Meandering about ex's and lousy parents
Trigger Warning:This post is about my ex husband. He and I do not speak more than a handful of times each year, and I do not consider him a friend in any way, shape or form. He has no input in the schooling, clothing, raising or religions [philosophical] education of my children. He has opt-ed out. This post may be extremely hard for anyone who had a part-time, or not ever there, parent, or who parents a kid going through this. I'm so very sorry, and I wish I had resources to help. But I don't. I'm right there, with you, in the trenches with our hurt kids. I guess we have to figure it out, together.
I wear a lot of hats. I'm a chef, a beginner composter and gardener, a modern day hippie, a Socialist, a landscaper, a decent handy-man, an excellent tool-hander [you know the person who you send to go-fer when you're working on a car? Yeah, I'm your man!]. I can help you work on your car, wash clothes, mend and tailor a suit jacket and even groom a dog or cat [complete with shave and little head-bow if necessary]. I can sooth a teething baby, put a kid with colic out for the count [Washing machine + kid in car seat + spin cycle, I don't know why it works] end tell a decent joke. I'm a writer, a wife, a partner, an LGBT activist; I'm a Mum, a friend, a listener and a minister to the soul when you need someone to listen. I am a voter, a cat lover and addicted to books.
I'm all these things, and so very much more. It's hard to introduce yourself, isn't it? Hi, I'm so-and-so, and I do this!
I'm also an ex-wife, "that fucking bitch who won't let me see my kids", the sole reason that he never speaks to them [no, I don't know how that works, we'll unpack it here soon], and of course "a dirty money-grubbing cunt".
My former mothers-in-law were perfectly happy and supportive of me when I was lobbying with them so they could marry, when they realised I was completely behind their relationship and when they knew my ex would shut the hell up about it. But the moment he left me, I became Satan. Literally! "You are Satan!" So I suppose I'm a bisexual Satan, too? I dunno if there's a hat for that. [I had told him that his mother was a lesbian, so if he didn't like it, he was ass out! "I don't believe in it" got a "WTF? Lesbians are like Saint Nikolas? Please. You can't disbelieve the love you see between them." He stopped being homophobic, or at least overtly homophobic.]
Yep, I'm an ex-wife; we were together about ten years and in that time we lived together about half of it. Our relationship was shitty from the start, but like a good girl I tried and tried and tried again. I wanted to so badly for my children to have a relationship with their father like I have with mine... but you can't make an asshole be anything other than an asshole. I knew I could not change my ex. I tried to encourage, help, support, and finally, I just did it all on my own. I was a single mother who lived in the same house as the father. It was weird, uncomfortable and a terrible environment for my kids.
He never finished anything he started, and there were times that I had to ask my parents for a short-term loan to keep the lights on because he'd taken the debit card to work, and withdrawn 100 bucks for lunch, four times in a week. [He was in the US Army, and no, I have no idea why he felt he needed 400 dollars a week for lunch. Hooters wing special? I don't know.] I went to the food bank to feed my children, and even tried to get food stamps. Lucky me, he had enough years in the military that we didn't qualify. I shopped at the Dollar Store and Goodwill to make sure my kids were clothed, fed and had soap. [I still shop at Goodwill, this is no knock on that organisation! They're nothing short of wonderful.]
In this time, my ex never went without. When he wanted something, he bought it, regardless of what the household budget looked like. Even if that meant that I had to call and ask the water company for an extension. He wanted that 70 dollar game, so he bought it, fuck the light bill. He wanted those sneakers, even though his were perfectly fine, he got them; who cares if the telephone bill would be late. We had three extra days, they'd be OK waiting.
When he got back from Iraq his brain was messed up. I believe with all my heart he had PTSD, but he was too much of a wimp to get help. I mean that, he told me he "was afraid they'd take his clearance away". The clearance he had, security clearance was necessary, yes. But him threatening to kill himself in the loo while my little kids could hear, so I'd call the chaplain was better some how? Therapy was worse in his mind, than having his wife and kids terrified of him. I guess it's always better to terrorise the people who care about you?
Or how about raping me while I slept. That was OK, too, right? The reasoning ranged from "I thought you were awake," or "I thought you liked it" or "you're my wife so it's always OK" to "Sorry, I was sleep walking." I honestly didn't know it was rape, I had called for advice and was told that a married man can't rape his wife unless they're splitting up and he beats her [can you tell I was in an ultra-conservative state?]. I was stupid and believed them. I just knew I wasn't comfortable at all with his behaviour and refused to sleep with him. Stupid me, I thought he'd get help and get better. Most of our mutual friends don't know, and I'm not sure I want them to know. They'd confront him, I think. I never expected them to "pick sides" when we split, I felt you could be friends with both partners even if they weren't partners any more [that's logical, isn't it? I mean, friends aren't like china and teaspoons]. Besides, he doesn't think he did anything wrong, so I'm sure he can twist it any way he wants to if it were brought up to him.
We moved to Michigan because he refused to find work, and actually caused me to get fired from my job. How's dropping the kids off at my studio and then going home to play video games sound? Like a bad dream, right? Or a moronic so-called comedy? Yeah... it wasn't even a little bit funny.
He left us less than a year later, and I can't say I was sorry. The State of Michigan considered what he'd done to be abandonment [he moved and refused to provide any monetary support for the kids, including health care], and sued the fuck out of him. He started paying child support in September of 2006, seven months after he left, and the complaining started.
That May he called a week late to tell my oldest happy birthday. A week. He promised gift that never arrived, too. I can't remember what was promised, but I do know it was the first time he'd done that. I wasn't there to get the present anyway, you see, so it was never gotten. My poor son.
After he spoke to my boy, we had the oddest conversation. He told me that he expected me to move as soon as the school year was out, and live there with his mothers and him, and our kids, in a two bedroom walk up, in Connecticut. His other mother's grandchildren were in and out with their mothers (her son has, I think, four kids with three women, or three kids with two, something like that. Anyway, they were living there more than living on their own for several years, and might be there still).
"I'm in school," I said.
"Oh, that's fine, you can quit school and take care of me, and my mom and [my other mom] while I go to school. And then you can go back," he said, completely convinced that I'd go for it.
"What about [the woman his mothers fixed him up with in March, two weeks after he left us]?"
"She, ummm," he tried to change the subject, but I knew they were sleeping together. Frankly, I didn't care. And told him so. I followed up with, "Dude, we're so fucking done. Don't even come home."
He called to wish my daughter happy birthday that year, four days early. He developed a bad habit of calling after they went to bed on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and never calling back the next day, even though he promised.
He started the annual tradition of calling the day after my youngest's birthday. And wouldn't you know it, he did it again this year! Can't fuck that one up, can we? Every single year he's called the day after. How in the fuck do you do that? How do you screw up your own child's birthday!?
He called with some regularity at first, I will give him that. He'd call, speak with my oldest children for about five minutes (that's all together, not each), and then brow beat me for an hour so I'd give him another chance. I got to where I'd tell them, "Just hang up the phone when you're done," so I didn't have to deal with it.
A girl can only take "I've been reading some books, and I know I'm a shitty person, but I just know I can get better if you give me another chance." I gave him more chances, and put up with more emotional abuse than anyone should ever have to deal with. So I constantly said no. My youngest son is here because of another chance.
When we were together I was told, almost every day, that I was worthless, stupid, lazy and ugly. His favourite thing to do was tell me about this or that woman, and how great their breasts were and how mine were too small. He's tell me how sexy that woman was, or this one, and how my ass was too big. If I'd just lose a couple pounds, he was sure my butt would reshape into something more flat and pleasing to him. [His idea woman has no curves what so ever, but has very large breasts-- think a rule with tits the size of your head.]
My favourite was that I was too smart, and then instantly stupid. I was too tall, too pale, too quiet, too bookish, too night-owlish, too much myself. I wasn't Asian, or any shade of brown that he found pleasing, I wasn't black or from Nicaragua. I wasn't from Costa Rica, or Columbia or Belize. I was from the Midwest, and so utterly not good enough.
I'd seen the world, and was over-educated. Heaven help me the day he found out my IQ score was higher than his. He actually took the same IQ test online about a dozen times in order to get a score higher. I just rolled my eyes. But it really struck me later when he made a comment about how much higher his score was, how much that had bothered him.
Nothing I did was right, and neither was anything the kids did. They were too loud, too annoying, too demanding, too too. He'd walk in the door, change his clothes and sit down at the computer or in front of the television. Anything that sought his attention besides a plate of food was shouted at, cursed loudly or smacked. [Yes, he smacked my children, to my shame. I did stand up for them, however, and told him if he ever laid a hand on them again, I'd stab him. He knew I meant it. So he never did.]
Anything not amusing to him was to be ignored. And that included me, if I wasn't willing to dress pretty, bleach my hair blonde [platinum, mind you], grow it out to my waist [can you imagine how dry it'd be bleached like that?!] and wearing pretty frilly dresses. I was never girly enough, never feminine enough, never enough.
One night we had guests over for a gaming session. Yes, an rpg night, with actual pencils and dice and stuff. We were dicking around, and hadn't started playing yet when my friend S. started humming. He'd gotten "Light My Fire" by the Doors stuck in his head. It happens, right? I mean, shit, I can't even count the times I fall asleep with one song in my head and wake up to a completely different one. So I didn't think anything of it.
Then, out of nowhere, my ex thought it was excruciatingly funny to break into "I just wanna set my wife on fiiiii-yar!" He laughed so hard he was crying, and fell off the sofa. The entire room stopped, and no one said anything. I think we were too shocked. No one said anything for a very long time. Then, everyone spoke at once, including me. It ranged from my, "Not fucking funny you dick. Try it, I dare you, motherfucker" to "Dude, not funny!" and "What the fuck is wrong with you!" He decided we didn't get the joke and left. I can't say he was missed.
I knew when I said, "I dare you," that he didn't have the balls to attempt it. He was always a sneaky, shamming bastard, and to do something so open would mean he'd have to commit, that someone might know he did it! Fuck that!
Besides, if I was dead, he'd have to do something with the kids, and heaven forbid he do that. It would mean less partying and spending money on stupid shit like hipster or wanna-be gangsta clothes [for the record he's 38, so a hipster he is not. He's also a very white Italian, so gangsta is out, too. But he tries to be so cool.]
He did not see the kids from early 2006 until Easter 2008, despite living a mere 10 hours away and my willingness to meet him halfway. All I asked for was two days notice. I offered to drive the kids all the way there, as I knew my way around that town in Connecticut, and I knew I could find a cheap ass place to stay.
I offered to find him a place to stay if he came out to Michigan. All I asked for, was again two days notice. There were plenty of little hotels and such near the freeway that weren't dives, just smaller.
I asked him every long weekend they had from school, every vacation; I sent him a school calender every year, through the mail, and email. I always got the same answers.
If it was a weekend, Thanksgiving, Spring or Winter breaks, I got: I can't, I have to work.
If it was summer vacation, I got: I can't, I don't have anywhere to put them.
What the fuck does that mean? I don't have anywhere to put them!? They're not knick-knacks, they're children!
He saw them over Easter 2008, like I said, just before he went to Afghanistan. He flew out and spent one day and one night with them.
Later, when my Beloved and I started dating he blew up. Accused me of all sorts of things, along the lines that I was turning the kids against him, and that I was replacing him. He got some "mid tour leave", as is standard when the military does long deployments that fell around Labor Day. He told me he wanted to take the kids for a week of it; then five days, then four. Then he arrived about 8pm Saturday night-- two days late. He'd called me five or six different times changing the time he'd arrive. I found out he hadn't even bought the plane tickets until the Friday night before. He took the kids for his "parenting time", which is a cute euphemism for visitation. He brought them back to me Tuesday, early, right around lunch time.
He flew back out that same day, and spent the rest of the week, with his girl friend. I know this, because he told my son he was visiting "your new mom". My oldest son said he didn't have a new mum, bless him.
Of course, that's about the fifth or sixth woman he's been engaged to, since he and I split up. I might be exaggerating, it might only be 4.
To this day, I believe he only took the kids that weekend because he was jealous about my dating again. I'd been on a few dates here and there, but hadn't met anyone I wanted the kids to meet, until my Love. So my ex had no idea, and it wasn't his business anyway.
He's been current on his child support once. Exactly one time, for thirty days.
Now, the way child support works, on the 1st you're "behind" that month; then the state pays it out on a specific day [it's sometime in the first week, here] and then you're current; but I don't mean he's constantly behind the one month. He likes to run a thousand behind, because he can't be bothered to work. Or if he does, it's "under the table", so he can drink the cash up.
I contacted the State of Arizona earlier this year to inform them of the change in the kid's health insurance. See, according to the decree written in Michigan, and duly sworn here in Arizona [they exported it, for lack of a shorter way to explain], he has to keep them covered, health/prescription, dental and vision. He has refused to cover them for four years. I can't get them on Arizona Kids [our version of SCHIP] because they're full, so my husband covered them with his work. [Thanks my Love!] The Department of Economic Security heads child support, and they needed to know.
He told me, "Just put them on the state," and then went off about how there was no way possible that my darling husband made enough money to exempt us. I shut him down pretty quick, but was shocked at the presumption, let alone the "just put them on welfare, I won't cover them right now."
How do you tell your kids you refuse to cover them? How do you tell them you care so little for their health and welfare that you won't get them health insurance?
How do you tell the State Government that? They don't care what you think about it, or why you don't want to, or even if you refuse because of some arbitrary stupidity. They said You Will Do This, so by Goddess, You're better fucking do it!
Pretty soon his license will be marked, and when he goes to renew it, he will be arrested for ducking his child support. He can, of course, just not get a new one when his birthday comes at the end of March, he lives in Brooklyn now, and I guess can take the tram everywhere.
But knowing him, he'll drive without a license, get pulled over for speeding and then blame me for getting arrested.
Of course, all the while I'm the bad guy. Because I have some how prevented him, loving, doting father that he is, from lavishing his love and attention, adoration and wisdom on the children.
I'm evil because I expect him to pay child support, even though the law requires it.
It's my fault they don't call him, not the fact that I have had a new phone number for him about once every three months-- for five years. [That doesn't even touch on the fact that for a long time when they did call, he refused to answer the phone. You make a kid talk to a voice mail for long enough and they'll tell you fuck off.]
I turned the kids against him-- which I don't get, because two of them call him Dad. One calls him "Mum's ex" when speaking of him, and nothing when speaking to him. [that one is all Boogie. I had nothing to do with it but a shocked expression when I found out.]
Of course, my favourite thing has to be the "I bought your birthday/xmas gifts and have to get them sent out." And then a month goes by, and another month, and another. He calls again, and say to me, "I have to get their gifts and get them sent out."
"Wait, I thought you told them you'd picked them up," I was confused the first couple times, thinking I'd mis-heard.
"No, I have to get them, still," he said, as though clarifying his lies is bothersome.
You know, he bought Boogie a gift in 2010 that still hasn't arrived. My daughter's gift cards are chronically lost in the mail [she likes to shop so he always promises her gift cards to Target]; the last gift he got my oldest son was a killer r/c helicopter! It worked once, then wouldn't take a charge; what a total piece of shit. [Is OK, though, my Beloved and I, we got him a better one for his birthday coming, because he was so excited when he opened it, our hearts broke for him when it broke.] That gift was a Christmas gift, that he got in February or March.
I don't expect him to purchase the love of the kids. That's impossible and wrong. You can't buy love, nor can money be a substitute for true nourishing care.
I do expect him to call, or email, or write with some regularity. These are his children, too.
Except, any more, they aren't. They're my kids, and my Beloved's kids.
We've been together since August of 2008, and they've been his kids since not too long after that. He calls them his, brags about their grades, and tells funny stories about the shit they say, and the things they do. He relishes in parent conversations about condoms and peer pressure, and loves it when they ask political or religious questions. He enjoys playing games with them; he even sat down and watched the Harry Potter films with them, one at a time, when we got them from Netflix. That was something he looked forward to doing, that movie night; we've watched "The Rats of NIMH" and "Clue" and many other films together, and he looks forward to each and every one of them.
My husband loves the kids, and never looked at them as a separate thing. He loves me, so he loves them. He loves them for themselves, finds joy in their laughter and gets excited around birthdays and Christmas, just like I do.
I wish my kids had biological father who did the same, but there's nothing I can do about that.
I'm sure I'll come back to him later. But for now my kiddos are home from school, and Boogie needs my help with his "is this an adverb or an adjective" sentences.
[Note: I never pressed charges against him, and I won't now. Being raped was traumatic, and if I'd know at the time I would have. I honestly believed the MP's (military police) when they told me that the law wasn't broken unless he hurt me, beat me, tried to kill me. I didn't know that marital rape was illegal in Texas and that I had recourse. I have done everything I could to heal from that, and it did take awhile to come to a place where I could accept that this person who claimed to love me would do that to me. That doesn't mean I've forgiven him, and I won't. For some things, there is no forgiveness.]