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.
30 Comments Add yours
This post is perfect in so many ways: crisply written, leavened with humor, open, honest, and wise, Kay, so very wise. I’ve seen what happens when a mother belittles and hates her ex-husband, loudly and often, to their children and grandchildren. In my experience, the hatred comes back to haunt the mother as the children and grandchildren begin to realize she is unhappy and her mean words are untrue.
Thanks, first, for the kind words. They are always appreciated :-). I do think hate ends up hurting the hater more so than the object of hatred. I do know plenty of situations where mean words might be warranted, but they won’t help. The sad bit is when children are forced to face the fact that their parents’ mean words might be true. Then it’s not just the original hurt, but a double hurt.
Oh man. My husband’s father, Sly, left his first wife, FW, for my husband’s mother, Doris. Sly’s two sons were both under five years old at the time. He claimed FW was an alcoholic so of course he had to leave her.
Pot, meet kettle.
Anyhow – when Sly died in 2015, he and Doris had been married over 50 years. Yet ON HIS DEATHBED, he was (still) complaining about his FW and how horrible she was because she had wanted, you know, child support and for Sly to help pay for their children’s college.
We are not sad that Sly is dead.
Seriously? A whole life wasted still thinking about what a “victim” he was? Why is it the perpretators always seem to see themselves as the victim? Sheesh.
Your response was perfection. Go Kay! Always showing strength of character. These things are uncomfortable and not easy to do. You are an amazing mom, who has so much grace and maturity under pressure.
Right on. A great reminder to all of us to make sure our words reflect our hearts and to correct those who try to soil that.
Thank you! I screw it up plenty of times but find the wins increase over time:).
Well said Kristine. Hate, whoever the object, is a destructive emotion, destructive to oneself. Avoid, ignore by all means, let hate go.
I agree, Roy. Many times it hurts us more than the object of our hate.
I also despise the word “hate”. I admire that you were present in that moment and stood up for your conviction. I struggle with that. Social graces kick in, I laugh nervously, then regret it for days. So, you’re awesome! I am also looking forward to “…who we’re all becoming”. Messy it is, but bring it! The mess can be fun. The mess can be surprising. The mess is life…and life is amazing! xo
Ah, yes. The nervous laugh. The nemesis of us all through our 20s and 30s–the one we aim to get rid of in our 40s and beyond:). It’s not easy to break a lifetime of training, is it? To smile and be polite even when someone is trouncing boundaries? No more! I guess that’s part of the “who we’re all becoming” part:).
Well done. Everyone deserves to think the best they can of their parents as individuals. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, especially in the family context. Emotions swing, sometimes wildly. These are facts of life. Ultimately, our kids will evaluate their fathers and mothers on their own terms. It’s great that you are respecting all of the players in your story while creating lots of space for fairness, honesty and human frailties. Negative energy consumes, positivity creates room for growth. Stay on the course you’ve set.
Space is the key word. I don’t ever want to cram ideas or feelings down my kids’ throats. I want them Julie to live in the love they were created in. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comments.
So I am commenting from the male side of a divorce. A great post – thank you. I also never used the word hate. I wanted to make sure I was never a part of that. But I also worried about their future relationships. What image would they have of a relationship if the only, or main one at least, was of their parents. As they got older, I consistently tried to see how they felt relative to relationships. I cannot claim victory, at least not yet, but I can claim progress and forward movement. Of course this kind of message must come from both sides, and I can’t know for sure, but I firmly believe they get similar messages from their mom. As divorces happen, I hope both parts love their children foremost, over any battle, and take action accordingly. As always thank you for your honesty and courage. Spyro
So many things we could blame ourselves for, right? I try not to worry too much about how my boys will approach relationships because if nothing else, they have seen me be honest and true to myself. I think if you can handle the relationship with yourself, then you’re best equipped to handle being in a relationship with another. Thank you for your honesty and insightful comment.
“I’m not quite sure, God, why you keep putting me in situations that challenge me.” Well Kristine, it’s pretty clear to me that you are being put into these situations as a way to execute ‘teaching moments’ for your boys. Just think, if that bee-otch hadn’t said what she said, then you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to demonstrate to your son what the right thing to do is! I’m a bit farther down-the-road than you in this endeavor (I divorced my kids Mom in 1995) but I can tell you now that I have NEVER regretted not putting my kids Mom down in any way, shape, or form (despite how much she probably deserved it). Today they are happy, healthy, and self-sufficient young adults and our relationship (and my relationship with my ex’s family) is rock solid. Keep doing what you are doing, there is a reason why these things happen.
Oh, I love hearing from the future:). Especially when it’s good. I don’t want to wish this time away. Truly, I don’t. But some days are easier than others! Thanks for sharing your experience.
I was one who remembers all the great beginnings we had together. I often laughed when my kids liked to eat something their Dad liked to cook, sometimes a spicy dish or a “smelly” cheese would have me burst out saying, “You got your taste buds from your Daddy.” I also told them I am good in reading, literature and spelling but their Dad was great in math and computers. Every week I instilled memories and now as a Nana, who is still friends of his wife Mimi and he is Poppy, I carry on the tradition, letting them know their Poppy cooks well, likes games and is fun on a boat or beach. 😊
Oh, and he has a Nutcracker collection I started on our first Christmas together. 🎄
It reflects back upon me and you, too. I’m chiming in to say I am so glad you don’t “bad mouth” your ex. One day, when you go to your first grandchild’s birth and look across at him,you won’t feel sad you will cherish the cute next generation of your family, Kay. 💞
What a wonderful way to approach a family. When we got divorced, I told my children then a marriage ended but I family was forever. And that we would always be a family, despite the divorce. I’ve tried really hard to make that true. And it sounds like you have two. What a wonderful mom and Nana you must be.
When you can see past your deep hurts for the love of your sons, time and time again, it shows me your a Mother of courage, love, strength and because if this sacrifice they will see that gift in themselves and in others as they grow up 💚💕
I certainly hope so:)! Makes it mean more.
It may seem like a mess young lady, but it is so full of love it doesn’t matter any more ❤
Our journey is that acceptance of us, warts and all, and in doing so, accepting everyone else. Your journey is going well…and at this rate, becoming the holiday you most need ❤
Yes, and it’ my mess and so beautiful because of where it has taken us. It could have easily gone another way but . . . I think the destination will be sunny and warm:).
Your creating it well 😀
You offer such wisdom in these situations – and perhaps that’s why you keep being ‘challenged’ 🙂
Maybe I Should try screwing up and see what happens :-).
My admiration for you continues to grow with each post I read. You have so much strength, as evidenced by your commitment to providing the best possible life for your children while keeping all of your pain in check. It is not an easy thing to do, but you do it, and I admire you so very much for that.
Aw, thank you. I slip up, for sure. But most of the time, I’m able to hold a hard earned peace:).
Kudos Kay. This sounds like a great way to raise your children.
We all do our best, right? 🙂