Today has been a real pip of a day. Woke up this morning to find my dog with blood coming out of both ends, despite a bland diet and other measures recommended by our vet. Off to the emergency vet, and way too many minutes and dollars later, she’s home with meds and gastroenteritis. Within 10 minutes of getting the dog home and settled, it was off to my daughter’s dance recital. I’d eaten some crap fast food on the way back as I was starving, and that wasn’t the best of choices. I’m
You see, ,i’m the single-ish parent of a 5-year old girl child who is thee greatest joy and biggest challenge of my life. She’s creative and kind; funny and spirited and headstrong. She’s also stubborn as hell and we have many pitched battles. What can I say, she gets it from her mother!
I say “single-ish” parent because I am divorced from her father. The reasons for that are complex and painful. I am remarried, and my husband is an amazing father to her. However, the ex is still kind of in the picture, and that complicates the dynamic. So mama is still her number one, and constant presence in her life.
The ex bounces in and out of her life with little concern for how this may affect her. Last year, he made an ill-considered decision to move across the country for, IMO, dubious reasons, and we didn’t have to deal with him for several months. He also claims to have various degenerative neurological maladies that, as far as I know, have not been formally diagnosed. He has limited parenting time (by mutual agreement), but he doesn’t come a good bit of what small time he has, and doesn’t ask for compensatory time. His excuses vary from illness to car troubles to other idiotic things, to just being tired. Isn’t that special.
But back to my story… so girl-child has a dance recital today, and I have just gotten back from a multi-hour emergency vet visit and th eating of the bad food. I am headachy and feeling queasy. I am sitting on the hard bench in the school gym, waiting for the show to begin. I had texted with the ex several days ago, when he inquired about the timing of the recital. I am looking to see if he is there. I do not find him. The show begins. She trots out with her class of little 3-5 year old girls, and looks for us. We are there with my father and my husband’s mother. WE all wave and cheer! The girls have these little blue sparkly outfits that make them look like snowflakes, and little pin cirled hair and bright eyes. Cue the music and she struts her stuff. There are boas and a broadway song involved. It’s ridiculously cute. After her numbers are over, she dashes over to me and I wrap her in a huge hug and tell her how wonderful she is and that she danced so well! I am proud of this little girlie and happy to share in her happiness. I look around again, and Ex is nowhere to be found. I text him that we are leaving in case I missed him, and that he is welcome to come by and see her. I get no response.
Later in the evening, she is hangry and tired, and all she wants and needs is her mother. I’m feeling exhausted and light-headed, but I agree to lay on the couch and watch a minions movie (god, those little buggers are cute) with her, while the hubs gets some food together. After the food in eaten, she crawls up on my chest and relaxes into me, and we watch Gru and his little ones. I’m laying there, still feeling crummy and tired, but awash with gratitude for this wonderful little girl…. and sadness.
I lay there and I think: “Ex….oh what you miss.” If I wrote him a letter it would say:
You miss her smile and warm drowsy hug when she wakes up in the morning. You miss her happiness at the simple pleasure of a yogurt or granola bar breakfast. You miss morning music dance parties, fights with the dog, fights over getting ready for school. You miss watching her learn and grow at pre-school. You miss car-karaoke. You miss her lively conversation, art projects and doll house adventures. You miss hurt feelings, bruises and other owies, and helping her learn what is safe and sacred. You miss conversations about the hard times in life: death, betrayal (yes, even at 5) and what means most in life. You miss dinner time prayers and expressions of gratitude. You miss bath-time deep sea diving adventures with mermaids and pirates. You miss bedtime stories, lullabies and deep conversations in the dark.
How you treat her and your relationship is a cheap imitation of what a father should be. You’re a good-time charlie who disappears when the chips are down. A father does not show up only when it is easy and convenient. A father doesn’t clock out or go dark when his child is sick or otherwise not her best. A father doesn’t choose to leave his child when he may have a degenerative disease but is yet still functioning. A father makes sacrifices and keeps his child’s best interest first. You put yourself first, and always have.
This may sound bitter and hateful, but I rarely feel those things. I feel sad. I feel sad and offended that you don’t see the miracle we created together back in the flame of what we thought was love. I feel hurt and bewildered that you don’t value our beautiful child enough to be consistently in her life. I feel frustrated that you refuse to look past your own comfort to make sacrifices for her. I feel resentful of your ability, legally, to show up when you feel like it and leave all the hard work to me and my hubs.
It would be easiest for me just to wish that you would disappear. Its certainly easier and less complicated day-to-day for me. I can do without the child support. But when I think about her, what I really wish is that you would get your shit together and decide if you want to be a father or not, and act accordingly. As it is, I am going to have to explain your choices to her as she gets older, and that’s emotional labor I shouldn’t have to bear. Step up, or just step out. I can deal with either, but this shitty middle is what I wish we could avoid.