Not long now until our big move. This is the second time in a little over a year I’ve had to pack up my household for a move and I’ve got to say, this time was a lot less painful than the last, but it has been one of the few times these days when I miss having a partner. By and large, I’m extremely happy to be on my own but it is nice to have a second pair of hands, or even someone to admire the work you put in. It is a big job, and when you have to do it on top of being a solo parent, working full time and studying part time, it can feel overwhelming.
I’m typing this lying on my mattress which is now on the floor as I had my Dad disassemble my king bed ready for the move. I feel like I’m back in my Uni student days; stuff in boxes, can’t afford a real bed or more than a few plates and utensils. It has been cathartic to have a good throw out of many things, and I’ve taken the chance to really get things down to the basics.
I’ve actually always been quite good at throwing things away, it was the Captain’s tendency toward hoarding that kept many things in our house I would have moved on. I was afraid to throw much of anything away in the last move, with finances not settled, as I wanted to be able to give it back to him, if he claimed I’d made off with thousands of dollars of household goods (which we don’t have. But I could only prove that by keeping it). I’ve decided that isn’t an issue now, and so into the bin it goes. We will have a very fresh and bright new start, with some of the old, but lots of the new. One thing I’ve done, in particular, is to splurge on new bedding for all of us. That way our new bedrooms at our new house really will feel like a change, and the start of the next phase.
The kids are really excited about the new house and very keen to have a place that we can stay for a good while. It is obviously well known that kids can only manage so much change in their lives and that they prefer what is familiar but even knowing that, I’ve been surprised at how strongly they feel about staying put in our new house. This is only possible thanks to the unreasonable generosity of my parents, who have basically fronted me the money whilst I continue to fight it out with Captain Von Trapp. We seem to be edging ever so slowly towards a resolution, but he continues to be a very annoying thorn in my side. A thorn I wish would pay up, so that I can reimburse my parents and feel like I own more than the mailbox in my own right.
The Captain has started phoning again, I’m assuming as part of operation 50:50 as I guess it is hard to show that your kids need to be with you one week in two if they don’t even want to talk to you.
Unfortunately for his eminence, they still don’t want to talk. After I answered the phone and mentioned to Felix that his dad wanted to say hello, he replied with the wonderfully teenage “What for?”. I suggested his Dad just wanted to say hi and not to be so cranky, to which he took the phone, said “Hi. Bye” and handed it back. Ten points to my son.
Harriet was a little less taciturn, although she has a four year olds tendency to hold the phoen toward the back of her head, rather than where she might actually be heard, so I have no idea if Dad actually knows what she said.
I actually hope he calls more often. According to my lawyer, I’m supposed to find a way to tactfully let him know that the children aren’t falling over themselves to head to his place and nothing says that better than a child yelling ‘tell him to go away’ in the background.
I’m totally overwhelmed by all the things I need to get done at the moment but today I feel like there is a tiny glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. My most recent battle is with The Captain over the school holiday arrangements. We had historically given him a block of time with the kids, equal to Harriet’s age plus a day. That was what was recommended by the child psychologist and, given that I have the school holidays off and he doesn’t, it had worked well up to this point.
Cue ‘Operation 50:50 time’ from the Captain and suddenly he is after 50% of the school holidays. The advice I have from my lawyer is that it is common for school holidays to be evenly split between parents, even when they are very young and so I don’t have much grounds to object. It ended with a suggestion from Captain, through his lawyers, of a split that gave me 11 days and him 8, which was a division I could live with. What with moving house, my university commitments and the need to get some school work done before next term, I do actually need a bit of time for myself.
My condition was, however that if he wants to play the 50:50 game, then he actually needs to be home with the kids. Leaving them with Ms Fish, is not going to cut it. There are 13 weeks school holidays per year to cover and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he is going to need to take additional time off.
His reply was that he had said that he would inform me when he felt it was appropriate to leave the children with Ms Fish and that he had done so some months ago. I absolutely do not recall being informed that Ms Fish would be caring for my children. I feel like a jealous fish-wife even writing that sort of demand down but my feeling is, it is one thing for my children to give up time with me, in order to spend it with their Dad. It is quite another to spend it with Dad’s girlfriend.
I try to be fair and to think of what is best for the children, and to protect their interests. I try to defend their choice to spend more time with me and less time with their father but it is such a struggle to balance what I am compelled to do by law, what I want to for myself and what I consider to be in my children’s interest. I feel like I am going to spend the rest of their childhood fighting for them and more than anything else that he has done to me, that truly makes me resent my husband.
The Captain’s reply also mentioned that he will send the kids to a holiday program for two of the days that he has them. So already, the idea that he so desperately needs to spend time with them is belied by the fact that he also needs to earn money (as do we all). I think it should be fair for me to say that they must be with me, in preference to holiday programs and child care etc but I wonder what a court would make of such a demand? I understand the desire by the court to allow the parent to make choices, even if those choices might be to not be with their child, because we cannot micromanage another person’s parenting (thought Lord knows the Captain tries it with me). I understand in my head, that the right to be with his kids, includes the right to put them in care for 8 hours but in my heart, I want to say no.
My kids aren’t thrilled to spend time with their Dad.
Recently Felix said that his Dad told him that he loves Ms Fish more than Felix and Harriet. As you can imagine, that is a heartbreaking thing to hear, not because I actually think my ex-husband would have said that, but because, for whatever reason, it is what my son believes. I immediately said that I didn’t think that was true as, for all his faults, I am pretty certain of my ex-husband’s love for his children. I might have my own opinions about how well I think he demonstrates said love, but I don’t think he would tell our children he loved his girlfriend more.
The difficulty I’m facing at the moment is finding the right balance between supporting my children’s feelings about their Dad, and not wanting to give them the impression that they have to dislike him to please me. I try to make it clear that, whilst I’m not a fan of some of the hurtful things he has done, and I don’t agree with his decision to split our family, I don’t hate him. It is hard to know how to let the children know that I share their pain and their sense of loss and hurt, without venturing into the territory of influencing their feelings. I want them to be free to love and/or hate their Dad and I don’t want it to be a reflection of my feelings on the matter.
Felix is actually quite funny with the way that he deals with it. He tells me that he thinks his Dad is a ‘poo poo head’ but that he still tells him that he loves him, so that he doesn’t know that he secretly doesn’t. I think he does love his Dad but he, like me, is struggling to reconcile that feeling with the anger and hurt that goes along with what he did. In his own 6 year old way I think he understands that loving Dad and thinking he is a poo poo head, need not be mutually exclusive and I guess that is what I am looking for afterall.
I’m agonising over whether to tell The Captain that his kids think he loves his girlfriend more than his children. He sends me endless little emails, pointing out where he thinks my parenting has gone astray (most recently I was informed that I shouldn’t discuss the house hunting with them as Harriet had said she had a bad dream about not finding a house) and I really don’t want to do the same. In the absence of ongoing concerns, I feel it is really important to let him parent as he sees fit and I’d really appreciate the same courtesy.
I went tonight, at dusk, to check out the park next to the house. It is very large and there is always concern that it is a bit of a magnet for young folk up to mischief. As I drove up, there was a group of teens with a frisbee but as I parked the car, and as light was failing, they packed off to places unknown. The whole area was very quiet and so I took a stroll along the path, stopping to pat a couple of friendly collies along the way.
The property backs onto bushland with a small gap (I’m guessing for access and /or fire mitigation) and so I followed that along to get a sense of what noise I could hear coming from the houses and thus, how much noise I would hear from outside if I were in. It was basically silent and I was almost wondering if anyone was really home.
Walking back along the path, who should I see returning home from their dog walking duties, into the house next door but the very couple I’d greeted early. I introduced myself and said I hoped to buy next door and did they like living here? They said that they did, that they had downsized and bought about 15 months ago and that everyone in the division was friendly but kept to themselves. I did have the gall to ask what they paid but she was understandably reluctant to let me know. I did discover that the owners have sold (which I was fairly certain was the case) but also that they hoped for $600K. As the agent is quoting $490 I hope they are just mis-remembering and it was $500. In any event, good intel was obtained and my nearest neighbours will be a gorgeous retired couple.
Fingers crossed people!