That evening I prepared a forgetful meal for the kids, and me but the mood at the dinner table was light. We’d spent the whole afternoon indoors hanging around the house, shifting from one room to another. I was able to put my somber feelings on-hold (barely) and went back to my new, yet hard to implement, default place-gratefulness. I felt blessed to have healthy children and an understanding, loving girlfriend-I knew I was going to be OK.
After dinner I asked Miller to run his bath water while Sage helped me unload the dishwasher. She complained about the inequality of the situation, but eventually she found a rhythm-making rainbow patterns with stacks of kid-cups. I heard the motor of the bathroom fan and the rolling liquid as Miller turned off the faucet. Sage was torso deep in the kitchen cabinets putting away Dora plates and Sleeping Beauty bowls when Miller called out, “Moommmmy?” I went to the bathroom door and asked him, although feeling put-upon, “Whaaat?” I was tired and drained from the day, and I wanted to put them to bed so I could be alone. He was sitting in a cluster of bubbles behind the white, cotton shower curtain at the front end of the bathtub. His thin legs were crossed as he leaned forward resting his chin on the nozzle. He looked at me out of the corner of his right eye and said, “I don’t understand! Why do you like Susan so much? Did you know her when you met Daddy?”
I was completely caught off guard, sucker punched in the head by an onslaught of mixed messages. The blood left my face as I searched for words that wouldn’t come to me. I sat down on the floor and melted into the cold tile and said, “Susan has nothing to do with Daddy, nor does she prevent me from being with Daddy. She is my good friend and there nothing she, nor you can do about me and Daddy getting divorced.” He jerked his face towards me, followed by his boyish rib cage as he spun around to face me. He hit the water hard with flat, frustrated hands and said, “I don’t know the question, I don’t understand! Does Susan have other friends like you?” I knew what he wanted to know but I didn’t know how to answer him. My head was screaming, “OH NO, am I really going to do this now?” But my soft inner voice said, “Yes, he’s asking for the truth and you must be respectful, he’s old enough now, if he’s asking-well then he’s ready.”
I felt the temperature of my body starting to rise and I knew my pupils were dilating. The words of the child psychologist were on one of my lobes; “You’ll know when they’re ready because they’ll ask the appropriate questions. Children only need to know information they can understand. Their questions will tell you what they’re ready to hear. Be honest with them but limit what you tell them to simple facts. Don’t avoid their questions and don’t lie to them. They can sense when you are lying and that makes them feel insecure about the world and cause them not to trust you.”
I propped myself up on one elbow and looked right at him. My lips parted and I couldn’t believe what I was about to say. But the left side of my brain, or my logical brain said internally, “Children are innocent, they haven’t been programmed or jaded by religious rhetoric; there’s no understanding of right or wrong sexual orientation. They only know love-don’t make it into anything more than that for him.” After a moment of struggling with my internal dialogue, I said, “Miller, Susan is my girlfriend, you know like a real girlfriend, not just a friend. I love her the way married adults love each other.” Remembering the therapist also said children need “labels” to help them comprehend difficult concepts, I added, “When two girls or two boys love each more than friends its called gay.” He looked surprised, laughed and pronounced, “GAY! That’s weird! “Well, can’t we still live with Daddy?” I sighed and with my retort, “No Buddy, Mommy and Daddy are divorced-we will never live together again.” He returned my serve, “How do you do divorce anyway?” I was coming undone but remained stoic. “We signed a piece of paper and sent it to a judge. A judge is an important person who approves divorce and gives the paper back to you saying you are no longer married.” He threw his hands up aggravated and asked, “That’s it?”
I can’t tell you how relieved I felt after what seemed like a regurgitation of words and ideals. I sort of giggled at how simple children are in comparison to how complex parenting can be. I genuinely smiled at him, telling him, “Yep, that’s it buddy, but you know Mommy and Daddy love you no matter what happens between us? And do you know that Mommy and Daddy were supposed to be married so that we could have you? You and Sagey are the best things that came from Mommy and Daddy being married; and we’re so happy to have you both!”
He settled back down in the water and I told him that he could always ask Daddy or me any questions. At that point, Sage ran in and shouted with a stomp, “What are you two talking about in here in this hot bathroom?” I laughed and said, “Sage, it has nothing to do with you, its between Mommy and Miller.” I knew she wasn’t old enough to process the exchange of information, but I have feeling I will be having that same conversation with her soon.
We finished our nighttime routine of baths, stories and prayers and I sent them off to sleep with a satisfactory feeling of a job well done. As I walked out of their shared room I looked back and saw them nestled tight in their beds and I thought to myself, parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I know I’m not perfect, maybe I’m a little too strict and controlling at times but I get it right with the things that matter most. I lose my temper and scream at the top of my lungs, I act immature and on par with their behavior when I become impatient. I micro manage, expect a lot and carry around a wooden spoon (And yes, I do use it on rare occasions-say sompin! I don’t like it, but I do.), but I always try to admit to them when I’m wrong. I’m a good listener and I’m honest with my kids-things I always wanted from my mother. I’m there for them to provide structure in a loving environment, and I’m a safe haven when life becomes unmanageable in their elementary worlds.
I collapsed on the sofa after the adrenaline wore off and thought about how the day went, and in my haze I had yet another Shannoniphany! It was my one-year anniversary with Susan; the irony, the poetry, the beauty of our whole year had lead up to that one day. We celebrated by revering my children, something we’d worked hard at doing for a full year-four seasons. The ultimate celebration was our gift to us-the ability to love on a grand scale.
The previous year was spent protecting my children by finding a balance in our relationship. We moved cautiously, yielding to our conditions by not giving in to the urges to serve only our selves. You must know what I’m talking about-the flitter in your belly of new love. The desire to want to be with someone all the time! That pull to throw caution in the wind is strong. We didn’t and maybe your thinking that’s a no brainer for you, but for me it’s a HUGE accomplishment! And I couldn’t have done it without the support of Susan.
Even though her feelings were hurt, she still showed up for Miller during his Kung Fu tournament, (he asked her to be there.) she maintained dignity and kept her resolve to love my children. (You may be saying, well she’s the adult, she should-never judge a woman until you’ve walked in her heels. She loves them and she wants to do the right thing and she doesn’t ever want to feel like she’s causing them any pain-but that part is not really about her.) She makes an effort to move at their pace by building trust and establishing her own relationship with them. I know Miller and Sage really care about her, and any acting out on their part is about their changing world and not about her personally.
Nothing else was said, nor has anything been said about my relationship with Susan sense then. I spoke with Jon, the therapist, and I consulted with a few more books written by the “experts” about how to move forward. (The books weren’t very helpful nor are there many out there on this particular subject. I’m thinking maybe Ill be the expert in a few years.) In any event, what I’ve concluded TODAY (operative word-my opinion may change, as its always up for negotiations) is that I am going to attempt to implement more choices for my children, in hopes that it will give them some feeling of control over their situation. However, I will only be giving them options regarding events/activities that aren’t important to me, IE. My anniversary etc. or when I really want to see Susan. There will be times when it wont be so important and during those moments I will give them the choice of having me to themselves or including her. (We tested the theory last weekend and the kids DID make the decision to be with her-pewsh!)
Over the last few weeks I’ve philosophized about and analyzed my parenting skills. I know for me, my behaviors are made up of my life experiences and sometimes that’s helpful and other times-well not so much. In saying so, I’ve arrived at an intersection called over-compensating, versus objective. I tend to counterpoise in the direction farthest from childhood experiences. In other words, I may be allowing my pathological desire to mother my children contrary to the type of mothering I received to a futile degree.
I don’t think any extreme is useful when it comes to parenting. In my opinion, my grandmother used extreme helicopter parenting-otherwise known as enabling when she raised my mother. I understand and have experienced first hand the implications of neglectful and controlling parental types. I hope to find harmony between the two, but history and guilt are two powerful motivators. But, with a lot of practice and awareness, I think I can make small changes in the right directions. I’m vowing to give up some of my control over how my children feel, and focus on what I can control-my reactions towards their feelings. I know I have a long road ahead, but I’m committed to doing the best I can. I’m going to work hard to avoid fitting into any one category of parenting styles.
Speaking of categories, or labels if you will, I’ll fill you in next time on how I found myself to be feminine circle living in a square-straight box. It wasn’t any new phenomenon, rather a shifting of the times, or a going back to grass roots.
There have been recent studies and news reports on the great exodus of women from their marriages to be with other women. In fact, there are support groups forming from a best seller, “ Living Two Lives: Married to a Man and In Love with a Woman. Everyone has their own theory, but next week Ill share mine and what my struggle was like; and why I didn’t know for so long even though the pastel rainbow signs were there.
Thank you for reading my blog today! I had an all time high of 138 readers last week, with 104 of those being on one day! I appreciate your continued support and I hope that you will pass my blog on to someone else. XO-SK