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

Middle of the Night

Every once in awhile, I come across some book or movie, something that speaks to me in a profound way, and I just have to share it.

The Man and I love to watch old movies.  Turner Classic Movies is our fall back, and we check to see what’s on every night of the week.  The Man often falls asleep to it, and sometimes wakes up to it.  Last night, as so often happens, he fell asleep, and I realized I was awake and started watching “Middle of the Night” from 1959 with Fredric March and Kim Novak.

You’ve probably never heard of it, but the script was by the same person who wrote “Marty,” which you probably have heard of if you know anything about old movies.  I’ve seen “Marty” and liked it – gritty and realistic about what it’s like to be lonely with little chance of finding love.  “Middle of the Night” is even better, and it’s unfortunate that it isn’t as well known.

Why am I writing about this old movie no one’s ever heard of?  Because it still has relevance, and I empathized with its characters, as some of you might, as well.

Middle_of_the_Night_(1959)_trailer_1Fredric March plays a 50-something business man, which was considered teetering on old age back then, while Kim Novak plays his 24 year-old secretary with whom he falls in love.  I won’t give the whole plot away, but suffice it to say that even in 1959, their families didn’t take too kindly to the age disparity in their relationships.  And in their own way, their friends and family began to tear away at what they had with their well-intentioned interference.  Saying how much they cared for them, not wanting them to make a mistake they would regret, cautioning them against being impetuous, they needled and cajoled and turned something positive into something negative until the couple was bickering and on the verge of breaking up.

Luckily, my own friends and family were largely supportive of The Man and I.  But there were some who were (and are) not.  And it hurts to have people who love you not be happy for you, out of misplaced “concern” for you.  And ultimately, they either accept your relationship, or you have to move on, and if not sever your relationship with them, at least keep them at a distance.  Because that kind of negativity will tear anyone down, and no one needs that.

In any case, this is an old movie that still resonates today, and I highly recommend it.  It’s amazing how little people change.

Judgement Not Welcome Here

512px-WGHardingRecently, I posted about a couple of my friends whose marriages have faltered.  Then I was notified about a couple of comments on the post, comments that were rather judgemental of my friends.  I know this person who commented may not realize how preachy her comments sounded, but they were unwarranted, and rather unwelcome.

Those of you who have gone through divorce can probably guess what they said, verbatim, because it’s just what a person in their situation does not need to hear.  The I-hope-you’ve-really-thought-about-this, and you-have-no-idea-how-this-is-going-to-impact-your-kids kind of crap that I heard, too.

First of all, there are enough single-parent households out there nowadays to prove that the world doesn’t end with a divorce.  Plenty of kids not only survive but thrive in a single-parent household.  This notion that a home without two parents is somehow “broken” is positively ludicrous, and needs to be sent packing, back to the Victorian age from whence it came.  My son has thrived since the ex left our home.  The idea that “staying in it for the kids” is better somehow, as if children aren’t negatively impacted by two parents who fight constantly, don’t ever speak to each other, do not show any sign of affection to each other, or contribute to an ever-present tension in the house is just plain wrong.

Second, I dare say that the great majority of people who decide on divorce did not make the decision lightly.  If you think that’s the case, you’ve been watching too much “reality” TV.  Divorce is a heart-rending, soul-breaking decision to make.  And there is enough hurt, guilt and anger in that decision already without having to also be judged by society at large.

Third, just like the old saying, “If you’ve met one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism,” no two marriages are alike.  No one knows what goes on inside of a marriage except for the two people in it.  They may be over-sharers, but the outsiders are only getting one side of the story, and therefore no one really knows.  When I got divorced, my ex mother-in-law actually sent me a letter saying that they “never saw it coming.”  A perfect example, as the ex and I had both been miserable for the previous six years.  The two friends I wrote about?  I never claimed to know what caused either breakup, because I don’t know.  I even said that I didn’t think the autism, either father’s undiagnosed nor the son’s caused it, although dealing with autism in the household can strain any marriage.  My friend has never once said anything about it, and is not using it for “justification” of anything.

So why don’t we listen to the old advice, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it?”  Why do people insist on getting behind a keyboard to say things to people they would never say in real life?

Judging someone for their divorce is a big no-no in my book.  It makes one look small, and your unwanted “advice” only hurts.  I choose instead to support people whom I trust to make smart decisions and weigh all their options.  Being a parent to a child with autism has taught me that life is hard enough without having to worry about how others will judge you.  You lose nothing by supporting others in their personal struggles.

Another

512px-Broken_glassYet another friend of mine told me recently that she and her husband were separating.  And they have a son on the spectrum.  I don’t think it had a lot to do with their decision, but it may have been an elephant in the room because her husband is probably also on the spectrum but was never diagnosed.  They just told the kids this past weekend, and they are all still reeling.

And my best friend at work called a lawyer today to make an appointment to get the ball rolling on her divorce.

People in my circle are hurting, and I empathize.  They are in places I was in, what seems like a long time ago.  Ages ago.  Lifetimes ago.

Luckily I know what not to say.  I know what they do not want to hear.  And I hope they see me at the other end and take heart that the pain they are going through does not have to last forever.  They are both strong ladies, but even the strong have weak moments, and this is one of the hardest struggles they will ever live through.

My heart aches for them, but I also admire them for their strength to face what they are in for.  And I stand ready to catch them when they need to lean on someone.

Is it Time to Call a Spade a Spade?

I described the ex’s latest cancellation the other day, and The Boy’s reaction.  I am always the one who has to relay the news to The Boy, and I am the one left to field questions to which I have no answers.  I am the one to deal with the acting out that quite often happens after one of these cancellations.

The ex will never change, but does that mean I shouldn’t try to show him what he’s missing, and what he is doing to our son?

English: : A mirror, reflecting a vase. Españo...

Time to hold up a mirror so he can self-reflect?…

I’m thinking of sending him a text (he doesn’t even access his email, and I don’t want to get into it with him on the phone) to point out that he hasn’t seen his son in eight months, and to ask him to imagine not having his own dad around for that long a time period.  Explain that I understand money is tight, and that he has a hard time taking work off, but that if he saved a bit out of every paycheck, and told his boss months in advance (instead of days), he might be able to swing it.  Ask him to stop “trying” to make plans and only tell The Boy he will see him when he is sure he can.  Point out that his son is sad and angry at him, and that he deals with this by acting out, often at school.

He will undoubtedly get angry and not speak to The Boy for months after I send it, because that is his MO.  But I feel I have the right to ask someone who continually hurts my son to take a moment to realize he is doing it, and to please stop.

I know he won’t change, but there’s a chance he has simply not given a thought to the effect of his absence and broken promises on his son.  And if there’s a chance, it’s worth trying, right?

Get Used to Disappointment

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies (the Princess Bride, which I have seen probably a kajillion times).  Not one of my favorite things my son has to go through.

Broken Reflection

Broken Reflection, Valerie Reneé

Because the ex couldn’t manage to see his son for Thanksgiving, I offered (at Grammy’s urging) to give him the week between Christmas and New Years for visitation.  I suggested he or they come down to the beach for a few days, even rent a house real cheap to see The Boy.

I hadn’t heard anything more about it (although Grammy had overheard the phrase “meet you somewhere” in a phone call between The Boy and the ex), so I texted him last night to see what was up.

I expected him to hem and haw a bit more, but he said straight out he couldn’t get any time off, and couldn’t do it.  Sorry.

I expect this every time, and yet every time I cannot fathom why.  I don’t know anyone (besides the ex) who is or would be completely comfortable not seeing his or her own child for eight months or longer, nor speak to him for a month or more at a time.  I cannot understand his excuses, knowing how much I would do to ensure I would see my child.

But he is not me.

The Boy seemed a bit upset and irritated when I broke the news this evening.  “Why?” he asked.

“Because he can’t get time off from work,” I said.

Why can’t he get time off from work?”

I paused.  Good question, kiddo.  “You can ask him,” I suggested.  “Want me to text him and have him call you?”

“I’ll think about it,” he said.

He’s getting as tired of this game as I am.