This morning my ex-husband arrived to take our kids to his family Easter Celebration. I’ve been banished again this year, but that suits me just fine. They only want me around when they need me for something. And things are OK over there at the moment.
I told both my kids they HAD to go. At almost 14 and 15, they are close to the age where they no longer need to go to family celebrations. My husband and I discussed it and decided 15 was the line. At 15, if they don’t want to come, they don’t have to.
But this year, we decided to make both of them go.
I always back my husband. I always make sure we are a united front. Cos if the kids can see a crack they’ll work their way into it and try and turn it into a chasm and use it to their advantage.
They’re teenagers. Of course they will.
And the key to parenting, separated or not, is to provide a united front. That way there is no going to ask Dad or going to ask Mum or playing both ends against the middle. Even when I don’t agree with him, we discuss it. If his point of view proves correct, I back him. No questions asked. Once an issue is decided, I back him 100%.
No using the kids against each other. No using the kid to score points. No kids scoring points against us.
So today I told both kids they had to go. Neither kid wanted to. But they got ready and agreed to go.
My son, 15, with Asperger’s Syndrome was slouched on the couch when my ex arrived. His lack of enthusiasm was plain. At this point, it’s a delicate maneuver. Be gentle. Coax him. And he will be fine.
They walked out to the car, my son lagging back, and suddenly my husband explodes at him and asks him if he wants to stay home.
My son screams ‘No’ and gets in the car.
(Neighbours enjoyed that)
My husband shakes his head and looks at me.
I give him my best ‘what the fuck did you just do that for’ look.
He says to me “I’d rather he stay here if he’s going to be in that mood. Otherwise he’ll just spend the entire time bugging me cos he wants to go home. He’ll ruin my afternoon. YOU keep him”
Like my son is some annoying puppy who’s not well trained enough to ride in the car…an optional extra for the Easter family facebook post.
My son bursts into tears and runs into the house, screaming about how no one cares about him.
I give the neighbours a little smile and wave and say ‘Happy Easter’.
And we all stand there.
And my daughter says ‘Thank GOD! I don’t want to put up with him either. He ruins EVERYTHING!’
And that’s like a knife in the heart. Mostly because its true AND because my son can’t help it. He has Autism. He cannot regulate his emotions the way a neuro-typical kid can. He will always explode. He is so much better than he used to be. He has come such a long way. He has worked SO hard.
But no one sees that.
They just see the 15 year old boy behaving like a spoilt five year old and they shake their heads at both him and sometimes at me. After all, I’m his mother. I should have raised him better.
I tend to think I’ve done a rather exceptional job raising my kids on my own. Even while my husband lived with us, I was on my own.
Parenting is hard. My husband opted out early.
So my son went inside to cry. I went inside to talk to him.
I asked him if he wanted to go or I he wanted to stay home.
He said ‘Both’.
And that sums up his life. He wants to go. But he’s in such emotional turmoil that he can’t. He’s feeling anxiety at the prospect of being surrounded by so many people. All that noise. All those smells. All those people whom he rarely sees, all asking him the same questions, that he doesn’t understand the proper responses to. Because they are stupid small talk and he’s not into that.
But he wants to go because they are his family. And he wants…so very desperately wants…to be included in normal social engagements. He’s aware…painfully aware….that he’s different. When he was smaller he had no idea. Now he knows he’s different. We have a range of jokes about it. And we laugh. And we call him Sheldon (most affectionately). But we both know he suffers because its oh so hard for him to fit in. And he wants to. He desperately wants to. He just doesn’t always know how.
So he wants to go but he doesn’t want to go.
So I give him a hug and tell him that Dad will wait. And that he can still go. And I go out and ask my ex to just give it ten minutes. Come have a coffee and give the boy a little time to collect himself.
Ex goes into boy’s room and comes out two minutes later.
And says he’s fine, he doesn’t want to come and he’ll just take my daughter. (The easy child).
I go back inside to the sobbing mess that is my son and spend the next hour with him, first crying with his head in my lap, then following me closely. Not letting me out of his sight. Because he feels so isolated and rejected and alone. And he needs lots of hugs. But they are awkward hugs. Because he’s very uncomfortable with human contact. But he needs it. So he hugs me weirdly, at arm’s length almost. And I try to give him a proper hug back. So he knows what that’s like. A warm, tight hug.
And though I need to get moving, because I’m having my own anxiety issues this morning, I have to stop and take care of him.
Because that’s my job. And it’s hard.
And not once did it occur to my ex-husband that maybe I was looking forward to a few hours to myself. That maybe I needed those few hours to myself.
Because my ex-husband just doesn’t really consider anyone but himself. He’s not malicious, he’s not nasty. He’s just only sees things in terms of what’s best for him. That’s it. He’s not capable of more. You can’t get blood out of a stone. And there’s no point trying. Don’t expect anything from him and you’ll never be disappointed.
But my son’s needs are more important. And its three hours later now and he is happy. And all is quiet. And he’s playing a game and I’m writing a blog. And everything’s fine. No harm done.
And the phone has just rung and my ex is on his way back with my daughter. They’ll be here in 15 minutes. And we’ll have a coffee or a beer, and that’s another two hours of my day gone. That’ll BE my day gone. Cos I’m almost out of steam now.
And that’s normal life.