Junior starts first grade in the morning and I think I am having a delayed reaction about him starting school. I was fully expecting to stress about him being ushered into the world of standardized learning and playground politics when he started Kindergarten. However, I found out about the mistress (hereafter known as The DLS. Not her initials, just a private joke. What we used to call her is not something I can print here) right before the first day of school. Needless to say, the sentimentality of Junior starting Kindergarten took a pretty far back seat to some of the other things I had going on emotionally. But it seems to have caught up to me this year and I kind of don't want him to go! Bubba will go nuts all day without him. I don't want to be the kind of mom that won't let her kids progress, but I am also not really in favor of all the rampant growing around here.
On weeks like this, I really hate being a single mom. It's another big change. Not a bad one, but still a change and any time my kids do something that strikes the sentimental side of my heart, I miss sharing that with their father. I just can't help it. Don't get mad at me (you know who you are :-)If it helps, I am also mad at him for the hundreds of little things that he misses. A years worth of changes for our kids.
I didn't think that anything could hurt as much as J leaving, but even before having to endure it, I had a pretty good idea that hearing my kids refer to The DLS would be high up on the list. When I asked J to choose our family, I asked him (among the many, many things) to consider how painful it would be for me to not only know he was with her, but have to hear my kids talk about her and have to encourage them to like her because she is with their dad. I guess I continue to be acceptable collateral damage. Despite how I feel about her personally, I know that it is better for her to be nice to my kids and for them to like her than the alternative (until they bond with her and she and J go kaput and she becomes a person who acted like she cares and then just disappears from their lives). Unfortunately, this means my acting skills get put to the test because when my boys enthusiastically relate something to do with her or a story she has told them, I have to play along and act like nothing in the world thrills me more than to know that they had a good time hanging out with the piece of trash their father is with (sorry, in a mood...and I've earned it this week).
The boys ask me all the time if I have met The DLS ("not since Junior was a baby") and if I like her (the best I can manage is that "we are not friends, but I'm glad you like her and want to be her friend") Otherwise, to the daily comments they throw out, they don't hear anything but enthusiasm from me regarding the woman I actually desperately want to protect them from even though I am certain I have removed years from my life from the strain of it. I do it because I don't want them to worry about me and I do it because I want them to feel like they do not have to censor what they say when they come home from J's. I do it because they are not pawns and they are not to blame for the life we are living now. These poor kids are already eclipsed enough. I don't ask lots of questions about what they do when they are away, other than some of the obvious ("did you have good dreams?" or "you look sunburned, you must have been outside lots today" etc.) I don't want them to feel like they have to "report back." I want them to be able to tell me whatever they want without worrying that mom doesn't like to hear about The DLS. But, it is the hardest thing in the world to hear them refer to her casually. It's one of the final indignities about this whole situation. It's not enough to know that this woman successfully made a play for my husband. She is also schmoozing my kids and holding my baby and is standing in my place on the outings we used to take as a family while I stay home and do the laundry and wait for the kids to be delivered home so I can put them to bed alone again for the 300th time after I cheerfully inquire whether they had a good time and reassure them that although I am glad they are home, I had lots of stuff to do too.
The boys might like her but they are not fooled, either by the situation or by my acting. Not long ago, upon returning home, Junior randomly asked "Do you think we like The DLS more than you? Because we don't. We love you the very most." (whaaaat?) I tried to swallow my shock that my six year old had to come up with that on his own (because he did not hear it from me) and said (verrry cheerfully) "No sweetie, I know you love me. I love you guys the most too. It's ok for you to like lots of people." Junior is a bit of a hit and run conversationalist. He will casually bring up something that is on his mind multiple times, but the minute you try to pin him down on the subject he does an escape and evade. He misses his dad a lot these days though and will mention that he wishes he could see dad "tonight" or "right now" at least once a day. We have a constant, running tally of how long it is until the next 'dad day.' However, if I ever try to talk to him about the things he worries about, he closes down. At least once a week though, he will still say "I still miss dad, do you miss him too, mom?" I walk a fine line between wanting to give him a chance to express himself and not scaring him away.
Bubba is more direct in his emotions. He got teary and crawled into my lap the other evening "mom, I sure miss dad. I sure wish he could come back to live in our house." Rocking him and rubbing his back at least made me feel like I was doing something. Junior expresses most affection under duress these days as six year old boys do. Bubba had a minor meltdown last week because when he proudly announced that he would be marrying me when he grew up, Junior scornfully told him that he couldn't. "I have to marry mom so she can't ever leave" was his tearful, hysterical response and it kind of shocked me. I don't know what else to do besides let them know that what they are feeling is ok and that everyone loves them. It's just not right though. These emotions are too big for them and they are certainly not too young to know what feels right to them. Their lives would be simpler if their parents did not live 70 miles apart but, like me, they get dragged along for the ride. They miss their dad and I don't blame them at all. I just don't know how to make it better for them. I never wanted this for them. A mom and a dad in the same place should have been a fundamental right for them. No child should have to try to work out how things will work emotionally when Mom lives one place and Dad in another and also has a girlfriend.
I am no different than any other parent that wants to protect their child. I want for them to be safe and happy and wise and to have good friends and good judgment. I do not want to be pretending that I am ok with dad's "new" friend. It is horrifying to me and far harder than I ever thought. Every mention of her name cuts little pieces out of the core of me until all I want to do is beg them not to mention her anymore. I never have and I am committing to continue that, but I can't help but be slapped with the continuing unfairness of it. There will be a time and a place for honesty about her, but not for many years, by which time I am certain she will be out of the picture one way or another. Until then, I have to grit my teeth and wait for the moment that I just don't care. I hope it's really soon. Feeling like this is getting very old.