On-Again, Off-Again Dad

The ex has called a couple of times over the past month or so, after a couple of months of not calling. He said, “I get him for Christmas this year, right?” Ummm, ok. So after making use of your liberal visitation schedule for two weeks out of the last 104, you want to stake your claim? Sure. Yes, you actually are supposed to have him starting on Christmas Eve, as it is an odd year. “I’ll try to get some time off, then,” he said. Sure, I thought.  Like last Christmas.

He called once more, spoke to The Boy only for a little while, and that was the last we heard anything about Christmas.  The Boy’s birthday was Wednesday, and his mom had sent gifts, one from her, and one from his dad. Her card said they were looking forward to seeing him at Christmas.  But the ex didn’t even call his son on his birthday.

What?

My mom told me that recently, she and The Boy were at Walmart and he said he really hoped he’d get to see his dad at Christmas, because he hadn’t seen him since April.  Yes, it hurts him more than he’ll admit to me, and yes, he does keep track.

As The Man says, kids are only young once. He’s going to miss it completely.

Angry for The Boy and pity for the ex. And partly angry for me too, really, because I have my own life and family that will be affected by his inadequacy. But mostly angry for The Boy.

Behavior Really Is Communication

Behavior is Communication.  This was one of the tenets of autism I learned early on.  I remember sitting in a workshop with my then-husband, who really just didn’t get it, and this was the key piece I walked away with – I already knew it, but the workshop had reinforced it, and I had hoped my then-husband would have an a-ha! moment, but it never came.

The ex has now cancelled on The Boy for his week of visitation next month, and I broke it to The Boy late last week.  He had equated this planned trip to his dad’s to the escape plan of the tank fish in Finding Nemo, and would talk about how he was looking forward to seeing whether or not the escape plan would work.

Well it didn’t.

And at first, The Boy seemed OK.  “I guess the escape plan didn’t work.  I guess we’re stuck in the tank,” he would say.  I knew he didn’t really feel like he was stuck here with us, but that the plan fell through.

As the weekend wore on, and we began to witness more teenager-y behavior (refusal to do things we asked, etc.), it took my mom pointing out to me that this behavior was probably coming from the cancellation of plans.  And I had a Doh! moment.  I should know better, because of that basic rule, BEHAVIOR = COMMUNICATION.

Of course, that explains why he was being such a jerkface this weekend!

It’s still a sore subject, but figuring it out has helped The Man and me gain a little perspective, and retain a little more compassion for him right now.  Sometimes it’s hard to be compassionate to someone who is being a jerkface, but The Boy is still just a kid, and a kid who has been cancelled on again by his dad.

“I knew this escape plan wasn’t going to work.  Do you remember me telling you that before?”

:(

 

 

Equality and Divorce

In the state where I was married (and divorced) before, in any marriage lasting 10 years or longer, spouses are automatically granted half of their former spouses retirement, no questions asked.  Therefore, even though the ex was college educated and quite capable of getting and maintaining his own job with a retirement plan, but chose not to, he is entitled to half of my retirement.

For the same reason that I disagree with “no tolerance” policies in public education, as well as all-or-nothing inclusion policies, I find this law completely without merit.

I understand the reasoning behind its inception: it was designed to protect housewives of yesteryear who were often left with no way to support themselves financially after a divorce, having given up any career options they may have had to stay home and raise the children or what have you.  I applaud the thought behind it, and I’m sure it did a lot to even out the playing field in years past.

But now that it benefits someone like the ex, who chose a seasonal, menial job over a salaried position using his degree in graphic design, and chose to take unemployment all winter rather than find a different type of job for those months, who chose to use that time at home smoking pot and doing very little of anything else that might contribute to the running of the household, now this law has jumped the shark.  It has ceased protecting the people it was designed to help, and instead is benefiting those who clearly do not deserve the benefit.

One of the newspapers posted a story about dads fighting back in the court system in regards to custody and child support, and me with my big mouth decided to comment in the comments on the facebook link that it would be great if they could also review that archaic law that decides that 10 years of marriage means you deserve half of someone’s retirement, and guess what?  Yup.  Just about every misogynist on the internet responded back to me.  That we women wanted equality, and now we have it so just suck it up and “pay up Buttercup.”

Bleh.

Never once did I bash men in my comment.  I asked for a review of the arbitrary law, and declared that I would like a more thoughtful approach to the division of assets.  But in response, several men decided that I was the source of their misfortune in life, and that I should pay for the wrongdoings of every woman who had ever wronged them.  Nevermind that a review like the kind for which I advocate could and obviously would benefit at least some men, including these men who have been so wronged by some apparently evil women.  Nope, that didn’t matter.  All that mattered is that I was a woman, women have asked for equality, and now that “we have it” I should shut up.

We still have a long way to go, ladies, if men are against any of our ideas, even if it would benefit them, just because a woman has voiced them.  A long way to go…

 

The Boy is Back

The Boy, still sleeping, catching up from Spring Break at his dad's

The Boy, still sleeping, catching up from Spring Break at his dad’s

The Boy is back and seemingly had a good time.  And I am glad.  I’m glad there were no emergency phone calls asking me what to do because he is having a meltdown.  I’m glad it sounds like they actually spent time together, which hasn’t been the case in the past.  And it’s early days yet, but I’m glad that The Boy seems to be happy to be home, with no lingering ill-effects like cat scratches covering his hands, or a fear of the bathtub.

I am happy to have him back, and I am happy he had a good time.

That does not mean that I trust things with his dad have changed.  While setting up this trip, his dad talked about taking him to Disney in May, because he knows someone who works at Discovery Cove and could get “us” into all the parks for free – you see, he wanted The Man and I to share in this adventure, most likely because he wanted us to drive The Boy down to Orlando to meet him.  I asked him not to mention this idea to The Boy, and told him May wouldn’t work, as The Boy is still in school at that time.  When we met for drop-off, the ex explained that it would have to be postponed, and that the cost of Discovery Cove would be $150 each for he and The Boy, and if The Man and I wanted to go it would cost us $400 a piece, so maybe we wouldn’t want to do that.

So says the ex, who is almost $800 behind in child support.

So you see, I am happy this trip was able to happen.  I am happy The Boy seemed to have a good time.  But not for one second do I think things have really changed.  Not for one second do I believe the ex is done hurting The Boy, albeit unintentionally.  Plans will continue to be cancelled, phone calls left unmade, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…  Maybe it’s pessimistic, and distrustful, but it’s also evidence-based, and I am too protective a mom to think otherwise.

The Handoff

A co-worker asked how my weekend was, and I think I responded something like, “Meh.”  Because it was a nice weekend, and The Man and had a tiny vacation, but I had to give up The Boy, so there’s that.  The truth is I hate giving him up, but I have an undying hope that he will be able to salvage something of a relationship with his dad at some point, and so I know this is good.  Or has the potential of being good.  But having him gone is like not having an arm for a week.

And so, while the weekend was a nice little getaway, and I could do nothing but smile at The Boy’s insistent questions (“How much longer?  Are we there yet?  I wonder what kind of lights Dad’s new car will have…”) and statements (“I can’t wait to see the new puppy!”), it still just sucks and my emotions are a little raw, a little closer to the surface.  I will (and already do) miss being a mom, at least in the active sense, this week.

Here’s to hoping it goes by quickly, uneventfully, and as painlessly as possible.  Tomorrow’s another day.

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He’s Baaaack…

I have a sneaking suspicion that the ex and his girlfriend broke up, because he’s decided to remember he has a son of his own.  He texted me in the middle of the week, saying he was sorry he was behind on child support, but that he’s been laid off, and would make a payment by the end of the week, oh, and he’s definitely a go for Easter, and could he call Thursday?

Sure, I replied.

Thursday evening rolled around, and another text that said he was still at work, and could he call Friday instead.

Sure, I replied.

He called while we were out to dinner, and I missed it, so I called him back before he could get to The Boy and start making promises that I would have to deal with when they were broken.

He laid out his plans for picking up The Boy for Easter Break, and didn’t ask for too much travel on our end.  He went on to talk about us bringing The Boy to Florida in May, because he has a friend who works at Discovery Cove, and could get us in free to every park in Orlando.  He suggested The Man and I come, too, and hang out with them for a couple of days if we wanted…

I told him I’d check the school calendar.

When he finally called to talk to The Boy on Saturday, I told him he could talk about Easter Break, but not to mention the other plans until they were more firm.

The unfortunate reality is that even positive contact with his dad has an impact on The Boy.  We are now bracing ourselves and warning his teachers, who have never experienced The Boy post-visit-to-dad’s.

And it has already begun. The slightest up-tick in defiance and rigidity, the constant fear of being left behind… All of the old emotions (and negative behaviors) return with a phone call and a promise.

The ex will never understand his own power.

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Instruction Manual

By Mestigoit

Whenever the ex re-enters The Boy’s life, I feel like he needs a new instruction manual. He doesn’t communicate all that regularly with him, and even then asks open-ended questions, which are difficult for those in the spectrum. I had to interrupt, get on the phone and remind him that yes or no questions work better and to keep trying when he spoke to The Boy this weekend, because I could hear the frustration in his voice, and could tell he was getting ready to quit trying to engage him in conversation.

When he goes to visit him in April, what will they talk about? He has no idea what The Boy’s interests are, or his friend’s names, or how he likes to spend his time.

Does he remember that he needs time for transitions? Does he remember that raising your voice is risky? Does he have any idea what he likes to eat?

No, he doesn’t. Because that’s what happens when you don’t see your kid for an entire year, and only attempt to talk to him every six weeks or so. That is what happens when you don’t have a relationship with someone on the spectrum.

I worry, but there’s not much I can do. There’s no instruction manual for any of us. Much of parenting is figuring it all out as you go along. Some of us have figured out that building a strong relationship with our kiddos makes things so much easier. Others of us haven’t figured that out yet.

Time and Space

After the divorce, The Boy talked to his dad about once a week on the phone.  At least, his dad did most of the talking, unsure of how to get him to respond, and frequently pissed off because The Boy didn’t speak much at all.  Over the years, his contact with The Boy has decreased dramatically, as I somehow knew it would, sooner or later.

The ex hasn’t seen his son in almost a year.  He hasn’t spoken to him since January 23.

People rarely change, unless they invite it, seek it, and educate themselves to effect it.  None of these, unfortunately, apply to the ex.  Unfortunately for The Boy, who will probably always have a strained relationship with his dad, if he has one at all.  And unfortunately for the ex, who obviously hasn’t a clue what he is missing, and won’t be able to get this missed time with his son back.

Luckily for The Boy, I think he notices it less now that he has a step-dad around, full-time.  One who takes him for rides in the truck, wrestles with him, jokes with him, and obviously cares about him.  The Man will never replace his dad, but he sure makes up for what his dad lacks in his life.  And that’s a good thing.  Couldn’t get much better, in fact.

My Boys