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I think it’s serious

September 9, 2010

It was my turn yesterday to write a post, but instead I was lying in a pool of my own sweat, trying to sleep off the body aches and chills of illness. Turns out I have strep throat. Or, as the doctor at the clinic near my apartment said when I dragged myself in this morning, “Wow, you got a helluva strep throat!” I’m on antibiotics and painkillers and prednisone now. Awesome.

As I was lying there, feverish, for 36 hours, several thoughts occurred to me:

1. I wish Pandora hadn’t given me “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths right before I left work on Tuesday, because that is *not* a good song to have stuck in your head while you’re achy sick alone in the wee hours. Although I suppose it’s better than “Girlfriend in a Coma.”

2. What kind of person has fever dreams about baked ziti and mannequins of the Obamas, together?

3. Being sick while divorced and co-parenting is so much better than being sick while in a lousy marriage was.

Back when I was married, being sick wasn’t just being sick. Being sick and how we dealt with it was indicative of the entire relationship. Instead of just sick, I became sick and resentful and hopeless. Lying there sweating was about who I could rely on and what that meant for The Future. When you have to be a team but you’re not a good team, sickness gets ugly.

Now that we’re co-parents, being sick is just being sick. It happened that I was sick Tuesday and yesterday and today on days that the kids were supposed to be with their dad anyway, so no one was inconvenienced. But a few months ago when I had food poisoning (after a high-larious episode in which I threw up on the subway but did it so stealthily that the kids didn’t even notice until I told them), LOD rearranged a bunch of stuff to take the kids *and* brought me gatorade when he came to get the kids (Fierce Grape: sugar, water, fierceness). And yes, it’s about making sure the kids are being taken care of appropriately, but it’s also because we see each other as co-workers now, so the element of equity/inequity is greatly decreased. Sick is just sick, not a greater plot.

I’m realizing that so much of what makes co-parenting possible is what came to me in my sickbed: When you’re in a bad marriage, every interaction is important and writes the rest of the script of your mismatch. When you’re no longer married, an interaction is just an interaction. You may not like or agree or even remotely understand why the other person is doing or saying what they are, but you can go back to your own home and not have it mean anything about you or your future.

I love reading the comments by people who have very friendly relationship with their co-parents because they’re heartening, but that’s not really where LOD and I are. It’s enough for me that I am (mostly) not hurt by him anymore. When we were married, it felt so prescriptive. Now I can just let him be. That’s way more important than I would have predicted.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. MWB permalink
    September 10, 2010 12:11 am

    I’m envious of the accord you two have–even if it isn’t truly friendly. I’m troubled, though, by your penultimate paragraph. An interaction, for a lot of us, isn’t just an interaction. For a lot of us, the projections and script writing just goes on. and on. and on. That isn’t your responsibility, of course. Would that it were! You’d improve things somehow, I’m sure! Please, please, take over…..

    I was thinking about exactly this point today. Kids 1&2 started swimming lessons today. Kid 1 starts trumpet lessons next week. My co-parent refused, despite a salary 10x my own, to contribute to any of the costs. Why? Kid 1 doesn’t really want to study trumpet according to conspiracy theory #5896–I put him up to it to shut out my co-parent. Kid 1 reallllllllly wants to study piano, just like co-parent did.

    Right. I put him up to it because I like having to pay more than I can afford for the lessons, plus the instrument rental, for an apartment unfriendly instrument (we already have a piano), to block what could be a healthy shared interest with his other parent. You know, so they can watch more TV together.

    It is wayyyyyy better not to live together, but, yeah, a percentage of my life *is* going to be tied up in this shit for years to come– and I know I am not alone in that.

    • Dana permalink
      September 16, 2010 5:06 pm

      To MWB…if Kid 1 REALLY wants to play the piano and you have a piano, why not let them play the instrument that they really want to play? It comes across as though you are forcing an instrument upon them that they don’t want to play and that you can’t afford when you already have an instrument at your fingertips. Take advantage of what you already have and it seems simple to me that you will make you and Kid 1 happy. You may be digging your heals in out of principle to get the other parent to pay for something that they should be contribute to, but perhaps that should all should have been worked out and agreed upon before committing to the lessons?

      • askmoxie permalink*
        September 16, 2010 5:10 pm

        Dana, you missed the story. Kid 1 has told MWB s/he wants to play trumpet. It’s MWB’s ex-spouse who’s decided that Kid 1 really wants to play the piano despite expressed preferences, and therefore won’t pay for trumpet lessons even though Kid 1 wants to play trumpet.

        Make sense?

  2. askmoxie permalink*
    September 10, 2010 12:22 am

    Oh, MWB. That sucks.

    I mean that now you can disagree and be allowed to disagree. You can go home and think your ex is anything you want to think he is. You aren’t forced to come around to his point of view to preserve the marriage. I don’t mean that you never fight anymore, but that you get to have your own thoughts and resent him freely if resentment is what the interactions cause.

    As a specific note, did your mediator or lawyers not write into your settlement rules about what both parents had to split the costs for? That was something our mediator spent time on so we’d have rules we could go back to if we got into a jam like you guys are.

  3. Dixie permalink
    September 10, 2010 1:04 pm

    It’s so true that an interaction is just that and nothing more. My ex used to infuriate and upset me so much after an email/phone call/face-to-face that it took me hours to calm down. We sat next to each other during a recent football game (a miracle in itself!) one of our kids was playing in, and we small-talked and just sat there and when we got up to leave, I didn’t “take it with me” like I used to, stewing over what he said and why or trying to analyze the crap out of the whole thing. It was a little period of time that just happened and then I left it there and went back to my life without giving it another thought.

  4. September 10, 2010 2:21 pm

    I can’t tell you how illuminating and depressing these posts are. My wife and I have just recently separated (like a month ago) and the negotiations and even just speaking to each other still bring up very raw emotions. Little League starts today and both of us are going. I’m dreading it. This will be the first activity both of us have attended since separating. I envision we will sit on opposite ends of the bleacher and fucking fuck, that will be hard. Anyway, I commend both of you for doing this blog. It’s already helped me a lot.

    • September 10, 2010 9:24 pm

      Hey JV I feel your pain as I recently separated too and it was really raw for a time there especially drawing up the separation agreement. But if I can make just one suggestion it would be to sit together for your childs sake. All the books that I have been reading before, during and since the separation are all pretty consistent in the message : Do what’s best for your kids, suck it up, park your anger, hatred, hurt, bitterness at the door and act in a way that will inflict the least amount of damage to your kids.

      My ex and I have been doing this from the beginning and some days it’s really hard (or like the night it started raining during the soccer game and I was under my umbrella while my ex tried to stay dry with a jacket. Not perfect. ) But it does get easier. Plus our son looks and sees mom and dad. Side by side. No excruciating decision for him about who to go to after the game. So good luck.

      • askmoxie permalink*
        September 10, 2010 11:12 pm

        I loathe Little league. Loathe it. So I just stopped going, or would take our younger son and play with him instead, for most of the games, so that I didn’t melt down. I think it let LOD really get into it freely (he loves baseball) and removed the pressure on us to be nice to each other back when it was much harder, and I didn’t have to pretend. And there are plenty of things I do with and enjoy doing with our older son, so he wasn’t feeling the loss of my presence at LL.

        We do go to all school functions together, though, and have always made a point of sitting next to each other, even when things were very tense. Not fun, but worth it.

        Things will get better, JV.

      • September 12, 2010 4:15 am

        Hmm, those are good points. We did end up sitting on opposite ends of the bleachers. It sucked, but wasn’t as awful as I thought it might be. Our youngest ran back and forth between us all game. Our middle kid was the one playing and he didn’t notice much. I think I’ll make a point that we sit together next time.

      • September 12, 2010 4:54 am

        Although, would sitting next to each other prolong the hope/expectation/whatever that we’re still together or that we’d get back together? Sooner or later, our lives will diverge to the point where one or both of us become involved with other people (and just thinking about that makes me ill). So do you think sitting together at events, at this point, is a way of gradually acclimating them?

      • AmyinTexas permalink
        September 13, 2010 11:24 pm

        JV, those first few months were the HARDEST of my life. We both tried very hard to sit together at school/sporting events. I wanted the kids to know that while their parents were no longer living under the same roof, they still had a family. I think it went a long way to easing the transition.

        It’s been 5 years and things are not nearly so uncomfortable. My ex comes to school/sporting events when he can (or wants?), and my husband and I serve as the “family” more than their dad and I. Frequently, we all sit together when their dad does show up.

        Hang in there. It’s not about the situation getting better… it’s about finding a new normal. You’ll get there.

  5. September 10, 2010 7:35 pm

    I am so glad to find this seriously fabulous blog. I’ve been co-parenting for six years. Everyone always is amazed at how we manage it. We manage it because we have to, we have no choice. The choice is whether to manage it maturely or not. And it has not been easy. Blaming the other person is easy. Setting boundaries and trusting is far more challenging. I have re-partnered. He did too for a couple of years. Life was far more challenging then, but that is another Steven King novel altogether. I have a children’s book manuscript about living in two homes I hope to get to one day, but in the meantime, I just wanted to stop by and say “good for you!” , “well done!” and “thank you!”.

  6. anne permalink
    September 10, 2010 10:55 pm

    I also so appreciate this blog, extremely helpful and real. I also appreciate how you don’t try to portray yourselves as friends especially when you are not even there and might never be. I can only hope that my ex and I will become better business partners in coparenting our son. We have moments of it and for the most part, b/c our schedule lends itself to little face to face, it is working, and our son seems happy and thriving – his memory of an intact family is minimal. But there have been some other not so great moments (like when he uninvited me from attending our son’s 4th birthday party this year that he was hosting). It’s been almost 2 yrs since we formally separated. I expect it will get worse before it gets better as we proceed to divorce hearings this month, for no other reason then he will not sign the agreement, pay child support or settle any other financial/property matter. I think he still has hope. That ended for me when I found out he had been having an affair for 4 years. Thanks again – your blog is refreshing to me.

  7. BratGrrl permalink
    September 13, 2010 8:34 am

    Yeah: you nailed it. When I was under the weather when things were good, my husband feted me with chicken soup from the best restaurants. Around the time that things got bad, he had so much hatred swilling inside that he snapped at me if a cold so much as inconvenienced him — to the point that I was sure he secretly hoped it would develop into something worse and I would die.

    Now we’re split up three years. I got bad food poisoning the other day — so bad that I thought I might die alone with my head in a porcelain bowl. But I have to say that knowing that my child was safely with her dad, not there to hear scary sounds coming out of the bathroom in the middle of the night, felt like a blessing.

    When he found out about my illness the next day, he made excuses to call every once in a while, and I know him enough to know that it was to check on me. I figure it’s because he’s a big Jimi Hendrix fan, and didn’t wish that kind of death on anyone.

  8. September 13, 2010 3:45 pm

    Thank you both so much for this blog. I have been separated from my ex-partner for 2.5 years. Even though I was the one who initiated it, I am still sometimes consumed with sadness for our son. I think we have actually managed to establish something of a model co-parenting relationship – I believe we both honor each other for our son and act as generously as possible when it comes to our dealings with each other. I’m proud of how we have comported ourselves, actually. But I wonder when, if ever, the guilt of breaking up his home will subside for me. I am still so, so sad for him. He seems to be doing really well and I’m actually in a new-ish, very happy relationship. I don’t think he’s very sad about it at all – but I still am, for him. And to be super-clear, I know that leaving the relationship was the right thing for me. Will this ever pass?

    • anne permalink
      September 15, 2010 2:46 pm

      BA, I think I can relate. It’s been 2 years for me as well. The separation was brought on by my finding out that my ex had been having a long standing affair – although neither of us was happy for a while – this just fueled the fire. Although he professed his strong discontent with a marriage to me (drove him to his affair), he now is the relunctant party, who is having problems moving on and getting our divorce finalized. Our now 4 year old son is co-parented and appears happy and well adjusted. Even though I am in so better a place now, finally realizing just how unhappy I was, and how happy I can really be, I do feel sadness and guilt for my son and what has happened to him. Sometimes I wonder if this fueled by the fact that he is an only child. I mourn the end of what I hoped for in a family for him, not the marriage itself. While I also am realizing that the end of the marriage was the best thing for my son (he now has two “happy” homes), I still feel sad for him, too.

  9. AmyinTexas permalink
    September 13, 2010 11:11 pm

    I’m late to this… busy weekend.

    I know what you mean here… mine’s not about sickness b/c as a remarried divorcee (does that make sense?) I don’t need their dad to help out when I’m sick . But I do need him to help out when things get crazy with my schedule and things are crazy with husband’s schedule and my parents (my normal fall back) have their own crazy schedules. The thing is… he only *rarely* steps up to the plate in these instances.

    Most of the time I am the one stepping up to the plate to cover for him. Our visitation is every Wednesday and every other weekend. But b/c work has been crazy for him, I asked him to drop Wednesday nights (seriously, arriving to pick the kids up at 7pm on Wednesday and not letting me feed them b/c *he* wants to do that is just plain selfish). He is reluctant to let them go. So, I suggested we temporarily put aside Wednesday nights until things with him aren’t so crazy. And rather than just saying, “Yes, thank you”… he’s gone to a week by week thing. Which is crazy for planning purposes… do I need to plan dinner on Wednesday night for 5 or 3? Do I make lunches for 3 kids or 1 on Thursday morning? I can sleep in on Thursdays if he has the kids… but I’m up at my usual 5:30am if I have them. Ugh. But, I put a smile on my face and say, “yes, of course you can just let me know on Wednesday afternoon.” Because at the end of the day, it’s about my kids. It’s about protecting them… and if protecting them and giving them stability inconveniences me… well, okay.

    My problem? I’m the only one ever inconvenienced. So, you are lucky that LOD sees his role in maintaining the stability. My ex isn’t there yet… and I suspect he won’t ever be.

    (Sorry for the rant… putting the kids first hits a nerve with me.)

    • September 14, 2010 5:12 pm

      Yeah, I know what that’s like. As the noncustodial parent, my ex seems to feel that his needs come before the children’s preferences and schedules. He insists on maintaining the Wednesday night dinners even when this means that homework and studying absolutely will not get done (for some reason, Thursday is a big test day in our district). I have asked to reschedule for Tuesdays or Thursdays, but no. I sometimes think the answer is no simply because I asked for the switch.

      Oh well.

  10. September 16, 2010 5:29 pm

    This may be construed as comment hijacking, but after reading these comments, and surveying my own social circle, it seems to me that the vast majority of divorces are initiated by women. (In fact, ALL of the divorces I know of personally fit that category). I don’t bring this up as a criticism of women at all, but I do find it highly interesting and wonder why that is. I’m sure there are scholarly papers and even books written about this, and if I could be bothered to Google, there are probably readily available stats as well. Anyway, sorry for the hijacking.

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