Sunday, January 06, 2008

Parenting and parenting in absentia

Empathy comes very naturally to me. That means I can communicate a good "that sucks" to someone who is hurting, even if I have never hurt in that manner before, to include things like miscarriages. I guess that could be a definition of empathy: to have compassion where experience doesn't exist.

That's all I ask. I realize my life is different than any of yours and feeling alone serves to intensify those perceived differences.

Thank you for responding, those of you who did.

For my edification:

Yesterday I called a weekend meeting with ex and his wife. I was surprised he was up for it only a few hours later. That said, it was frustratingly interrupted a thousand times, but I think I got my concerns out. I had a good balance of resolvedness vs. bitterness about the past not repeating itself.

Did you know that regular ol' life insurance doesn't pay to soldiers in times of war? I wanted to make sure none of that has changed and it hasn't. He has his military insurance he kept when he got out before still going to me. One relief.

I also spoke of when J balks at me, as he has been for a few weeks. He's been acting the tween. I have seriously wanted to smack him, but have restrained. During these periods which happen every so often, ex always maintains that J behaves completely perfectly over there, that they don't have problems. Yesterday, I decided to face-to-face describe that when J does this, it indicates that he is attached, that he can open up enough to show his arse. Wifey spoke up, agreeing, saying that it shows trust and offering additional explanations. What they didn't realize, perhaps, is that J not acting up over there implies a best behavior inhibition by default. This concept applies below when I talk about visitation and about nudity/sex.

I decided to shame ex and to educate his wife a bit about ex and communication. I used to do so fucking much when he was serving overseas. Besides having a number of $700 phone bills (in 1992 dollars) and many $400+, I would send him large care packages ($40+ just in shipping) and do whatever it took to make him feel loved and remembered.

It was not reciprocated. He's "Me!Me!Me!" all the time. I got perhaps a hand full of letters during the 26 months he was in Korea. I remember a postcard from when he was stationed in Germany. That's about it. No packages of local goodies for me. I felt forgotten.

After recounting this and more, I told him yesterday in a low she-wolf warning tone that he better not make his son feel abandoned like he did me. I told him I would not be sending expensive care packages and I will not be paying phone bills. The initiative must be his.

Let's just see what wifey experiences. She was married to a traveling military man before, but of course she seemed to handle it much better than I in a sort of high road mentality. I could better describe it as shallowness, too.

As an aside, I have noticed, for example, that everyone else clears their plates after dinner, except ex and the baby. She serves him in the June Cleaver way that he complained that I never could - or want to. Service R Us is her. She can put herself on hold for her traveling military man, too. She's a martyr, just like his mom.

Although it would have been good fodder for wifey, I didn't say that he'd never had a secretive type job (something she brought up about her ex) which would inhibit communication home or a job that had extended crazy hours; I wish I had. Instead, although I didn't mention it, he had plenty of time to rack up a $2000 gambling debt at the O Club in Korea playing poker and grocery shopped daily in Germany for the Weber to grill on their huge penthouse balcony each evening, followed by bar hopping. For that job, he had it rigged so he only worked one day in three!

See, I think she still respects him and I find it funny.

Moving on, he said he knows that there are some provisions for mothers of military dependants and base privileges. He's supposed to research that. It's not so much that I want to go on base; I mostly don't want to get tangled in some military BS for which I don't have the means to straighten out. Granted, just going on base to get J an ID card will feel like an ordeal. I hate dealing with the military on even the lowest level. I am afraid of their traps and their invasion of my privacy.

I told him that I would be informing each of J's teachers about the deployment and hopefully be getting feedback if anything goes wrong.

I told him that I would be talking to J about sex sometime soon, that I knew last fall that I needed to, but I just couldn't see doing so with a kid who still believed in Santa Claus! Now I think the SC stuff is over (although I think he fears admitting it would reduce his haul) and it's time to give his questions heartier answers.

In a funny moment that I was tactful enough not to laugh, I mentioned that I want to tackle the subject because I think J is getting some misconceptions that sex is bad or dirty and I want him to have a healthier attitude. Rather uncharacteristically, ex piped up that he thinks he was inhibited sexually by his mother's style.


I had a hard time not laughing or finding plenty of ways to elaborate. (If you'll recall he was being sexually abused by a babysitter when he was 5-6 and his mother was in denial about it, letting it continue another year after he'd told both her and the babysitter's wife. I'm sure wifey doesn't know, even as an explanation for why he's really so inhibited. And ex thinks I'm crazy that I'm not comfortable with J around his mother, someone too spineless to advocate.)

So we discussed many things. I did mention that I always felt secondary with his work and I am finding it very frustrating to be tertiary in this situation, especially as it pertains to my son.

The last thing we discussed was visitation. Seems they're all breezy over there and don't use the word. Seems that they don't get the idea that visitation means he's visiting his dad. In a nice way that pisses me off anyway, they think of it as him living part time with all of them. They don't seem to understand that their daughter's talking about J and her wanting to see him is not my business. Their world revolves around that little girl and I hate seeing J secondary to her. It bugs me.

When they learned of the deployment, they independently thought of visitation continuing as it has to keep the routine. I immediately thought of visitation ending, because I have divorce documents saying that he goes to visit his dad, not his step mom, half sister, or step brother. (Of course, around this time, wifey made a comment to the little girl about her brother - not half brother - indicating J - and their warm, fuzzy, coddling-to-the-girl mind set pisses me off. J uses the proper terms around here.) I know they want visitation to sustain the little girl; that's the real angle, keeping her routine with her (half) brother coming around.

So, although I do not appreciate their angle, I am respecting ex's wishes to maintain the routine and visitation. Wifey has agreed to get a medical power of attorney so that she can take J for medical care in the case of an emergency. While that is a solution, I am not comfortable with it, but will have to live with it. A power of attorney does not equal custody. Although she is a devoted mother, when it comes to most things, I see she and I having inherent parenting style differences; she's a martyr. Ex has mentioned in the past that he was trying to get her to come around and, by default, thinks he and I have more similar parenting styles. Heck, I trained him.

At least she and I get along on the surface. She seems to want to work with me and balked when I said that I cannot fathom her providing respite care for me while she's essentially a single mom as well. She insists on the routine for the children and that she'd hire a babysitter when she needed.

I just wish I could be a martyr like that.

Naw, not really. But, heck, I guess I'll use it.


Aunt Becky said...

This is such a hard situation for you to be in. I want you to pat yourself on the back for the amazing way you're handling it all. I'd do it myself, but I'm not sure you'd feel it states away.

brite69 said...

Wow. I honestly think I'd lose my shit in that situation. Probably doesn't help that I suspect (but can't prove) that my ex-husband's girlfriend hurts my son. We (myself and Matt's parents)don't allow him to be alone with her if we know Matt's not going to be there.

You're an amazing woman Miss Cricket.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see you are asking all the questions now. When everyone has a clear head and not panicked.
I can see both sides to J seeing the wife while your hubby is gone.
It does give you a needed break.
And probably is good to some extend for J. Do you think he will want to do the sleep over part?
I guess you will have to ask J.
And he can be around his new sibling too. But, a much needed break for you.
Boy, two sides to this coin!
Take your time with all this and think what is best for J and you too!

Well-heeled mom said...


I can't even fathom having to deal with this situation.

You have your ducks in a row, and your head about you and that is awesome, all things considered.

(I accidentally typed "dicks in a row" ha!)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like one hell of a conversation. I actually hope it ranged over several conversations, but that's my own baggage on that one!

It sounds like J having time with wifey is a better alternative to grandma (which is a sad commentary in itself.)

It sounds though like you're getting your options identified. That's the first step, I guess. (oh, and the insurance thing makes me go grrrrr.)

Val said...

Grrrrrr -- grrrrrrrrr -- grrrrrrr!!
[Wish I had read this before I slammed out MY quickie post!]
Good Lord, what a PITA...