I’m scattered right now, kind of depressed and prone to crying. I really wouldn’t want you to see the state of my kitchen. There’s still food in it and it’s not a superfund site, but you know. I’m keeping local take out and delivery places in business, because fuck cooking sideways with a wrench. I’m kind of out of it. I know I’m not the one who really matters in this, because I’m the adult. I’m okay with this. My job is to answer the phone when she calls; send supportive texts so she doesn’t feel like she’s all JANE EYRE’D out in the hinterlands. To keep answering my lawyers’ questions and to keep showing up to court.
I tend to not to want to write when I’m feeling terrible, in part because for many years the idea was to look tough and to keep things from affecting me. I used to just kind of collapse inward or go on autopilot. I’m kind of happy/sad to say I don’t really need those kind of walls anymore, because, simply put, my life is a lot better than it used to be. It’s hard to write or think about anything else right now. It used to be when I was feeling like this I was good for two or three cracking good stories about the time I shoplifted a home enema kit and then turned it into a Schnapps bong or SOMETHING involving the wrong hole and a rodeo clown.
Anyway, I really am aware that what has happened this week is only the tiniest little microcosm of misery–a mere drop in the bucket of what other people experience on a daily basis, but this is one of the hardest battles for me to fight, when one side is for love and the other is for money.
She looked so tired all week. When she called me, she sounded tired. I would see her after school when I picked up Strudel, in strange clothes and with sad eyes. I felt like we were both holding our breaths like the dog with the cookie on the end of its nose, desperately waiting to hear the “okay.” She would cling to me and I had nothing to say. I got emails from her teachers expressing concern and telling me that she was crying in class. I get sad texts about how she misses us at home and loves us and is thinking of us. This feels wrong to almost everyone.
I keep thinking about something that happened before the divorce was final, years ago, right after Strudel was born. One of his arguments in court was how bonded she was to him and how she was a “daddy’s girl.” She was four and at that stage where kids often become enamored with their opposite-sex parent, which I knew, and anyone who has ever paid any attention to parenting literature or has raised kids knows. This argument was frustrating and empty, like many of his arguments in court.
I remember him dropping her off for some time with me at my house with his future wife in tow, before she had her three kids with him. Frannie climbed out of the car and immediately burst into tears. He kind of hesitated, watching us from his car. We walked around the corner towards the door of the apartment building and she continued to weep. I knew he was unemployed that summer and I thought about what his schedule might be like.
I knelt down next to her, holding her, while her little body shook with sobs. It always slays me when she cries like that, when she is truly at the end of her rope. She sounded like that last week when I told her about the temporary custody change as well.
“You really like being with your dad right now, huh?” I said, and she nodded. “Do you want to spend this weekend with him too? Do you want a couple more days with him?” She nodded again, sniffling. I called him and he looped back, and she went off with him again. As much as I wanted to see her, I knew she was happy this way, for that weekend. She was much calmer when she came back and was ready to settle in and see me.
I will tell you I have thought about letting her go like that this time. What if he gets 50/50? Where do we go from there? If he “wins” and we return to the 2005 parenting plan, that’s a crappy life for a kid. She could have a life way far away at his house and be a visitor in my home, I know. I think about how all that “daddy’s girl” goodwill has expired. I thought about her hanging up after he called her last week and finding me. “He said X, and I knew it was a lie,” she said, rolling her eyes. I just listen. I think it would be a double betrayal now if he won and I let her go.
Strudel and I were in the car earlier this week. “You know, mom, this is not a fair thing with Franny.”
“Yes, because even though the time is even, it is still not fair to her. OR US.”
“I think so too, honey.”
“I miss my sister,” she said.
I can’t fix everything for her forever, nor should I. I know the point is for her to grow up, develop her own set of coping skills. But I do feel like I let her down in this, because she expects me to help her, and I’ve failed somehow.