For those of you wishing me well, thank you. The X Chronicles started 5 years ago, so this is all stuff that is, thankfully, in the past. (Not to say that there won't be more drama in the future. Until X is in jail for 10 years or more, or dead, there's always a chance of "new episodes.") Also, this may not all be in exactly chronological order. Some of it starts to blur together after a while.
I'm getting to the part of my story (which I've decided to name The X Chronicles - and will someday have all of the links available in one spot) where my experiences would be more like a list of what not to do.
I thought about having someone I trust act as a chaperone. I thought about getting the court to assign a chaperone, yet my divorce was already taking way longer than I wanted, and I feared holding it up for any reason. I'd just learned that a single mom friend's wages were being garnished by a creditor that had given up looking for it from her ex, but could legally take it from my friend because they were legally married at the time. She ended up having to file bankruptcy. It remains one of my biggest nightmares that the same will happen to me one day, only the bankruptcy laws have changed since then and it might not be an option for me.
I decided I didn't dislike any of my friends enough to ask them to be a chaperone - I was the one who married him, after all, so I'd have to continue to suffer the consequences.
There were some great benefits of separating from my X: no more hiding cash, no more holding my breath at the ATM, no more burnt spoons, no more thinking that someone was in this with me and waiting for him to step up.
But I wasn't prepared for some of the realities of divorce: if you have children together, they're never out of your life. There are certain things that divorce doesn't change.
So I wracked my brains for ways that the girls could see their father, without jeopardizing their safety.
Sometimes, we'd meet at a park, where the girls could play and I would go grocery shopping (grocery shopping by myself is still an unattainable dreams most of the time). He would come to our apartment complex, and they would play outside while I did stuff around the house.
But Sylvia always wanted to draw me in. She had not yet given up on the idea of our family living happily ever after. So I would end up spending time with the 3 of them.
I don't know what was worse: when we would get along, which would get X to start talking about trying again, or when we wouldn't, and the visit would end badly.
When we got along, it was nice to have some validation for staying with him so long, but it also made me sad. If only he could be like that all the time, then this wouldn't have had to happen. But I couldn't talk about that with friends without them getting worried that I would go back. That wasn't a consideration, but it seems I couldn't say a nice word about him, or talk about missing the good times without someone thinking that. I suppose I deserved that for going back so many times before, but I wished I could talk to someone about that part of it. Instead, I had to wait until the girls were in bed and just cry about it by myself.
The amount of times he was late, or wanted to change plans, or canceled altogether certainly kept my resolve about the divorce, too. He didn't seem to understand that kids aren't as flexible about changes. He thought it was just me being a pain.
X once sent me flowers at work. That just ticked me off. A huge friggin' bouquet of flowers but no child support payments.
And someone asked me, "wouldn't it be better for the kids if you got back together?"
I just answered simply, "no." I kept in the tirade that was boiling in my lungs.
The one that said, "NO, it would be AWFUL for the kids if we got back together! The man steals! Money, checks, Vicodin...whatever he can get his hands on!
And hello?!? Do you think I left him lightly? Do you think I didn't try for years - years longer than I should have - to make this work? Do you really think a friggin' bouquet of flowers can undo all the damage? And how shallow do you think I am?!?"
Nope. Didn't say any of that.
I knew this person wasn't clued in on what caused the divorce, but I would think that one wouldn't have to understand all the reasons, and just respect my decision.
We went on like this for a while. His visits were inconsistent, and afterward, inevitably, Sylvia would be a mess.
I had friends with divorced parents tell me that this was normal, that they remembered working so hard to be good with the parent they didn't see often that when they got back in their comfortable environment, they'd let it all hang out. It was a compliment that she trusted me enough to be this emotional with me. I'm sure that's all true. Still doesn't make it much easier to bear in the moment.
And how much of it was based on that versus testing me? How much was I supposed to allow her to get away with? Was it really healthy for her, or was it teaching her the wrong methods of coping?
But we all just kept going. It only occurred one weekend a month, I'd say, on average. But there was nothing consistent about it.
Soon, their birthdays were coming up. The girls have their birthdays 6 days apart, so we usually have the birthday party in between. Sylvia had, of course, invited X. None of my family were looking forward to seeing him there, but they all understood that it was what the girls wanted.
And then, on Riley's 5th birthday, I got a call that X had been arrested.