Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"I stay here with mommy"

We have a problem.

Caroline doesn't ever want to go see Tyler anymore. He says that once she gets there, they have a great time, and I believe him. But I can't for the life of me get her to go to him when I drop her off at his place. The only way she will go is if he picks her up from daycare and I'm not there.

Yesterday, I was supposed to take her to him for an overnight visit. I told her we were going to daddy's house and she completely freaked. "No! I no want to go to daddy's! I no like daddy! I no like daddy! I want to go home! I stay here with mommy!" She has done this before and then once I got down there, she clung to me and refused to go with him. So I called Tyler and told him about it, and we decided that she would stay with me.

First of all, I'm sure she doesn't actually dislike him. She may not know him very well, because they don't see each other very often. He hasn't been nearly as present in her life as I have (and I'm not just talking about since he moved out), and she's only two. Of course she's going to prefer the parent who she spends 90-95% of her time with. But I know that it breaks his heart. How could it not?

It's hard for me to watch and must be even harder for him to hear. No one wants to hear your child say they don't like you. Especially a two year old who doesn't yet know how to lie.

Still, I don't know what to do. Neither of us wants to force her to go-- that seems cruel and counterproductive. But it will become a vicious cycle if she spends less and less time with him, and they grow further and further apart. So far, all we have come up with is to have Tyler always pick her up from daycare. But she's supposed to go with him for two periods of two weeks each this summer, while he's in North Dakota from the end of May through early September, and I worry about how that will go if she doesn't even want to be away from me for one night.

To be brutally honest, since that's kind of my specialty, the fact that she clearly prefers me makes me feel almost... triumphant. That's not too terrible to say, I hope. I'm only human. I've spent her entire short life devoting myself to her and raising her, while he has been mostly absent, and I am almost relieved to see that that fact hasn't escaped her. And I can't help but think, honestly, what does he expect? You can't spend that little time with a two year old and then be shocked when she doesn't know you that well. She calls you "daddy" because she thinks that's what your name is. She doesn't know what "daddy" is supposed to mean-- you are supposed to teach her that.

But, I have to stop myself from thinking those things, because again, it's all about what's best for her, and she needs him too... and he needs her. I want them to have as full of a relationship as possible, for all of our sakes. Including my own. Because it's hard enough to just be mom. I don't want to have to be dad, too.

I just don't know how to fix it.

Monday, April 25, 2011


It's springtime!

We had the longest winter ever in New England this year (no really, ever) and so the arrival of spring this year is extra awesome. I don't remember ever having so much snow. Let me tell you, all those snowstorms were a huge pain in the ass for a single mom of a toddler who does not own a shovel. I kept telling myself not to buy one because then it wouldn't snow again just to spite me... and it kept snowing... and snowing... and snowing. I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. I take full responsibility for all the snow.

I remember hearing on the news at one point that there were concerns that soon there'd be nowhere left to put all the snow once they took it off the roads. That all the empty spaces were completely full. And I thought to myself, that's how I feel. Exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed. No room to put anything else. Enough already.

So I sure am glad that this winter is over. It's warm, it's sunny (okay, sometimes it's sunny, I mean this is still New England we're talking about here), and it's a new beginning.

Caroline and I had an unexpected bonus weekend together for Easter this past week, and we spent it doing happy, hopeful springtime things:

Dyeing Easter eggs...

I told one friend that dyeing real eggs with a two-year-old is like teaching a horse to do dentistry, and I stand by that statement. (I mean sure she has opposable thumbs and all but the fine motor skills aren't quite there yet.) But it was still a lot of fun.

Having Easter dinner at a friend's house, and hunting for eggs...

"Mom!! There are crackers in these eggs!!"

Just goofing around in our pajamas...

And planting a garden on our porch. Caroline provided the artwork for the labels...

And she was very enthusiastic about planting the seeds. I finally had to pull her away and convince her that the seeds were sleeping now so we had to leave them alone.

The finished product: we ended up planting sweet basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley, mixed flowers, and cosmos. All of which require full sun, which is definitely not ever happening on my middle-floor porch, but we'll see how it goes.

I think this label is actually quite an excellent rendering of mixed flowers.

Ah, springtime. Nice weather, longer days, more playground time, new beginnings. My divorce is final, I'm graduating in three weeks, I'm starting a new job. I'm pretty excited about it all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Prayer for my daughter

I'm not religious. I guess if I'm anything, I'm agnostic with a couple sprinkles of atheism, if that's possible. So please forgive my use of prayer as a literary device, but the sentiment holds true.

Caroline woke up early this morning, around 5:30. Her canines are coming in and she's been in pain lately, so rather than wait for her to fall back asleep, I brought her into my bed. I dozed off for a little while and woke up about an hour later to find her snuggled up against my chest, fast asleep. I lay there looking at her for a little while. She's only two, so of course she looks pretty innocent all the time, but little kids have a way of looking so perfectly angelic while they sleep...

Lately, my friends have been even crazier than usual, which is saying something. All of the crazy around me (and within me) makes me worry about raising a little girl. While I won't go into detail out of respect for people's privacy, I will say this regarding my own daughter.

May she always know what she is worth, regardless of whether or not there is a man in her bed telling her so. May she never rationalize abusive behavior out of fear of being alone. May she make the hard choices that she knows in her heart are the right ones. May she love her own company enough that she cherishes her time spent by herself. May she be strong and secure enough that she does not need anyone else to make her feel whole and complete.

May she never settle.

And may I have the foresight and wisdom to raise her as a stronger woman than I will ever be.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On blogging.

A blog post about blogging. It's so meta.

I've been blogging for almost three years. For the first year to 18 months, no one knew about my blog except Tyler, and the girls in the "community" on the Nest, which is where I started blogging. Shortly after I moved to blogger, I told a few of my close friends at school about it. Now, a lot of people I know in real life know about it. My friends read it, Tyler's friends read it, and judging from my sitemeter, a crapton of people have linked to it from Facebook and read it now too. Soon a lot of other people will read it too, when I move to Parents. And my full name will be listed there as the author.

Which is fine. I'm a pretty private person in real life, and there's a lot of really personal stuff on this blog, but I put it on the internet; I put it out there. I don't post anything I wouldn't tell anyone if they asked. People are welcome to read about my life, whether I know them in person or not.

Still, it's weird to think about. This is like my diary, or something. I've always used it as a place to write about my struggles and for introspection. Recently, writing about my divorce brought me a lot of peace when few other things did. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about people I see every day reading about it, but I guess what's done is done and anyway it's ended up pretty well for me. My friends say they love my writing and even though I know they'd say that even if it were shit garbage, because they're awesome, it makes me feel more confident. So I keep writing.

I wrote once that blogging is like therapy for me. It's still true. I don't know why, but when I click that "publish post" button and whatever I've written gets sent off into the internet, for friends or classmates or ex-husband's new girlfriends or fellow moms or random internet people to read... I feel better. It's cathartic. It's therapeutic. I sure do need that, regardless of any nasty comments I may get in return. (I try to ignore those, although I do always publish them.)

So I'll keep writing, and I try not to let anything affect what I choose to write about. If I have some crazy shitshow going on, which let's face it I usually do, I'm going to write about it regardless of whether I have to walk in to school and face 20 people who may or may not have read about it on my blog.

So, fellow bloggers who read this-- do you keep your blog secret from people you know in real life? Why or why not?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Miss Independent

My friends tell me that I give really good advice. When they say this, they are always very careful to also say that this is true only when whatever I am giving advice on doesn't have anything to do with me. They are absolutely right. (Clearly, because my personal life is a giant heap of ridiculous disaster, most of the time.)

So lately I've been trying to give myself advice as though I am another person. You know, try to see things in my life from an outside perspective. It doesn't usually work very well because I'm pretty stubborn even when it comes to listening to myself but lately, Tyler and I have been fighting so much that I thought I'd give it a shot. Without going into brutal detail about who did what and who said what, here's what I told myself:

You have got to stop being a crazy person. That's all you can control here-- you can't do anything about his craziness, only yours. Your mutual craziness is why you got the hell outta there and you need to just stop engaging him in it. You're divorced, you're nothing to each other besides coparents, time to drop it and move on. You can't leave someone for being a douchebag and then act all surprised when they turn out to be a douchebag. Just limit communication as much as possible until the storm passes, and continue to live your own separate life in a way that makes you happy and fulfilled.

So I actually listened to myself and thank goodness for that, because my stress level has seriously been through the effing roof, you guys.

On the topic of moving on, now that I'm not very busy with school (I'm basically just waiting for graduation), I've decided to focus on my apartment. I had wanted to move closer to school for my residency, but I can't afford to break my lease, so I'm just going to change things up a little. I'll post about it when it's all done, but the point is, I realized that I couldn't get anything done without some tools, and Tyler had of course taken his toolbox with him. So I went out and bought myself a toolkit, because I'm an independent woman now and can fix things myself, damn it.

A pink toolkit.

It's got a bunch of pink tools and some hardware stuff in it. Actually, the hardware is basically a bunch of hooks and nails for hanging pictures. As if hanging pictures is all a woman would ever use tools for. Which is actually precisely why I bought it but let's not go splitting hairs here.

So now I have tools, which is pretty badass. I also got some stepstools to keep around the apartment, because I'm so short that I can't reach anything in most of my cabinets and closets. I'm pretty much set now. (Side note: you know that getting divorced was the right thing to do when you can basically replace your ex's contributions to your life in their entirety by buying a toolkit and a couple stepstools, just sayin'. Oops, that was bitchy, wasn't it. I should go back and read my own advice again.)

Caroline is pretty psyched about the toolkit too. She keeps asking to see 'mommy's tools", so I taught her the names of them all and she does pretty well remembering them. Well, she keeps calling the hammer a "hamburgler" but you know, she'll get there. Another independent woman in the making!

(P.S.- in preparation for my move to Parents.com, I've set up a Facebook fan page for the blog-- if you want to, you can follow it by clicking "like" in the box in the right-hand column over there, or go to http://www.facebook.com/unexpectedly.expecting and do it there. To be honest, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with a fan page but I am sure I will get it figured out. And it's gonna be awesome.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Check it out!

As I've mentioned before, lots of changes are coming to my blog in the next month or so. All my content is moving to Parents.com. I also had Natalie from Eight Days Designs make a custom illustration of Caroline and me for the header of the new blog...

How cute is that?! I love it! Note the white coat. If only I were that hot in real life.

I just wanted to share it because I'm so excited for all the changes that are coming up, and because I love the illustration so much.

Back with a "real" post soon...

Monday, April 11, 2011

My future's so bright, I gotta wear shades

I had a really, really good weekend. For no particular reason at all. It was just one of those times when life is good and everything seems like it's worked out the way I originally wanted it to, back when I first decided to leave Tyler.

I got together with some old friends on Friday night, friends who I hadn't talked to since the split. Tyler had told me they didn't want to see me and that they had said all kinds of various awful things about me, and I believed him so I never made contact. But we did finally get together and had so much fun. I hadn't really realized how much of a weight it had been on my shoulders, the loss of these good friends and thinking that they hated me. My relationship with Tyler hasn't been so great lately, and when you constantly hear all kinds of terrible things about yourself, it's hard not to start believing it on some level. It was just a huge relief to know that even our mutual friends still love and support me, and understand why I did what I did.

After that, I walked around with a smile all weekend. Caroline was in a great mood and we did all kinds of fun things, like playground trips and shopping with my mom and making huge finger-painting messes.

I even actually enjoyed a classmate's bridal shower that we went to on Sunday. I have always hated those things, more so lately than before, for obvious reasons. My standard gift is a blender so that if their marriage goes to hell, then at least they can make margaritas and get drunk. (They'll thank me later. I told a friend that and he disgustedly told me that I was so hopeful and optimistic, I should give speeches around the country.) But Caroline and I had a good time. And I even gave the bride a pizza stone and some cooling racks. No blender this time.

I don't know what it is that changed. I feel really good about the way things are going for me. I'm done with my school requirements-- I'm graduating next month. And I wanted this exact life so badly... just living alone peacefully with my daughter, making her and my friends my priority, not always wishing for someone to come home (or leave again). Just wanting what I have, not what I don't have.

I occasionally hear my upstairs neighbors fighting and screaming at each other, and I shudder and remember how things used to be, how they could have continued forever. Then I stop listening, and I give a kiss to the happy little girl playing with puzzles on the floor, and I turn my back on the past and face the future instead. With a smile.

Life is so good. I am so lucky to have what I have.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Be there

I think I have always been clear that I left Tyler because he was not the husband I needed him to be, not because he wasn't the father Caroline needed him to be.

I still feel that way, in general-- he wants to be her father and present in her life. But it seems to me to be a common occurrence for noncustodial parents to have a slow decline in their visitation time that they choose to take, and our situation is no exception. Tyler's job requires him to travel a lot, and certain things can't be helped. But as time passes and we settle in to our separate lives, the time he spends with her is less and less. This is meant to be a statement of fact and not a criticism of his parenting.

I know it bothers him that she has a stronger attachment to me. It hurts him that she does not ask for him when he isn't around. He talks to me about it, about his hopes that they will have a bond someday when she is older, and I simply don't know what to say.

I think a lot about this question: how much responsibility do I bear for his relationship with her? On the surface it seems like it is really not my concern or my burden to carry, and I know that is the view a lot of custodial parents take. But I can't quite bring myself to feel that way. I am her mother. It's any mother's job to raise her child in the best circumstances she can. What's best for Caroline? To grow up having as full of a relationship with both her parents as possible, regardless of personal differences between he and I. So I feel that I should share in the responsibility of how much time they spend together. "It's not on you", people tell me. But I'm her primary caretaker and when it comes to looking out for her best interests, it is on me.

So I ask him, and remind him, weekly, when he's going to take her. The weekends are consistent enough, but four days out of thirty does not a parent-child bond make. I don't know. I certainly have enough on my plate without keeping on top of him to take his visitation, but like I said I feel some responsibility to try to maintain their relationship with some consistency.

Then he talks to me about his sadness over their declining connection. I feel bad for him, and I feel somewhat guilty because I am the one who initiated our split, which led to him spending even less time with her than he used to. But what can I say? Be there. I know it's hard for him when he lives a half an hour away, and he's trying to build a new life, and seeing her probably reminds him of all he used to have and lost. But all he can do is be there. Hope for a relationship in the future is not enough. She is important now, I say. She needs you now. Be there. Even if it makes you sad, even if it pulls you back in to the misery of everything that went wrong between us.

Be there. Not for me. For her.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Salt in the wound

If you're recently divorced, here's a little tip from me to you: don't get a new laptop.

Why, you ask? Because you'll be forced to transfer all your old pictures to your new computer.

I had an impulse to just shove them all in one folder and transfer the whole thing at once, but I didn't. I looked through them all. Yeah, I maybe just indulged in a little bit of emotional wrist-cutting. It's okay. I just checked, and I'm still all in one piece.

Yesterday was my 27th birthday. I struggle a little bit with the milestone days, still. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. They're not fun. I think I need to go through a full divorced year-- get in a full cycle of life, before I can really feel whole and complete as a single mother, and not flinch when certain numbers come up on the calendar. It's okay, though. I'm doing all right.

Seven years... they don't just disappear with a couple of signatures. But it's good to remember that it wasn't all bad, that there were good times. I don't want to pretend they didn't happen.

And I know that even happier ones are coming. For all of us.