Yesterday, Sunday, I found out that my son had his first cub scouts meeting on Wednesday.
Like, five days ago Wednesday.
And I just found out about it.
Now, I know I’m busy, and I sometimes forget things, like, say, my own lunch, but I don’t forget shit like my son’s first cub scout meeting.
Because he’s my son. Mine. My child. And his sister? Also MY child. My job. Me. I handle all the kid things. ME. I do them. By my damn self.
Except now I don’t.
I’ve had an ex-husband for over five years, and for most of that I was rolling 100% solo. There was no co-parenting, no shared decision making. Just one chair filled at parent-teacher conferences, just one seat in the stands at the soccer game. Just me, and my kids.
They got a stepmom in 2011. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and not just because I’m a million feet tall. I didn’t talk to her, and definitely not because I don’t like talking. There was no conversation, and honestly, because I only had to interact with them once every twelve days, I didn’t spend much time considering what that other family unit looked like.
I refused to even classify it as a family. I, was their family. THE mom. The only one. ME.
And I used that to feed my anger, and my ego. I was doing it all alone. No support. No interest. He wasn’t there, so I did his part, and mine.
I got to make all the rules. All the memories. All the plans. Just me and my bossy pants doing the bossy pants dance. Alone.
As a single parent, the thing I wanted most was help. A smile. A back pat. A break. Reinforcements. Trying to be two people at once— mother and father, disciplinarian and entertainer, the strong one and the fun one, wore the soft parts of me down quickly.
Responsibility is heavy. Adulting is hard. Parenting is hardest.
When he wanted more time with them I was furious. Righteous. He had missed toddlerhood and potty training and first lost teeth and learning to ride a bike. He had not stayed up nights watching fevers and cleaning vomit. He had not made ER visits, or birthday cakes. Who the fuck was he, to just walk into their lives now, at five and eight?
But still, I didn’t want to get in the way of my kids having a relationship with their father, because therapy is expensive and guilt feels bad, so they began to spend parts of the week with him. It went in spurts of normalcy. Things would be okay, and then derail quickly. We’d communicate peacefully for awhile, and then get contentious.
He started having an opinion about what the kids were doing and involved in, and we’d argue about that. I hated it. I didn’t want to give him a vote. Their stepmother bought bras for my ten year old daughter and I absolutely lost my shit.
MINE. These kids are mine. Not yours. MINE. Back.thefuck.Up.
They started taking extended vacations together and suddenly we were at 50/50 custody. The reality that there was this other family unit, outside of me, beyond me, not me, making memories with my kids, hit me. Real hard.
Someone else was creating things in my kids lives, and it absolutely terrified me. The one thing I’d been asking for for all these years— help— was finally available, and instead of being grateful, I was sick with angst.
They will do it wrong. It’s not in alignment with way they’ve been raised so far. It’s different. No one can possibly love them like I do. I’m their mother. They don’t need a spare. Extra parents get in the way.
All of their childhood memories should be tied to me, because they are MY kids, right? Mine, as though they are a possession to whom only I hold the rights to enjoy.
Mhmmm. Who’s the asshole now?
Fail. For so many reasons.
They are my kids, and they’re also his kids. Now, they’re also their stepmothers kids. Now, they’re also their stepfathers kids. They have four parents now.
Not one. Not two. Four.
Not half parents, not partial parents, not just these people to whom their “real” parents are married. Parents. These are our children. Not mine. OURS.
Because when I’m honest about the stories I’ve been telling myself, they are really just two beautiful humans who chose four other humans to love them.
So their dad missed what he missed. He did what he did. He said what he said. I did what I did, I said what I said, and I made it hard for him. That part, is over. This part, is happening.
I have a choice— I can can go back to being angry, jealous and insecure, I can keep resisting reality, or, I can soften into gratitude.
I’m grateful there is another woman who loves and cares for our children at their other home, and who creates space for them and wants to be involved. She doesn’t have to, she’s choosing to. That’s pretty amazing.
I’m watching my husband adjust to being a family unit, and I’m awestruck at the intensity of his love for our children. It’s so beautiful.
I’m grateful their Dad is ready to show up consistently, and to take the initiative to do something like sign our kid up for cub scouts. I’m grateful he cares enough to do the work.
I’m grateful I care enough to do the work.
I’m grateful that they get to travel and create new memories with all of their parents; they’ll have a wealth of learning and experiences to carry with them into adulthood.
I’m grateful that I have help. That I have support. That I can just be one person, just me.
I’m grateful for reflection, and the opportunity to move forward in a new way. For the chance to communicate differently, and to learn what co-parenting can really look like.
I’m grateful for the chance to get to redefine this, again.
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