She did it again, God. But this time, my sweet youngest child heard her. And so, I had to speak up not once, but twice. First, to her. Then, to him. It seems the order should have been reversed.
You know who I’m talking about. The one who speaks before she thinks. The one that assumes her bitter divorce is everyone else’s divorce. The one who tries to put that word in my mouth.
“Hate” is not a word I use lightly. It’s not really a word I use much at all as I become older and wiser. So I am sure she felt my distaste. That’s as it should be, I guess.
“As much as you hate your ex, it must be hard for you around the holidays,” she said. This was meant to start a mutual bitch session. I have neither time nor the inclination for those anymore. See, God? Learning as I go.
And I saw him, my sweet boy approaching, as he heard the words. If a face could flinch, his did.
So again, loudly and with fervor, I said to her, “I do not hate my ex. I will never hate my ex. He fathered my children. He loves them dearly. I don’t wish him ill.”
And then, when we got home, to my man-boy: “Yes, I hate what he did. I hate that he does not own what he did. I hate what happened to our family. But your dad? He’s your dad. I won’t ever hate the man who loves you so much. Always remember that. You came from love. I want you to be able to live in that love.”
I’m no saint. I could point to plenty of times I’ve wanted to fire a missile in my ex’s direction. I could point to my struggles with a man who cannot own and apologize for his mistakes. In my family, you own it. Whatever “it” is.
But I married a man who loves our children. I also divorced a man who loves our children. One who tells my son, in a Confirmation retreat letter, that he will always back him. One who says the highlight of his week is seeing our sons. This, from a man who does not express emotion easily or lightly.
I’m not quite sure, God, why you keep putting me in situations that challenge me. I can say I don’t hate him. I guess there’s a part of me that will always love him. But so many words have flown completely out of my vocabulary when it comes to him–respect, like, rely, admire. I can say with surety I don’t hate. I’m not sure I can say much else and mean it.
Unless we’re talking about him as the father of my kids. Then, my soft spot shows. And you know why, God. You and only you know the conversations—the shouted “conversations”—we had post-divorce. Me screaming to him, “Don’t you see? Don’t you get it? You keep trying to hurt me. Go for it. I’m a big girl. I can take it. But every time you hurt me, you hurt them. You’re hurting their mother. Think about that. Is this the kind of man you want them to be?”
Boys need fathers. And most of the fathers I know are imperfect at best. But imperfections don’t hurt my kids long term. Not having a father? That could. Having a mother who constantly bashes their dad? That definitely would. Do I lie to them? No. I’m frank. I’m honest. I don’t sugarcoat what they can and cannot expect from him, if they’re trying to kid themselves. But they know they are loved by a mother and a father. With all the chinks in the armor both come with.
I ended my salvo to Ms. Busybody with this: “Please don’t ever put that word in my mouth. It’s not one I’d use.”
She gave me a LOOK. You know—the kind that says, “I’m ripping up your holiday party invitation when I get home.”
Good. I’ve got my winter tea, a good book and a boy who seems to want to hang out with me tonight.
The latter? Probably because I did not let her put that word in my mouth.
Far from perfect, God, but a satisfactory work in progress. For some reason, you entrusted me with these boys. And sometimes, I’m proving up to the task.
It’s enough to make me look forward to the New Year. And who we’re all becoming, messy though it may be.