You have a good day/it’s not your fault

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.”

“Oh yeah?”

“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.

15 thoughts on “You have a good day/it’s not your fault

  1. You have not failed her in the least little bit. I can see where it feels that way, but I know you haven’t, and you do too.

    That dumb ass judge failed her, her father has failed her (that is such a massive understatement it actually made me laugh) but you have not failed her. You are doing exactly what you should be doing, you are following “orders”, cooperating, showing up to court, and being there for her to say things to you like “He said X and I knew he was lying”, because that can’t be an easy thing for a kid. She knows you are in her corner and I think she is smart enough to know that you are going to lose some rounds, but you are going to fight for her no matter what.

    I will admit I have 0 experience with this type of situation, but if I were you I would be giving those e-mails from her teachers to your lawyer so they can consider submitting them to the court? If there ever was a clearer representation of the fact that this is NOT good for Franny, I can’t think what it would be.

    Also, another opinion from someone who you don’t know and who has no background here…do NOT let her go. Totally different when she was 4, she needed to he with him and (more importantly, in my opinion) she WANTED to be there. That is very clearly not the case now.

    Hang in there.

  2. OMG poor Franny! I’m so sorry the judge said y’all have to do this. I really hope they make a better decision next time because if I want to cry just reading this I can only imagine how it must be tearing you up. Hang in there :(

  3. I’m so impressed at how you’re handling this whole thing. You’re an inspiration to me. Don’t ever believe for a moment that you’re doing anything wrong – you’re an exemplary mom. I wish more parents were like you and handled situations like this so gracefully and with such a focus on your child’s happiness.

    tl;dr – you rock.

  4. What ShellsBells said.

    When Franny was little, you loved her enough to let her spend more time with her dad, when that was what she wanted/needed. What she wants/needs to be now is to be with you, and for you to fight for her. I don’t think she could have a life with him and be a guest at your house, if SeaFed won, and you ended up thinking that would be better for her than all the bkac-and-forth–maybe when she was 4, and she didn’t really know him, but she’s older now, and she knows him, and knows that he’s full of shit. She can know that he’s not a great dad and still love him and want to spend time with him, and that’s OK–we all have those people in our lives. But it’s much easier to visit That Person when you know you have HOME waiting for you. And you’re her home. In a perfect world, you win (well, in a perfect world, you don’t even have to fight). In an imperfect world, you just keep fighting, because you’re her home, and you’re her real family.

    If there is anything at all that is good about this fucked up 50/50 split, it is that it is proving that it isn’t good for Franny. Hopefully the judge will see that prettydamnquick.

  5. ShellsBells speaks much truth, and is wise. Listen to her.

    And forgive yourself. You are blaming yourself for things outside of your control. In every entry, your love for your children shines through like a beam of holy energy. Your children know that they are protected and cared for in that light, and they recognize who you are on the deepest level possible – their beloved protector and mother bear.

    You gave Franny time with her father at a time when he was not as completely fucked up as he is now. Letting her go at that point was not the wrong thing. Letting her go now would be, and it’s going to be the hardest fight you’ve ever fought. But you deserve her, and she you, and you both deserve Strudel, etc.

    I would be willing to bet that he’ll tire of this soon, as it’ll become apparent to him that parenting isn’t just “my kid is sleeping in a bed in my house.” In the meantime, I send you positive energy and I want to remind you that in so many ways, you rock. Franny is lucky to have you.

  6. I have no personal experience with divorced parenting but as stressful as this situation is, it really does sound like you are doing the best thing. This 50/50 split thing is OBVIOUSLY a ploy for SeaFed to not pay child support. OBVIOUSLY. And between Franny’s complaints and the documentation you’ll be able to provide, with a decent lawyer it should be struck down. I mean, seriously. But by showing how you’re willing to be flexible and try things and work within the system, you’re able to PROVE that this is not working. Right? And Franny is learning that you’ve always got her back and are always a safe place to come home to, and she’s learning about what kind of person SeaFed is by herself.

  7. Definitely what Bridgid Keely said. You are showing yourself to be the utmost cooperative parent and the fact that this is the WRONG THING for Franny is not your fault. You are doing everything you can and what you are being ordered to do even though the judge obviously thought it was a crock of shit as well. Your only other choices are to kidnap Franny or not allow visitation which would obviously not bode well for you. SeaFed is the one torturing his daughter, not you. I feel so very, very bad that you and Franny are in this situation. I was lucky that when C. decided she didn’t want to visit her dad anymore he didn’t push it. I always thought he was an asshat for that but now I realize, Thank God.

  8. I agree that you should stop blaming yourself for this. It was a long time coming and you were pretty prepared for it. You are doing everything you can with what you have. Emails from teachers expressing concern is a good thing! It means that someone besides yourself sees the damage that’s being inflicted on this poor child. Gas is expensive and the trip is long. Unless he is planning to move closer to you rather soon, I don’t see how he can maintain a 50/50 parenting plan, especially when there are other kids to provide for. I’d watch to see if Franny’s grades start to slip. Between the stress and her lack of sleep, I don’t imagine she’s going to keep up as well. Poor thing. I feel for you guys. I fervently hope it works out in her favor.

  9. May I comment? Something stood out for me in this post, something you said about how this was insignifigant compared to others’ suffering. This does not mean you have to suck it up and not be sad. Personally, the strange clothes and clinging after school would fucking break my heart and cause me to lose my mind so I think you are a brave, brave lady. Please tell us you are documenting the shit out of every word her teachers share with you and every text F sends to you for the future bullshit. I am, as usual, sending you some good thoughts, HARD. SeaFed can suck a dick.

  10. Dorrie you can ALWAYS COMMENT. As if I could stop you. Thanks, I am recording every lateness and every text. Bleh.

  11. Goddamn what a gut-wrenching, miserable thing. This makes me so sad. He needs to LOSE, and you need to WIN, and this bullshit needs to be OVER. You can’t co-parent with an asshole, you can only minimize damage. I am thinking about you guys.

  12. The same part stood out to me as did to Dorrie. The fact that, yes, there’s all kinds of suffering happening to lots of other people on a crazy unimaginable scale right this moment doesn’t invalidate your right to feel sad and angry about this particualr fucked up situation. It’s the one you’re living in.

    It’s a testament to you that you recognise other people’s pain too, but it comes down to: Franny’s your child. You’re feeling this pain because you love her and want the best for her.

    By the power vested in me by my internet connection, I hereby absolve you of any guilt for feeling bad.

    I really hope the next court date results in actual justice.

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