No longer the bitch
Ten years ago I left my first husband. I left with three children, and a big bag full of grudges.
My ex and I could not be termed "friendly." Many conversations were loud and harsh. Court battles were long, expensive, and further fueled our animosity.
For the sake of the children...isn't that what everyone says...for the sake of the children? But for them, I stopped communicating with my ex completely. I made sure the children answered when he called. I was conveniently away from the house when he would come for visits. Even as I type this, I'm trying with great difficulty to omit snide remarks, because after 10 years of a mindset cemented in cynicism and anxiety, I am really trying to believe that all of this is now unnecessary.
Fast forward to present day post-divorce.
Due to many circumstances, some instigated by my ex, and yes, some by me, my children are not comfortable with their father, and have very little contact with him.
He can't be blamed entirely for his actions. I know that his childhood did not come with a happy daddy; rather one who dealt with a stern, harsh, heavy hand, and wounding words.
Although my ex was never violent towards my children, he seemed to lack the tools necessary for parenting.
The other night he called and said that he was coming through town to see a concert, and wanted the boys to come with him.
As my reaction grew from relief to gleefulness, I realized something.
That I'm stunted.
That I'm stuck.
That I'm stupid.
That I need to help this person.
With shaking fingers, I dialed my ex's number, and braced myself for a conversation I should have had with this man several years ago.
Without stumbling, and with great sincerity, I told him what I should have told him all those other times my children declined to go with him; all the times they did not want to fly to his home for summer vacations; all the times they refused to stay overnight.
I very simply said: Don't take it personally.
Because it's not personal.
Although I never prevented my children from seeing him, I could have offered my ex words of encouragement; ways for him to bond with his children; enabled a relationship between them that is more than what it now is: strangers who share genetic traits.
But when you're standing in the middle of the muck, you can't imagine that your brand new white shoes will ever be clean. It doesn't immediately occur to you that with a little bit of scrubbing, the brown will wear off and the brightness of the white will peak through.