Ok, so much for letting go of all anger and bitterness towards my ex (see last post). Seriously, it’s such a hard process. I’m learning to let go, and I think I have for the most part. I feel no hatred or anger against him personally and I’ve been doing this solo momma thing for two years now, so I’m quite used to it. But days like today crop up and remind me how alone I am and how this job requires more than one person to be done well.
I knew the day would be challenging because the night before I dared to go to a girl’s night out hosted by one of the moms at my older son’s school. I had to hire a new babysitter (who still demanded $20/hour!) and when I came home at 10:30, both kiddos were still up. Seriously? This older woman, who had stellar references, just couldn’t say no. But I still have to wake up with the baby at 6:30 a.m. Welcome to my Saturday at warp speed.
It started off badly. The ex called for the first time in a week. William was excited and put on American college football, something they used to watch, even in London, together. The ex barely took notice. He’s changing. The two-year-old was demanding all the attention, as two-year-olds do. I try not to get involved when they skype anymore as it gives me 5 – 10 minutes to get dishes done, wash my face, use the bathroom in peace. (If you have a two-year-old, you know how challenging any of that can be!) So, the ex is trying to calm the two-year-old down, but he has little patience. William is getting madder and madder as he can’t get a word in. When he does, he asks William if he won his first soccer match last Saturday. William says yes. Dad replies, “that’s smashing.” Then, the baby demands all the attention, William drifts off into the background watching a football game and finally, the ex says he needs to go to get some food. They hang up. All hell breaks loose. William screams at his baby brother:
“It’s all YOUR fault! YOU ruin EVERYTHING!”
“First my daddy leaves because of you and now I can’t even talk to him because of YOU!”
He stomps down the stairs. Jamesy runs into the kitchen crying something and saying “Daddy, daddy. MY daddy TOO!”
And, he’s right. So how do I make William understand that just because his daddy checked out when James was eight months old, doesn’t mean that it’s the baby’s fault. It’s a reflection on the father. But a nine-year-old sees it differently. Baby’s take work—a lot of work—and William, at seven, helped raise his little brother who had maddening colic for three months and still has sleep issues. William is resentful and he’s convinced that everything wrong is Jamesy’s fault. If Jamesy wasn’t born, he’d still be watching Tennessee football with his dad on Saturdays and his dad would go to his soccer matches. Now, he lives in London and visits once every two to three months and will likely miss his birthday (and Jamesy’s) this year. None of it is his or James’ fault. Sure, if I hadn’t become pregnant, we’d likely still be living in London. But, I wouldn’t be incredibly happy. My ex is a bit of a workaholic and play-when-related-to-work-aholic. So, that means, he works long hours and then attends work events or drinks with his network after hours—when he’s not away traveling for work during the week. When William and I lived in London, I worked full time remotely as the parenting editor for DivineCaroline.com (a wonderful job!) and also ran our household. (I don’t know how I did it looking back, but it sure trained me for being a single mom to a baby and a seven-year-old later.) I went back and forth to William’s school, I managed his playdates and his extra-curricular activities: violin lessons, tutoring, soccer, dinners, shopping, walking/running the dog, etc. Needless to say, William and I were on our own in London too, except that he saw his dad almost every weekend and as a family we had fabulous holidays (love the UK five week off benefit) that lulled me into a false sense of security about the status of our marriage.
Clearly, I was headed for divorce long before baby James arrived. You just can’t live separate lives like that and not be filled with resentment. Jamesy, however, is an angel. He is love incarnate and NONE of this is his fault.
So how do I get that through to big brother William? At today’s soccer game, since James hadn’t napped, I could barely pay attention. James was up and down and even threw a soccer ball onto the field twice. He poured half of William’s water bottle onto the ground before I could stop him. At the last second of the game, William scored a goal, only to find out that it didn’t count, that it was off-sides. I was trying to give William support—but had a wiggly boy who was on the verge of another temper tantrum on my hands. William starts to cry.
“Why can’t I ever score a goal?” he says through clenched teeth and watery eyes.
“This is my third season and I’ve only scored one!” I realize that he’s very upset.
Jamesy is now in full-tilt scream over not getting a cupcake that was meant for the soccer team players. William looks at him, hands him a piece of his cupcake and says, “Shut up already.”
I can hardly blame him. I walk over to the coach and ask him if he can give William a pep talk during practice next week. “You know, something like this is a game and you can’t make every goal, but we’ve got to keep trying and not to get too upset, when we don’t make it, something along those lines would be great.”
I realize that I’ve stepped over the bounds and cough and say, “Sorry, these type of talks never go over so well, coming from the mom, you know?”
He smiles and says, “I know.” Walks over, gives William a knuckle pound and tells him how great the game was, even though they didn’t win.
On the way home the baby falls asleep, finally, and William and I must drive around for an hour. We’ve done this so many times over the past two years. It’s always a relief when the screaming stops and he falls asleep, but then we start to wonder where we should go. Malibu? Palos Verdes? I always try to give us a pretty drive. When we get home, more screaming ensues as the baby wakes up and William doesn’t want to shower, etc. Just mundane life on weekends for me. I put on a TV show for the baby to watch and march William downstairs for his shower. He sits in his rocking chair in his room and looks up at me with an expression I’m all too familiar with: pure exhaustion.
“Daddy isn’t going to make my birthday this year is he?”
“I don’t know.”
“He should buy me a present when he’s here next.”
“Why hasn’t he ever replaced my helicopter?”
This is a sore subject. His dad bought him a remote-controlled helicopter back in March during a visit. Jamesy flew it up high and it landed on the roof of the corporate apartment where their dad stays when here for work. William was furious, to the point of crying the whole drive back from Santa Monica. His dad promised to replace it. But in the visits since then, he hasn’t bought one.
“Why can’t he remember?” William asks.
“I don’t know. Have you reminded him?”
“Yes. In fact, before he left last time (which was in July), I asked him to get me one and he laughed like it was no big deal and said he would. Jamesy just ruins everything.”
I don’t reply. I mean, it’s not Jamesy’s fault that his dad didn’t buy another one when he promised, or that he likely won’t make his birthday when he said he’d “try”. But then again, if I say it’s not Jamesy’s fault, I’m saying it’s his dad’s fault. I really can’t win. But I decide that my nine-year-old is very smart and will figure it out eventually.
Later that evening when I”m preparing dinner and the boys are watching a documentary about wolves, Jamesy starts driving William crazy again. He picks up William’s newest cards and runs around the room. They are William’s latest infatuation and he screams, “Leave me alone! Get your hands off my stuff!”
I intervene and say, “Let him play with some of your Bakugan cards. You don’t like those anymore.”
William grunts and then gets some of them out and hands them to his baby brother.
Jamesy jumps into his arms, hugging William. In his squeeky two-year-old voice he says: “You’re so sweet to me Yilliam! You’re the sweetest brother. I uv you.”
William looks up at me with Jamesy in his arms and smiles radiantly. I sigh and begin to hope.
Maybe he’s going to get it after all.