Tag Archives: divorce

MomDay Monday – The Face of Failure

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A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say, but this one leaves me with none. It came up on the Facebook memories of a friend yesterday & he posted it because, as he says, “This one never gets old.”

A little back story: This is The Ex & me at a kindergarten open house for The Boy in 2010. I can’t begin to recall what infraction caused this icy show down. Who knows… someone forgot to do something or did something they weren’t supposed to. I don’t remember. But a year after this was taken, we would be well on our way to divorce.

I can see why our friend finds this funny. On a lot of levels, I do, too & in past years (because he posts it Every. Year.) I laughed along with him. But yesterday it hit me a lot differently. Yesterday, I captioned it “The Beginning of the End.”

At first I wanted to lash out at our friend & write something scathing to him about reminding me what a failure I am at relationships. After writing several drafts of my scathing comment (that I’m grateful I never posted) I stepped back. Lashing out would change nothing. I do fail at relationships. And not just the romantic ones.

Because that’s what bothered me about this picture. For some reason this year’s posting made me take a harder look at my part in my failed relationships. All of them.

That little blondish head staring at me in the bottom of the picture is The Boy. He was 6 at the time. And damned if this picture didn’t make me regret every time I’ve failed him & his sister.

And that’s where I had to stop myself. Yes. I have failed my kids on a number of occasions. I have failed my parents & family, my friends, my coworkers, my bosses… There’s probably a few fellow drivers on the roads in my town who qualify, too. But I can’t wallow in it. All I can do is recognize when I’ve failed & take whatever steps I can to correct it.

And that’s huge. No one wants to admit when they’ve failed let alone do the hard work of fixing their mistakes. It’s easier to sweep them under the rug & hope nobody notices. Taking the blinders off & facing that reality sucks – and makes you want to lash out at your friends for posts that are actually pretty funny. I was going to say that in the past, that was difficult, but hell, it STILL is. Always will be.

But it’s worth it.

PS – That 6-year-old blonde kid in the picture? He’s 13 now. He’s taller than me & I just bought him a men’s size 10 pair of sneakers. He made honor roll, is in a band & was one of 20 kids in his school of 500 who was asked to join Art Club. Despite his long hair & propensity for sweatpants, the failure couldn’t have been that bad. 

PPS – At the risk of outing my friend who posts this picture every year, I’m going to direct you to his website. If you want to read an unflinching look at dealing with & overcoming mental illness – the ultimate staring failure in the face & making it blink – read his blog: http://www.theocddiaries.com

 

MomDay Monday – I’ve Been Called Worse

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“Merry Christmas, Mr. White. And to you Mrs. White.”

A simple greeting from someone we’ve known a long time. But as she said, “Mrs. White” her face dropped & she stammered for a moment, apologizing as she leaned in to give me a hug. As if she had said something wrong. It’s a common reaction. People just don’t know what to call me sometimes. In her defense, we were standing in a Catholic church. The Kids had just served Christmas mass & The Ex & I were waiting for them to change out of their robes. Let’s face it… it’s not exactly the place to go when you want to be around people who are comfortable with your divorce.

I specifically kept my married name after the divorce. I did ask The Ex if it was okay. I mean, it was his name first & I guess I thought that maybe he wouldn’t want me to use it anymore. But it’s my kids’ name. And they were young enough at the time that I didn’t want to deal with schools & clubs & teams trying to sort out different last names.

I suppose it’s not the name so much as the “Mrs.” that throws people off. Whereas a man will always be called “Mr.” regardless of his marital status, a woman gains the title of “Mrs.” only when she’s married. So when she’s no longer married….? What then?

I can’t speak for every divorced woman. I’m sure there are those out there who would keep their married name then get offended at being called “Mrs.” – as if the most important thing for everyone on earth is to know what title they prefer. As for me, I feel like my last name came with the “Mrs.” so if that’s what you want to call me, feel free – especially if you met me when I was actually a Mrs.

Somehow, in my little mind, the title goes with the parenting of these two kids. “Mrs.” equates to “Mom.” I was Mrs. when these two cherubs came into being. It took Mr. & Mrs. to create them. It’s still a perfectly acceptable thing to call me.

If you feel more comfortable with “Ms.” that’s fine too. Want to go with a straight up “Miss”? Do it. (Although “Miss” implies youth & I actually get pissed when I’m asked for an ID. I mean, do a lot of 19-year-olds struggle with crows feet?) Or just use my first name. Or “Hey… The Girl’s Mom”! or “Yo – Boy’s Mom!” Whatever works.

So as she leaned in for the hug, apologizing for calling me “Mrs.” I said, “Lots of people still call me Mrs. White. Please don’t feel bad.”

Because believe me – whatever you call me… I’ve been called worse.

Mr Mrs

To My Daughter as She Finishes Middle School

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Dear Lou:

Tomorrow you will finish your middle school career. Eighth grade graduation. You will walk across the stage – or the gym floor in this case – and be done with this chapter of your life. In a few months you will start high school & I want to tell you how proud I am of you. Not because you finished eighth grade. Look around you. All of your friends just did the same thing. In fact, 99% of the people over the age of 14 in this country have accomplished the exact same thing.

No. I’m proud of you for how you accomplished it.

It’s been a long road. A few weeks ago, I watched as friends of mine posted pictures of the eighth grade graduation from the school you used to attend. I’m still friends with some of the parents & it was amazing seeing the pictures of all of the kids you knew – the ONLY kids you knew from the time you started pre-school. It was bittersweet. I loved seeing the pictures. All of your former classmates looked so grown up & I was so proud of them. But at the same time, I wished you could have been there with them. I wished your family had turned out differently & that you could have graduated with Emily & Lynnea & Sean & Nicky & even the other Nicky.

But sometimes life takes you in other directions. Sometimes your parents get divorced & you have to move to a school where you don’t know anyone & your mom gets diagnosed with breast cancer & things just suck. (see MomDay Monday – Cue Alice Cooper ) But sometimes those things that suck make you stronger & bring out things in you that you never knew were there, waiting to be discovered.

Because you felt alone, you withdrew into that laptop that you earned, honed your drawing skills & now have almost 500 followers on Instagram who love your art.

Sometimes it's a little dark, but it's what makes you, you.

Sometimes it’s a little dark, but it’s what makes you, you.

Because you hated track when you tried it, you started swimming & have what your coach calls “a natural ability.” You kicked ass at your first few meets & I heard the word “Olympics” come out of your mouth the other day. Go for it. I’ll be behind you every step of the way.

Her arm says, "First Meet." She won her first heat, too.

Her arm says, “First Meet.” She won her first heat, too.

Because you saw bullying in your new school – which is admittedly “rougher” than your previous private school – you learned to stand up for others. I’ve watched your social media & seen you speak out against bullying, champion suicide prevention & raise your voice in support of your LGBT friends.

Because you are you, you’ve met some incredible friends on this journey. So today, instead of graduating with Emily & Lynnea & Sean & Nicky & the other Nicky, you are graduating with Lilly & Shania & Raymond & Julie & Andrew & a huge group of people you never would have met if you hadn’t come to the school you are now leaving.

Photo Booth

And just when I was feeling sad that you weren’t graduating eighth grade with your original group of friends, you said to me, “You know, mom… if I hadn’t changed schools, I don’t think I’d be doing any of the things I’m doing now. And I know I wouldn’t have met any of the friends I have now.” I nodded & smiled & agreed with you. Then I went upstairs to my bedroom & sobbed.

It’s been a long road. But you have persevered. You have endured. And for that, I am proud of you.

Because you are you, you love this song. And I totally get it. Keep your head up. Nothing lasts forever.

 

MomDay Monday – Fanfare

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I was talking to a friend the other night – someone who has offered a great deal of support to me even after a brief falling out. (He would probably be surprised to know how much I appreciate that he’s back in touch & on Team Linda.) He mentioned his cousin & how she was divorced 10 years ago. At the time, she wrote about how there was so much fanfare around weddings… but not so much around a divorce.

And maybe that’s where the problem is. The wedding gets the fanfare. The marriage… not so much. After that day of flowers & beauty & love – and I have incredible memories of my own wedding… it was an amazing day & I have to say, The Ex & I did it right. But after that day, after the cake top has been put in the freezer (ours didn’t make it. cream cheese does not freeze well.), the flowers (there almost weren’t any – the florist was almost an hour late) and the Yahoo… (Yahoo? yes, The Ex was drinking Yahoo on that morning. It is featured prominently in several pictures that my sister took before the ceremony)…. After all of that…

The fanfare is gone.

It’s not that I thought there would be fanfare every day. There shouldn’t be. There should be a softening of things – a settling into life without bridal registries (The Ex: “We could choose whatever we wanted people to give us & we chose dishes?”), without RSVPs (seriously, she isn’t coming to the wedding because of how I addressed the invitation?), and without worrying about whether your earthy-crunchy bridesmaid was going to shave her legs because you chose knee-length dresses. But as all of this softening is going on, the marriage is getting no fanfare. There is routine… Friday nights with the X-Files & pizza (we knew it was time to stop this particular routine when the Domino’s delivery man commented, “Hey – you moved the couch!”). There is mundacity, there are years of trying to get pregnant & the frustration surrounding that. There is unemployment & house closings & laundry & kids & diapers.

There is no fanfare for marriage. Unless you create it. And perhaps that’s where we fell down.

And if there is no fanfare for marriage, there is definitely no fanfare with divorce.

There is paperwork – miles & miles of paperwork. (yes, I did spill wine on mine at one point. with that much paperwork it was pretty much inevitable) There are mind-numbing days in court – waiting – only to leave without even seeing the judge (The Ex always brought a book. I usually interrupted his reading with comments such as “Your lawyer is a cow.”) There are tears, nausea, and a realization that by throwing off my former PR & Marketing career & going into retail, my wardrobe has taken a hit & there aren’t too many decent court-appropriate outfits in my closet.

But no fanfare.

I offered to buy The Ex a drink when we left the court that last time. He wanted a coffee instead. He is, after all, the man who gave up coffee for Lent as his sacrifice which meant that my sacrifice that year could only be putting up with him not drinking coffee.

I went home that night & was grateful that friends had cancelled the plans we had made for that evening. I opened up a teeny bottle of champagne that had been in the fridge for probably a year & called my sister. It was a quiet end to a quiet winding down of a marriage. Fanfare be damned.

MomDay Monday – School Daze

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Every school has its issues.

Issues with teachers. Issues with other parents. Miscommunication. Problems with other students.

Every school.

There’s no getting around it. We’re all human. We all have failings. And a school is, after all, made up of us imperfect humans.

But at what point does a school have so many issues it becomes dysfunctional?

Is it when the faculty talks out of turn to your child about their parents’ divorce?

Or perhaps it’s when other parents refuse to accept that their child is the school bully & consistently puts the blame for their child’s behavior on the very kids he’s bullying.

Is it when there are arbitrary punishments meted out at whim? One day a behavior is punishable by making the child sit out of recess. The next day, the same behavior is overlooked. One day, uniform infractions are barely mentioned. The next day, a student loses privileges for wearing the wrong uniform piece.

Perhaps….

But I believe it’s when a school & its principal are so afraid of criticism that they close off lines of communication to keep others from hearing it.

I believe it’s when a principal is more concerned with who saw a comment on the school Facebook page than she is with addressing the issues brought to her attention.

I believe it is when a student receives retaliation for the actions of their parent.

And I believe it is when anti-bullying rallies are held for the students but parents & staff are seemingly the biggest offenders.

The Kids attend a private, Catholic school. They have been there since they were each 3 years old, starting in the youngest Pre-K group. They have known their classmates for most of their lives & we have made good friends with some of the families of these kids. When The Ex & I decided to divorce, we quietly told The Kids’ teachers so they were aware of the situation at home & on the lookout for any kind of behavioral issues that might occur because of it. This school had an opportunity to show The Kids an example of what it means to be a Christian & support my children during a particularly tough time.

They failed.

Within weeks, it seemed as if everyone knew what was happening in our family. The rumor mill was in full force until people I hardly knew & rarely spoke to had an opinion on my divorce & The Kids’ reaction to it. I had been blind to the dysfunction in the past, believing my kids were in the best possible place for the best possible education. There were two things I hoped to keep consistent throughout the divorce as the kids lives were being uprooted. Their school & their house. I was determined to keep them in that school & in the house they had been in for the past 4 years even if it meant having to ask my dad for money. But little by little, my eyes were opened & I saw that there were issues with this school far beyond anything I ever realized. There certainly have been people on the faculty as well as other parents who have been more than supportive & I can’t thank those people enough for the kindness & support they’ve shown, especially to The Kids. But they have unfortunately been too few & too far between. It is school dysfunction at its best. Or worst.

I’ve stopped my insistence that The Kids stay in that school. It’s part of my letting go. And it’s okay. I am aware that any school will have issues, dysfunction, intolerant people & parents who violate the school drop off & pick up rules. At this point, I’m willing to take my chances.

But I’m keeping the house.