It is a uniquely discouraging feeling, having to run the logistics of every major event in your life by your husband’s ex-wife for review and approval. Our wedding, our honeymoon, the birth of our child, every time we travel. Additionally, with the learned expectation that she will respond with hostility and criticism.
To be clear, obviously we didn’t ask her permission to get married or have a child. But we had to work to plan our honeymoon around her schedule and were receiving emails from her during our wedding about stuff not to forget when we drop off her son later. The timing of the birth of our son was very inconvenient for her and she let us know, along with a long string of criticism about how we were handling arrangements with her son around that time. That sort of thing is normal for us now.
“Discouraging” is the understatement of the century, by the way. Sometimes it makes me feel completely despondent. So, congratulations? I guess?
My husband and son and I are traveling this week and my stepson is not coming. The reason for this is that the flights were booked from a credit that we received only a few months ago and had to use by the end of the year. He’s in school. There was not a time that we could all go. This was a last-minute trip. We didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. He just took a three-week trip around Europe and the UK in august, along with several other trips over the summer including Mexico. He’s not lacking in travel or experience.
Over the past several days, my husband has received a series of hostile, condemning emails from his ex-wife about the immense injustice and environment of exclusion we are creating for her son. Email after email after email. She also brought up, I guess as proof that we’re cruel monsters, the fact that we didn’t take him on our honeymoon with us, either.
It does kind of show how out of touch she is with this entire situation and how skewed her focus is on her son. Her family is two people: her and her son. It’s a lot easier to prioritize one person if it’s the only person in your life.* Our family is four people and no one person is more important than any other person. Life doesn’t stop when he isn’t with us. We do hold most big activities and trips for when he is here, but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that and c’est la vie. We assume he’s doing fun things with her, too, and it all works out
*However – and this is very relevant – it became clear that she doesn’t prioritize her son when she was ready and willing to move to California for a job without him, or when she asks us to take him for extra time because she wants to ride her bike, or never comes to his soccer games, or regretted “letting” us take him to the beach in august, etc., etc.
I mean, one of the very few perks about being a kid with divorced parents is that you often get to do more. I grew up in this split-custody life, you remember. There were some trips taken without me. Not many, but some. And I remember not feeling too bummed about it because I knew that I ended up taking more trips in total when my dad took me on trips that my half-sisters didn’t get to go on. It not only evened out, I ended up ahead. And two Christmases every year, too. Double the presents. I actually felt bad for them. Perhaps this is reparations of some kind for the confusing, troubled childhood of kids of divorce.
My stepson is missing out on a lot, let’s make no mistake. He’s missing out on having two parents who love each other, who can model a functioning relationship for him. He’s missing out on a coherent, consistent home life. These are the things that he will carry with him through his life. Yet his mother has denied these basic things on many occasions, stating that divorce has no negative impact on kids.* She chooses instead to rage over this one trip we are taking, which would not have been such a big deal, to anyone, probably including him, had she not fueled this small spark into a blaze.
*I know, I know.
Image credit: Simone Truong