Yup, had to do the deed over Xmas clean up.
Excuse followed excuse about why he tended his children every waking second and I said I cannot be with a man who cannot prioritize me in the least. It happened before with work and school. It happened with his kids, who are very high maintenance.
Specifically, and to his surprise, I said, "It's not them. It's you." He kind of stepped back with a shocked look on his face, but he finally got it.
I pointed out that the dynamic of me being in the background and us having no PDA in front of them will become how it'd be next Spring Break/summer/Xmas as well. I was particularly struck by the idea that most of the time between January and June, when his kids are gone, will seem like a honeymoon, but his true reality is the rest of the time, precious visitation. That's where his excitement and heart lie. All else is false. He has no space for a relationship when his loyalties are that way. No relationship could survive what would feel like a lack of commitment during those holidays. He is struck by my insight and my ability to communicate it. He realizes he should not be dating, particularly when he actually says his goal is a long term relationship!
To help him deal with his kids, I suggested several parenting books - Your [insert age] Year Old - which would prime him on what his kids should be able to do when he has them for these short periods. He should not be catering to them or bend to their whim, because it will always wind up two against one. Although it seemed disrespectful to say it, I wanted to coach him to learn to say, "Because I'm the adult," in dealing with them balking him all the time. Further, they should have little responsibilities and grow instead of regress while with him. Otherwise, what began when a kid was three will be the norm fallen back on even when the kid gets older because of the sporadic nature of their visitation.
For example, no seven year old should need Daddy's company each time he takes a dump and no four year old should need extensive assistance for each piss. Luke was up and down with their calls constantly, me interrupted mid-sentence and feeling invisible.
This happened once with the eldest just as Luke and I had our very first quiet moment together all day. This was Saturday. I was just about to ask him to open his Xmas present from me when the eldest had to poop. No present, special time over.
Then, as it turned out, the youngest went hog wild opening gifts this morning and opened mine to Luke - the high quality darts I had imported and were the most expensive gift I bought this season. Of course, Luke was on the phone to his ex when this occurred and she heard "darts" and he lied to her about what she'd heard, thus lying about my existance. He said he never saw the tag and had no idea who they came from. Cast quite the pall over my gift for sure.
I walked in the door today (no kiss, of course) and asked if he had opened my gift yet. He laughed it off, said what had happened, but my eyes welled up. Much later, I told him that I knew I would get very little from him the week (e.g., no hand holding and I had to friggin' walk right past him with no kiss as I entered his apt each time b/c of his no PDA rule and his kids eyeing everything suspiciously, especially the elder, in order to report to their mother), but giving that gift was truly my bright spot. I was getting a lot out of giving a special gift we could do together and commemorated a very special evening we shared. I admitted that perhaps I put too much significance on it, but I knew I'd be at the short end of the stick for a few weeks and I was purposefully looking out for myself with that sole situation.
At least he allowed me to draw some boundaries (i.e. Kids, you've eaten, but Daddy cooked [ha - warmed] all day, so he will not play a game until he is finished eating.), even if he didn't uphold them very well. I guided them a good bit and he really liked my interactions with them. I taught them games, read to them, played cars, etc and they were good with me; even the older one warmed to me today. The younger stayed on my lap and the older was eager for high fives during games. He actually smiled repeatedly and was happy.
Honestly, it's just called parenting - steering/diverting for a desired result instead of arguing, whining back, and caving. Kids like boundaries, especially if you let them think they are in charge and give them confidence in decision-making. Plus play therapy is so valuable, too; give them a specific time to feel the boss. It takes a confident, informed parent and I don't know how he can accomplish that on holidays.
Between Luke and I, it specifically came down to him having too much on his plate - school, work, kids, health - and I didn't see a place for me. In fact, I generally felt in the way, a distraction for any of these "more important" things. When I helped, it was too much, stuff he should be doing for himself.
(Besides airport and fish duties while he was gone, I spent two hours installing new tags on his car; he tried doing it before he left, but couldn't. After I started, I realized he didn't have the right tools or WD-40 and I had to do it at my house in the rain in the dark [with my son holding the flashlight and me yelling/cussing a lot] - his old tags were out of state and expired, so it had to be done, but the bolts were rusted and mere screw drivers would not work. The guy didn't have the time or organization to do it on his own and I'm butch enough to fix things.)
Further, I asked him if it's always this way with him buzzing around to the beat of someone else's drum and he couldn't say. That's odd to me, not knowing your own patterns. However, it came down to him knowing he needs to work on himself.
At least he was open to what I said to him and essentially agreed, although he felt like he lacked perspective. Funny this. Yeah. To get perspective, he plans to start therapy next month. He'd mentioned it before.
That brought me my only real tears of the day as I questioned why I bring men to the point of them wanting to fulfill the potential I see for them. Why do I make men evolve to the point of understanding that they're needing something more to help themselves? Why do I lend them such focus? Why can't that be done along side me?
Honestly, though, I don't think either Luke or ex-f could fix enough stuff to make me comfortable enough to stay.
We may talk some time in the future. We didn't leave it on bad terms, but I was tired of feeling neglected and he didn't like feeling like he was either using me or overlooking me.
Yeah, so Merry Christmas to me.
Another one bites the dust as the Yule log fades. It's an Xmas tradition now.
At least this year, I took my gift home - I'd requested Pa1oma Picass0 and he came through on a gift set. Yum.