Friday, November 28, 2008

shades of grey

Sasquatch and I had to have a long discussion today about the concept of "black and white". He's sixteen and he's male, so I completely understand that he sees the world in a very cut and dried way. I'm not sixteen and I'm not male, and I've learned that more often than not, grey is the overriding hue in the world. Things aren't usually cut and dried, they aren't usually all good or all bad, all right or all wrong. Life can be murky, but I think the ability to understand that comes with experience. Today, he got some experience.

It's no secret that he is very angry with his father and has been since March. He barely talks to him, and has spent only a couple of nights at his father's new house. The other boys go and hang out, but not Sasquatch. He stays here or he goes to a friend's house. I've talked and talked - to both of them - and finally realized that there's only so much power I have. At this point it's up to them. I can't do it for them. I know the FX wants to make it right, but doesn't know how. I know Sasquatch thinks he could care less about his father, but I don't believe it for a second. I know the two of them are so similar it hurts, but neither one of them see it. I'd laugh, except that it isn't remotely funny.

Sasquatch did not want the FX to come here for Thanksgiving. He's been saying for weeks that it would ruin his holiday. At first I tried to reason with him, then I tried to appeal to his better instincts, and then, having no success with either of those, I just started ignoring him. It was already a done deal. This was very important to the other two boys. I was beginning to suspect that it was more important to the FX than I might have initially thought. I was okay with it. I'm in this for the long haul, and was looking at it as the first of many such situations that I have to look forward to in my life. It's not negotiable. We will have an amicible relationship for our children. Period.

This isn't to say that we'll spend all of our holidays together. Far from it. But this is the first one (second if you count Halloween, and we did that together too), and I think the younger boys felt really good having it to look forward to. Not Sasquatch. So this afternoon we had another come to jesus talk in the kitchen while I was peeling potatoes. He was not happy, still convinced that his father's presence would ruin his day. Doesn't he have anywhere else to go, he asked? Does he not realize that he gave up family holidays when he decided to leave his family? How could he show up at your house and expect you to be happy to see him after the way he treated you? Don't you see how awkward it's going to be with our other guests? Can't you just call him and tell him not to come?

Black and white. Black and white.

It was hard to even know where to start. Our other guests were my friend Stacey and her family, and we've celebrated lots of holidays and occasions together. She and her husband are grown-ups, and I knew there would be no angst caused by them, even though they have stayed "my" friends. Your father did not divorce the whole family, he divorced me. I'm sure there are plenty of other places he could go, but he'd like to come here. Do you have any idea, I asked, what it must be like to go from living here to living all alone most of the time? Do you not think he knows how angry you are, or how helpless he feels in dealing with it? Do you think you could even remotely consider that at some point in your life you may change your mind and want a relationship with your dad, and that maybe it's a bad idea to slam doors shut too fast?

And then I played my trump card. Listen, I said, it's been a really crazy year. But if you're doing this out of a sense of loyalty to me, you need to stop and consider something. I'm happier than I ever remember being. I feel bad even saying it, but this has been one of the best things that's ever happened to me. If you're angry at him for you, that's totally okay. But don't be angry at him for me. Because I'm not anymore. I'm genuinely, truly okay. Could you just go into it with an open mind?

He wasn't happy about it, but he did. And we had a lovely night - all around. Sure there were undercurrents, and sure there are awkward things with the transition into our new life. It's hard to sit across a table from someone in a position you've been in hundreds of times and all of a sudden go Wow, this is totally different. It's weird to entertain someone in a house they use to live in. It's strange to see vulnerability in a person who has created such upheaval in your life. It's bizarre to realize that you really are done, and even wilder to feel more peaceful about it by the day. But in the end, I looked at my smiling kids - all three of them - and did say my silent words of what I was thankful for this year. I'm thankful for two adults who continue to put their children first, no matter what. May it long continue.

When everyone had left, Sasquatch found me in the kitchen again and thanked me. You were right, he said, that was really nice. It all worked out great and Dad and the boys seemed really happy that he was here.

I noticed he didn't add himself into that, but he didn't need to. I may not be big on black and white, but I can read grey pretty well.


Altaglow said...

The first years are really hard. Your children, who have so much love behind them, will be more than fine. And, as it seems to be happening so will you. Much love!

Maggie May said...

Brilliant RC, brilliant!

ciara said...

i'm glad that you were able to maintain civility w fx for your kids. it was very difficult for the x and i to do that after he left. i couldn't understand why he wnated to do that. i was still very hurt as i hadn't wanted the divorce. anyways, i finally could get to a 'good' place too bad the other party isn't as willing now. i don't think my ex and i could ever be friends, but i do talk w him in a civil manner for our girls.

you are handling it all very well :)

Anonymous said...

that's really nice.

-Ann said...

That's a lovely post. I'm glad you were able to communicate with S. so well, that he took your advice to heart, and that the story had a happy ending.

CrazyCath said...

And I read the title of the post below this and think "Yes. That is exactly what I feel. A sigh of relief. For you RC."

Well done girl. Superbly handled. So very well done. I truly know just what you did there and I take my hat off to you.

Rose said...

I'm so glad for you and maybe just a teensy bit jealous. My ex will never forgive me (it's been 7 years now) and while I've always wanted that kind af amiableness, it's never going to happen. So glad you have it because it's so good for the kids and it's good for you too. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rose said...

I'm so glad for you and maybe just a teensy bit jealous. My ex will never forgive me (it's been 7 years now) and while I've always wanted that kind af amiableness, it's never going to happen. So glad you have it because it's so good for the kids and it's good for you too. Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

This is really beautiful RC, really and truly the art of taking the high road. I'm know he learned something very important, something he will need to keep learning again and again. Baby steps....You are one amazing woman!

Iota said...

Shades of grey. Yes. Life is like that a lot.

Tiggerlane said...

You gave that young man some awesome words of wisdom, and FREEDOM from the obligation to hate his father in order to feel his is being loyal to you. Wow.

I am totally impressed by your ability to be amicable for the sake of the boys...well done!

Akelamalu said...

Great Psychology!

It's wonderful that you are so together for the kids. :)

Kaycie said...

You handled Sasquatch perfectly, and were well rewarded for it.

Great job!

the mother of this lot said...

You are a fantastic mum!

Frances said...

Great work. Glad it went well and was a happy event.
And Sasquatch showed real maturity in sticking with it and thanking you after. You must be proud of that kid.
BTW he is right to be mad. All kids have the right to be mad about what we do to them - FX decided his happiness and well-being came before anyone else's. The fact it is working out okay for you is just by chance.
Sasquatch found out his dad is not so very different from other men - that is a hard lesson for all of us to learn.

Kaytabug said...

What a lovely post. I have a much deeper appreciation for my Mom being amicable with my father, in looking back she did so much to keep the peace for my sake(he left her for another woman)I was blessed to be young and oblivious to the reasons for the divorce or I would have been like your oldest. Such words of wisdom you gave him. Your boys are so lucky!