As a generation of divorced parents raising kids, I understand that we are all creating these weird blended family units that schools and scout groups have to deal with and figure out how to assemble us into the old normal family unit formulas. I know it is exhausting for everyone to navigate these new social units.
Please know it is equally as difficult for those of us creating the new social unit as it is for those of you still in standard, traditional marriages. There are no check boxes yet to easily tick off or ever enough room in those tiny little spaces provided to explain what is happening in our children's home lives. Hell, most people get this weird pinched look around the eyes when you try to explain in person that this person is my ex-husbands former girlfriend, who is also our Girl Scout Troop Leader. Or, this is my mom's former boy friend of five years who has been a part of my daily family life along with his children but they aren't dating any more, but live in the same building but we don't acknowledge each other any more.
I didn't see any of this playing out like it did, but I have tried my best to roll with the changes as they have arrived. It catches me off guard sometimes, the weirdness of it all as I walking into my Girl Scout Leader's home as she and my children and ex are finishing up cramming a meal in before the meeting, I have knocked to announce myself and entered, trying, with each step to shed the uncomfortable. Trying to accept the new normal and accept life as it is at this exact moment with out my disappointment and fear attached. Trying to live in the now.
I will tell you it did get easier as I chose to see my ex-husband not as my ex-husband, but as my children's Dad. I think I removed him from any ownership I had and put him in the distant weird family member realm. He was no longer my ex-husband, he was this old angry family member who attends every family function but always feels put upon that he has to waste his time attending. Yes it was weird to see him playing a very familiar husband/boyfriend role in someone else's home, but after two years, it all became very normal. It was interesting, to say the least to see him flitter and flutter around trying to be helpful. It helped me remember when we were first dating and helped me open a dialogue with our kids about what life was like when Mommy and Daddy were first dating. It was good to see him somewhat happy, as happy as he will allow himself to be. The kids and I had months of conversations that started with, "There was a time when..."
I did (and still actively do) a great deal of healing and forgiving work during that time. I don't want to be filled with hate towards the man I chose to marry and create children with. I do not enjoy him anymore. I can't be around him too long anymore. He is still choosing to hang on to so much anger and pain and hate that it just eeks out of him. We have radically different political view and with every passing day, we get further and further opposed to even being able to have safe conversations about the world. I can however talk to him about our kids and the challenges they are facing. We disagree on most things, but I have become more comfortable in working around needing him to accept how I feel things need to be. I am 100% fine if he just relinquishes control and tells me that he is stating for the "record" that he is against whatever I am doing and will not be held responsible for the outcome. This is my new normal with him.
I acknowledge that he feels what I am asking for is wrong, a bad choice, ridiculous, hopeful, not logical and I sit through endless analogies until he figures out that he doesn't have a better plan or solution, so we might as well do what I am asking for if I allow him blame me for all future time and readily wear the Scarlet Letter (actual written document, signed and dated by both parties and witnessed by a third party) stating that he "told me so." When I know we need to have a family meeting about the kids, I print a blank copy of this form and take it with me so we can complete the entire process in one sitting instead of the ping pong game of emails that just never fucking end when we don't complete the paperwork together!
Everything sounds blissful, correct? We are figuring out this mess of co-parenting. So, this story should start with this weekend was our annual Girl Scout Family Camp Event. Our GS Leader gets 10 camp sites or so and we all pile in with multiple families sharing a tent pad/RV site. My ex chooses the farthest site away from everyone as a general rule. Last year, I brought my long term, live-in boyfriend and we stayed on the other side of the lake. We had our own drama as I don't like for the two men to mix. My ex is an angry verbal know it all asshole. My boyfriend is the touchiest, feeliest, clingiest love bug I have ever known and this pushed my ex's buttons like crazy.
Because my long term goal is to be able to be with my children when they have and raise their families, I work every day to not irritate my ex with pure Melissa bullshit issues. Melissa having a boyfriend is nothing but a pure bullshit issue to my ex.
I know I will need to be able to sit in a small room with my ex while we wait for our Grandchildren to be birthed. Having my boyfriend draped over me, does not go over well at all. I get it, macho bull shit and all, and so I have opted out of the relationship. It was the easiest battle to end. When I stopped bringing my boyfriend to events, a whole layer of drama with my ex ended. Everybody's focus goes back to the kids.
While it was weird to see my ex creating a new family dynamic of his own, his girlfriend really didn't bother me. I could sit and drink wine with her. However, I didn't realize how young she was. I had assumed she was around my age, and let me tell you there was a moment of ugly jealousy that flared for this "former trophy wife". But as quickly as it made me feel old and ugly, I bounced the fuck back and asked myself what is wrong with her that she would be interested in a man almost 20 years older than her. Then I giggled and decided that this was an easy "not my fucking issue" and made peace with the lucky bastard being able to locate yet another young woman to parade around.
I don't want holiday's to be an issue of my inflaming. I can envision my ex and I sitting at opposite end of the table with our children as adults. It is who I am, and it has been a vision that I have seen since the day I knew our marriage was over. Interestingly enough, it has become reality in the past year. My ex has walked into my home and sat down at my dinner table to have family meetings this past year. We have shared a meal together while we came up with a group game plan for what the next school year looks like.
I made that happen. I got out of my own way and stopped listening to the world around me tell me that what I want for my family is not normal or needed. I know it is going to be normal and my kids need me to do my best to make this one tiny area of their lives less stressful. My long term desire is to be standing there with my ex witnessing and experiencing our children create and live their lives, not be punished and miss out on seeing my children's lives unfold because I couldn't stay married to their dad. I have done my time and served my sentence for ending my marriage.
So, this year for family camp out I would be going alone. I had asked a girl friend to go with as we had talked about camping all summer and never made it happen, but at the last minute she ended up having an emergency and couldn't go. No big deal, I can so do this divorced grown up thing on my own, right?!