and I feel like there must be steam coming out of my ears I’m so furious.  I’m incensed that I have to share these wonderful little people with him, when he took no interest in them as babies and then walked out when they were 2 and 4.   I have no idea how to put my rage behind me and deal with the here and now.  That could be another whole post, on forgiveness, that I’ll save for another day.

Whenever I feel stuck in a rut my first instinct is to get more information.  My logical brain knows that I am far from the first person who has had to survive divorce and learn to co-parent with a difficult ex.  (I am also aware that I am a difficult ex. )  But so far searches in the library and on the internet haven’t yielded the information I need.  Google ex etiquette and there are reams of resources on how to “get over it and move on”.  I’ll keep trying, because I know there will be countless occasions when we’re going to have to be in the same place at the same time, when I’m going to have to pull my head out of the clouds and realize that when the kids are with their Biological Dad they don’t somehow disappear off the earth.  Maybe with more practice I’ll be able to handle it when my old and new worlds collide, and even be a role model to my kids on how to keep one’s dignity while forgiving past hurts.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2012 9:26 am

    Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my friend’s fathers and it seems appropriate to share it here. “The only thing that matters in the end, is how you feel about yourself. If you were a good person, and cared for the people important to you, then that’s all that really matters.” It sounds to me like you care immensely about your children. As for x, he hurt you, and you’re going to feel that pain for as long as you need to feel it to heal. You’re a good mom, trying to make the best of your circumstances. Your children are lucky to have you and you them, and that’s all that matters…

    Also, I wish I could ski!

    • Mairi King permalink*
      January 13, 2012 10:37 am

      I’m inspired that others’ fathers can be such a source of wisdom! Inspiring words to keep close to my heart. Thanks for sharing!

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